I hear the groans of the long dead seaman as I walk the decks of this Man Of War. I have three gun decks below me. In all there is fifty six cannons ready to fire from the broadsides, there is a further eight at my stern and four in my bow. Above me each of the three masts hold four sails all ballooning in the wind and pushing me southward towards the cold waters of the Antarctic.
Despite my sixty metre length the rough seas and massive waves, some as high as my lowest mast, throw me around like a sardine in the white water. Although the moon is not full when it comes out from behind the dark rumbling clouds the night sky almost turns to day. But I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened since leaving port last night.
The groans of my long dead crew are not the only groans I hear, with every rocking and rolling movement of this large ship the boards below my feet make a similar sound. The wind blowing through the ropes at times vibrates to the point of sounding like thunder. And the spray from the ocean as it hits me in the face feels like a thousand needles all penetrating my skin at the same time.
Through one such glimmer of moonlight and out the corner of my eye I see a movement along the drenched deck. I immediately turn my head but as quick as it came the moonlight is swallowed by dark black cloud and I am left with nothing. I look up to the sky, hopeful for another burst of moonlight through the clouds. I see several small breaks and hope it will provide me with the light I need to set my mind at ease. Holding onto the wooden rail I wait.
As forks of moonlight spear through the clouds I suddenly realise my worst fears had been answered. It started out with one solitary man, then another, then another, then before I knew it I was surrounded as one by one those long dead seaman began to rise from the deck. With every creak and groan of the swollen deck boards another seemed to rise from between the gaps. They stood dead still all looking directly at me, they must have numbered at least two hundred. Yet not one of them needed support in the rough and treacherous seas, they all stood staring at me through black lifeless eyes.
Then as quickly as the dead crew had risen from the decks the wind stopped blowing and sea went dead. I tore my glance away from the deck and turned to look at the open sea. There was not a wave in sight, every white cap had disappeared and the water was like glass. Light flooded the deck and I looked up to see every dark angry cloud has disappeared and the moon was directly above me shinning brightly.
As we drifted quietly on dead calm seas, not a breath of wind, not a ripple on the water, I wondered what was going to come next. Then I heard it, a sound that rocked my body to the core, a sound so unexpected that I froze on the spot.
The sound of broadswords being unsheathed and drawn filled my ears as all two hundred men pointed their blades to the sky. This was followed by a two hundred strong roar as each and every man turned to the west. Swords clanged together, the dead crew banged their feet on the deck and roars of battle filled the night.
It was then I noticed on the horizon to our west another ship, a big one.
Had my crew risen for a reason?
For those unsure this effort in writing was based on four lines from the Iron Maiden song Rime Of The
Ancient Mariner, which in turn is based on the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge