Short Story: The Far Beyond

The ground is thirty-feet below. If I mess up this jump, I’ll snap my ankles for sure. The pain won’t be the worst of it, either. They will catch me and lock me away for being a nutcase and believing in worlds their eyes could never see. But I have seen them. I have dreamt of the wildest and most beautiful places this human world could never imagine.

I have longed to go there for years. I’ve searched far and wide, losing those I once held dear because they failed to see the wonders of this place beyond the stars. The land that is far away from time and space, where human life can be transformed into something mystifyingly beautiful. Every day will be an adventure and have a purpose that will only be meant for me.

After ten years, I finally found the portal to the land in the far beyond and I haven’t much time to make the leap.

The tree is dying and it will take the powers of that land straight to the gates of heaven. I will forever lose the opportunity to discover the true meaning of my existence.

How can I go on with my life if that life is dull and relentless?

I need to make this jump and stick the landing with perfection. It is the only way to escape the madness chasing after me through the woods. I hear them shouting my name and ordering me to return. They threaten and curse, claiming me insane for having visions they could never fathom.

They will never understand the dreams I have.

A dog barks; low and terrifying. They’re getting closer by the second. The sunlight casts their shadows over the grass and heavy boots trudge through fallen leaves of an early autumn. Men, women, and even children are hunting down me—the wild girl standing on the highest branch in the tallest tree.

I inch to the edge, nervously clutching the strap to my satchel. I packed only what I may need to survive whatever lives in the land far beyond. Clothes, water, a loaf of bread, and the only photo I have left of my parents. They disappeared when I was seven and left me with dreams of the place I seek. It’s a longshot, but my gut is telling that I will find them there. That they will be waiting with arms wide open for the daughter they love.

I can’t mess this up.

I take a deep breath. The voices grow louder. One of them shouts that they’ve spotted me and startles me. I nearly fall off the branch before I’m ready. The limb wavers and creaks beneath my wobbling legs. I stretch my arms out wide to obtain my balance. Down below, I see them. They’re running toward my tree now. They carry torches and pitchforks as if I am some type of monster. If only they could see the monsters in themselves before destroying the dreams I hold dear.

The tree begins to quake and I glance to the lowest branches. Two, strong men with thick beards and axes are hacking away at the trunk. I shake my head and breathe a faint no.

I’m out of time now. If they succeed and the tree falls, I will die right along with the land I love so much. My heart pounds wildly and I let my right foot dangle over the branch.

This is it; I think with a smile crossing my face, this is the start of something wonderful.

I step over the branch and shrieks of terror erupt from the hunters below. The wind whips through my hair as warmth wraps around my soul. I bask in a light that blinds me and slip into the land of the far beyond.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 32

Silence flooded the ship. Pirates stood in awe, their mouths agape and curiosity in their eyes. Instead of jumping into a rage-filled battle or fighting to kill the girl who pulled the trigger, they stayed at bay.

Blood pooled around the feet of the men standing closest to her body. All life has been drained from her face in a matter of seconds when the bullet crashed into her chest. She dropped with a thud to the wooden deck and no one came to her aide. Not a single one of her crew stepped up to check on her or even see if she was still alive.

As thunder boomed in the sky, the eyes of many turned to Sam. They lowered their weapons, sheathed whatever sword they carried. Flint quickly got to his feet and wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth.

The gun fell from her fingertips. The only sound to echo amongst the ship. Sam slowly stepped backwards, her eyes wide open in fear of what just happened. She clenched her shaking hands to fists and crept backward until she bumped against the railing.

“I can’t believe she’s dead.” A raspy voice broke through the silence as a thin man knelt by Alyssa’s corpse. “The bitch is finally dead!” He shouted.

Cheers erupted from the dead captain’s crew. They jumped for joy and slapped each other on the back. Their cheers were soon joined by the rest of the pirates on the ship in a joyous outburst.

Flint limped toward Sam, his eyes were bloodshot and bruised. He got within a few feet of her before Darrick rushed to stand in his way. He didn’t have a weapon but would do whatever it took to protect her.

“You killed her.” Flint managed to say.

