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The Last Voyage of the Ivory Pride - Session Two (Skype game) - Part 1 - Terrifying Developments

Max_Writer

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario “The Last Voyage of the Ivory Pride†on Skype Monday, August 3, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with D.J. Stevenson, Jeff LaForest, Timothy Smith (Virii), and Lily Williams.)

 

Anton Bogdan and Rayford Coyt climbed down to the bridge deck and headed aft towards Professor Mildred Fowler’s cabins. Bogdan remembered Professor Foster’s cabin lay on the port side of the ship while her servants were quartered on the starboard. He went to her cabin and knocked.

 

“Hello?†he called.

 

“Hello?†a woman’s voice came from within. “Hello? Who is it? Who is it?â€

 

“It’s Anton,†Bogdan called.

 

“And Rayford,†Coyt said.

 

“Oh! One moment,†Professor Foster called.

 

There was a click from the latch and the door open. Miss Foster peeked out. She looked quite frightened.

 

“May we come in?†Bogdan asked after a moment.

 

“Oh, of course!†Professor Foster said. “Of course.â€

 

She let them in and locked the door behind them. One of her tall African servants stood in the corner.

 

“A crewman came and told me I should lock myself in because there was some danger?†she said.

 

“Yeah, we haven’t completely identified exactly what’s going on,†Bogdan said.

 

“Oh,†she said. “Okay. Oh. Goodness.â€

 

She seemed quite terrified.

 

“Don’t worry ma’am,†Coyt said. “We will protect you.â€

 

“Oh, thank you,†she said. “Is there anything I can do … I mean …â€

 

She seemed quite flustered.

 

“What’s going on?†she said.

 

Bogdan gestured at Coyt.

 

“I don’t want to be the one to tell her!†Coyt said. “I don’t even know what’s going on.â€

 

“There’s been a missing crewman,†Bogdan said.

 

“Oh dear!†she said.

 

“And there’s been … uh … um … a couple of pygmy stowaways,†Bogdan went on.

 

“Pygmies?†she said.

 

“Yeah,†Bogdan said.

 

“They’re shorter people,†Coyt put in.

 

“Why yes, I know,†Professor Foster said. “I was trying to talk to the pygmies of the Akando tribe of southern Africa. Maybe they’re the ones that stole that mask! They might have stolen that ceremonial mask!â€

 

Coyt, listening to the conversation, realized he could hear someone nearby singing that same strange music he’d been hearing for some time now. He realized it must have been from a room nearby.

 

“Is there another person in the next room?†he said. “Is it a relative of somebody? Are they crying?â€

 

“Dawan is in the other cabin,†Professor Foster said. “He’s locked himself in.â€

 

“I take it she’s currently in mourning?†Coyt said. “She’s grieving?â€

 

“No … I don’t think so,†she said.

 

“Oh,†Coyt said. “That’s some odd singing. Let me check next door really quickly. It’s been going on for a while.â€

 

He let himself out of the cabin and Bogdan closed the door behind him. The singing proved to be coming from two doors down. The door between the two was marked with a small brass plaque reading “Hospital.†Coyt listened at the door for a moment and could clearly hear what sounded like a single man singing quietly within. He tried to open the door but found it locked. He knocked but there was no answer. The singing merely continued.

 

He walked back to Professor Foster’s cabin and found the door closed. He let himself back into the room but he suddenly felt uncertain about himself.

 

* * *

 

On the Ivory Pride’s stern, Jimmy Walker and Elliot Strong were disturbed to find the terrible figure in the water was now apparently following the moving ship and was closer than it had been before.

 

“We’re talking to the captain!†Strong said.

 

He headed forward, Walker following closely behind. As they walked, Strong told him they needed to get everyone together as there was safety in numbers. He noted he might need Walker’s help convincing the captain. They mounted the bridge deck and from there climbed to the boat deck and finally to the actual bridge above that. The bridge was a small building with windows at about waist high all the way around. Captain Mneke was there, looking over some charts and using the sextant to try to determine their location. He seemed unnerved. A single nervous crewman manned the helm.

 

They had noticed the sun was still in the same position in the sky as it had been when things had strangely changed an hour or so before. It seemed faint and distant. The sea was dead calm and flat as a piece of glass. Fog rolled about the vessel some 20 yards away.

