Alexandra Garrett, Captain of the dread ship Fish Tailed Bitch put her hands to her head as it throbbed like an abscess. She heard her first mate Oliver whispering her name. She moved onto her side and rasped for him to bring her chamber pot to her.
Oliver held it so that she could vomit with the blithe ease of experience before she wiped her lips with the back of her hand. She reached under her pillow, uncorked the bottle of thick, red liquor with her teeth and slugged half of it down before rinsing her mouth out and spitting it into the chamber pot. She sat up as Oliver took the pot outside. When he returned, she had lit a cheroot and pulled her long red hair back into a loose ponytail.
‘Now what the fuck warrants a visit at this ungodly hour?’
Her voice was the crisp, nasal tones of a good education and breeding. It had the colloquial rasp of years spent traversing then conquering the pirate underworld but each time she spoke, Alexandra could see the light in a man’s eyes change. The other times she saw it was when she killed or fucked them, but it was always the voice that unmanned her efforts to be taken entirely seriously.
The previous First Mate, Leopold had learned that to his detriment when Oliver had summoned to her cabin five years ago. Leopold had been led away, clutching his groin and weeping before he was invited to throw himself overboard. Oliver had never asked what Leopold had done, and it had been the first of many careful decisions that had led to his tenure being entirely without incident.
‘We have a small problem, Captain.’
Another careful decision was that Oliver presented any problem to the Captain as small.
Attempted mutiny? Small.
Sightings of a leviathan or Raoul, the cannibal squid? Miniscule.
A dose of Galloping Cock-Rot that was making the crew eat one another? Tiny.
In three years she had gone from Captain Lithe-Britches concubine to captaining her own ship. She necessitated careful handling for along with her genius came her idiosyncrasies, which all the best pirates had. Oliver really needed her to come to the upper decks and see what had happened, but he did not want to die trying to achieve it.
‘You had best lead the way, then.’ she said.
Oliver hid his relief quite well. He turned and started to walk as he heard her buckle her sword belt on and mutter to herself. His heart skipped a beat.
Captain Garrett would figure it out, he told himself.
She had to.
Captain Garrett had faced down any number of threats and situations. She prided herself on her capacity to endure and thrive, to look Death in the face and keep going.
What she looked at now was her own reflection, distorted by the curvature of the solid wall of glass that stretched beyond the limits of her vision.
‘So, did we just sail into this or did it just appear?’ she said.
Her voice was playful, perturbed and curious about exactly what had happened. She looked at her crew, some of the deadliest, most cunning pirates to set sail and not a single one of them had a clue as to what had happened.
‘Mermaids, perhaps?’ Sketchley, a limp, pale lad from Stevenage offered.
She turned to look at Sketchley whilst pointing at the glass.
‘What is it with you and bloody mermaids, Sketchley?’
Sketchley blushed and looked away.
‘I fell in love with one. They’re clever things, to do that.’
Garrett sighed and shook her head.
‘I want cannons fired at it, Oliver. I cannot remain in one place, trapped inside whatever the fuck this is, understand?’
Sketchley put his hand up and Garrett debated whether to let him speak or stab him. She waved for him to speak.
‘If it’s too thick, it won’t do much but waste a cannonball, Captain and it might bounce back. Plus if we shatter it, then won’t it fall on us?’
Garrett gave a cold smile and winked at Sketchley.
‘Hell of a way to go out, though, isn’t it?’ she said.
The orders were given. Sketchley went to gather the barrels of powder for the cannons. He would dream of his mermaid again, how she had laid in his arms and made him feel ten feet tall and made of diamonds. If he were to die here, then he would do so with love in his heart and as part of the greatest crew of pirates to set sail.
Oliver stood on the upper deck. The sky ahead was distorted, by the combination of the light and the glass. He had often amused himself by looking up at the clouds and finding what shapes they presented. He would never tell another person that, but he swore, as he looked out at the horizon that there was the faintest trace of movement.
Captain Garrett gave the order to fire.
Kim looked up from her book. The store was warm from the space heater, and she had been woken from her light doze by the sound of something cracking.
Harold had called in sick so she had to unpack the inventory by herself. She did not complain because Harold never got paid for his time at All Kinds. He took whatever books he wanted, but they had thousands of them in the back.
Kim got up and walked through to the second room where they displayed the items that looked pretty or interesting. It ranged from hand stitched dolls of Japanese kitsune through to brass sextants. As she switched on the light, she heard the dripping of water and her heart sank, afraid that the pipes had finally given up and died on her.
To her mingled relief and regret, she saw that it was an object that had apparently shattered on the shelf, the jagged remains of a fish bowl, the water dripping down to the floor where laid the broken remains of the miniature wooden ship that had sat floating within it.
Kim looked down and sighed. She went to call for Harold, but then she remembered again and started to trudge away, looking for a dustpan and brush.
Garrett, Sketchley, Oliver and Benjamin sat atop the hastily constructed raft, looking up at the new world around them. Oliver cast a glance at Garrett who was looking up and grinning.
She looked at him and her grin widened.
‘This is going to be epic.’