Sam nodded, “I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to stop her from killing you.”

“Why?” He asked.

“I don’t know.” Sam replied.

Flint nodded and glanced to each face belonging to his prisoners. Sarah and Rusty held each other by the life boat. Jonah waited by the pulleys, ready to lower the small vessel to their freedom.

Flint turned back to Sam and looked between her and Darrick. He saw the caring determination in his eyes and realized he no longer wanted to be in the way.

“Take the boat and go. The lightning won’t last for long and you’ll need it to get back to where you came from.” Flint ordered, then turned away and headed back to his men.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 31

Sam ran for Darrick. Her heart raced as she listened to the thunder clapping overhead. It grew loud right along with the shouting coming from the pirates.

She ducked out of sight of the men surrounding Flint and Alissa. Darrick had been thrown to the floor and was slowly pushing himself to his feet when Sam rushed to his side. She reached for his arm and helped him stand. Instead of wasting time by asking how each other was, they moved away from the crowd.

Jonah was waiting for them by the door leading to the captain’s quarters. He seemed frantic and in a hurry, desperately trying to pry open the door to release the others. The knife in his hand was weak and the metal was bending as he used it to pry the door open. It took a few tries, but the latch eventually gave way and the door swung open.

“C’mon we gotta go!” Jonah shouted to the two prisoners hiding inside.

Rusty grabbed Sarah’s hand and ran with her to the doorway. With tears in her eyes, Sarah braced herself for the fighting on deck. She stayed close to her man and glanced to Sam, making sure her best friend was okay.

Lighting flashed brightly through the sky and Jonah said to the others, “We don’t have much time. We need to find a boat and get the hell off this ship.”

Metal clanked from the sword fighting pirates across deck. Many of them were too busy watching their captains battle to the death to pay attention to the escaping prisoners. They shouted and cheered after each time the swords banged together.

They kept their feet light as they raced across the deck toward a lifeboat attached to the starboard side of the ship. Jonah knew exactly what to do and got to work getting the ropes untied and the boat ready to be lowered. He urged the others to climb inside while he and Rusty worked with the pulleys.

Flint shouted in pain and Sam looked over her shoulder. He had fallen to the floor with blood gushing from a wound on his shoulder. Alissa’s blade had sliced him clear to the bone and she stood over him with a happy rage on her face.

“Sam,” Darrick called to get her attention, “We have to go.”

She nodded, but felt something holding her back. An unknown force kept her in place, unable to leave the man to die so she and her friends could get away.

She stepped away from the lifeboat and found a dead pirate on the floor a few feet away. A gun was stuck in his grip and she snatched up, then stepped toward the group of pirates. She raised the weapon and took aim, letting the sharp blast fill her ears and end the cheering from the men.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 30

Sam kept the barrel of the pistol pressed against her temple. Her heart raced and her hands trembled. Her eyes never broke with Darrick’s and she feared what she thought she had to do in order to save him and their friends.

Darrick’s eyes pleaded with her not to do anything crazy. He was being held down by one of Alissa’s men, unable to break free and rush for Sam. For a woman he barely knew, he already had strong feelings for her, enough to never want anything bad to happen to her. He needed to protect and felt weak knowing he couldn’t at that moment.

Flint gripped the handle of the sword as his eyes darted back and forth between Sam and Darrick. He saw the love building in their eyes and knew she would never feel that way for him. He turned his gaze to the amused Alissa and grimaced. The woman he had loved for so long seemed like a stranger invading his ship.

He turned toward her and steadied his hand with the sword. The longer he stared at the beauty on her face and the hatred gleaming in her eyes, the more she became the enemy he needed to destroy. He was the captain of that ship and Alissa was trying to take it over. He grit his teeth, tightened his fingers around the hilt of the sword and stepped forward.

Lightning took over the sky and the wind steadily picked up. Flint let his feet rush to Alissa and he wrapped his arm around her body and held the sword to her throat. In one swift movement, all of her men raised their weapons at Flint, completely taking their guard away from Sam and Darrick.

“This ship belongs to me!” Flint shouted. “I will not have you and your pathetic excuse for men destroy it. Either all of you leave or I’ll kill you Alissa.”

