Accursed Freedom

“Be careful of what ye wish for.”

Drake lay sprawled on the deck of the Umirosa, contemplating life. He was a rookie of the Barbarossa pirates, a spoil of their previous pillage on his island in the Atlantic. The plunder was merciless and the reckless pirates unfurled their Jolly Roger on his island. Young men were taken on board for menial tasks and scapegoats to fight enemies. Women and the aged engaged in compelled ware-making for pirate use on the captured islands.

It was the era of pirates. The era of rogues, adventurers and colonizers. Civilized life was a mere mirage. Those who lived such a life were an eyesore and were exploited. An era which questions your idea of morality.

It was the era of dreamers.

Drake and the others were ordered to collect the booty available on the island they had docked on a few days ago. The civilized rookies were reluctant. But the captain ingrained within them the fear of ‘walking the plank’ and being ‘fed to the fish’. The poor rookies decided that a few wounds and stitches were better than being shark feed.

Presently, the Umirosa left the port after claiming the island their own and set off on a voyage again. The crewmates were being treated by the doctor.

Drake lay on his back whilst being treated and looked at the blue sky. The atmosphere was dotted with pure seagulls. He never felt this free in his life. Yet, he hated it.

In the village on his island, he was expected to take interest in scholarly pursuits and be holed up in the library. As an average student, he was always picked upon by others.

Here, there was no one to judge him. The sea is neutral. All the others with him were as inexperienced as he was. The sea was a canvas to start life anew. Yet, he hated it.

The Captain’s voice rumbled, “Ahoy me hearties! Today’s pillage was a success ‘n this calls fer a rum party! All hand hoy!”

The crew cheered with chants of “Aye aye, cap’n!” and ran in and around the storage and galley to procure barrels of alcohol. Most of the recruits had fallen in love with this freedom and didn’t question the conquests as long as they were alive and had some fish and rum at the end of the day. They came to adore Captain Barbarossa, a man in his sixties with a big build and few golden teeth.

For a pirate, the real treasure is life. For them, on the high seas, there’s no concept of time. They leave all their bonds back home and their crew substitutes for family. No one knows what will happen tomorrow, the night storm might even drown the ship. There might not be food stock to suffice until the next island. Masts could snap, the hull could sink. There’s no past, there’s no future. Today is the day. All freedom exists today. Yet, he hated it.

Amidst the party atmosphere, the navigator sprung out from the control room and announced, “Attention mateys! We’ll soon be headin’ t’ th’ Devil’s Triangle. Every sail be furled, ‘n every light off.”

Hearing the word ‘Devil’s Triangle’, all the older crew members left their rum bottles and ran helter-skelter. The rookies were flabbergasted. Seeing them not moving an inch, the Vice-Captain thundered, “Are all of ye unaware of th’ legend of th’ Devil’s Triangle? Th’ accursed pirate devil Davy Jones himself roams around th’ seas here with his bottle of ale, with a parade of spirits tailin’ him onboard his Flying Dutchman. If we disturb these spirits, we’ll be cursed to sail as spirits fer eternity on th’ seas. Our ship should be dead across this stretch. No lights, no sails furled and no hands on deck. Go to yer rooms and cover yourself with sheets. GO!”

All the rookies scrambled and ran to their dorms, scared to the core. The captain too took refuge within his room. It was a moonless night. There was no one on the deck. Except Drake. Oh, how he hated all this.

But the Devil’s story got him intrigued. In his cruel world, there was no trace of God anyway, so why not make a Faustian pact with the devil?

He waited and waited, looking far off into the dark seas. No ship surfaced. Agitated, he decided to write down his wish on a sheet of paper and put it in an ale bottle, then tossing it out in the sea. Maybe that would get the devils attention.

No sooner he did that than dark clouds gathered overhead. He had disturbed the spirit of the sea. A hazy mist engulfed him and in his field of view came a huge, tattered ship, ten times larger than Umirosa. There was no one on their deck. A lone rugged voice was heard.

“Th’ spirits of th’ sea tell me th’ wish of an inexperienced lad. Do ye know that ye are makin’ a wish to th’ devil? Nothing good ever comes out from it.”

“Yes, I do. And I’m not afraid. Anything is better than this cursed era itself.”

“This era? Cursed? Shiver me timbers! Surely ye don’t know anything. Me jus’ has one advice.”

“What?”

“Be careful of what ye wish for.”

“I know what I want. I just want to get out of here.”

Davy Jones laughed. “So be it.”

The last thing that Drake saw was Davy Jones taking a swig from his ale bottle.

*

Somewhere, on the shores of the New World, he woke up in the 21st Century. Concrete buildings towered above. He could hear people in blue attire talking to him, asking him where he came from and such, but he couldn’t answer.

After this, I too don’t know in detail about what happened with Drake, but he was locked up in a cellar under the charges of trying to enter America illegally through the waters.

After serving his sentence, and not even looking like the young man he was, he staggered around a sparkling city with a sooty face.

There was no food to go on and no comrades. The open sky didn’t seem to exist there. The abound grey hurt his eyes. Oh, how he wished the soft blueness of the sea.

In this era, there were no pirates on the sea.

Pirates were on land, plundering and pulling each other down in a corporate setting every day. There were no swords, the words were sharp enough to jab. There was liberty bound by laws and corruption. But no freedom.

He tried escaping to the sea too, but once he crossed a certain mark, those white-clad sailors sent him to prison again.

“Entering international waters without documentation is illegal,” they always said.

Since when does the sea belong to someone? Who can mark the seas?

Now, Drake realized the stupidity of his wish. The era he came from was corrupt, no doubt. But there was freedom. Freedom to dream and live. Here, it was hell. People clung to their past and built castles of the future. No one had time for today. Everything was so complicated. People needed extravagance. No one lived on simple salted fish and rum.

He too, lived like a spirit now, full of flesh and blood. Just wandering around this unconquerable grey sea, among similar looking people. There was no mass loot or plunder. In exchange, there was a beautiful facade of sham every day. Pirates killed for loot. People killed for success.

There was no difference. The only difference was that now he was confined to one mapped boundary forever, walking around in circles like a lost cause for the eternity of his life. He was no worse than Davy Jones himself, who scavenged around the Devil’s Triangle (or the Bermuda triangle, as the people of this era call it) forever.

This was worse than the Pirate era. He detested it.

Davy Jones’ words rang in his ears.

“Be careful of what ye wish for.”

-YUKTA HATHIRAMANI

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