Yūrei

Kawanabe Kyōsai’s “Boatman and Funayūrei”. An example of a funayūrei rendered as an umibōzu-like yokai.

Taketoki Washizu had been Captain of the freighter Tsukimi for almost a year. It had been a year to the day when the Tsukimi’s former master Noriyasu Odagura had perished at sea, swept from the desk of this very ship during a storm. The official board of inquiry determined his death to be a tragic accident, yet every last member of the crew suspected murder.

By rights, the Tsukimi should have been Washizu’s in the first place, or so said his wife Asaji. Ever ambitious for her husband, she kept harping on Taketoki how he had been cheated, that Nippon Supply, the company that owned the Tsukimi, should have promoted Taketoki instead of Noriyasu. She was almost fanatical that Noriyasu had used his family connections and influence with Nippon’s upper management to unjustly gain command of the freighter.

For the longest time, Taketoki didn’t want to believe it. He and Noriyasu had been friends since childhood and he was happy to be Noriyasu’s First Mate.

But Asaji kept after him, hounding him, saying she had a cousin in the CEO’s office, how she’d seen memos about Noriyasu and Taketoki, that even though Taketoki had more experience, Noriyasu was favored.

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The One-Eyed King

solar eclipse

©bigstockphoto.com/mazzzur

Captain Edgar Barron cursed his luck. His ship the Noble, in the North Pacific between Hawaii and Japan, was in the grip of a vicious storm. He had hoped to make landfall at Hekili before this, but they had encountered doldrums last month which delayed their journey significantly.

He had eagerly read and re-read Edmund Halley’s 1715 publication on the Moon’s Eclipse of the Sun, and the path of that shadow was to pass over these seas today, 25 May 1770. Had they made Hekili island as scheduled, he could have witnessed the eclipse first hand, or rather second, since it was known to be dangerous to view the event directly.

Now the Noble was taking on water, her main mast was cracked and threatening to break, and her sails were in tatters.

“Captain, she can’t take this much punishment forever. I’m afraid it’s Davy Jones Locker for the lot of us, God have mercy.”

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The Last Cilician Pirate

Caesar

Circa 47 BC, Julius Caesar (102 – 44BC) the Roman general and statesman lands his craft during his invasion on Britain. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“And the fools thought they could hold me to ransom without my retaliation.”

Twenty-five year old Julius Caesar was arrogant beyond belief. He and his party had been taken captive by Cilician pirates who had demanded twenty talents for his release. Insulted, Caesar demanded they ask for fifty and sent all but two servants and a friend out to raise the funds.

While in the pirates’ company, he continually behaved like their superior, and wanting the fifty talents delivered to them, they tolerated his demands.

Upon his release, though a private citizen, Caesar marshaled a fleet and found the pirates still anchored off the coast of Cilicia. He captured almost all of them and had them imprisoned. Almost all of them.

Natan was among the crowds watching as his former shipmates were led to the crosses for public execution. He could hear the power mad whelp Caesar screaming for them all to be crucified. The former pirate drew his cloak tighter around his body.

Then Caesar showed the pirates his unique brand of “mercy”.

Natan turned away as each pirate had his throat slit prior to being put on the cross.

“What a fool I am,” he murmured to himself. “Like Yonah, I ran away from my life. I have to go back. Hashem forgive me.”

Taking what little money he had managed to escape with, Natan booked passage on the next ship for home. Even life in the corrupt Hasmonean Kingdom was better than this. He longed to see Jerusalem again and to make an offering to Hashem in His Holy Temple.

I mentioned in this blog post that my grandson and I have been learning a little about pirates from this children’s book.

We found out that a young Julius Caesar was really kidnapped by pirates and held to ransom. The children’s book leaves out most of the gruesome details, but you can find them at Livius.org and Mental Floss. My son Michael was also quite familiar with the story when I mentioned it to him.

The tale itself is compelling but I may have failed at making it more interesting by having one of the few pirates who escaped be a Jew who had run from the corrupt rule in his homeland to become a pirate. Now, like the prophet Jonah, he returns to the life he was intended by God to live, though he’ll get home just in time to see Hyrcanus II become the High Priest and briefly the King.