Alissa chuckled and said, “You drive a horrible bargain, Flint. I’m sure you don’t want to start a war between us here.”

“Then leave.” He replied, turning his eyes to Sam, directing his speech to her. “Take your men and get off my ship.”

Sam raised an eyebrow out of confusion and the gun slowly lowered away from her head. She noticed that the other pirates paid her no attention and Darrick had been released. Flint shouted an order to leave once more and she quietly jumped down from the railing.

Alissa’s men had them surrounded with their weapons raised high. They were ready for a fight to the death to win whatever battle would start between the conflicting captains. Flint’s own men prepared themselves, gathered whatever sword and gun they could find, and inched closer to the enemy.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 28

Lightning took over the sky with thunderous roars erupting in their ears. The clouds weren’t threatening with rain or an oncoming storm. The wind wasn’t picking up nor were the ocean’s waves getting more intense. It was strangely calm during the bright flashes of light.

Sam continued her struggle against the tight grip of the pirate’s hand. She managed to free her right arm and dug her fingernails into the skin of his arm still clasping on. She clawed him enough to break the skin and blood began trickling down, but he still held on. She glanced to the sword fight for a short moment and her heart raced faster.

Darrick was able to block another blow coming from Flint. He held the sword with shaky hands, feeling weaker by the minute. He was short of breath and knew he wouldn’t last much longer. The gash on his arm still bled and the pain radiated through his entire body.

Flint stood strong, cracking his neck from side to side. He saw that his opponent was wavering and soon he would fall. Then he’d get the chance to make the last strike and Sam would be his forever.

He stepped closer to Darrick and took another swing which was blocked, “You’re getting tired, boy. You might as well give up and let fate take its course.”

Darrick shook his head, swung the blade wildly through the air, and said, “I’ll die before I ever give up.”

Flint laughed and stepped out of range so Darrick couldn’t hit him. Darrick sliced the air again with his sword, spinning around with his arms. Flint stepped back and Darrick missed once more, but this time Flint struck his back with the handle of the sword. Darrick cried out in pain and dropped to his knees. Flint kicked him down and the sword slipped from his grasp. Before Darrick could reach for it, another pirate kicked it away.

Flint laughed deeper and moved to stand in front of the boy, “It looks like you’ll be dying sooner than you think.”

Sam pried on the pirate’s fingers until his grip finally loosened. Before he could grab onto her again, she slammed her elbow into his gut and dashed away. She pushed through the crowd, moving away from the fight. She stole something from a fat man’s belt, he didn’t notice, and she got away.

Darrick stared at the shiny blade mere inches from his face. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he awaited what was to come. He searched the faces for Sam, only so he could see her one last time. She wasn’t there and he began to wonder where she went.

A loud whistle burst through the air, catching the attention of the pirates, including Flint. Everyone spun around and faced the cause of the noise. Sam stood on the railing of the ship, appearing strong and beautiful. She held something in her hand, pressing the barrel of it to the right side of her head.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 26

The crowd of pirates backed away, forming a circle around Flint and Darrick. They chanted Flint’s name and cheered for the fight. All of them knew who the winner would be and all of them were prepared to celebrate.

Alissa stepped closer to Sam with a smile on her face as she watched two men preparing to fight to the death over a random girl. She lived for times such as that and the voices of her men and everyone around her made the scene even more exciting.

A long sword with an ivory hilt was thrown to the floor at Darrick’s feet. He stumbled back a step and the pirates laughed. He rolled his eyes, took a breath, and handed the pistol to Jonah. As he reached down to pick up the sword, his eyes met with Sam’s. She was terrified, yet seemed to stay strong as a large man held her in place. Her eyes were pleading with Darrick to win or try his damnedest to stay alive. His heart was pounding as he made a mental promise he wasn’t sure if he could keep.

Darrick clutched the handle of the sword, unsure of the correct way to hold it. He looked to some of the pirates standing near him and tightened his grip and angled it the way they had theirs. Next, he turned to Flint and took a nervous step forward.

