Your ship left port a few weeks ago, fresh off the line. The crew, including you, is pretty green as crews go, but you’re more than willing to do your share. More than your share, even, if it keeps the ship afloat. You believe in your tiny ship and its place in the fleet. You like your new mates. You trust them.
You feel a sense of pride as you learn new skills. Your knots are tight and there’s talk that you might make a fine First Mate someday. The ins and outs of seafaring don’t seem so foreign to you anymore; even the waves seem normal. Natural. Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever be able to sleep without them.
Every ship has its problems, and yours is no different. A few knots come loose here and there (not your knots, of course) and the masthead isn’t as polished as it once was, but even the greatest ships weather with time.
Your ship loses sight of the rest of the fleet. Initially, you aren’t worried, but then word trickles down that the admiral has been beheaded in a mutiny. Your captain throws himself overboard.
At first, the ship keeps sailing. The wind is enough to keep the momentum going. You and a couple other promising mates fill in where the wind fails.
It is exhausting, of course. Fights break out as they do. A blast from a musket puts a hole in the deck. Water filters in. Nearly imperceptibly, the ship is sinking.
Then, without warning, the captain returns.
It seems he has been rescued by pirates.
To show his appreciation, the captain allows the pirates to join your crew. While the pirates are no strangers to the sea, they know almost nothing about how to operate a proper ship of the line. There are channels, processes, and systems that must be adhered to.
The pirates ignore these. They are no strangers to the sea, after all. They know how to make a ship work. They whisper in the captain’s ear over barrels of rum. You try to ignore the whispers and tie your knots as you always have. You steer clear of the pirates. You’ve heard stories of pirates and they are not to be trusted. You will never be a pirate, you tell yourself.
One morning you are woken by shackles being clasped around your wrists and ankles. You and your best mates are escorted to the brig. The captain has decided you are a danger to the crew.
When you are willing to obey our new allies, the captain tells you, you will be free to rejoin the crew.
You tell yourself you will never trust a pirate, let alone work for one.
But the crew gets to eat, and eventually your hunger wins out. You beg to rejoin the crew. Anything is better than starving in the brig.
You still have to wear the shackles.
You used to tie knots, you tell the pirates. Tight knots that never fail.
They ask if you’ll man the Crow’s nest. You don’t need to tie knots anymore. They have someone to tie the knots now.
The Crow’s nest is a boring post. And you are not very good at it. Poor eyesight. You are blamed for every scrape on the hull. But you get to eat. Isn’t that what matters?
You forget how to tie a knot. You forget the name of your fleet. You forget the name of your ship.
You even forget that the ship is sinking.