From the Journal Of Dagrith Helgram

First Mate of the Karcifex, June 16th, 1918

I am leaving.  Captain Josiah doesn’t know it yet, but I am leaving his service as well as the Karcifex post-haste.  I aim never to return.  I cannot.  I fear for my very sanity now, as well as for my own physical safety, and I must keep my mind and body whole for the sake of my sweet Adriana.

   Ever since we took into our cargo that most curious crate stenciled with the letters HOGD, which we acquired in Cairo for an unnamed  client in Scotland, the usually auspicious outlook of the crew has taken such a dour turn.  Captain Josiah told us nigh immediately that we were not to ask questions about the crate, nor enter the sequestered chamber of the cargo hold in which it has resided in the bowels of the Karcifex since we launched from Egypt.
   The first sign that all was not right occurred late one evening as we were entering the Straits of Gibraltar, when a foreboding bout of Saint Elmos Fire emanated from the door of that same chamber, effecting no other part of the ship save the door itself.  Ever since then, those whose work takes them close to that door have been struck to the bone with a sense of dull but palpable dread, easing gradually with each passing hour away from the holds.
   Particularly troubling is the case of young Hollingsworth, a humble but cheerful cabin boy in our employ.  He was tasked one night by Josiah to actually enter the chamber to ensure the structural integrity of the crate, following a loud crashing and creaking sound originating, as we all thought, from behind the door.  Upon his return to the deck, the youth reported that no harm had befallen the crate, and that furthermore there was nothing of concern worth noting about the chamber whatsoever.  But there was a melancholy, drained look to the boy’s eyes, and a pallid hue to his skin.  The following two days, he said not a word to anyone, simply carrying out his assigned tasks with a mere nod and obeyance, where before there had always been jest and merriment and inquiries as to our next destination.  It was at the end of this second day that he climbed slowly to the crow’s nest, and flung himself into a crumpled heap upon the deck at the captain’s feet.
   In the following days, members of the crew have reported all manner of ungodly things.  Voices, eerie lights in the peripheral of their vision, fleeting shadows met with brief but substantial chills, and terrible headaches as though something were trying to claw its way out of their skulls from the inside.  Amid these complaints, and the ever-growing sense of dread emanating from the chamber door, our captain remained steadfast in his dismissal of what he referred to as “ridiculous rumors from a crew beset with a school girl’s fears and whimsies.”  Of the fate of young Hollingsworth, however, he uttered not a word since the peculiar and tragic occurence of the ending of a life.
   I may have been inclined to agree with the stalwart captain, had the voices and visions not crept into my own humble observance beginning not three days agone.  And the headaches.  Such horrible ordeals that I dare not try to reimagine.  Nay, I have seen the shadows.  I have felt their dread chill.  I have seen the fleeting lights out of the corner of my eye.  But the voices.  My God, the voices.  I recount them here now from the best of my memory:
   “…never passed on”
   “…something else within their blood”
   “…not unto the burning”
   “…cannot tell the water”
   There is one voice, however, that I shall never forget all the remaining days of my life, though I shall try my utmost to do so.  It was last night, my final night aboard, as we tied the Karcifex to the rigging of this Port of London.  A cold, foreboding shadow crept it’s way up the wall of my cabin, and as I turned toward it, hoping it would dissipate as all the other curious shadows had done prior, it instead made itself manifest and came to stand very close to the edge of my bed.  I could feel its hideous and utter lack of God’s light and graceful warmth, the bone chilling sting of the coldness in its stead.  I sank in horror and a fear-induced state of paralysis as it reached an incorporeal jagged claw of darkness toward my face.  And it uttered one word, and repeated it twice, a word hissed with such malice and hatred that I cried aloud at its utterance.  “Crowley,” it whisper- hissed.  “Crowley.”  And all sense of light and human decency left my very being for a time unknown to me…an eternity it seemed.  And then it was gone.  As soon as the whispy shadow of the fingers curled about my forehead, and the terrible utterance threatened my very sanity, it had all vanished.
  In these weary hours of the trembling dawn I now strike north under cover of the fading veil of stars.  It is a long way from here to Devonshire, to my beloved Adriana.  I know not what, if anything, may follow me now, but I pray to God I see her pretty face again.

–D.J.H.

Author: Benjamin Brunson

Benjamin Brunson (born 1975) started writing at the age of 7, when his father encouraged his pounding out of stories about a certain movie archaeologist on a family typewriter. He grew up in an era when action movies were iconic, and comic books were a mere 75 cents and available at every grocery store and corner gas station. His imagination was further fueled by a mother who introduced him to books and reading at an early age, eventually gifting him with copies of Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That same mother would also bestow upon him a deep love and respect for the ocean and a good storm. Brunson would go on to participate in a creative writing magnet school program in his high school years in Montgomery, Alabama, where he became co-editor of the program’s literary magazine under the tutelage of Jerry Lawrence. At Auburn University, he majored in English and Literature, and quickly landed a spot as the film critic for the campus newspaper. The professors he would encounter in his collegiate career, namely Dr. Oliver Billingslea and Dr. Suzie Paul, would inspire him and help shape and steer his lifelong dream of creating fiction. In 2003, a major television network would cancel Brunson’s favorite sci-fi show about a group of ragtag misfits who, aboard a cargo spacecraft, took on various odd jobs in order to cull out a living and keep on flying. Feeling as if a deep void had been created in his life from the loss of the show, Brunson channeled his love for the ocean and began scribbling the notes for a handful of newly created characters and locations. These notes would, fourteen years later, form the basis for his monthly oceanic adventure saga, Blue Daunia.

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