Captain Morlen Grimtide gripped the railing of his ship as it crested another wave. The seas were violent, and each wave smashed against the hull of his great ship with the sound of clapping thunder, sending a torrent of water raining down on the deck. His thoughts, however, were clouded, and he stared out as if expecting something, yet finding nothing.
A crewman shouted a warning from the crow’s nest, thick fog and heavy cloud cover, approaching fast, and a chill wind blew across the deck. This sudden and unnatural chill brought his attention to sharp focus, and he peered through his spyglass to confirm the warning. Surely as the man had called, a veritable wall of fog had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, leaving almost no time and no direction to maneuver.
Before he could even reckon, the ship was engulfed by the fog. He could barely see more than a few feet in front of himself. The chill seemed all the greater for the fog’s wet, cloying presence, and he noticed then that there were snowflakes falling from the sky. As the ship sailed on, tiny motes of white snow sped past him or stuck in his mustache. He furrowed his brow, then turned to give the order to stop the ship.
But there was no one there to give the order to. His first mate, Marge, was gone. The helmsman, the navigator, the crew on the deck and up in the rigging, all mysteriously vanished. Fear began to creep its way into his heart. Had this been the fog’s doing? Was this some prank the crew were playing? No, it felt altogether too unnatural for such a jest or game. This all felt wrong.
The ship, despite having no crew, did seem to be slowing. The wind slowed and the snowflakes were drifting thicker, but slower now. Snow was beginning to gather in small corners and piles on the deck. Rigging was beginning to freeze over, ice began to rime the ship’s wheel and rails and cannons. He looked overboard and saw that his ship hadn’t just slowed, it had stopped entirely. It was suddenly and unnaturally frozen into a glassy sheet of ice.
Everything was suddenly, almost violently quiet. All he could hear was the occasional creak of frozen wood, the soft patter of snowflakes on the brim of his hat, and his boot steps as he walked the decking. He went below to see if he could find a lantern to light.
What he saw chilled his very blood. The crew were there, huddled together in groups, frozen solid. Marge had a group of her crew mates huddled around her, all of them looking like they had been frozen in place for years, their features blackened by frostbite. His eyes bulged as the terror of the sight sank in, and he fell backwards. He scrabbled back across the flooring, narrowly avoiding snapping the fingers off an outstretched, frozen hand. Stumbling and slipping on the ice-slick wooden boards, he rose and sped back up the stairs to the deck, panic driving him, but reaching the deck did nothing to quiet his furiously beating heart.
Another noise in the quiet caught his attention. A scraping sound, like rusty iron on glass came to him from across the icy plain that bound his vessel. He peered into the gloom, heart still pounding in his ears, hearing the scraping sound drawing closer and closer, but unable to identify it’s source. Round and round he looked, finding nothing, until a chill at his back made him turn about. He came face-to-face with two glowing blue orbs that looked for all the world like eyes…
Morlen woke in a cold sweat, his heart pounding and his breath caught in his throat. He looked about his quarters. Everything looked to be in its place, nothing out of the ordinary. He rubbed his eyes, looking to his pocket watch for the time, then stood and walked out to the deck of the ship. They were still at anchor, the waters calm and placid, like a polished mirror. He took a deep, weary breath, taking some tiny comfort in the smell of the sea air at night. He managed to calm his racing heart after a few more moments, then turned to head back to his cabin. He lingered a moment at the door, and looked back out over the deck and the sea. A chill ran up his spine and was gone an instant later.
‘It was a dream, that’s all. That’s all it was, surely…’ he thought to himself with one last glimpse at the ocean before he returned to his cabin.