“This is Africa, doctor, not a stroll in a park in New York,” Blackmore hissed. He couldn’t help the sound of scorn in his voice, but he knew the doctor had a valid point.

image from the book The Brittle Sea


The stinking rat infested hell hole that was their prison had seen very little activity except when slops of food where served in buckets dropped on the straw and feaces littered floor.

“How long has it been, captain?”

Richard Blackmore shifted his position on a dirty straw and mud floor and looked up. Opposite him, David James was in a bad way. His ship’s doctor, kneeling besides James, had done, was doing, his best to keep James alive.

“Six months by my reckoning, Doctor.”

“It’s a miracle I’ve managed to keep any of the injured alive. Not enough nourishment, water you wouldn’t feed a dog and as for bandages and med…”

“I know, Doctor. I know.” Blackmore shook his head imperceptibly, the injury to his head still giving him headaches even now after so long being incarcerated. “You have done a sterling job, and you will be commended, if we ever leave this rat infested hole.”

The doctor winced once as he observed his captain’s obvious pain, and turned back to the first officer. James had a broken right arm, probably caused by the blast on-board ship that had propeeled him to the ships guard rail and as he had hit that, he then toppled over into the sea. Which is where the broken ribs and concussion had occurred. But the doctor also suspected internal bleeding. Not enough to kill at once, just enough to make it a slow and painful death if not treated at once. Of course, the y had managed to abandon ship and once of the sailors had swam, with James in tow, to the shore. The entire crew had been picked up, one by one or in small groups and had eventually been put in the hell-hole they found themselves in.

Richard Blackmore closed his eyes and hoped and prayed for salvation, but realised that without communication to the outside world to their predicament, then they would have no hope of rescue. Blackmore could see that dawn’s early light was creeping up and in through the cell’s barred window. Any glass that may have been there had long gone and the dawn now flowed into the cell like quicksilver.

“Are we ever going to get out of here, captain?”

In one corner of the cell sat the hulk of George Nance. A man steeped in the sea, so much so all he ever spoke about was the sea and what his ancestors did while at sea. The Cornishman shifted his position and waited for Blackmore’s response.

“Good question George and I wish I had an answer. But you’ve seen what response I get from our jailers. What else can we do but wait.” Blackmore couldn’t see Nance’s face, but he could tell by the silence Nance was non too happy with the answer. Nance was a man of action. The complete opposite to Blackmore’s wait and see approach.

The doctor stood and walked over to Blackmore, settled himself down next to the captain and took a deep breath. “We need to leave here, now rather than later. We are all getting weaker and weaker. At some point, some of these injuries,” he waved a hand in the direction of the men scattered around the large holding area, “will go to gangrene. And I’m surprised we haven’t seen dysentery yet.” The doctor let that sink in and said nothing more for a few minutes. When none was forthcoming, he drew in another long breath. “In another six months, half of us could be dead and the rest will be well on their way to death from starvation. Our captors don’t want us to survive.”

Those last seven words hit home with Blackmore and he turned his body to face the doctor. “You believe that?”

“The evidence is before your eyes, captain. Just look at your men. Each and every one of us has lost weight, not gained any. The injured are succumbing to their injuries. Something has to be done to either get more food or escape and try and live off the land.”

“This is Africa, doctor, not a stroll in a park in New York,” Blackmore hissed. He couldn’t help the sound of scorn in his voice, but he knew the doctor had a valid point.

The two men sat and nothing was said. Birds had started to twitter outside and they could here the noises of other activity, human activity, outside.

The sound of multiple rifles being fired caused a flurry of birds to presumably fly from a perceived danger.

“That’s the third time in as many days. What do you think they’re doing?” The doctor’s question hung in the air for a brief moment.

“Sounds to me like a firing squad. Our captors maybe getting rid of perceived enemies,” Blackmore said.

“Or witnesses.”

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019