The Capten Sings

Artwork by Joshua Insole

If any had survived, they would have recounted — with wide-eyed horror — how the Capten was singing when it happened. Not just singing but bellowing at the top of his lungs; so loud they wondered how his voice did not crack with the strain.

He couldn’t have known that it would kill him and, as a consequence, it would kill all the others as well. That was how it worked. That was the point. If one could detect the insidious nature of the thing, could spot the evil as it twisted its vines around the fragile human brain, poisoning, corrupting… well, then you might be able to stop it. Might be able to rip the weeds out before they strangled the entire garden. Then you might stand a chance.

The evil knew this, and so it was meticulous in its spreading. It was a game, really. The greatest game of all.

And the stakes were oh so high.

It grinned in the darkness as it reached out and touched his mind. Ah, so weak! Yes, so easy to commandeer! So delicious, so sumptuous, so sweet were those memories, those thoughts, those emotions! It rifled through the recollections as one flicks through a scrapbook, looking, looking, looking, searching for something, anything… There! Oh, yes. Perfect! It crowed to itself, the somehow rusty laugh the sound of pure and utter madness.

Softly at first, so as not to frighten him — in a way not dissimilar to the manner in which a hunter approaches an easily-spooked deer — it began to sing to him, following the familiar lilting melody almost exactly, filling the Capten’s inner eye with visions of his father’s fingers dancing across the hand-carved instrument, flooding his senses with warm childhood nostalgia. A puerile grin spread across the man’s face, as his ears were tricked with a cheap facsimile of his old Da’s flute.

And then, once it was satisfied that the man was sufficiently pacified, it ripped his brain in two as easily as one would tear a loaf of bread. The man winced in pain and almost cried out — but by then it had reached inside his halved mind and silenced the action, numbed the pain, flooded his gullible, believing nervous system with an onslaught of positive neurotransmitters.

And then the man was silent once more, eyes glassy, mouth slightly agape in a simpering smile, a small glob of drool trickling down his chin.

After a while, he began to hum. A few of the boys grinned and hummed with him. Soon after, the hum became a song. More of the men still smiled at the melody, for it was one they all knew. A few even joined in, singing along softly when they could remember the old words.

The Capten cycled through the song once, twice, thrice, volume ever increasing. “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,” he sang.

One by one, the accompanying voices fell away, and brows were soon furrowed with frowns. Several exchanged a concerned glance, unspoken questions written upon their countenances. “Capten?” someone asked, but the word drifted past him, like a cloud in the sky. Observed, to some extent, but mostly ignored.

Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.

“Capten, is ev’rythin’ all righ’?”

But the Capten kept singing, and his hands remained glued to the helm with a white-knuckle grip. They would try to pry him away, eventually — try and fail.

The barrelman was the first to see what was to come and shouted down his warning from the crow’s nest.

Some of the men tried to reason with the man at the helm of the ship, but they found it was akin to speaking with a corpse. “Capten, please!” they begged, as the barrelman continued to scream and swear from above.

One man even attempted to pry the wheel out of his hands. The Capten didn’t look away from the oncoming isle of Boddi Craig and removed only one hand from the wheel when he delivered a deft blow to the usurper’s Adam’s apple, crushing his windpipe with brutal precision. The poor fellow collapsed onto the deck, hands scrambling at his own neck as others ran about him like panicked ants, trying and failing to save him.

Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,” continued the Capten, either blissfully unaware of wholly ignoring them.

A few more tried to move the man but he was stout, immovable like a statue. Even the biggest of them could barely budge the entranced Capten, and several were soon acquainted with the deck for their endeavours. The rest looked on with dawning horror, all-too-aware of what was looming, not wanting to risk the wrath of the man their Capten had become to stop it.

And then, impossibly so, his voice grew louder as if with drunken cheer. The Capten’s men knew that he was no friend of the bottle, however.

Gwlad! Gwlad! Pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad!

Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau!

O bydded i’r heniaith barhau!

Only the first mate — a decent fellow by the name of Elis — was wise enough to understand what needed to be done, and braver still to attempt to do it. “I’m sorry, Capten,” he whispered as he approached from behind with a knife that glinted in the starlight. “Duw forgive me.”

He might have succeeded, were it not for the freak wave that rolled the ship.

Had at least one of those poor souls survived the night, they’d have said that such a wave was impossible, especially under the weather conditions. “Out o’ nowhere it lurched, like a behemoth, up from th’ depths,” they might have said, had their lungs not been full of seawater. “It came without a warnin’.”

The first mate was thrown from the ship and into the icy blackness, knife tumbling from his open hand into the waters alongside him, his face a potent mixture of surprise, fear, and knowing dread. His head bobbed to the surface once, and only once. Whether it was the water that killed him or whether it was a stealthy ocean beast that took him, his fate remains knowledge privy to only the Great God Above and poor Elis himself.

As for the Capten, his hands remained locked to the helm, sturdy sea legs riding the wave as if it were no more than a ripple. And his song never faltered.

He was smiling as he crashed the ship into the rocks.

Smiling and singing.

19th May 2020

Written for the May 2020 #BlogBattle

Read the rest of Tales from Boddi Craig here!


9 thoughts on “The Capten Sings

  1. aebranson

    I love how you tricked me with this one! As I began reading, I thought to myself, “I guess Joshua decided to take a break from Boddi Craig this month.” I became intrigued by the nature of the creature attacking the capten, wondering if it was immaterial or a monster that used its mind to assail victims. When the barrelman began to scream and swear, I was enjoying having figured out how everybody else died when I saw those words – Boddi Craig! You sly dog…! 😉
    Of course that answered all my questions about what was attacking the capten, but it did stir up a different question: Exactly how did the residents of Boddi Craig get established? Were there ever survivors of these shipwrecks? Or did the priests pummel the demon the whole time until they imprisoned him and established the trinity guard? Sounds like more material for future stories!
    I’m also curious: Do you speak Welsh, or were you using the lyrics of some old ballad? It was a nice touch to a great story!


