My name is Christopher Williams. I was born and brought up in the city of Manchester. My father was one of the richest men involved in the maritime trade.
12th November 1752.
This was the date when my father, Sir Somerset Williams, lifted his fourth son from the crib and with a deafening voice which was up till then hereditary to the Williams, roared “This son of mine will rule the seas”. The thunderous proclamation was enough to frighten the minute old infant that I was, leaving no other way for me than to boost myself to wail to new decibels.
My peculiar growth left no stone unturned to gradually make my father realize that this wasn’t what he meant when he made the “ruler of the sea” procrastination. When I was eight, I was more than a feet shorter than the seven years old daughter of Mr. Robert Hales, who was a clerk at my father’s trading firm “Williams Cargo Company”. I was skinny, pale, and remained ill with cold for the better part of the winters. What appalled my father the most was my voice. Every day he remarked “speak loud boy lest you end up squeaking for the rest of your life”. He never lost hope.
I was sent to the King’s grammar school. My father wanted me to be literate enough to understand the basics of calculations lest some cunning clerk befooled me.
When I was still in my primary school, a new teacher joined. Her name was Ms. Margaret Collins. She used to teach us literature. The stories that she told in the class had a magical effect on me. The stories would take me to unsaid kingdoms of castles as high as mountains and to the lands of fairies and witches. This fancy for stories only further strengthened with years. When I was finally done with my high schooling, I knew I was not the one destined to rule the sea.
It was in the year 1772, Mr. Somerset Williams appointed me as the manager of his Williams Cargo Company. I was to look after the cargo arriving from France. There wasn’t much to do, as Britain used to be at war with France for most of the times. Father had his own scheme of things.
The year was 1775. This was one of the few years of the century when the two nations were not at war. A ship of ours which had left for Versailles a few months ago had not yet returned. We were happy to believe it had drowned, as ships used to drown all the time.
On the sixth day of the November of 1775, a letter came for me from the maritime ministry of the Kingdom of France. It read-
From the desk of
King Lewis X,
Emperor of France
Mr. Christopher Williams,
This is to inform you that your ship “Macedonia” has saved more than a hundred soldiers of France from our drowning navy ship. His highness wants to felicitate you and your company with the deserving honors. He expects your presence on the 12th of November.
I was in point to understand this and so was quick to inform Mr. Somerset Williams about the letter. Mr. Williams was overwhelmed with joy. This was the first time his company was receiving any appreciation, be it from France. He fancied the plight of his rivals when they would know of it from the newspapers next day.
I have absolutely no idea how I became an overnight sensation. The undermined son of a great father was how the newspapers depicted me. My five brothers were all too happy on this achievement of mine.
The next few days had a packed schedule for me. I was invited for luncheon at the Buckingham Palace, the King calling it as a new paradigm in the relation of the two nations. I was even called for numerous balls and made to give numerous speeches at various clubs and houses.
I was to leave for Paris on the 10th of November. Most expectedly, a special Royal Navy ship was prepared for me. The royal and the elites gathered for the farewell. So I left for France amidst huge Cheering and tears of joy from my father. Who knew that I was not to meet him for ten years.
All hell broke loose as soon as the voyage started. To further worsen the matter, the Royal Navy sailors of my ship were all on their maiden voyage.
At the night of tempest, They sailors panicked as hell and ran for their lives on the two life-boats the Royal Navy ship had, oblivious to the overnight celebrity who had accompanied them.
The ship was tossed like a ball on the gigantic waves. The ship had finally endured enough. The planks on the bottom of the ship were ripped off by the waves, water gushed in and the Royal Navy ship drowned. Water filled my compartment and then my lungs and blackness engulfed me. This was all I remembered of the night.
It must have taken some divine intervention to save me, but when I next returned to my senses, the sunlight was all over me. Slowly I realized that I was on some distant island. I must have been marooned. Instantly, weakness took over me and I fainted again.
The next I woke up was at twilight. It was all misty and biting cold. My hands and legs were frosted out of hypothermia. Somehow I got up. As the chilling wave brushed my face, the realization of starvation struck me and I began my search for food. I walked a few steps towards the ocean in the hope of some dead fish. I found nothing. But just as I turned, I could see an Inn staring at me. The remaining common sense in me could see the glimpse of the life inside as the chimneys were emitting smoke.
With all the strength I could muster, I paced up to the Inn. Those few yards took me ages to traverse.
It was a strange place. It was quite visible that no customer had come for a long time. The salty wind had corroded the inn from all sides, giving it a blackish shade.
As I was about to enter, I could not help but notice that the door knob was jammed enough to reveal that it had not been opened a long time. Moss and fungi grew all around it, on the entire door.
As I was in the place, it looked sinisterly empty and devoid of life but for a very old lady at the counter.
As I approached towards her, she looked horrifying with her hair falling all over her wrinkled face, eyes deep in the eye-socket, and rotten teeth. She was just skeletons and seemed as good as dead. I could not muster looking at her any longer. I had better things to address for now.
“I want food and a warm room. I will pay in gold.” I murmured.
“There ‘s jus’ one room.” She breathed.
“I will take that.”
As I spoke, the remaining strength had seeped out of me. Darkness fell over me and I passed away out of starvation and weakness again.
