My Problem With Doors is the story of Jacob who is lost in time.
The pirate ship the Bloody Scourge was the bane of the Caribbean isles in the 1680s. Its ten years of brutality and pillaging were legend throughout the world. Many a dark pirate tale originated with that ship, though over time other crews and captains tried to claim the yarns as their own.
To be found at sea by that ship was to be confronted by the very face of death. The soldiers of port cities, naval sailors patrolling coastlines, and harbormasters all found themselves working long hours with little rest when even just a hint floated about that the
Bloody Scourge had entered their waters. There was no vessel more perilous, no crew more dangerous, and no captain more bloodthirsty.
Yet, a person who happened to find themselves on board this deadly craft would have first been surprised by its sheer plainness. For there were no blood stains and lost limbs, there were no heads on pikes as some claimed in their accounts. Could such a vessel truly be the same horror that haunts the nightmares of sailors? This was a ship spotless and with no obvious signs of its devastating victories. The decks were clearly well-kept and no one would believe that hundreds of men had lost their lives on those boards. They were just too clean. The mess was carefully organized with each morsel and drink accounted for. Below decks, where the crew slept and ate, it was much the same as on any ship of that period. The hammocks swung from the underside of the deck above while the tables were hung likewise, filling, when lowered, almost a third of the cramped room. Certainly, it was a situation where the common sailor would have no privacy.
Beneath the captain’s cabin was a special hold for the treasure which only the captain and the quartermaster had access to. And for those sailors with sticky fingers, they were made well aware that the quartermaster (under fear of his own life) kept a very careful record of each coin and trinket. In his cabin, the captain lived in luxury and he did so successfully because of the overwhelming fear that each member of the crew felt in his commanding presence. Every one of the sailors had seen what could come from questioning his leadership. Good sailors had been flayed and hung from the yardarm just to prove a point.
The Bloody Scourge belonged to none other than Captain One-Eyed Wolf.
Not much was known of Captain One-Eyed Wolf or how he came to be in control of the ship. It was as if he had snuck his way into pirate history unseen, for suddenly there he was, the most feared captain who sailed west of Gibraltar, leading a ship which flew only one flag, a flag of the brightest red.
The captain had commanded the flag to be made following one of their conquests. As the legend went, it was sewn by the wife of a British admiral before she had been thrown in the sea to join her husband. Wolf wanted the sailors of other ships on seeing his flag to think of the blood that would flow from their veins and how it would shine on the deck if they dared approach.
It worked perfectly.
Not even the greatest military vessels would consider attacking the Bloody Scourge.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this when I stepped through the door connecting the captain’s cabin and onto the quarterdeck…
It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon and many of the sailors were lounging on the forecastle, enjoying the rays of the sun while others secretly sipped the rum they were not supposed to touch after their midday meal was over. The sky was a bright blue with a glaring sun and it took me a few seconds to get my bearings. Sometimes in my travels I have time to do some research about where I am and what the situation is. In this case, all I needed to know was that I was in trouble.
“Ay! Who’s that!?”
“Damn the Master,” I mumbled under my breath.
One of the men stood up and pointed at me. “What strange clothing he has!”
“He’s bald like Old Wiggy!” another shouted.
“Not by choice!” I shouted in return.
“Not by mine either,” an old bald man in the back shouted. He must have been Old Wiggy.
There was a noise behind me. The captain stepped through his door. “What is this?” He crossed his arms. He and I stood less than two feet from each other. We made eye contact. Well, one eye to one eye. My right eye was only looking at his patch.
“Kill him!” the captain ordered and began to draw his sword.
I quickly reached down and, using his hand, pushed his sword back into its sheath. I used his stunned reaction to my advantage and ran away, but then I had no place to go. No where! No where! I was trapped like a beast in a cave. I jumped up onto the top of the bulwark and from there up onto the poop deck.
I had only a few moments before the pirates on the quarterdeck would have their weapons out and begin attacking. From my position I could see them all scurrying around looking for their weapons or anything else to injure me with. The captain had his sword drawn now and was waving it up at me.