    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Ha, I’m glad you enjoyed the slight trickery. I feel like there’s quite a lot of stories to tell about this little island, either directly or indirectly, as this segment partially was.

      I do have answers to all of these questions… but I think it’d do them injustice to put them plainly here. 😉 I hope to expand and explore in future prompts!

      I’m really glad you liked the addition of the lyrics! And to answer your question: I’m half English, half Welsh. I don’t speak Welsh properly, but know the odd word and phrase, and several songs, such as this one — the Welsh culture is as much ingrained in me as the English. 🙂 The words here are taken from a song called Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, or Land of my Fathers.

      Thanks, A.E.! I really appreciate the feedback. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gary

    That time thing again Joshua. I read this a few days ago and was waiting for a few spare moments to comment. Am I to assume our senseless monks are slipping in containing their charge? It seems the creatures reach has extended somewhat in search of sustenance. I thought you might have escalated the horror within said Capten… maybe locking his joints up so he can’t release the wheel and closing down all senses that reach out externally. That would leave him locked inside a world of pain unable to stop the inevitable and err…savouring every moment of anguish.

    I digress… Boddi Craig lives on. Like Abe I thought this was a digression to another story initially. I’m now thinking this is going the way of mine. Advancing into a word count that grows with a world build with short stories creating acres of back story.

    Somehow the welsh ditty really suits this too.

    Can’t believe it’s now time for the next story too!

    Must try and not leave it to the last minute…and catch up on your comments too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      That time thing again indeed! July, how are we in July?! I feel like every time I look up from whatever’s currently got my attention, another four weeks have slipped by like a thief in the night. I swear we’re living in a simulation, and that the operators of said simulation keep fast forwarding it, just to see if we’ll notice, or if we’ll just nod and say, “Yeah, of course I remember the last few weeks happening, I’ve got the memories, haven’t I?” A sort of herd mentality — who will be the first to alienate themselves and stand up and shout: “Just what the hell is going on?” There’s a story there, I feel…

      I do have answers to these questions — some which are to come, some which I have hinted at in previous Boddi Craig entries! I’m kinda jumping back and forth in time, exploring little pockets and telling the stories. This was actually intended prior to the construction of the Castell, hence the Big Bad’s ability to attack beyond the reaches of the isle. As for the Capten’s slightly gentle demise, I’m toying with the idea that the Big Bad likes to play, and mixes up their tactics and approach on a whim, to be unpredictable. To keep things interesting for the creature. Sometimes causing unbearable anguish, sometimes being more subtle. Rest assured, there will be more horrendous horrors coming from Big Bad. 😉

      I think I’ve been influenced by your approach quite considerably! I’m quite keen on the idea of exploring the back story with individual tales that can be read individually — like Pratchett’s Discworld.

      Thanks again, Gary! Just talking about this place makes me want to explain about it even more, and to write about it even more. That’s a good sign, methinks. I’ll try and not give away all of my secrets ahead of time! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gary

        Any influence that might be down to my thinking I shall take as a positive Joshua! To be honest though it comes mostly through chewing the fat in writing conversations. The writing buddy King advocates. The Pratchett analogy is good too. Books with different solo tales, but interlaced with known characters. Mine seem to unwittingly do exactly that thanks to a certain bored librarian…not that his dialogue comprises “Oook!”

        Definitely a story through social observation. I’ve already tagged concepts if I ever follow God Strain up. I’m fascinated by writing a true endgame. Not a prelude to an ELE or post apocalypse, but the actual point it’s happening. There’s something of a psychological horror to it. Living while civilisation crumbles and society collapses. Nothing to do with zombies either lol.

        Have you considered the monsters motivation yet? Why it thinks it’s the protagonist in its world? Bit like a D&D thought run. Give it abilities, weaknesses and motivations. Sometimes that creates very real concepts rather than extending stories with ever increasing changes that make it highly impossible to take out. Mind you that could be a hidden rant at movies and drunk crop sprayers again 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I actually think a kinda blend between Pratchett and King is the kind of vibe I’m going for (ish) — with my own unique twist/personality injected. Obviously not all my stuff is comedic, I just love his story approaches and how he uses words — his very English perspective. Although I think we as horror writers walk a very fine line between horror and comedy. I reckon whether you find something humorous depends entirely on perspective.

        I know, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a proper endgame. Always concerned my parents, who thought my interests growing up were rather morbid, haha! I always found myself drawn to books/movies/videogames/music that explore these sorts of ideas.

        I have given a fair bit of thought to the Big Bad, and I want to slowly start unveiling more about “it” as the entries go on. I’m thinking of flitting back and forth between the “then” and the “now” — following our fledgling Three as they become the new monks, and looking back on the history of Boddi Craig. I’m a bit worried it might all come off as a bit scattered and fragmented, but I can always glue it together in a book of some sort later down the road — perhaps with more of a structure, so the reader doesn’t get too lost!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gary

        If the flitting is benefitting a world build then I’d say it’s a good thing. Granted it might put readers off a bit…as I said regarding mine, but if it helps develop the character concepts then it’s got to be better than character sheets and a desk ha, ha!

        King come Pratchett… now there’s a blend to aspire to. Have you read any Robert Rankin? The great Hugo Rune, theories upon taxi routes and the great day Brentford won the FA cup. The Brentford Trilogy is where it begins, from there you head off into something I think (for me) is better than even the mighty Pratchett as series work.

        Parental concern…hmm… not sure mine really paid that much attention… you’d think gothic music might have kindled an incline of a melancholic mind surely !

        Liked by 1 person

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