I woke again a few hours later. The old woman had some strange food and wine ready. I devoured like a wolf, paid all I had, and asked her for the room.
“Take the sta’is. The firs’ room on the righ’ ‘s yours. Room no. 009.”
The food and wine had made my senses return again. As I took the stairs, I could not fail to notice the bats hanging over me. There were cob webs all around. It seemed like no one had climbed those for a century. The stairs creaked with every step.
Now the passage which was before me was all dark and gloomy. Bats swooshed past me as they perhaps saw the first human form in many years. The entire place reeked of bat feces and decomposed birds and bats.
When I finally reached the room no. 009, the door sinisterly swung open.
Shivers ran down my spine.
The passage to the room was nothing compared to the room. The room was completely dark but for a haunting candle in the corner. It seemed that light had not entered there for a long time. The tapestry on the walls had peeled off decades ago, making it black, damp and spooky. The place stinked of decay of the furniture, mattresses and everything else. I entered the room, hands on the cross that I wore around my neck, and made my way directly for the bed. Slimy creatures seemed getting crushed under my damp boots.
I got into the damp placid bed and rolled the stinking quilt over myself. I could already feel the bed bugs make their way into my clothes.
Thankfully, In spite of all eerie happenings of the night, sleep, out of weakness, did not evade me long.
I wouldn’t have had slept a long time. I could hear the thumping on the wall. Someone seemed to be punching the wooden wall in the room next to me. He was pacing down the room. I could even hear him speaking something hardly audible and completely un-understandable.
Just then he gave a loud roar and smashed something on the floor.
I woke up suddenly to my horrible realization that the entire pandemonium was anything but dream. Reality, and with it, ultimate fear, drew upon me. Fear which knew no bounds. I drew my knees to my chest and covered myself completely in the damp and stinking quilt.
As if hearing the approaching eminent death, I tried to listen the voice as better as I could, positioning myself closer to the wall. The man was still inaudible.
Suddenly he erupted, making me jump on the bed.
“Deceiving prat Stickbone. How could he steal the map and my ship?”
He again began his murmurings and punchings.
My mind started making many dark and horrible pictures of who he could be. Of all the devils and villains I had heard of .Lastly, I suspected that he must be a pirate, for only the pirates talked about maps in this part of the world.
Then he started singing to himself. I did not find it possible out of the fear that had striken me, or necessary, to understand what he sang. I did not realize when I fell asleep making images of the phantom on the other side of the corroding wooden wall.
I woke up late in the morning. As I was taking the lunch at the counter, the old lady told me of the things on the island and how once a lot of ships used to pass and stop at it.
“How come you told me you had just one room, when there is a room 010 too?” I asked abruptly to disguise my fear and panic after I finished my lunch and sipped on the wine.
Her face lost even the little color it had. She looked at me like a spirit and hissed.
“It’s a long story”.
I could not dare question her anymore.
The night followed soon and I was back in my room. As expected, the thudding started at the midnight again.
Tonight, for the death was imminent, I listened closer.
He was imploring, as if a slave, to someone today, but the other person was not responding. He must be a lunatic who saw things that did not exist, I concluded.
“..that wretched Stickbone. He stole my Ship, and with it, my map. The map to the unseen treasures. He pretended to be my mate but he back stabbed me. Please don’t kill me, your highness. I shall tell you everything I have learnt about the treasure all through these years at the sea. ”
And then he started singing, louder today, the song that he was humming the previous day.
“FAR AWAY IN A GOLDEN LAND OF A GIANT SERPENT,
AT THE SUN LIT CORNER OF THE HEAVEN’S VENT.
BETWEEN THE RIVER WHICH IS A RIVER,
AND A RIVER WHICH IS NO RIVER,”
“This is all I know of the map, your highness. This is all that is left in me of the map”
Saying this, the pirate started wailing loudly. Loud enough for the entire island to hear. And then he started banging his head vehemently on the wall.
Now, I could no longer stop myself from banging into the other room. I sprang across the passage and just as I kicked open the door; a sinister air blew out of it. All that remained was utter darkness. Then a piece of paper flew to my legs. I crumbled it and placed in my pocket. I was sweating with fear. I slowly moved into the room probing my hands ahead in the dark. Just as I was in the middle of the room, I felt my hand touched something.
I froze. Every muscle of my body clenched as I felt the legs of a human dangling from a noose on the hook where the chandelier should have been. I held my nerves and retraced my steps back to the room no. 009. I fell on my bed and fainted.
The next morning was sunny and beautiful. I had my lunch and took to a stroll along the beach. The heavy dose of wine had made me forget the horrible night I had.
Just as I casually placed my hand in my trouser pocket, the crumbled paper, and along with the realization of the previous night came over me. The wailings, the song, the banging of the head on the wall and the hanging man got over me.
I opened the crumbled paper and read a strange hand writing,
“The pirate hangs himself the moment he feels himself being heard”.
The entire story became clear in my mind. I smiled to myself. I too started humming the poem of the old pirate.
Within no time, I was on the epoch to find the treasure, having a simple quatrain as the clue. Rest all is a grand story of adventure.
And today I return with the unseen treasure. I am Christopher Williams. The Ruler of the Sea.