Jacob shielded his eyes from the intense sunlight shining into the mouth of the cave. He turned to Fred and did a double-take. “What the hell?”
Fred stared back at him through a pair of mirror-tinted aviator sunglasses. He hiked his eyebrows. “What?”
“You have sunglasses.”
Jacob sighed, rolling his eyes. He trudged out into the open air and breathed deeply. A fresh ocean breeze filled his lungs. He smiled. The details of their surroundings finally began to come into focus.
They stood on a sandy beach at the edge of an ocean. The beach stretched out of sight in either direction. Steep, smooth cliffs left no obvious way back onto the mainland.
Jacob looked out towards the ocean. A large galleon stoically stood out on the horizon. “Looks like that might be our best bet.”
Fred looked at the ship through a spyglass. “Well, I don’t see nobody boppin’ around on the deck…”
“Where did you get… No, forget I asked.” Jacob stared out at the ship. “Maybe we can use it to sail past these cliffs here. Guess we’re going to get wet.”
“Why in the hell would you wanna swim when we got this boat here?” Fred thumbed at a rowboat gently bobbing on the shore.
Jacob shook his head. “Sure! Of course! I’m fucking insane, aren’t I? I’m in a coma somewhere…” Shadow squeaked out a questioning meow. Jacob smiled. He scritched his head. “At least there’s you, huh?”
“Last one in the boat has to row!” Fred shouted from inside the rowboat.
“Seriously!” Jacob gently set Shadow in the boat before climbing aboard himself.
“Well you ain’t gonna make a frail old man do all that tough rowin’ are ya?” Fred made a pouty face.
“Right.” Jacob sighed and grabbed the oars. He shoved the boat off the shore and got them turned. He dug in and stroked the oars. He looked back to see that the galleon was now much closer than it had been. He looked back towards the shore, squinting.
“See? God damn gorilla manning them oars!” Fred cackled.
“Damn straight.” Jacob pumped the oars. Each time they got significantly closer to the waiting ship. The last stroke sent them crashing into the side of the galleon.
Jacob smacked the back of his head on the ship. Poor shadow tumbled mewing between his legs, while Fred fell forward onto his knees. His shades went flying off his face and into the water.
“Ya drunk son of a bitch! You’ll be paying for those!” Fred grumpily shook his fist.
“You pulled the damn things out of your ass!”
Fred looked indignant. “Do you know how much that costs? And don’t get me started on the chafing.”
Jacob ignored him and grabbed at a rope ladder hanging nearby. He scooped up Shadow and got him to cling to the collar of his shirt. “Don’t kill me with your claws, little guy.” He began to climb up.
By some miracle, Fred waited until Jacob was all the way up the ladder. He’d been certain the old fool would grab it and start shaking the thing, or something similarly inane. He climbed over the edge onto the deck, then let Shadow hop down.
He stood up and looked back down the side of the ship. The rowboat was still there, but Fred was nowhere to be found. “Fred?” There was no reply. “Hmm…”
Jacob turned around and let out a small shriek. Fred stood inches away from him in full pirate regalia. He started guffawing. “Ha haaa! You little goober! Thought you were done with me, didn’t ya?”
“Praying, actually. Cute outfit.”
Fred made a face. “Well, at least I have one!”
Jacob heard Shadow mew at his feet. He bent down and scooped him up. The kitten bore a tiny little eye patch with a diamond in the middle of it. “You, too?” The kitten purred.
“I suppose we should check the ship before we do anything else. Then if it’s safe, we can see about finding our way onto land.”
Fred popped a raspberry. “I say we sail the seventeen seas, see where this bitch takes us! ARRR! Aroo!” He began to dance around on the deck.
“Right, set sail in the middle of nowhere without knowing where the hell we’re going.” He tucked Shadow up on his shoulder. “Let’s go, kitty cat.” Jacob opened up a hatch and carefully lowered himself into the bowels of the ship.
He turned around and ran right into Fred. “Sure is dark in here.”
“God damn it! Will you stop doing that!”
“Doing what? Using my flashlight?” The old farmhand tossed it into a corner, where it went out.
“Are you some sort of punishment?”
“Aww! That’s no way to talk to widdle Shadow-buttons!” He held out his arm in the dark. The black cat stretched and hopped onto Fred’s arm. He ran up to the farmhand’s shoulder and perched there.
“Traitor…” Jacob turned his back to them both and felt his way deeper into the ship.
He heard a quiet click a moment later. Torches lining the wall suddenly caught fire and began to burn. He whirled around to see Fred with his finger on a modern-looking light switch. “What?”