 

Captain Mneke told the two that First Mate Patanga had been locked into his cabin and tied to the bed as he remained violent after his first attack on the passengers.

 

“Well, sir, we are trying to decide what we should do next,†Strong said. “There are obviously violent stowaways as well as … gelatinous monsters that I frankly don’t even want to think about at the moment. I think the best course of action, sir, would be to round up what’s left the crew and bring them into a safe place. After all, there is safety in numbers.â€

 

Captain Mneke seemed a bit frazzled.

 

“What would you suggest?†he asked.

 

“Well, is the dining hall currently in use?†Strong said.

 

“No,†Captain Mneke replied.

 

“Then we can use the dining hall,†Strong said. “That should be easy enough to defend. However, I do worry about your safety, captain.â€

 

“Well, someone must man the bridge.â€

 

“Yes. I agree. But you’re going to need more than one person by your side, especially if that person is unarmed.â€

 

“Very well. Very well. Walker, gather up the crew. Send them to the dining room. Send one of the men with a gun up here with me. He will relieve M’bengé.â€

 

“Can M’bengé go?†Walker asked.

 

“He doesn’t have a gun,†Captain Mneke said.

 

Walker handed the gun to M’bengé.

 

“Fine!†Captain Mneke said. “Fine!â€

 

He said something insulting under his breath about white people.

 

“Man the helm then!†Captain Mneke said to Walker.

 

M’bengé left the bridge. Strong looked at Captain Mneke who seemed nervous, his hand on the holster of his pistol. He kept an eye out, mostly forward.

 

Strong headed down after a short time and found two crewmen in the mess hall, both of them with rifles. They looked very scared and worried. The rest of the crewmen came into the room in ones and twos.

 

* * *

 

“I’ll be right back,†Coyt said.

 

He left the cabin again.

 

“Will he be okay?†Professor Foster asked.

 

“I’ll be fine,†Coyt said from the door. “Don’t worry about me. Just stay here. I’ll be right back.â€

 

“All right, all right,†she said.

 

After he left, she talked to Bogdan about the Akando pygmy tribe and tried to find out from him what the pygmies on board looked like. He related that a pygmy had attacked a paralyzed crewman and he had tried to stop him, but he’d been unsuccessful. He noted the other man was dying now.

 

“Oh dear,†Professor Foster said. “Oh no.â€

 

“After he stabbed him,†Bogdan said.

 

“They had a legend about something called the Singing Man,†Professor Foster said. “He was their god.â€

 

“You’re just saying this now?†Bogdan asked. “Come here.â€

 

He opened the cabin door and asked her to join him. They could both, obviously, hear the singing now.

 

“Oh my,†she said.

 

* * *

 

Coyt pounded on the other door when he reached it but there was no answer.

 

“Sir, I just want to make sure that everybody is all right here,†he called. “Are you doing okay?â€

 

The man singing within continued to do so. Coyt pounded on the door again but there was still no answer.

 

Then Bogdan and Professor Foster stepped out onto the deck.

 

“We’re trying to make sure that everybody is okay,†Coyt called.

 

“That’s an Akando …†Professor Foster said. “All the Akando … that’s the song!â€

 

She sang along quietly.

 

“It’s a song that the Akando mothers teach their children,†she said. “How strange. It’s very catchy though. I find myself sometimes singing it without even thinking about it. Just under my breath.â€

 

“What is the song meant for?†Coyt said. “For comfort? I’m just trying to figure out what this person is singing inside this room.â€

 

“What are they saying?†Bogdan asked.

 

“It’s just a tune that the Akando women … that they teach to their children,†Professor Foster said.

 

“As a lullaby or …†Coyt said.

 

“You know, I’m not sure,†Professor Foster admitted. “Hm. I’m not sure. It was just … they taught it to me and they taught it to Dawan and they taught it to Eleban.â€

 

She pointed back to her cabin. Bogdan could see Eleban in the cabin. He looked frightened.

 

“Does he speak English?†Bogdan said to Professor Foster. Then he turned to Eleban and said more slowly: “Do you … speak … English?â€

 

“Yes, I do,†the man replied. “Yes sir.â€

 

“Do you … do you know this song?†Bogdan asked him.

