writing

The Chase of the Red Serpent

The Old Seafarers’

Legend

They say it can lure a

child to a watery grave,

that it can strangle

the breath from the

strongest man. Some

say it can persuade

a stranger to tell his

darkest secret.

-Lauren Child’s Feel the Fear

I walked towards the ship. It bobbed sweetly on the waves of bright stars. As it docked on the harbour, I thought how beautiful it looked floating there among them.

But I wasn’t there purely to enjoy the scenery. My Job was to travel on the ship Serpent and investigate the reports of mysterious disappearances on board.

I wasn’t to know the danger we were putting ourselves in, getting on board. Not until much later on.

A movement caught my eye as I boarded the ship, a flash of red. At the time I thought it must have been a bellhop of some sort.

The first night on the Serpent was, for me, spent in observation and exploration. As I went through reception I grabbed a map and got going.

The ship was mainly filled with old Lords and Ladies who had more money than sense and a rather large collection of stuffed creatures between them. What interested me most however was the Staff Quarters.

The ship was quite large and so I was prepared for the big space set apart for the crew, what surprised me though was that the captain’s room occupied almost as much space as the rest of the crew’s rooms combined!

This was interesting to me. I had heard rumours of the Serpent’s elusive captain. They said he never left his cabin and gave all his duties to his first mate.

Well this was a start. I stepped closer to the door that was, on the map, marked ‘Captain’. The door itself however had no words on it. It was coloured a brilliant shade of lobster red. All its metal work was in a deep black onyx. Engraved on it were ominous serpents, they appeared to be shifting over each other slowly, making the shape of a knocker.

Warily I knocked. There was no answer. But I heard a slithering sound from within like long fingers sliding over a watery lily pad. Since I received no answer, I resolved to let myself in and pulled out my lock pick to open the door.

I crept into what appeared to be a small foyer with a tiny window set into its door. As quietly as I could I peered through the window.

There before me was a nightmarish sight. I was gazing into the eyes of what appeared to be a serpent so huge it took the whole room to hold him. As red as the lobster door and more fearsome than any beast I had seen in my dangerous life. It had horrible gills on the sides of its monstrous face, and its eyes were a sharp yellow.

As I took in the creature before me, I stood mesmerised on the spot.

Suddenly I snapped to attention. My mind ticked back into gear. The first thing that had to be done was warn everyone on board to get out of the ship and go back to Earth. Then find out how such a beast had gotten on board.

I rushed to the ship’s control room to get to the loudspeaker. Quickly I burst in on the first mate an, ignoring his look of surprise, told him what I had seen. I was sure he would react to the urgency of the situation. But he didn’t. On hearing my story he laughed.

For a moment I couldn’t comprehend why. Then realisation hit me.

The elusive captain, who didn’t exist; and the suspiciously hardworking first mate. They were of course the same person. The same person, who stowed a sea serpent on board. And I had walked right into his clutches.

The clicked shut behind me. We locked eyes and for a moment said nothing.

“So you worked out my plan then.” The captain said simply.

I didn’t answer. Somehow I had to get to the loudspeaker and warn people myself. The captain, sensing my thoughts moved slightly to block the speaker from view. Unfortunately for him I saw the move and jumped forward quickly, so as to surprise him, pushing him aside.

He lunged at me, determined not to let me get the message out. I would need to disarm him somehow. At that point I saw some rope hanging on the wall.

Moving as if to grab at him I snatched the rope and threw my weight against my opponent, forcing him into a chair and tying him to it with a handcuff knot.

I moved him into the corner where I thought he couldn’t do any harm.

Over the loudspeaker I quickly explained the situation to passengers and as they hurried to the life boats I made to do the same.

I looked back at the captain and saw on his face a sickening sneer. I didn’t have to wander why for long. As I sped down the corridors I saw again the flash of red that I now knew could only be one thing. The pale bellied, leviathan was roaming the corridors of the spaceship. As its head came into view I saw a horrible red on its teeth. Somewhere in the back of my mind a voice reminded me of the no longer mysterious disappearances.

With increasing urgency I hurried people into the lifeboats that would take them to the safety of the Earth’s atmosphere.

We all got off the ship quite quickly but as we floated away, we saw the monstrous beast swimming through the black backdrop of space, toward its escaping prisoners. We were thankfully gaining speed quite rapidly, but as we grew closer to the O-zone layer the beast too sped up.

None of us knew then, whether we would survive that cruel race. The fear in the air was tangible.

Just when it looked like we would be constricted by the creature behind us, we broke through the Earth’s atmosphere and flew to safety.

Life after our trip on the Serpent, we all agreed, was strangely dull. Nothing ever seemed to compare to the action. I did continue to go on other dangerous missions, but I would always remember the pale space leviathan.

By L.J. Girgis

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