Flint smiled and pulled the blade from the sheath at his waist. He sliced it through the air, twisting his wrist in a way no other man could dream of. He was very well skilled with a sword, never defeated in a fight. By the uncoordinated look on his opponent’s face, he knew he had this one in the bag as well.

He stepped closer to Darrick and said, “Say goodbye to my Sam while you’ve still got a tongue to speak with.”

His crewmen cheered and clanged their swords against each other’s. Darrick tried to ignore the threat, looking to Sam once again. His heart was pounding and his mind was frazzled.

Flint noticed that the boy was not paying attention. He took the opportunity to make the first move. He raised the sword high above his head, charged toward Darrick, and came down swinging at his head.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 25

Alissa waltzed over to Sam and stood directly in front of her. She stared into the girl’s eyes, glancing at the similarities between the two of them. They were the same height, had the same hair and skin color. They even had the same twitch in their upper lips whenever they got nervous.

Her eyes moved back and forth between Sam and Flint and she instantly knew why he was so attracted to the girl that looked so much like his lover. Alissa could even see why Darrick was so in love with Sam as well and her twisted mind came up with an idea to settle things for both of them.

She passed Sam a snide smile, then turned around and walked toward Darrick, then said, “You want me to let her go?”
“Yes, that’s all that I want.” Darrick replied.

Her smile grew wider as she spoke, “Then I have a proposition for you. I can see that you and my Flint want the same thing and I believe there is only one way to settle it.”

“What are you talking about?” Flint asked, pushing himself through the crowd to approach Alissa.

“You want that girl,” Alissa said to Flint, then motioned to Darrick, “he wants that girl, maybe the two of you should fight for her. If you win, my dear Flint, I will leave and you will never see me again. You can kill the boy all you want and take your prize.”

“And if I lose?” Flint asked.

“Then the boy shall have his love again and I get to watch him do the one thing I never could do to you. He will get to kill you and I will take your ship and let it sink to the deepest parts of the ocean with you and your crew tied to the mast.” Alissa spoke firmly.

Flint directed his attention to Sam for a short moment. He noticed that her gaze was more focused on Darrick than anything else. Her eyes beckoned for that boy to save her and she wanted nothing to do with the captain.

“Alissa,” Flint called out and she turned her eyes to him, “all I have to do is kill that boy and you will leave me with Sam and I will never have to see you again?”

She nodded, “That’s right.”

He smiled and turned his demented glare to Darrick and said, “Very well, bring me a sword.”

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 24

Darrick clutched the single-shot pistol tight in his right hand. Smoke rose from the barrel and the bullet went shooting into the air. Those fighting around him fell silent and turned their attention his way. Many of the pirates aimed guns and swords at him while he stood on the railing of the ship.

Jonah stood on the deck beside him, a small dagger with a Dragon etched into the steel blade was in his left hand. His heart was pounding at the mere sight of so many weapons and he waited for one of then to pull the trigger ending his life in a single blow. He held his breath as a man stepped forward, but the shot never came.

Darrick scanned the faces of the men until he spotted the tall, lanky fellow with his meaty hands wrapped around Sam’s arms. He turned his angry glare toward him and raised the empty pistol in am ill attempt to threaten him.

“Let her go!” Darrick shouted and the pirate simply spat black tar on the wooden deck while Sam struggled in his grip.

A set of footsteps clanked on the wood and Darrick turn his attention to Sam’s look alike. She was walking toward him with a devilish grin on her porcelain face. She sheathed her sword, showing him no sign that she would hurt him.

“You are a handsome young man, aren’t you.” She spoke. “What do they call you?”

“Darrick.” His voice was shaky.

“They call me Alissa.”

“Tell him to let go of Sam.” Darrick demanded, motioning to the lanky pirate.

Alissa smile and crept closer, “Why would I want to do that? I believe I’ll throw the entire crew of this pathetic craft into the sea and keep you for myself.”

Sam struggled once more in the pirate’s grip, only making him hold on tighter. She was forced to watch as Alissa inched her body closer to Darrick.

“Come down from there,” Alissa demanded, “let me get a better look at you.”

Darrick shook his head and said, “Let Sam go.”