 

“That is the Akando song,†Eleban said. “They taught all of us.â€

 

“Do you … do you ever find yourself humming the tune or singing this song?†Bogdan asked him.

 

“Sometimes,†Eleban said nervously. “I don’t like it.â€

 

“Okay,†Bogdan said.

 

“It makes me feel uncomfortable,†Eleban said.

 

“Uncomfortable …†Coyt said.

 

“Well, it’s starting to make me uncomfortable too,†Bogdan admitted.

 

“Is there a key for this room?†Coyt asked.

 

“Dawan has it,†Eleban called from inside Professor Foster’s cabin.

 

Bogdan realized the captain probably had a key or there was a set of keys somewhere on the ship.

 

* * *

 

On the bridge, Walker and Captain Mneke heard a shuffling, rustling noise. It sounded like the same noise Walker had heard in the hold. He quickly looked to the left and right and saw that both of the sliding doors to the bridge were both closed but not locked. He quickly locked them.

 

“What?†Captain Mneke said. “What are you doing?â€

 

He looked nervously at Walker.

 

“Safer,†Walker said. “It’s a lot safer. Did you not hear that?â€

 

“That singing?†Captain Mneke said. “I hear that singing noise.â€

 

“This is safer,†Walker said. “This way nobody can sneak in.â€

 

Captain Mneke put his hand on the holster and looked around nervously. Walker tried talking to him about trivial things but the man remained very nervous.

 

* * *

 

Six crewmen had arrived in the dining hall and Strong asked if it was everyone.

 

“Um …†the crewman said. “Uh … T’konda is not here. He disappeared first. He is the one we were looking for.â€

 

“Okay,†Strong said.

 

“But we searched the whole ship,†the crewman said. “Well …

 

“Anyone else missing?†Strong asked.

 

“… the whole ship except for the forward hold where Walker was,†the frightened crewman went on. “I don’t think he searched it like he was supposed to.â€

 

“I-I’ll have a talk with him,†Strong said. “All right. Is there anyone else?â€

 

The man shook his head so Strong sent two of them up with rifles to guard the captain. He also sent a pair to round up the passengers on the ship. That left two men with him, one of whom was unarmed. He told them he wanted to reinforce the dining room against attack. There were small portholes forward so he decided to set up their defenses on the aft wall. They would use the table and chairs to build a makeshift fort. He also examined the small closet and found it was filled with eating utensils, glasses, and plates.

 

* * *

 

Two armed crewmen walked up to the bridge and tried to open the port door. Captain Mneke walked towards the door to let them in and the crewman forward shrieked and dropped out of sight. The other man spun around and started screaming. He put the rifle to his shoulder and fired a shot towards the ground, then started to work the action on his rifle. Captain Mneke backed away from the door. The other man screamed and screamed, out of sight. The crewman gave up on the gun and turned, running away from the spot.

 

“Go to the other door!†Walker yelled, moving to the starboard door.

 

The crewman ran around the back of the smokestack out of sight and appeared on the other side moments later. Walker unlocked the door and quickly let him in. The other crewman continued screaming for several moments.

 

“Calm down!†Walker said to the man, slapping him. “Keep an eye out on the other side.â€

 

* * *

 

Well, son of a bitch, Strong thought when he heard the screams and gunshot.

 

“Start fortifying the dining room!†he cried. “Lock all the doors! Don’t let anyone in except for the passengers!â€

 

He grabbed his elephant rifle and ran out of the room, the door slamming shut behind him.

 

* * *

 

Bogdan, Coyt, and Professor Foster were still standing just aft of her cabin when they heard the screaming and gunfire from forward and above. Bogdan pushed her back towards her cabin, following closely behind her.

 

“Rayford!†he said, preparing to close the door.

 

Coyt ran past the door and around the corner on the port side.

 

“Fool!†Bogdan said, slamming and locking the door.

 

He quickly searched the room for any vents or small openings in the room, also checking the two portholes on the aft wall and two more on the port wall to see if the glass was thick.

 

* * *

 

Strong ran up the steps to the boat deck and saw Coyt running from the aft past the lifeboats. Strong ran forward and headed up the companionway to the actual bridge.

