Typing this through the hazy wreckage of my second migraine this month, so any spelinz and gramer errors are wholly neurological.
I’ve nearly finished clearing out a bunch of papers from school and uni, and I stumbled on my early creative writing efforts. Since I’m doing a spot of professional editing at the moment, I thought it might be fun to turn a critical eye on my own words. Also, you can all laugh at them.
This was written in 1998 when I was 15. Let me just take a moment to instantly desiccate with age. If memory serves, round about this time I was heavily into both Tears for Fears at their most dark and cerebral, and the TV adaptation of the Hornblower novels with dishy Welsh hunk Ioan Gruffudd.
It’s also had three drafts, because it was probably part of Standard Grade coursework (that’s GCSE, English readers! *waves from North Britain*). Anyway, complete and unabridged, here’s ‘Mutiny from the Sea Bed’…
The man wiped the sweat off his brow. Finally, they had managed it.
“Okay lads, she’s out!”
The group of navy-clad dockers heaved a collective sigh of relief. Now they could see the fruit of their labour. The ship towered over them like a behemoth, its great masts reaching for the dusky sky. All eyes lifted in reverence to the vessel. Then a tall figure approached the bubbling mass of blue waves. The young man was handsome, muscular and greatly respected among the sailors.
“Good day, Captain Maitland,’ breathed the exhausted midshipman.
The captain eyed the sunken ship with interest- could this be hiding a weapon which could greatly fortify defences in the King’s Navy? Cautiously entering the cabin, he became aware of a pungent smell- was it sea salt? It was possible; after all, this had lain on the sea bed undiscovered for ten years. He himself had played a part in the ship’s downfall- in fact, he had even leapt on board and stolen a necklace from the cabin. Now he was facing the wreck and wondering if there were any more secrets to uncover. An order had been sent to Spithead with a clear message- either raise the ship and find this weapon, or he could be court-martialed- if he was lucky. With this thought racing frantically round his head, Maitland turned to enter the barnacle-encrusted supply chambers. As he did so, a fierce gust of wind swept through his tangled black curls. How is this possible? he mused. What is making this happen?
Down below, the temperature had raised slightly. Maitland tilted his head to listen to a sound coming from the far end of the ship. As he drew nearer, he could see two figures. Ah, he thought, the two petty officers that came in before me. But the insignia on their uniforms was different. Instinctively, his hand reached for his cutlass. Fragments of conversation could now be picked up.
“This weapon,” whispered one reedy voice, “where did you hide it?”
“Why do you ask?” grunted the other voice.
“No-one but myself should obtain–”
“Damn your impudence!” blustered the second man.
Suddenly, a noise. The two men spun round. Maitland had tripped over a box of supplies.
“Name yourselves, men!” he roared, regaining his footing to draw his cutlass.
The men smiled at each other and floated to one side. And there, sprawled on the floor, were the two petty officers, two identical neck wounds shining with a dark necklace of blood.
“You don’t need to know our names,’ said one man, “but if you are Captain Maitland, we have some unfinished business with you.”
In an instant, Maitland cleaved an arc with his cutlass towards the men. And jumped back in surprise when the blade passed through them harmlessly.
“We are this ship’s crew, captain.”
Still reeling from the shock discovery that these men were ghosts, Maitland stumbled back, his cutlass clean of blood. Panicking, he picked up a crate and flung it at the apparitions, to no avail.
“What business do you have with me?” breathed Maitland.
“Don’t you remember?” yelled one of the men, undead anger burning in his eyes. “You and your men sank this ship in the first place! We were the only two survivors, until you spotted us adrift in a rowboat and destroyed us!”
“So you have come here to seek revenge?”
“Not exactly, Captain. We have come to take back what is ours.”
Maitland thought back to the time when he had fought his way into the cabin, drove his sword through the captain’s heart and snatched the gold chain from around his neck. He fingered the pendant nervously.
“What do you mean?” Maitland began to step back.
“Don’t fool around, Maitland- give us the necklace!”
Turning round, Maitland bolted for the door. On the dockside, he looked about him. No sign of ghosts.
“Simpson! Come here!” he ordered. No reply.
“Smith!” No-one appeared.
By the gods, where are they all? he thought. Running into his ship, he saw that everyone had vanished. There was a note on his desk. His hands trembling, he picked it up and read it.
What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is yours.
Well, that was… not as bad as I thought. I think I was reading a lot of Goosebumps and Point Horror at the time too, and it shows. Still, a tale about a mildly criminal young man with unruly hair, stealing bits of jewellery and being chased by things from beyond our world? Can’t think that influenced my current stuff much. Nope. Nosiree.