Ghost from the deep
Sam’s first experience with the afterlife had come one Saturday morning in late September at the age of thirteen. He had awoken around nine to his grandfather sitting in his room in the desk chair next to his computer. He was thumbing through a worn copy of Robinson Crusoe, a favorite of the pair. Sam was not necessarily caught off guard, although he had not know of his grandfather’s plans to stop by that morning. His grandfather had looked up and saw him stirring awake and smiled.
“Ahoy,” he belted. It was his natural greeting, and it flowed from him like good morning would to anyone else. He was wearing a navy sweater, khaki slacks and boat shoes. He looked like he had just come from the yacht club.
“Good Morning, Grandad. Should I get dressed? Are we taking the boat out?”
A fairly normal weekend occurrence.
“Not this morning,” he said as the smile faded from his face. “Are you afraid of me right now?”
Sam was slightly confused.
“Why would I be afraid of you, you’re my Grandad?” Sam asked, currently missing the greater significance of the question.
“And I always will be. Not matter what Sam.”
Now Sam was beginning to suspect something was not right. Something was off.
“Sam, I died this morning.”
His grandfather’s chilling words hit him like a baseball bat. He began to cry. His grandfather moved over to the bed and wrapped his arms around him. Sam still remembered this vividly. He still smelled of the his grandfather. The sweet combination of Old Spice and the tobacco smoke from his pipe. As the ghost wrapped his arms around Sam he wasn’t afraid. In the hallway he heard the phone ring.
“Your grandmother has just tried to wake me in my chair. Be strong for your mother.”
He heard his mother pick up the phone and after a few seconds she released a gut wrenching screech of pain and heartache. He heard his father’s footsteps race down the hall to her.
“Will they be able to see you too?” Sam asked.
“No Sam. You’re special. You’re very special.”
And with that his grandfather had vanished, seemingly lost in the streaks of sunlight spilling into his room. His father’s footsteps now approached his door. Sam quickly wiped the tears from his eyes. His father knocked on the door frame and cracked the door open and came in. Sitting in the very chair his grandfather’s ghost had just occupied. He looked at Sam for a few minutes and then after a long silence while he tried to find the words, he explained to him in the best way he knew how that his grandfather had passed away in his sleep. He had come home from the yacht club and fell asleep in his chair and never woke up. Sam faked the shock, but the tears came naturally and from a genuine place of loss and confusion.
The next visit from his grandfather’s ghost was several weeks after the funeral. Sitting out on Belafontè, his grandfather’s ship. Sam was tying and untying knots in a small length of rope. And then as if from nowhere or rather somewhere that cannot be seen he appeared to Sam and squatted down next to him on the deck of the boat. He was still dressed in the blue sweater, khakis and boat shoes. He would visit him several times after that. Always in the navy sweater. Sam hadn’t seen him in years and had honestly nearly pushed the memory back into his mind as nothing more than dreams or childish visions. A coping mechanism. But if he was special, then this new visitor from the unseen afterlife was offering a warning and perhaps it would not hurt to know more. So he went back to the library. To the back room, and sat at the ship wheel table, where for the first time he saw the brass plaque.
Dedicated in honor of Herbert T. Brody.
At least that cleared up the question of whether or not he was actually dead, Sam thought. Then he took a deep breath and called out to the ghost of Herb Brody.
“Mr. Brody. I’d like to hear more about the Saint Clement.”
Sam wasn’t even sure if he could call the ghost. He’d tried calling his grandfather once before with no luck. There were no cell phones in the afterlife and contacting it vocally was unreliable at best, at least from Sam’s experience. But this time someone was listening. There was Herb sitting across from him just as he was the other day. Just as if he was alive. Just sitting there.
“I like it here. It’s where they took all my stuff.”
Sam could relate to that. He knew how it felt to cling to items and things. In his teen years before his grandmother had sold it, Sam spent a lot of time on his grandfather’s old boat. It reminded him of his grandfather, it was where he kept all of his things. All of the things that were now packed away in the crawl space of a condo in Florida where his grandmother had moved to and since remarried. To a stranger named Carl.
“I guess you figured out that I know your dead.” Sam told Herbert.
Herbert nodded and smiled again. Herbert was happy to have someone to talk to that could hear him. He had been a fairly quiet man in life, but the silence of death was unexpected and unbearable. And the library was a dreadfully quiet place to haunt. But he had sensed Sam the moment he walked in. The cursed and dead shared a similar plain of existence and Sam found his way into a strange middle ground, a heir of the cursed.
In the modern world, in more developed countries remnants of curses were practically all that was left. When modern man left behind the old ways and beliefs curses expired along with people and all that was seen now were people who towed the line. The middle ground was inhabited by psychics, mediums and people like Sam. Descendants. In the underdeveloped world and among certain cultural regions curses and the belief in such things was still widespread, but for a ghost in the United States let alone in North Carolina, Sam was a rare find.
“What do you know about the final hours of the St. Clement,” Sam finally asked, when the awkward silence between he and ghost had reached its peak.
“The Saint Clement,” Herb began, “The Saint Clement was a merchant ship. She was nothing special to look at, nothing extraordinary about it all. Her captain however, Silas Remmy, was a little off. He was the bastard of the Englishmen and a Native American woman of the Croatan tribe–”
Sam interrupted, “The guys from Roanoke?”
Sam decided he had figured it out. “So the Saint Clement got caught up with the natives...they sank the ship?”
