They say that women are bad luck. Bad to have on ships. Because women like me anger the sea gods and cause bad weather. But of course, I’d never seen any bad weather whenever I walked onto these boats, with my hair shorn close to my skull so I looked like a young man.
Not any more than usual, anyway.
Old sea dogs are funny like that. They notice a lot of things. The way the wind blows, for example, or the positions of heavenly bodies. Who’s got the bigger share of sugar, tea, and rum. But they don’t notice when a young man doesn’t have an Adam’s apple, or isn’t quite shaving enough to have such a smooth face.
You might say that I took risks. I wanted to be with Her, you see; the Ocean called to me just as much as any man on that boat. And I loved Her. Her salt, her mystery, her deadly beauty.
The crew of the Gibraltar took me aboard when I was 13. We sailed to Far Eastern shores, where I saw dragons and lions and tigers, things I’d never dreamed. Jade princesses and forbidden kingdoms.
And then to India, to the Middle East, to everywhere the wind and the spices took us.
I swabbed decks, cooked in the galley, and kept my head low. I had one friend, Jack, who was my age, the Captain’s son. We got along. We played games together. We climbed the prow and the sails to see as far as we could, and told each other stories of what we would be when we grew up.
I wanted to be the captain of my own ship. Jack wanted to have children.
But things change. I changed. My body betrayed me. My chest grew and so did my hips. Then, I had to hide under baggy clothes. And then… the bleeding.
I staunched it with rags and old clothes, as much as I could. But Jack found one of my rags one day, and first looked confused… then paled.
“You’re a girl!” he gasped. He said his mother bled like that every month, too. He said she hid away the rags and told him it was the woman’s curse.
“Don’t tell,” I pleaded. “Please don’t tell.”
He promised he wouldn’t. And then… the storm.
It thrashed The Gibraltar that night. It tossed her on the waves as if she were nothing but a child’s toy. The crew feared death. I could see it in their eyes as they ran to and fro, desperately trying to keep the ship afloat.
The storm passed, eventually. There was talk that someone had done something to anger Poseidon. Someone had whistled, perhaps, or stirred tea with a knife. I was safe for a while.
And then at night while I slept, I was awoken by the Captain, who pulled the covers off of me. He saw my unbound chest. He told his men to seize me, tie my hands and feet, and throw me into the sea.
Because women are bad luck. They anger the sea gods. They make bad weather. I sank into the blue. I could not even move my hands to swim. I sank until there was no light above me, no light below me.
I swallowed sea water; I could not breathe. I thought I was dead.
But then I saw arms reach out to me. They were a woman's. She had long, beautiful hair that flowed around her face like seaweeds. She smiled.
And then I could breathe.
What happens next?
Catch it next week.