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 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 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.
The previous First Mate, Leopold had learned that to his detriment when Oliver had summoned to her cabin five years ago. Leopold walked away, clutching his groin and weeping before being thrown 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 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. Oliver needed her to come to the upper decks and see what had happened, but he did not want to die trying to achieve it. She had managed this with a permanent case of violent seasickness whenever she stepped aboard.
‘You had best lead the way, then.’ she said.
Oliver hid his relief. He walked 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 many 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 sail into this or did it appear?’ she said.
Her voice was playful, perturbed and curious about 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.
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?’
Oliver gave a small cough and asked permission to speak.
Garrett watched the shimmer of light on the glass, the lazy, sibilant slap of the waves against the curvature reflecting the sloshing knot inside the pit of her stomach. She paced the upper deck, swallowing the sour, hot acid of mingled nerves and excitement, head aching from dehydration as her thoughts grew sharp and ugly, dashing themselves against the inside of her skull.
The association made itself apparent, she fought the impulse to ask for a drink, instead walking repeated circles, looking at the huge translucent wall curved upwards. She plucked experience from the bone powder and blood meal fat morass of her memories, asides and inferences given new context with a blithe, intuitive lack of care. The poetry of a cannonball, the tang of smoke in her nostrils and the flight of splinters given terrible velocity by the precise application of force.
Men who had lived and died for her, without promise or expectation of reward.
‘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 Oliver.
‘So, as things go, this is bloody strange eh?’ she said
She smiled, fighting a sudden bout of the crippling sea sickness which she passed off as accepted pirate behaviour.
‘Hell of a way to go out, though, isn’t it?’ she said.
They went to gather the barrels of powder for the cannons.
Captain Garrett gave the order to fire.
The concern was the behaviour of the round shots.
Much like herself, Garrett knew of how she could caper and flail, leading to a windage which had the potential of bouncing back to reward her initiative with further destruction. A lifetime spent amidst flame and ravage had prepared her to face the worst of the world with a smile and a plan beyond the initial disaster.
Strange, large structures presented a new challenge for her.
Oliver saw the trembling in her hands as she raised them for the cannons to fire and his heart fluttered with nascent sympathy. She had been wrong before, but they were always small incidents, embarrassment over anything lethal. He muttered a small prayer and looked away.
The sound of the cannons became a tangible bank of force, pinching and slapping the breath from their lungs, rocking them backwards on their heels as their ears rang and eyes stung from the acrid smoke.
Garrett peered through the smoke. She cupped a hand to her left ear.
What came back from the confrontation in the beginning was the percussive refrain where the shot reached and struck the glass, a sound more felt in the bone than heard in the ear. It echoed around them, making Garrett give a raised eyebrow to Sketchley, already loading another shot into the cannon to prepare for a further assault.
She narrowed her eyes as the echo faded.
The sound warped, moving from audition to vibration as the crew stood in a perfect, desperate silence.
Oliver watched his captain retrieve a small faded photograph from her breast pocket and pressed it to her lips. She squeezed her eyes tight and murmured a name underneath her breath before she replaced the photograph and lifted her chin upwards. She adjusted her hat, rolled her shoulders back and pointed to the curved wall of glass.
The cracks were silver, summoned by the force of Garrett’s will, condensed into a single assault and making themselves known in an air of subtle menace. They appeared, shy at first, before gaining boldness and depth as they fed upon the inviolate, impenetrable glass. The ocean streamed in, trickling before rushing in and sending up banks of fine spray which soaked everyone on the upper deck.
Garrett and Oliver looked at one another, eyes shining with fear and excitement as the cracks spread across the curved expanse and the world fell in around them.
Kim looked up from her book. A sharp crack travelled to her from the back of the store.
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 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 given up and died on her.
To her mingled relief and regret, the jagged remains of a fish bowl laid there, the water puddled amidst the broken remains of the miniature wooden ship that had sat floating within it now splinters and lumps.
Kim looked down and sighed. She went to call for Harold, but then she remembered and trudged away, looking for a dustpan and brush.
Garrett, Sketchley, Oliver and Benjamin sat atop the 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 will be epic.’