Open the nearest novel to page 100. Take the first sentence at the top of the page and use it as the first sentence for a story.
(Tuesday – June 9, 2015)
I held my breath.
The waves crashed higher and higher, and I was tossed like a feather in a whirlwind. The water pulled me under filling my lungs. I tried to scream in pain, but my cries were muffled in the depths. My eyes and lungs burned, and any direction could have been up.
I thrashed my arms frantically praying that the direction I was going was towards the surface. A gust of wet air hit my face, and I inhaled as deeply as I could before another massive wave overtook me.
The ringing in my ears was almost louder than the waters. The realization had already taken over that I would not last much longer. I was exhausted, and the tempest raged harder. What was man against the sea?
Despite my quickly approaching death, I refused to give up. Frustration clouded my mind every time a wave crashed against me. I ignored the burning in my nostrils and throat. “Please!” I thought that if I made my pleas audible, I would be heard.
I coughed and struggled to hear myself above the howling wind.
Just a little longer, I kept telling myself. If I can just make it five more minutes.
Everything in my body felt numb, and I was beyond the point of panic. A dull ache was replaced by sharp, stinging pains that covered every ounce of my limbs. The water in my lungs was weighing me down, and I could feel myself sinking.
A massive wave thrust me into the darkness. It was over. I could feel a bitter cold take over as my eyes went dim.
It seemed surreal. I was actually dying. If it weren’t for the pain, I would have wanted to laugh.
In a final powerless attempt, I sent up one more prayer before the darkness overtook me.
(Wednesday – June 10, 2015)
Wind tousled my hair as I came to my senses coughing and sputtering the last of the salty water from my body.
I was lying on something hard and rough. I tried to push myself up, but there was no strength. I only managed to turn myself over where sunlight burned through my eyelids.
“Get him up.”
A gruff voice yelled, and multiple footsteps pounded about me. They were hard enough to make the ground shake. I heard a clinging as someone kicked my chain closer, and two sets of powerful arms dragged me to my feet. It was a struggle to gain my footing because I still couldn’t open my eyes.
I nearly fell to my knees again, but the large men were there to grab me and roughly pull me back up.
“Needs a little to drink to wake him up.”
Voices erupted from all sides.
“Shut up!” The sound of all the other men died at the singular stern voice. The unexpected silence made me stumble backwards.
Loud footsteps drew closer, and I forced my eyes open. Everything was white at first, but my eyes gradually adjusted.
“Wake up.” Someone patted the side of my face. I blinked the salty tears out of my eyes. “What ship did you come from?”
I rubbed my eyes to get the last of the salt out. “The Voyager. I think that was the name.”
“Don’t know the name of your own ship.”
When the brightness finally settled, I saw that I stood on dark soggy wood. Crowded around me were men, but they were by no means soldiers. I could tell by the look of them. They didn’t wear uniforms or actual sailor’s clothes for that matter. One man wore a general’s jacket with sailor pants. Another was cleaning his teeth with a dagger of some sort. The men with long hair didn’t bother to tie it back. They had on hats of various nations. Even some of the shirtless ones. The man in front of me wore a powdered wig that probably hadn’t been freshly powdered in at least a year. A very raggedy yet vicious looking group.
“You got negro in you, boy?” The man in front of me crossed his arms.
He stepped closer. “You’re not full though. I can tell.”
He was probably referring to my hazel eyes and brown hair. My father had been a missionary, a white man, who married the daughter of mixed parents. “No, my mother was half and my father white.”
The man began to laugh, and a roaring laughter erupted from the other men. “They don’t care, do they, boy. So long as you just got a little negro in you.” I looked where he pointed at the chain around my ankle. He then glared around for the others to go quiet. “You escape that boat?”
“There was a storm, and the ship crashed.” I tried not to show any emotion despite the dull ache in my limbs and my pounding heart.
“Yeah, we saw it. Lots of debris. No spoil.” He narrowed his eyes. “You the only survivor?”
I shook my head and shrugged. “I don’t know, sir.”
He threw his head back and laughed, and that’s when I noticed that his teeth were either yellow, black or gold. “A negro wearing chains the only survivor!” He grabbed my shoulders. “That’s why I like your kind. You’re hardy. Fighters. Take Mad-Eye back there.” He motioned to a man much larger and darker than me with a pink scar going along his face, over his left eye, and down his neck. “I’d trade half these men for him.” The black man gave me a yellow grin while most of the others laughed probably because it was true.
I was close to getting sick. I didn’t think it was from the swaying boat but rather the wigged man’s breath smelled like strong whisky, but I didn’t react. My head throbbed. I didn’t understand why this man felt the need to shout everything he said.
He grinned. “Escaped the slave boat, did you? Well, you’re not free just yet. We need fresh meat on this boat.”
“Yeah, we do.”
Some of the men voiced their opinions.
“Shut up!” The wigged man glared with disgust then looked back at me with his pleasant smile. “Maybe if you earn your worth we’ll let you off somewhere, but you might feel that you’re one of the family. We have fun, don’t we crew?” The men shouted in agreement.
Their idea of fun made my stomach turn.