 

At the top, he almost stepped on another of the horrible things they had seen in the hold. The thing appeared to be a thick, almost limbless fleshy mass that writhed and flowed with horrific sinuousness. Its skin was slick and leather-like, unbroken by features save for its terrible rounded mouth. The mouth was clinging to the crewman, tentacles spilling out of it as it stripped the flesh from his bones. The man was enveloped by the thing and had stopped screaming. He was obviously dead. The rifle lay on the deck next to him.

 

Poor man, Strong thought.

 

Strong put the elephant gun to his shoulder, braced himself against the railing, and fired. The blast nearly knocked him over and blew two large holes in the side of the terrible suckling horror. As Strong prepared to break open the gun to reload, the horrible thing let loose of the crewmember and slithered towards him.

 

* * *

 

On the bridge, Walker ran over to the windows and looked down. He could see the dead crewman whose flesh had been stripped from the bones from his upper chest down. He was obviously dead. Strong stood at the top of the steps on the other side of the terrible thing. It moved towards the man.

 

He ran to the cabinets, searching for flares.

 

* * *

 

Strong turned and leapt down the companionway, landing solidly on the boat deck at the bottom but not stumbling. Coyt ran directly towards the man and, as Strong turned back towards the steps, something slithered down them towards him. Coyt could see two gaping holes in the side of the terrible thing that seemed to be closing.

 

“Oh God! That thing is healing!†Coyt shouted, and turned, bolting away.

 

The horrible thing moved towards Strong as fast as a man could run. He turned and fled from the thing, following Coyt, who grabbed a rail as he reached the corner and spun himself around the edge, going down the companionway to the bridge deck. Strong turned left just after the companionway and looked over his shoulder. The thing barreled down the companionway after Coyt.

 

He stopped to reload his elephant gun and headed up the companionway there to the bridge.

 

* * *

 

Coyt looked up the steps and saw that the horrible thing chasing after him. He cursed loudly and ran down the gangway to the starboard side of the ship. When he reached the starboard side, he turned left again and ran forward, making his way to the main deck forward as fast as he could.

 

“Oh good Lord!†he screamed. “It’s a monster! It’s got tentacles and things! It looks like my mother!â€

 

* * *

 

Bogdan heard the elephant rifle firing and then heard Coyt screaming a radio-announcer narrative forward somewhere. The man sounded terrified. He continued talking to Professor Foster as if he didn’t hear the shots.

 

“Oh my dear,†she said. “What was that? It sounds like someone’s in trouble! Oh goodness.â€

 

“We just need to stay put,†Bogdan said. “I am here for an adventure, not a massacre. But I think we’re perfectly safe in here for the moment. The captain or Elliot, I’m sure, will be along to let us know we’re going to be fine and until I hear otherwise, we’ll stay put.â€

 

“It’s gonna kill me!†they both heard Coyt scream from somewhere on the ship.

 

Bogdan realized the singing was louder.

 

* * *

 

Walker had found a flare gun and four flares as well as four signal rockets. He loaded the flare gun. He looked aft, trying to see past the stack, but was not able to see the thing in the water. He left the bridge.

 

“What are you doing!?!†the crewman with the rifle cried.

 

“Lock it behind me,†Walker said.

 

“Oh! Okay!†the crewman said.

 

He slammed the door shut and locked it quickly.

 

Walker walked to the deck behind the smokestack and looked back. He could just make out the thing in the water but could not see it clearly without binoculars. He was unsure if it was closer than it had been before. He thought it probably was.

 

He heard someone running up the companionway to the bridge and turned, pointing the flare gun at top of the steps. Strong came up the steps, elephant gun in hand. He stopped at the top of the steps and looked forward.

 

Strong saw Coyt run out of the main deckhouse below. The man ran across the main deck and into the forward deckhouse.

 

* * *

 

Coyt fled the terrible thing, running the length of the deck and into an opening in the forward deckhouse. There were two doors to his right and left. He knew two led to unused crew quarters and the other two led to toilets. Ahead of him, the gangway opened up onto the bow of the ship. He ran into the one on the right, slammed the hatch closed and dogged it.

 

The room was large and filled with shadows. The only light came from the portholes aft and starboard. He quickly switched on the light. Empty and unused bunks filled the room.

 

He tried to calm himself. He took out his notebook and sketched the terrible thing while it was fresh in his mind.