Alissa turned her steely eyes to Sam and sneered.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 23

Sam stared at the strange woman with awe written all over her face. It was as though the both of them were looking in mirror. Alissa’s mouth hung open as she circled around the identical stranger and she wondered who on earth the girl could be. Her eyes darted back and forth between Sam and the captain and Alissa instantly knew why the girl was aboard his ship.

“You replaced me so soon.” Alissa spoke, her eyes were staring daggers at Sam.

Flint stepped forward and was quickly held back by two of Alissa’s pirates, “You don’t understand, I thought she was you when I first saw her. I would never replace you.”

Alissa smiled and said, “Just like you didn’t replace me with those two whores three nights before I left? Or the young maiden from that little town we were meant to savage, yet you found your way into her bed?”

Flint shook his head and said, “Nothing ever happened those nights. You only saw what you wanted to see and you were begging for an excuse to leave. I have never been that kind of man.”

Alissa threw her head back and laughed, “If only I could believe you, Flint. You are nothing more than scum left here to rot in the sea. It’s a good thing I found you before my men got to ya. They would make your death far less painful than I will. First, I need to get rid of my replacement.”

The tall grotesque man holding onto Sam’s right arm squeezed his grip even tighter. She winced and was quickly dragged across the deck toward the edge of the ship where part of the railing had been broken. Her heart was pounding and she dug her feet into the wood of the deck as she begged for her life.

“Alissa please don’t do this! Your fight is with me and me only.” Flint pleaded and he managed to free himself from his guard’s grip.

Alissa quickly unsheathed her sword and pointed the blade to his throat, “You’re right, my fight is with you. That is why you will watch your beloved die, then I get to watch you die.”

Sam was dragged closer to the edge of the ship and fear was bleeding through her pores. She wasn’t the best swimmer in the world and she had nowhere to swim to out in the middle of the ocean. She tried digging her fingernails into the man’s skin, hoping he would stop moving and let go of her arm. Instead, he held on tighter and shoved her a bit more.

A lone gunshot broke through the air and caught the eyes and ears of everyone on board. Alissa pulled her sword away from Flint’s throat and stomped across the deck, searching for the source of the blast. She caught sight of a young man wielding a single shot pistol, storming across the deck with his eyes focused solely on the girl Alissa wanted to kill.

Pirates Of Hardwood

Chapter 22

Darrick heard the commotion and the fighting just outside the door. Men were screaming for their lives and gunshots blasted through the air. His heart pounded hard in his chest as he stood beside Jonah and stared at the wooden door that was open half an inch.

The force from the explosion was enough to break the lock on the door which gave them a chance at freedom. The violence and death coming from the other parts of the ship were enough to hold them in place.

Darrick’s hands were shaking and he jumped at the sound of a cannon blast. He turned to Jonah whose nervous eyes were twitching back and forth. A shrill scream interrupted the silence between them and Darrick’s mind shot into action. There was something familiar about that scream.

“Sam!” He shouted and his feet ran toward the door.

Jonah followed quickly behind him. Darrick pulled the door open and rushed into the madness before them. Men were scrambling to get to the cannons while trying not to get shot in the process. Another explosion shook the ship back and forth and Darrick held onto a support beam to keep his balance.

He held on for a short moment then located the stairs that would take him up top. With his heart pounding, he heard the ear splitting scream echo through the ship once more before he and Jonah sprinted to the stairs. Darrick skipped two at a time until he burst through another door and stepped foot on the deck and into an all-out war between pirates.

He ducked out of the way of bullets and the many angry men that covered the deck. He spotted the captain arguing with a woman and the second he saw her face, he stopped running.

There was something familiar about her. The waves of her brown hair and the dimples on her cheeks. She looked just like the girl he was falling for but he knew she just couldn’t be Sam. With her menacing apparel and eyes so dark with black makeup, Darrick knew she couldn’t possibly be his Sam.

“Let go of me.” He heard a woman’s voice and he quickly turned his attention to a few dark men dragging an angry Sam toward her pirate doppelganger.

Darrick balled his hands into fists, gritted his teeth and mentally prepared himself for what would happen next.