Writer’s Digest Prompt: X Marks the Spot

by rdhill316

Another prompt from writer’s digest: “You’re a pirate on a small pirate ship, that consists of only you, one other pirate and a captain. Recently you ransacked another ship and found a treasure map. After weeks of following it, you’ve finally found the island where “X” marks the spot. Write a scene where you find the buried treasure, only it’s not exactly the treasure you expected to find.”

“Has he moved?”
Wyatt’s words stirred me out of the near trance I’d been in as I’d climbed the stairs onto the deck. “Hm? The Captain? No, he hasn’t moved. He’s barely even talking anymore.” After the battle, the Captain had slipped into madness. We’d won, but it was Pyrrhic. The victory had come at the cost of our own crew. Now, as our small ship gently rose and fell, only myself, Wyatt, and the Captain were there to appreciate the complete lack of wind. Or of an island.

“I’ve checked your reckoning,” Wyatt said, “And you’re right, we’re where the island should be,” his voice cracking towards the end.
After we’d sacked the other ship, the only thing of value we’d found was a map. Notes on the back told of a modest treasure on an island. We weren’t unreasonably far, and we were wanted back home in the Caribbean. If we went back, we’d be hanged. I’m fairly certain the shame of it would kill my father. Lacking enough supplies to make it to England, we plotted a course for the spot indicated on the map, and prayed. Wyatt and me handled our ship surprisingly well for a crew of two. The Captain cloistered himself in the galley, of all places, refusing to move or eat or drink. He just rambled.
Wyatt and I were both experienced navigators, and we guided our boat to the island–only it wasn’t there. The island was supposed to save us. We were low on potable fluids, meaning grog, since our fresh water had long since turned slimy. On the island, we could find food and water, collect the treasure, and sail to the continent to buy new lives.
“I think I’ll go join the Captain,” Wyatt said quietly. I caught his eyes as he descended below deck, and we both knew he wasn’t coming back up.
The wind wasn’t going to come back up either, at least not before the last of our grog ran out. And even if it did, we surely didn’t have the supplies to make it back to land. If there had been an island, then we could have had a decent chance. But there was nothing. We were marooned on our own boat.
And it was then, staring out at the ocean, that I accepted the truth. Here, out where the ocean stretched out into the fog like eternity, we were going to die. Once I accepted that, I was at peace. There would be no hanging. Father would feel no shame. This spot, in the middle of the ocean, empty of ships and wind and birds and land, was what we had come looking for.
There was no island. There was nothing. I headed down to the galley. This was what the Captain had known all along, and what Wyatt had just realized: The treasure was death.

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