Black Tides

“Hands to halyards!” Drednought shouted. 

“Look lively, lads,” Captain Crowe cried. “Lest you fancy a neck stretching before suppertime.”

Through blurry eyes, I saw pirates running about, unravelling ropes, to get the sails billowing. One young guy with a bridge of freckles across his nose looked at me with eyes full of terror.

And then I saw why. A ship—a big one—loomed on the horizon, coming after us. Through a watery haze, I made out a flag with red, white and blue. An English navy ship.

“If they catch us, I’m throwing myself over the side,” I heard one guy say. “There’s no way I’m ending up as a skeleton in one of them cages over the Thames.”

“I’ll be right beside you,” said his shipmate.

I gripped the railing and peered down at the water, dark grey and reflecting the clouds playing tip-chase across the sky. The waves were sloppy and alarmingly big. I held on tight as our ship climbed up the side of one wave, then seemed to hang suspended mid-air before pounding down on the other side. Then came the rain, thick and heavy, as if someone had switched on a shower. My clothes stuck to me like a second skin. The ship, which had seemed so big that first day in port, now seemed as fragile as a matchstick boat. 

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