“Until then…” The man put a hand to his chin. “I think we’ll call you Lionheart.” He turned to face the men. “Everyone, give Lionheart a hearty welcome!” They cheered, and one of the men behind me slapped my back nearly making me fall to my knees. The wigged man turned back to me and held out his hand. “Welcome aboard The Marooner, Lionheart.”
(Thursday – June 11, 2015)
I hadn’t had to look at the flag to know that this was a pirate ship, but I glanced just in case and saw the black flag with white bones before going below deck.
I watched Slick do his best to pound a dent in my chains. He looked at my ankle in disdain. “I can’t decide whether to break your foot or leave the chain on there.” He threw the hammer to the side in exhaustion.
The sweltering heat and humidity was making me sweat. I wondered if I could just slip it off before Slick maimed me in frustration. “It’d be a bit of a burden either way, but a broken foot is worse. I’d be slow and practically useless. Plus, I’d take several days to heal.”
Slick looked at me in disdain probably because I had an ounce of common sense.
I tried pulling it over my foot again, but it was no use. “At least I could carry the chain.”
He wiped his forehead. “You might have to for now. Cap’n wanted to see ya after I got the chain off, but it’s not going anywhere.”
I stood and picked up my chain. It was heavier than I could remember. “Where is he?”
“I’ll show ya.” He picked up a jug and threw it back. I watched the enormous gulps of whisky pour down his throat. He turned it back up and shoved it towards me. “Here. You need a drink. It’ll help you regain your senses.”
This poor fellow didn’t seem to have an ounce of common sense about anything.
I pushed it back. “No, you drink it. I’m not thirsty.” Slick continually tried to shove it towards me, but I declined. “I don’t drink.”
He laughed and staggered about. “Don’t drink!” He turned the bottle back up for another swig. “You’re going to have to fix that problem. That’s all we got on this ship.” I frowned as he took another drink. He turned and wobbled towards the stairs leading to the deck. “C’mon.”
I picked up my chain and followed him to a door on the main deck. Slick loudly knocked then swung open the door. Before I could go in, he grabbed my chest. “Tell him I tried my best the break that chain.” I nodded as he shoved me inside then shut the door.
Silk and shiny daggers lined the walls. Gold was strewn all in the floor. The place looked like a treasure trove. I stepped over as much as I could as I walked towards the large desk and seat facing away from me.
Wig emerged from around the corner. He scowled and tried to throw a few dirty strands of the wig out of his face. “I thought Slick…”
“He tried. Either I carried it, or he broke my foot.”
Wig rolled his eyes. “That’s the thing about these men. They can work, but they don’t have a working part in that head.” He smirked. “But Captain was right about you. You might be skinny, but you’ve got a head on you. Only way you’d be able to survive. Now, move.”
He pushed me the other way down a hallway. We made some turns, but I was getting light headed. By the end, Wig practically had to carry me. We ended up in a large room that was still dark despite all the windows. There was one person in the room, and he hadn’t even looked up when we entered.
“Here he is.” Wig smiled like he was talking to some sort of idol.
The man continued to fiddle with a curved silver knife. “Thank you.”
I heard the door shut behind me. Only then did the man look up.
The way he looked was different. He didn’t have a cruel glint in his eye or wear an intimidating smile. He was shaggy and rugged like the rest but with a look of thoughtfulness about him, and that was what unsettled me the most.
I sat in front of him and struggled not to squirm despite the fact he was dissecting me with his eyes.
When I finally made eye contact, he turned away and went back to sharpening his blade. “What’s your name?”
He stopped and looked up with the ice colored eyes that were cold enough to startle me. “Your real name.”
I nearly shook my own head at myself. “Matthew Barnett.”
“A Christian name.” He took out a rag and began shining the blade. “Is that why you’re so calm?” The corners of his mouth curled in amusement. “You believe in an afterlife?”
My heart began to pound, and for the first time since I had woken up, I actually felt alive. “Yes, sir. I’m a Christian, if that’s what you mean.”
He ran his hand over his red tinted beard with his eyes narrowed. “Would you consider it a mistake that I brought you on this ship?”
Yes. A pirate’s ship was no place for a Christian. It was probably worse than being a slave.
I shrugged. “I guess it depends what you needed me for.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled, and he threw his head back in laughter. “You are really something, boy.” He wiped his eyes. “Won’t even disagree with me.” His smile faded, and he folded his hands on the table. “You’re more of a man than most I’ve ever met, Lionheart. How do you figure that?”
My eyes fell to the dark coat he was wearing. It had a golden trim around the collar. A fairly nice coat. “I’m tired.” I looked back at his eyes. “Since I was a boy, death was a companion. He followed me everywhere but never could get a grasp on me. I’ve felt pain so many times that I would be surprised if there was a part of me that did feel at all anymore.”
He had gone silent and tilted his head. “And you still believe in this God?”
I stared at the chain in my hand. “Yes, sir.”
The captain sat back in his chair. “We’re alike, boy. I was soft once just like you, but it wasn’t greed that made you hard.” I looked back at his face. “You probably don’t even care for gold, do you?”
I shook my head. “No, sir.”
His mouth gradually curved into a grin. “That’s good. I’ll be keeping your share.”