Jacob shook his head and turned back around. This deck of the ship appeared abandoned. He spotted a ladder leading further down into the galleon and mounted it.
He dropped down onto the darkened bottom deck. Next to him was a light switch. He raised an eyebrow and flicked it. The torches on this level lit up like the others. He nodded his head. Naturally.
He stepped out of the way to let Fred down. Fred cried out, falling straight down. A sickening crack came from his ankles as he landed on his feet. “YEOW!”
“Holy shit, dude. You alright?”
Fred looked at him through watery eyes. “Aw! You do love me! And HELL NO I ain’t alright!” He peeled Shadow off his shoulder, who mewed in protest. He held the kitten out to Jacob. “Shoulda named him Velcro.”
Jacob took Shadow, smiling. “Uh huh…” He fed the kitten onto his shoulder and walked over to the only door on the deck. “Guess it’s here or nowhere.” He opened the door, one hand on his broadsword.
On the other side was a large pile of gold coins. Various jewels of every color glimmered in the light of the torches. In the middle of it all sat a skeleton wearing an eye patch and a tricorn hat. Its bony hand held a broadsword like Jacob’s own.
“Well golly-gee-willickers! Will ya just look at that booty!”
“Yeah, well don’t touch anything. It might be…” He turned to look at Fred, who was leering at a centerfold instead of the treasure. “…Booby-trapped.”
“Oh, I’d like to get trapped in those boobies…” Fred muttered to himself. He dropped the magazine and pointed at the gold. “Holy shit! TREASURE!”
The old farmhand ran over and scooped up a handful of coins. The skeleton began to stir, letting out an unearthly hiss. Its one eye socket glowed bright red.
“Great job, numb-nuts!” Jacob pulled out his sword. Shadow hissed at the skeleton and jumped down to the floor, running to a far corner.
“Suppose I shoulda asked first…” Fred held the handful of coins out. “Ya want some, skelly-man?”
The skeleton shrieked at Fred and swung its broadsword. Jacob leaned forward with his own sword and parried the swing. Fred dropped the coins. “Ho-lee cheesepuffs!”
Jacob put himself between the skeleton and Fred. Man and monster traded a series of blows before Jacob ran the sword through the skeleton’s ribs. The skeleton gave an eerie laugh, the sword having stuck fast.
It raised its sword to strike. Jacob stopped pulling at the sword and instead pushed. The skeleton squawked as it tumbled over backwards onto the pile of coins.
The bones of the skeleton scattered on impact. Jacob howled in triumph. He placed his foot on the skeleton’s rib cage and yanked his broadsword free. The skeleton’s eye socket went dark once more.
Shadow jumped and hissed at the fallen skeleton. He batted at its finger bones playfully. Jacob plucked him up, smiling. “I think that’s got him, tiger.”
“That’s the shit, young fella! See if he tries to claim MY gold again! HA! Ha ha!”
“Well it’s my ship, now ain’t it? The ess-ess Motherfucker!” Fred laughed gustily.
“Your ship… So you knew this fucking thing was here!” Jacob shoved him.
Fred shoved back. Shadow hissed in protest, digging into Jacob’s shoulder. Jacob cried out in pain. “He wasn’t here the last time I was aboard…” Fred looked up, scratching at his chin.
“I left Masterson in here to protect the treasure. Locked him in even!” Fred’s eyes grew large. “Masterson!” Fred plucked the tricorn hat from his head and held it over his heart. He waved it dismissively a moment later. “Never liked the fucker anyway. Let’s get topside!”
Jacob was climbing the ladder to the deck a few moments later. He paused as a large, dark figure appeared over the opening. He reversed direction before being shouted down.
“Hold it right thar, ye scurvy dog!” The pirate above pointed a flintlock pistol at Jacob’s head. “Reverse direction and haul yer filthy carcass topside!”
First Jacob, then Fred emerged onto the top deck. The pirate growled at them both. “Just what are ye thinking, boarding me ship without permission?”
Jacob reeled on Fred. “You said this was your ship!”
“It was! This fucker stole it from me.”
“I didn’t steal nothin’ you crazed old man! Now drop to your knees and beg fer life!”
Jacob defiantly crossed his arms. “Who’s gonna make us? Huh? You only got one shot!”
The pirate captain grinned, pointing behind Fred and Jacob. “Aye! So do they…”
Jacob slowly turned around. A raucous cheer erupted from the gang of pirates that had gathered behind them. “Oh…”