"We're chasing a will of the wisp, Captain!" he cried into the gale.

There was no sign he was heard. Lashed to the wheel, still as basilisk's bride, the captain steered them deeper into the roiling seas of Old Broadway.

His weather bunion screaming of even worse to come, Old Jack crawled through the muddle of tangled ropes and fallen sail of the mainmast. From within its crate, the ship's galleycat yowled in confusion.

"None of your snark, now. You're safer in there than out here and the deck's slippery enough without you boking up your terrapin stew everywhere." He surveyed the disintegrating ship with dismay. "Though we're all going to the bottom if we don't get out of this storm soon."

Jack Pinspittle had sailed the drowned streets of New York from the days when you could still imagine what had been at the bottoms of the deep canyons, the nancy-dancy world of promenading poodles and softhanded business that occupied men before the waters. In his younger days, he'd known the old city salts, the ones who had spoken of the voices of the
theaters beneath the waves. He'd believed them. Closing his eyes on becalmed days he'd heard the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowds all fancy-like and perfumed, pushing to enter what were now drowned caverns beneath the sea.

But in all his years of sailing the city, he'd never dreamt of a storm like this. There were no voices now, only the wind howling, torrents thrown upon the deck by the treacherous reefs of dead buildings. As Jack fought his way to the wheel, the captain yelled to him against the
wind, a man possessed.

"My grandfather always told me he got his reply the day the waters rose. That means the map is still there. All we have to do is find his manuscript and we can return home rich men."

"What good is money if you're not alive to spend it?" Jack spat. "You're going to drown us all, sure as your mother wears army boots."

The captain grinned wildly through the spray. "We're coming up on the building. Prepare the anchors. When we break the window, drop everything, and give me ten...books? Are they even books? I never asked how he sent it. Whatever they are, give me ten at a time from the
mailroom. There shouldn't be many and I'll know the right one. We'll be sailing back toward Boston faster than you can say 'Bat Segundo'."

"Why would I say that?"

"I have no idea. It's been stuck in my head for some reason. Get ready now."

Gripping the railing, Jack braced himself as the ship, sails full to the wind, hurtled toward the massive windows of the Simon and Schuster building. Just as the glass shattered he realized that both he and the Captain were chanting the same words over and over:

Bat Segundo. Bat Segundo. Bat Segundo...

It really did get stuck in your head...

Paul Auster meets Sebastian Junger!

Scoring to come


California Jackson said...

Love the bit about the galleycat (and I'm very familiar with how slippery cat barf can render a kitchen floor--I mean a deck).

kjc said...

I like it. I like how it evokes the idea of a drowned future and a flooded NYC in so few words. And the use of the required words/phrases isn't awkward (surprisingly enough).

Anonymous said...

This one is a lot of fun. Great world-building in a short space.

JLB said...

This is so much fun - on to my favs list you go! I love the descriptions, and the imagery, and the humor! Fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Huh! I actually managed to forget that I was reading a competition story, even after reading a dozen this morning... this is one of the few in which the "special phrases" felt like they were naturally part of the texture of the story. Now I want to read more in this world. What do they find? Where does it take them? I'm sold!

Megan said...

Romping good imagery. And it takes a brave man to name his character "Pinspittle." First (bat) rate story.

landlubber said...

Yeeeaaarrr, shivver me galleycats!
Left me wanting to know the rest of the story, one of the few that had that effect.