Chapter 8: Feeding the Fishes

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I wake with a start. I remember hearing several bangs, but it may have been a dream. I lie in the darkness and listen for whatever disturbed my slumber.

It’s so quiet I can hear the tide gently lapping against the side of the ship. It was definitely a dream.

I close my eyes again, ready for sleep.

Thump, thump, thump.

This time, the loud knocking on my cabin door is unmistakable.

I sit, but draw the covers to my chest. “Who is it?”

“Ana! It’s me! Come quick! The captain’s dying!” Henry yells from the other side.

His words don’t make sense, but the urgency in his voice makes me jump out of bed and run across the room. Opening the door just wide-enough to peek through, I squint at the light coming from his lantern. “What are you going on about?”

“Please, Ana. He’s sick. You’ve got to come help,” he shifts from one foot to the other.

I sigh. He’s surely mistaken, but the poor boy seems so distraught that I can’t refuse him. “Wait here,” I close the door before pulling on my clothes.

I almost trip on a couple of limes that had fallen on the floor, and in my hurry, pocket them.

I follow Henry up to Captain Kincade’s cabin. It’s directly above mine, but unlike that one, this room is much smaller.  Although it also has a row of windows lining the back wall, apart from a table in the center covered with maps there’s only space for a narrow bed on the side.

Henry hangs the lantern on a hook above the bed, illuminating the reclining figure below.

Kincade’s eyes are closed and his breathing is shallow. I crouch beside him, but he doesn’t even notice. His skin is pale, but there are beads of sweat rolling down his face. I place my hand gently on his forehead, but quickly pull it away.

“He’s burning up.”

“Aye, miss,” Henry concurs.

I turn toward the boy. “How long has he been like this?”

“Not sure, miss. I came to check if he needed anything before I turned in and found him like this,” he wrings his hands in front of him.

I force a smile. “You did well by getting me, Henry.”

“Thank you, miss. But what’s wrong with him?”

Instead of answering, I focus again on Kincade. Taking his face in my hands, I gently turn it toward me. I bite my lip as his wound comes fully into view.

As I suspected, it’s the source of the fever. While just a few hours ago it was a simple, red line criss-crossed by my awkward stitching, the injury now is much more gruesome.

The flesh is swollen to the point of separating the cut pieces of skin, leaving small gaps between the threads. A yellowish liquid – with a faint, rotten smell – is also seeping out from beneath.

My hands begin to shake at the seriousness of the situation, but I don’t have time to panic.

“Do you know where to find Mister Smythe, Henry?” I ask the boy without looking at him.

“He should be back at the village, I suppose.”

I turn around. “Can you make your way back there?”

He perks up at the prospect. “Of course, miss.”

“Good. Then here’s what I’ll need for you to do,” I pause to make sure he’s paying attention. “Take a torch and find Smythe. If anyone else asks why you need him, just say the captain sent you. When you do find the quartermaster, tell him – and only him – the truth. The captain’s sick and he'll need to bring anything and everything the witch doctor used on the crew. Potions, pastes, whatever. Understand?”

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