Blood in the Depths

evil mermaids

From the 2011 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

In later years, it was largely believed that Fair Isle, a tiny spit of an island between Sumburgh Head and Mainland, Shetland, which would eventually be claimed by Scotland, was originally settled by Bronze Age traders.

The real story was first withheld and then lost to history. Truth be told, Nordic raiders used Fair Isle as a hiding place for their plunder. By the ninth century, the Isle would become a legitimate Norse settlement, but hundreds of years earlier, it was the site of treasure, home of marauders, and a monument to a fearsome curse.

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Meeting the Future Mrs. Shaw

London 1890

© London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images – Found at NPR.org

William Shaw was stepping out of the pub on Northumberland Street near the Charing Cross railway station when he quite literally collided with his next wife. He’d been looking at his pocket watch and calculating how much time he had left to catch his train, and she had been rearranging the parcels she was carrying as they had begun to slip from her hands.

“Oh, I am terribly sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to…”

“Think nothing of it.” He bent forward to retrieve the parcels that had fallen to the pavement when they ran into one another.

Handing them back, he executed a small bow. “Mr. William Shaw at your service.”

It was difficult for her to return the courtesy given she was once again laden with physical burdens. “Miss Julia Witherspoon, Sir. Thank you for returning my parcels to me.”

“Please, you seem to be having difficulty. May I assist you?”

The offer was generous, but she was hesitant to accept the help of an unknown gentleman, even one with such apparent good breeding. On the other hand, her employer wasn’t particularly forgiving and she was already late.

“Very kind of you sir. I’ve been purchasing provisions for my employer and must meet my train to return to his domicile.”

“I would be honored to carry your parcels to your train, Miss Witherspoon.”

Thus the immortal Mr. William Shaw, for that was the nom de voyage he used these days, accompanied his future wife to Charing Cross. She was unaware of this, of course, though she found him quite charming and amusing.

He, on the other hand, was absolutely sure they would wed before the year was out (and was satisfied he was missing his own train for the right reasons). He had buried twenty-one, or perhaps twenty-two brides since he began his long journey through the corridors of history, the last one a mere two decades ago.

The future Mrs. Shaw would make a comforting companion to share the next fifty or sixty years with. He had a feeling that the 20th century was about to begin on the right foot.

I’m leveraging characters I first introduced in the flash fiction piece Traveling the Road Back, a tale about an immortal named William Shaw who, a century prior, made the mistake of letting his wife and one true love Julia board the doomed HMS Titanic. It takes decades, but he finally invents a time machine so he can go back to the early 20th century and save her life.

I’ve gotten more than one request to expand their story, so I wrote this in an attempt to “try out” writing about turn-of-the-century (20th century, that is) London and the first meeting between William and Julia.

How did I do?

Traveling the Road Back

old car

© Al Forbes

William Shaw was pulling the modified 1902 Cadillac Runabout behind his SUV to an abandoned country road where he would be unobserved.

He’d purchased it from an elderly widow, her husband’s pride and joy, but the old man lacked stamina and finances to restore this beauty.

Shaw unloaded the Cadillac at his destination. Appropriately costumed, he got in and activated the controls. He’d spent a century building wealth and the time transmitter so he, an immortal, could go back and correct his worst mistake. This time, he’d arrive in Southampton and prevent his beloved wife Julia from boarding the Titanic.

I wrote this piece of flash fiction in response to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers challenge using the accompanying photo prompt, and attempting to write a complete story in 100 words or less. I managed exactly 100 words.

To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

I am somewhat manipulating the plot from the 1980 film Somewhere in Time starring the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

In this case, William Shaw, an immortal, or at least very long-lived person, met and married a woman named Julia in the very early 20th century. They had a falling out for some reason, and she left him. She boarded the RMS Titanic at Southampton on April 10, 1912, and died when it sank early the morning of the 14th.

Shaw is an immortal, but he can’t go back in time. However being an immortal, he has nothing but time and patience in amassing wealth and eventually inventing a method of time travel that could be incorporated into a vintage automobile (no, he doesn’t have to travel eighty-eight miles per hour).

In the original history, Shaw didn’t go after Julia and she died. This time, he intends to prevent her from boarding the Titanic and save her life. They’ll spend however many years they can together, until enough time passes and she finally dies of old age.

He creates one critical problem, though. Now there are two of him in the world, and from 1912 on, there will always be two of him.