 

* * *

 

Strong shouldered his rifle and pointed it down at the deck as Coyt fled to the forward deckhouse and disappeared within. The thing chasing them did not appear below, however. He turned around and saw Walker standing behind him with a flare gun pointed at him. He looked terrified.

 

“You want to put that down?†Strong said. “Before you shoot someone in the face?â€

 

“To be honest, I haven’t shot anyone yet,†Walker said.

 

He dropped his arm to his side.

 

“Thank you,†Strong said.

 

The two men entered the bridge. Captain Mneke held his pistol in his hand and the crewman had his rifle ready. Walker picked up a pair of binoculars and then left again, heading aft. The crewman slammed the door and locked it again. Captain Mneke moved to the port side of the bridge and looked out.

 

Strong talked to himself. He remembered shooting the first creature he’d seen with his revolver. He had used all six bullets in the gun but the thing had stopped moving. However, the second one had taken two bullets from the elephant gun and continued attacking. He thought it fair to say they were getting stronger.

 

* * *

 

Bogdan peeked out the portside portholes but saw no one. Things had been quiet for a little while.

 

He sat down and continued his conversation with Professor Foster. He noticed she was singing the tune under her breath, almost unconsciously. He had noticed her do it before but hadn’t thought much of it. Eleban didn’t appear to do it at all. Bogdan realized he could still hear the singing from next door as well.

 

“Tell me more about this mask and what was the idea behind it?†he asked her.

 

“I’m not really certain,†Professor Foster confessed. “I wasn’t able to get much information from the Akando. They were very, very tight-lipped and private people. I feel like the entire expedition was a failure. I didn’t learn as much about the Singing Man as I wanted. That’s their god. The mask is a ceremonial mask dedicated to the Singing Man. There was a legend stating ‘The mask will sing. The mask will sing.’ Or something to that effect. Once the correct sacrifice is made. But they were willing to give it to me so it must not be very valuable.â€

 

“Sacrifice?†Bogdan said.

 

“Uh-huh,†she replied.

 

“As in what kind of sacrifice?â€

 

“I’m not sure. I never got those details. As I said, they’re a very private people and, unfortunately, in the short time that I was with them, only a few weeks, I was unable to learn much about their culture, unfortunately.â€

 

* * *

 

Walker reached the stern of the ship behind the deckhouse. He didn’t need his binoculars to see the thing looked like it was closer than it had been before. It continued to follow the ship. The singing seemed louder as well.

 

He put the signal rockets onto the deck and started jury rigging up a way to fire one at the terrible thing.

 

* * *

 

Coyt peeked out of the windows but saw nothing on the deck aft. There was no sign of residue or slime either. It looked very quiet and very empty so he opened up the hatchway and peeked into the gangway. Nothing was there. Aside from the distant rumble of the engines and the singing, it was quiet.

 

He ran back to the main deckhouse.

 

* * *

 

Strong spotted movement on the forward deck and saw Coyt run from the open gangway towards the main deckhouse in the center of the ship. He opened one of the windows and whistled loudly. Coyt stopped, mid-run and looked around, terrified. He looked up and saw Strong and then continued towards the main deckhouse.

 

* * *

 

Walker had his signal rocket set up and was ready to light his small lighter. He lifted the small arm to expose the wick and lit it. Suddenly, something clattered against the railing right in front of him, landing on the deck in front of him. It was a blowgun dart. It had come from directly behind him.

 

He turned around, flare gun in hand. A pygmy stood in the gangway only a couple of yards behind him, blowgun in hand and staring at him with dead eyes. His lips were moving as if he were singing quietly. He dropped the blowgun pipe.

 

“That’s right!†Walker said.

 

The tiny man drew a curved knife and rushed at him. Walker fired the flare gun at the little man and the flare struck the pygmy in the chest. The flare exploded in a flash of light, catching the little man on fire. He crashed to the deck without a sound, still merrily burning. The stench of burning meat and hair was very strong.

 

At the point of losing his mind, he casually turned around, lit the fuse, and stepped back. With a whoosh and a hiss, the signal rocket leapt from its perch and through the air. It flew in a wobbly pattern but eventually struck the terrible thing following the ship with a blast of light.

 

“Woo!†Walker cried out.

 

The thing looked like it had gotten closer.

 

* * *

 

Coyt climbed the companionways to the bridge. Strong opened the door and let him in and then went out the other door to the place where he shot the beast in the hopes of looking for a trail. The dead crewman there had a look of profound pain and terror on his face. His flesh had been removed from the collarbone down. Strong picked up the rifle the man had wielded and checked it, finding a bullet in the chamber and a full magazine. He reloaded it and handed it to Coyt.

 

“Good Lord!†Coyt said when he saw the body. “Is this what’s been eating the people?â€

 

“Looks like it,†Strong said.

 

“Giant sludge!†Coyt said, clearly unnerved. “You shot it; it was healing! Is this what has been eating all of the crewmembers? Why has it been eating all of the flesh?â€

 

“To each their own, I guess,†Strong said offhandedly. “I’m not really concerned on why; I’m concerned on dealing with it now.â€

 

“But how does it do it that quickly? Does it just … dissolve the body?â€

 

Strong thought on this a moment. He realized the singing had gotten louder. He gently pushed Coyt into the bridge and closed the door behind him. Then he examined the spot where he had shot the beast. There was a strange scum there but it was quickly disintegrating. The trail led down the steps and was gone by the time he reached the companionway to the bridge deck.

 

* * *

 

Coyt looked around and saw a telegraph radio set in the back of the bridge. He found it in working order and sent out an SOS. He sent the message several times and then waited for a reply.

 

* * *

 

Bogdan continued to look out the port porthole, hoping to see someone pass by. He searched the cabin again for any way for anything to get in but did not find anyway anything could enter the cabin. He peeked his head out of the door.

 

“Elliot!†he shouted. “Get back here!â€

 

* * *

 

Coyt, still listening for the SOS reply, went to the bridge door and opened it. He stuck his head out.

 

“Not at the moment!†he shouted.

 

* * *

 

Walker had reloaded his flare gun and laid it on the deck close at hand. The pygmy had burned out and not moved since he’d initially shot the horrid little man so he ignored him. He prepared another signal rocket to fire at the terrible thing behind the ship. He fired it and though the rocket flew in a strange, uneven path, it finally struck the thing and exploded in a blast of light.

 

He immediately started setting up for another shot.

 

* * *

 

Strong heard both of the shouts and headed aft on the boat deck where the first cry sounded like it had come from. He saw the flash of a rocket from the stern and then a brilliant flash as it exploded.

 

* * *

 

Coyt saw some kind of flash or explosion from behind the stack and guessed it was lightning.

 

* * *

 

Bogdan was sitting facing Professor Foster, who sat on her bed. He had his back to the portholes on the port side of the cabin. Suddenly her eyes darted to one of the portholes behind him. Bogdan spun around violently and spotted Strong in the porthole, peeking in. He shouted an exclamation and stumbled for the door, opening it for the man. He grabbed Strong’s hand and dragged him into the cabin, slamming the door shut behind him.

 

“My God man!†Bogdan said. “What is happening out there?â€

 

“Well, we’re currently dealing with monsters as per usual, sir,†Strong said.

 

“What do you mean ‘as per usual?!?’†Bogdan sputtered. “What: 60 minutes!?! I have my entire life! I’ve all kinds of things I’ve dealt with that were hideous and disgusting but not once have they done what I’ve seen thing … no! Per usual!?! Doing this again? You’ve been my friend for a year. You pull this again, that’s it! We’re not even friends! I can’t … I can’t afford this! This hurts!â€

 

He took a deep breath.

 

“Well, sir, have you seen the crewmen I sent to retrieve you?†Strong asked.

 

Bogdan looked completely confused.

 

“There’s been nobody by,†he said. “I’ve been watching out this window quite frequently.â€

 

“All right then,†Strong said. “I’d suggest we gather our belongings. I’ve set up the dining room to be somewhat of a stronghold point. We’re going to be moving there.â€

 

“Okay,†Bogdan said.

 

“What about Dawan?†Professor Foster asked. “He’s in his room. He’s locked in his room.â€

 

“So, since you’ve come here and since I’ve seen you last … what? Half an hour?†Bogdan said. “There’s some bad things going on? I’m safe in here. Nothing bad has happened to anybody in this room. Other than heart palpitations. And right now those are being mildly controlled. So, I’m … I will defer to your wisdom in traversing this ship to go to whatever is out there. But I feel very, very safe in here.â€

 

He fidgeted with his hands nervously.

