It was the sickly rollicking back and forth amidst a medium sea that sent men, land-lovers all, bound hand and foot hither and thither to expel the contents of their tenuous viscera upon the blood-stained planks laid below quivering feet. Blood, vomit, and shit—it was everywhere, crossed every boundary, and found port-of-call between unsuspecting knees and unwilling digits. His head, throbbing, pulsating, was braided with more than the mere consequence of a night’s heavy drinking, gift to those that can’t stand the light of day.
“Wha-wha-wha,” he began, a creature damaged, but he couldn’t finish, as the poison’s garden delights had only begun to ebb from their magnificent apex. “Who who who?” he rejoined, blearily looking out from between the pin-points of his bascinet into a wandering basement realm of meandering skylight.
“It smells like shit in here,” he muttered to which a hoarse repeating cough was his only rejoinder. “Who the hell? What the hell?”
His vision, with the painful lack of urgency given to living flesh, connected upon a singular focus, and he looked this way and that amidst his new close compatriots, slavishly garbed sun-scarred men altogether unified in chorus of miserable groaning punctuated with the throaty recollection of yesterday’s gruel.
With an undulation he flicked open his visor and surveyed his newly-graced comrades, suffering with heat-stroke mere notes away from the gentle pall of shadowed death bearing away holy souls into a different dawn under a different auspice. Those that could, those that hadn’t collapsed utterly upon the sparing space of the floor, those huddled together thickly in this mid-space maritime deck with him eyed with the severity of a thousand angry mothers, the responsibility his to raise them from misery countless.
“What the fuck is going on?” he spat from between bloodied teeth.
“I didn’t believe it when I saw it,” muttered one from beneath the pall of dense shadows.
“I mean, who would imagine it?”
“One of our own.”
“The best of us.”
“Taken like this.”
“Food for the scaled slavers of the south.”
And the world returned to him with a swoon—the troop, the mission, the missive, the gambling den he’d foolishly visited for the vain purposes of possible enrichment and an evening’s entertainment. The women had been less than attractive.
“Me?!” He struggled against the iron links of his bonds. “The southern shore?” The panic became tangible as the clinking of his armor rose above the general sickly din.
“It won’t help you.”
“Not at all.”
“Not like they run these cruises at a deficit.”
Reacting against the growing terror of his wrists’ suffocation he cried out, “Have you no pride as men?”
“That attitude won’t help you.”
“They’ll have you learn to lick the floor.”
“And like it.”