The Physician and the Siren

The spray leaves patterns on the planked deck. He stands–alert and fearful, yes, but also intrigued–before the captain, whose back is to him. While he watches the seawater dry in salty whorls, the pirate watches out over the bow, the horizon tilting as the ship comes about.

His captain, he thinks, for that is now the case. The Siren isn’t known for mercy on these seas. Only hours ago he watched sixty souls drowned or slaughtered by her crew. Why he was spared and brought aboard is a mystery to him, but he feels oddly grateful.

For the moment, his life belongs to the whims of a pirate.

“Sink it,” comes the growled order, carried back on the wind. The bullion and provisions from the packet are aboard.

He does not turn when the guns fire. The sound of the ocean swallowing the vessel is both quieter than he expects and thunderous in his ears.

“Permission to speak, sir,” he asks respectfully. He is unarmed, alone, a dead man walking. But he is a scientist, a scholar, and curiosity has the best of him.

The captain turns. He is disappointed by the ill-fitting belt and coat. Gone are his illusions of a dashing figure. He searches the face deeply shaded from the fearsome sun; the captain’s features are only just visible under the broad brim of a hat. A nod. Permission.

“Why am I spared?”

With motions made more deliberate by the pitch and roll of the deck beneath, the captain unbuckles the belt, unbuttons the coat. As the air catches the opened cloth, the pirate lifts the hat away.

A riot of vermillion curls, eyes like the sea at Dover. An eighth month pregnancy.

She speaks then, a voice rough with worry and command.

“I have need of a physician.”

Flash Fiction can be fun and a real challenge. This week focus on the words and the strength of each to contribute to your story. Write a 300 word piece using the following word for inspiration: LIFE.

34 responses to “The Physician and the Siren

  1. Oooohhh…completely unexpected. I do so love a twist 🙂

    I question whether anyone just looking at a woman would know it was a pregnancy in the 8th month. Wouldn’t “an advanced pregnancy” or perhaps “a close to term” pregnancy seem more believable?

  2. The twist was cool, the imagery was amazing but this:

    “A riot of vermillion curls, eyes like the sea at Dover. An eighth month pregnancy.” – was masterful. A Riot Of Vermillion or Vermillion Curls would be great indie rock band names.

    good work, C…very good

  3. I envy people who can craft such beautiful stories out of such few words. The only stories I can ever write hang over 2000 or 3000 words. It was a great piece; it moved quickly and I really like the word ‘whorl.’ Thanks for sharing!

    -GD
    Visit my writing blog at http://shelleddreams.wordpress.com/

  4. Could you reference LIFE (lost, spared, to come) any more times here? I love you!
    And what a fun piece….I love how you can write something so rich, so full of detail and yet brief.

    And what an awesome name for a pirate’s ship, Siren.

    Sigh.

  5. i think maybe i am familiar with your captain. aye!

  6. well that’s how you write flash fiction for sure.
    I love the end, how she shakes her curls out and exposes her secret. Genius.

    that’s why you’re amazing. The “POP” you give out of nowhere.

  7. Love it woman! The language, the scene- sparsely worded, perfectly created.

    And the karate chop ending? Perfection.

  8. Ooh…a pirate tale. Where’d that come from? The child is Will? 😉

    Very lovely imagery as always. xo

  9. Ok that … is excellent! And pirates!

  10. Thank the cosmos for the documentarians of my sisters’ noble seafaring history. And for writers who commit to their imagery. And for you, for cheering this salty dog.

  11. CDG, I love this. I absolutely love this.

    I love the way you lead a reader in, like the witch in Hansel & Gretel . . . . only, instead of eating us (though I think we all might like an occasional “eat out” session), just paralyzing us with imagery.

  12. I love it! So much imagery in such a small piece.
    Wonderful ending. Way unexpected.

  13. This was awesome! It carried me along and then jabbed me in the ribs with surprise. Well done and a wonderful tale of Life.

  14. I especially love the detail of the ship’s sinking being both quiet and thunderous – because it would be. Of course.

    Physically, quiet; emotionally, thunderous.

    Perfect.

  15. two words: paul, bettany.

    (two more: thank, you.)

    • Oooh. I hadn’t thought of him. I don’t usually cast things in my head, but I actually had with this one.

      Rachelle Lefevre and David Tennant.

      But if DT’s not available? Paul Bettany is a hell of a good call!

      And you’re welcome.

  16. I really enjoyed this. You made me go back through it a couple times to get all the details. It was tiny and perfect and I could not get enough. You hit this nail on the head!

  17. I didn’t see that coming! Excellent!

  18. Okay, I’m a nerd and thought Decemberists boat references.

    I adore this. Love the thundering, and the auburn hair, and the tension throughout.

    Agree with the comment about months above.

    Once again, I’m caught your web of words. That’s fine with me.

  19. Oh my goodness…. now THAT’S a twist! Can’t wait to read more!

  20. Ooh – I love this. It makes me want to visit the sea. Or just read about it from a cozy chair at home.

    One of those.

  21. “She speaks then, a voice rough with worry and command.”
    I love the contrast within this character! I think this is one of the most skillfully crafted little stories I’ve ever read!
    And I was born on Septemeber 19th-National “Talk like a pirate day.”
    Arrrrrrrrg!

  22. Oh, how fun! Totally unique and enjoyable.

  23. Awesome. I love that she’s kicking ass and sinking boats while hugely pregnant. You did a great job of creating the phyisican’s fear which was a great contrast to us not seeing how he reacted to the twist.

  24. OK.

    Now, see…this is what fires me up.

    Woman,you NEED to get going and get serious and get all disciplines and hold Monday Morning staff meetings with yourself and WRITE that novel.

    I’m telling you this in case you don’t believe it.

    You have to.

    All I could think while reading this, “I feel the thunder of the quiet. Which, emotionally, is RIGHT ON.”

    That’s just what it’s like: the thunder in that still moment.

  25. I just love this! I mean it’s a totally different scene that what we’ve all read or written! And I did not expect the pirate to be a pregnant woman!

  26. I love this. Well, pirate stories are awesome. But the unlikeliness of the ending is so intriguing. Leaves me with so many questions! I hope you continue it!

  27. Your words are always so well-placed and perfect it just blows me away.

    I LOVED this and there is not one single thing I would change.. gorgeous description.

  28. Ah! Fantastic!! That was an amazingly full read in just 300 words. Masterful. OR should I say “practically perfect in every way?” 😉

  29. I wouldn’t have bothered reading were I not obsessed with pirates. And then the end? LOVE!!

  30. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!

  31. Pingback: Dismissed | Move Over Mary Poppins!

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