 

“I can understand your concern,†Strong said. “However, there is safety in numbers. We have more guns in the dining room than currently we do have here. I would feel more safe knowing you were someplace safe.â€

 

“I heard the big guns go off,†Bogdan said.

 

“That was mine,†Strong said.

 

“You killed it?†Bogdan asked.

 

“Well … no. It ran away.â€

 

“So … okay. Counterpoint to your guns. No. This kind of confidence is very, very low right now. I … I feel really good here. I feel good here.â€

 

He was interrupted by screaming somewhere from the deck directly below them. Bogdan stood in front of the door, eyes suddenly wide. Strong turned to Eleban.

 

“Are there any guns in this room?†he asked the man.

 

Bogdan handed him the revolver Walker had given him earlier. They heard a gunshot from below and more screaming that ended abruptly. Strong handed Eleban his elephant gun and kept the revolver in his hand.

 

“All right, you stay here,†he said to Bogdan. He turned to Eleban. “I trust your judgment. Do you know how to shoot?â€

 

“Uh …†Eleban said. “Not really.â€

 

“Simply point and fire,†Strong said. “Don’t shoot people. Shoot monsters.â€

 

“Okay,†the frightened man said. “Okay.â€

 

“I’m going to go check out what the screaming is,†Strong said to Bogdan. “If you feel safe here, guard the door. I’ll knock on the door before entering or at least on the port or something. I’ll let you know when I want in.â€

 

Bogdan leaned towards the other man.

 

“Shave and a haircut,†he whispered into the man’s ear.

 

Strong patted the man on the shoulder.

 

“I thought we were going to shoot and animal!†Bogdan said. “Not get killed!â€

 

Strong opened the door just as there was another hiss and a flash. They spotted a rocket fly from the stern and vanish into the water.

 

“I just want to wake up,†Bogdan muttered. “I just want to wake up. I just want to wake up.â€

 

The singing had definitely gotten louder since the screaming and gunshots.

 

* * *

 

Walker’s next shot went wide and disappeared into the glasslike water.

 

“Oh, listing lazily to the left, are you?†Walker called to the horrible thing off the stern.

 

He started setting up his last signal rocket. He was worried as he had heard a gunshot a minute before and had seen the terrible thing move closer to the ship. It was only 50 yards away now.

 

* * *

 

“Knock it off!†Strong yelled towards the stern.

 

He heard Bogdan yell from his cabin as he ran forward.

 

“Find her missing mask!†the man cried. “I think it has something to do with this! It’s the singing god!â€

 

Strong ran down the companionway to the bridge deck and into the nearest gangway where they’re cabins were. He found two more dead crewmen in the corridor. Two rifles lay near the terribly disfigured men and the smell of gunpowder was in the air. One of them had most of the flesh stripped from his hips and legs while the other had all the flesh stripped from his head, shoulders, and chest. There was no blood.

 

He picked up the rifles and worked the action on the one that had been fired, putting one of them on his shoulder and tucking the extra revolver into his belt.

 

He headed back to the dining room, hearing something slithering at one point, but the sound moved away. He found the two crewmen still locked in the dining room and Strong could see through the window on the door that they had used the table and chairs to build a makeshift barricade on the interior wall as there were no windows there. The two men were sitting behind their barricade, one with rifle in hand, pointing at the doors. The man who saw Strong pointed his gun right at him and he waved at the man. The man nodded and pointed his rifle away and looked around, obviously trying to get over the barricade they had built.

 

“We’re not using this plan,†Strong called. “This isn’t a good plan.â€

 

“Ah!†one of the men yelled.

 

“We have too many people spread out−†Strong continued.

 

“Ah!†the man yelled again.

 

“−who are unwilling …†Strong went on.

 

The two men were no longer listening but were smashing away the chairs and table, trying to get to him. They ran to the door and threw it open. They were both shaking in terror. They headed aft to Professor Foster’s cabin with the plan to leave one of them with the passengers.

 

When he arrived he knocked with the “Shave and a haircut†rhythm and the door was quickly unlocked and opened. Just as that happened, another signal flare flew from the stern of the ship and exploded somewhere aft in the water.

 

“Woo!†they heard Walker yell again.

 

Strong rolled his eyes.

 

* * *


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