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 29

Sam’s heart raced as the eyes of the crowd turned to her. She stood on the railing with a pistol pressed against her head. She managed to steal it from the pirate who had a hold of her and was willing to use it to end her life in order to save Darrick and her friends.

Alissa laughed at the sight of the girl and a few of her men chuckled along with her. She moved forward and sheathed her sword, then stared up at Sam with wonder in her eyes.

“It would bring me great joy to watch you pull the trigger. I’d get to witness Flint’s heart breaking for a nobody like you.” Alissa said.

Flint rushed forward, pushing men out of his way until he stood within a few feet from the railing. Sam took a breath, then threatened to shoot him if he came any closer. He raised his hands and backed up a pace.

“Put the gun down, darling,” he spoke calmly, “I’d hate for you to do something you might regret.”

“Let my friends go.” Sam demanded.

A clap of thunder erupted in the sky behind her. Her heart was pounding as she waited for Flint to answer her request.

“Sam!” Darrick shouted. “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t do it.”

He pushed his way through the men, fighting the pain in his arms and legs. Someone grabbed onto him before he could get close to the railing and a large arm found its way around his chest. The man held him in place and drew his sword to keep Darrick from trying to get away.

Lightning flashed bright in the sky, getting closer to the ship. Darrick knew they wouldn’t have much time to get away but he knew Sam had to be one of them to get home.

“Let him go!” Sam shouted.

Her voice was left unanswered. Alissa merely smiled and Flint stared at Sam with worry in his eyes. His heart was drawn to her from the moment he laid his eyes upon her and it broke him to see that she was hurting because of him.

He gripped the handle of the sword tight in his hand and knew exactly what had to be done to keep her alive.

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 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 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.

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 21

Flint ran to the deck of the ship with many of his crewmen rushing alongside him. His men were shouting orders frantically. Some were manning the cannons and others grabbed their pistols preparing for a battle. When he got on deck, he could see why his men were in such a panic.

A ship, larger than his own, had approached from behind and was drifting up beside it. Smoke was bellowing from one of the massive black cannons on the enemy ship and Flint saw dozens of other pirates scrambling to board his ship. They began swinging on ropes, lowering tall ladders, not caring at all while Flint’s men shot at them. A few souls were lost to the sea but his ship had been boarded and a battle was starting to take shape.

The screaming voices were unbearable and the gunshots grew louder. Another cannon exploded and sent a ball of fire soaring through the air. Flint’s ship rocked back and forth and he held onto the railing to keep his balance.

He glanced to his left just in time to see a mangy beast of a man running at him with a sword raised above his head. Flint didn’t hesitate or even think as he pulled the pistol from his belt and aimed at the man’s gut. The pirate fell dead to the wooden deck with murky blood forming a puddle around him.

“Horse!” Flint shouted, scanning the faces of his men for his first mate.

He spotted the tall man fighting bravely under the mast of the ship. Flint rushed away from the stairs, knocked two men out of his way as he ran. He needed to get to Horse so they could take down the enemy together. They were stronger as a team and always had each other’s backs.

Flint managed to make it about halfway to his friend before he felt a painful jab to his lower back. He grunted from the pain and quickly spun around to face his attacker. He raised his gun, taking aim at the air, and instantly froze when he saw her face.

“I was really hoping to avoid a fight but you made this happen, Flint.”

He recognized her voice and adored the calming way she spoke. He stared at her lips and the dark make-up around her eyes and his arm lowered the gun. The longer he stared at her face, the angrier he became with how she left him.

“Alissa,” he spoke, trying to hide the anger and passion in his voice, “I thought I’d never see you again.”

Pirates of Hardwood

Chapter 20

Darrick and Jonah covered their ears and waited for the barrel of gun powder to go off. Jonah lit the fuse and hid with Darrick in the farthest corner away from the door. The fuse hissed until it hit the wooden lid of the barrel, then the room got quiet.

They waited for a long few minutes, straining their ears to listen for the sound of the fuse through the eerie silence of the room. Darrick took a deep breath then lifted his eyes and saw the barrel still sitting in the same spot where they put it. The fuse had stopped smoking and the explosion never came.

“What the hell?” Darrick questioned. “Why didn’t it work?”

Jonah stared at the barrel for a few seconds, then shook his head, “I don’t know exactly. I’ve never actually done something like this before. Maybe I didn’t do it right.”

Darrick let an annoyed sigh cross through his lips, then said, “We have to try again. We have to get this to work so we can get the hell outta here.”

“You think I don’t know that. Why don’t you try blowing a hole in a damn ship and see how well it goes for you.” Jonah wasn’t the last bit happy with the tone in Darrick’s voice.

“I’m sorry, I just need to get out of here. Sam needs…”

Before he could finish his sentence, an explosion took over the ship. It began shaking back and forth on the water and the two of them fell on top of each other. Darrick slammed his left shoulder against the hard floor and grunted from the pain while Jonah toppled on top of him them rolled a few feet away.

Both of them darted their eyes toward the barrel to see if their plan had actually worked. The barrel still stood in one piece and the door was still in tact.

Darrick turned his eyes to Jonah and met his confused stare, “Now what the hell was that?” he said.