“Quite the opposite,” Herb continued. “Remmy never felt like much of an Englishmen. He worked for them, he lived amongst them, but he never forgot where he came from and the man who had tossed him aside. So on his trade voyages before docking in the Carolinas he would make a stop off on one of the smaller islands and leave things for the tribes. Sort of a Robin Hood of the seas. However, according to legend on one of his shipments he left 20 gold coins in his hat for his mother near the edge of the water nestled in the roots of an old willow tree. When his mother came to claim the coins she saw something quite unusual. A silvery blue hand was reaching from the water and taking the shiny trinkets that glowed in the moonlight. She ran over and grabbed the slippery wet hand and held on with all of her might and screamed for help. Soon several other tribe members were there to assist her and they pulled a young mermaid from the water.”
Sam sighed. More mermaid talk.
“They drug her through the woods and rolled her into a small lagoon in the interior of the island, you see mermaids are thieves. They are the gypsies of the sea.”
And suddenly he gone.
A greying older woman popped her head in the door.
“Sam, we’re closing up for the day, I’m going to have to kick you out.”
Sam shook his head and brought himself back to reality. The afternoon had somehow gotten away from him. Perhaps time with the dead was not regulated to hours and minutes. Sam packed his things and headed out. He decided to try and stop by the dive shop hoping Wyatt would still be there.
The gypsy at the water’s edge
Silas Remmy had never know his father in the capacity of a blood relationship, he knew him as a business man with sticky fingers and under the table dealings with all manner of criminal and thief. So Remmy thought nothing of scraping a little of the top to take back to his mother and her tribe. Remmy was the son of Isiah Rembrandt, the owner of a shipping company, and rumors abounded he was the money and mind behind several bands of regional pirate crews.
At fifteen Silas had approached the man he knew to be his father. He was certain that Isiah would look at him, see his own eyes, the grey blue eyes they both shared and immediately know. Feel some sort of unspoken connection. But the hope was short lived and all that came of that first meeting was the offer of work on one of Isiah’s ships. Silas was strong and built like the Native tribe he came from, though his natural skin tone was much lighter than that of the rest of the tribe in the warm summer months he darkened to nearly the color of coal. In his tribe he was called the equivalent of a chameleon. He could walk both amongst the white man and the natives and at times neither would be the wiser. Silas grew quite strong working on the ships, he learned the secrets of the sea and the signs of sky and he would eventually came to Captain the Saint Clement with a stern hand and sharp mind. And a shrewd coin purse.
Accounting practices in the day as they were, were quite easy to adjust or fudge the books. And as Silas saw his tribe begin to suffer he began stealing from his cargo to help them. A little food and beer at first, skimming a little from crew rations and eventually just outright stealing. Money he felt he was due from the father who had had his way with a naive Indian girl and sent her back to her tribe, pregnant and scared, and penniless. Despite his harsh exterior Silas had a soft spot for his mother and his tribe. Though he was often mocked as the bastard of Englishmen he felt at home there and did not want to see them suffer. And they were suffering.
The tribe was falling apart. And Remmy had began to realize his meager pilfering was not going to be able to sustain them any longer, so Remmy and his crew began to raid Spanish ships near what is now the Florida coast. He would deliver his spoils in the hollow space between the roots of a willow tree on the bank of an inlet and his mother would know to come and check the tree under the light of the full moon. In April of that year, there was a blue moon. The rare occurrence when a full moon falls twice in the same month. Remmy's work had been slow, but he had not wanted his mother to come empty handed from the tree so he a left a few gold coins shimmering in a hat in the moonlight. The evening of the full moon when she came to dutifully collect the gold she was not alone. She approached quietly, a raven on the path to the tree that night had signaled her of something dangerous in the near future. An omen she took to heart. As the tree came into view she sensed that like the raven had foretold, something was amiss. A slender silvery pale hand slide effortlessly and silent from the water and picked up a glistening coin and without a sound slipped back under the surface, and then repeated the action. Once, twice and on the third time the thief was surprised with the iron clasp of a unsuspectingly strong native woman. Her hand gripped the wet smooth wrist of the creature and as the half woman half fish began to thrash and fight, clawing bloody Silas mother’s hands, she did nothing but scream for help as she locked her feet into the meeting point of roots of the tree, in that angled space she shoved her feet, gained her footing and began slowly prying the creature from the water, it’s algae stained hair, no doubt originally a silvery pigment deficient blonde took a greenish hue in the moonlight as its wet strands framed the face of the otherwise beautiful, yet frantic young woman. Before long several men were arriving with bows and stolen guns and other weaponry surely expecting a bear or big cat, or some sort of predator to be attacking the older woman. All arriving were stunned as they witnessed the old woman finish extracting the mermaid from the water all the while never releasing her vice-like grip.
The full moon in a cloudless night sky made the creature easily visible as it writhed on the ground with the old woman. The silvery pale, bare breasted woman with seaweed colored hair thrashed her powerful tail in the sandy dirt on the bank of the inlet. In the nearly daylight brightness of the moon the men were stunned to see that where there should have been legs the nude woman’s body had not split its lower half and instead lead to a tail, flesh colored, minimal scales and a translucent fin. Immediately interpreted as an omen the man known as Tenne, grabbed her with one arm and slung the mermaid over his shoulder. They would take her back to the village. The medicine woman and old witch would know what this had meant.
As they began walking back to the camp, Silas mother began collecting the gold coins scattered in the muddy soil, dropped and tossed during the scramble with the mermaid. She rinsed them and her tattered hands in the salt water before catching up with the rest of the tribe.