“Damn the Master,” I repeated to myself. “Damn him. Damn him.”
I began to count the men of the crew. There were definitely more than twenty—a whole lot more than twenty—thirty? forty? maybe more? As I began to absorb that terrifying number, I forced myself to concentrate on something other than my own imminent demise. Think! I needed something to even the odds or something that could help me escape (but how and where to?). “There must be a weapon. Damn it, Jacob!” I cursed out loud. “Look for a weapon.” I could not see anything that I could use and my one opportunity to prepare myself for what was coming quickly slipped away.
Thirty pirates (at least thirty) all with swords drawn started to walk towards me. Many of the others seemed content to drink and watch. “I’m sure we can work this out,” I said to the captain. “It’s just an honest mistake.”
“Kill him quickly,” the captain said. “Five guineas to the man who brings me his head.” He then turned and reentered his quarters, leaving me to stare down at thirty men, all thinking of the nights of drinking and women they could buy with my head. I could see that whatever was left of the crew belowdecks was not going to be stirred. These men wanted me for themselves.
My only hope for avoiding a battle was to find a way off the ship. And since we were at sea with no sign of land, swimming was out of the picture. The only other option was to try a door and hope that it would work on the first attempt.
There were only two doors I could see from my location; the first was to the captain’s quarters. If it didn’t take me off of the ship, it would take me into the cabin, trapping me with him and his sword, and the pirates behind. The second was a hatchway leading below and I wasn’t sure if that kind of door would work for me. Besides, the pirates moving toward me were between me and that door. And again, if it didn’t work I would be trapped in an enclosed location. My chances did not look good and the pirates knew it. They chuckled as they crept closer to me. It was one of the most unpleasant sounds I had ever heard. Some began taunting me.
“With that bald head, he looks like a little bird!”
“Are you lost, little birdie?”
“Has little birdie lost his momma?”
I strapped my backpack more tightly to my back. I was getting nervous. This definitely was a far different situation than any thing I had experienced at the Master’s. I was quickly beginning to miss the controlled atmosphere of his grounds. I could feel the sweat already starting to form on my back. Was it from the sun or my fear? Probably both. I was losing focus and will power.
Calm. Remember the things you learned at the Master’s estate.
I stood up and positioned myself into a ready stance. I cleared my mind and closed my eyes. “One at a time…please, God, let them come one at a time.”
The first attack came from behind and it was from three pirates at the same time (Did they come up from the side or above? how did I not see them!?).
I quickly leaned back as the first blade glided past my chest. I reached forward, grabbed the pirate’s hands, and yanked the sword out of his fingers. I quickly turned and thrust the sword forward into the chest of one of the other pirates. The third man looked on, stunned. I kicked him hard and he flew up high and backwards off the ship.
The pirate who had once owned the sword that I now had inside his companion looked at me, perplexed. I smiled (which confused him all the more). He didn’t know what to do, so he awkwardly smiled back. I punched him in the face and he fell off the poop deck and onto the quarterdeck below.
I drew the sword out of the sailor, hoisted his body up onto the rail, and threw him into the sea. He screamed as he fell. I was breathing heavily. The man’s blood covered the sword and I was beginning to sweat, and…
Something began happening to me… a change… a moment I never expected. It was something that had never happened while fighting and training at the Master’s. I—. Freedom, power… power… I laughed.
I laughed loudly and hard.
I can’t remember when I had laughed like that before.
From some place, deep inside me, I actually began to enjoy the feeling of this. The fear, the excitement, it was a release. God! It felt great. It felt so bloody great! A release of all the frustrations I had had stored up in all my sixteen years. Losing my family, losing the Lieutenant, losing any sense of home I had ever had, everything. The fountain that had been waiting to spring forth erupted like a mad, overflowing waterfall! A mad, powerful waterfall… power…
I didn’t need a weapon. I was the weapon.
Those poor pirates.
You can learn more about the book and read another excerpt on the My Problem With Doors page (here).
Thank you for reading!