Blackbeard was nothing if not merciful, and so honored his sailors by sparing them any false pleasantries. “Sailors!” he cried, his snarling speech echoing across the silent deck, “Hear my words!”
The cowering crew froze at the booming voice of the dread captain—their grim arbiter—as he loomed menacingly over the helm. Blackbeard was the tyrannical god aboard the dark vessel, and the crew stared at him with rapt horror, terrified to look away lest he view the act as unforgivable disobedience.
Seeing his pirate legion shrinking below him, Blackbeard resumed his dire announcement. “In case you ignorant scallywags are missing too many fingers to count, today marks the seventh morn of our voyage. Which means,” Blackbeard narrowed his eyes, leering as he lowered his voice, “that today you will be tested. For today…”
The experienced sailors wore cold, stoic faces—they knew the significance of this day.
“For today, you scurrilous bilge rats, today the Titan cometh!”
The younger sailors’ eyes grew wide with anxious dread. The older ones stole quick glances from side to side, wondering if any of the weaker members would attempt desertion. Even in the vast, soulless ocean, some fates were better than Blackbeard.
The reaper lord descended to the deck, dragging his heavy steel sword over the stairway railing. It emitted an eerie ring as it crawled across the woodwork. “Many of you,” he continued ominously, “have never beheld the devil-spawn giant, which today shall descent upon our ship like wrathful hellfire.” Reaching the deck, he walked among the skulking, shuddering crew, and—seeing one particularly jittery fledgling—drew his steel blade to the youth’s neck and whispered, “So allow me to describe it for you.”
Whirling about, Blackbeard again howled into the crew. “The Titan is taller than the clouds, and broader than the horizon.” He paced as he went on, taking the occasional moment to stare down those who might dare to flee or retreat below deck. “Its skin is green with envious rage, and it wields a great pillar of flaming destruction.”
Blackbeard ran shifty eyed from pirate to fidgety pirate, theatrically murmuring his dire warnings. “No man,” he said, sinking his inky nails into the shoulders of a peach-fuzz, bandana-clad recruit, “has ever damaged the Titan. Not with fire.” He glared to another sailor, “Not with steel.” To another, “Not with cannons. No. To the behemoth,” he hushed, “our swords are naught but octopus tickles.”
“So make no mistake,” Blackbeard paused and drew his flintlock as he noticed one of the sailors making a break for the lower deck.
The man collapsed; Blackbeard blew a puff of smoke from his pistol and reholstered it. “Make no mistake,” he continued, “our encounter with this beast is not a battle, for against the Titan there is no victory. And yet, we shall fight!” Blackbeard raised his sword in the air. “FOR OUR SHIP!”
“HUZZAH!” the crew replied.
“FOR OUR GLORY!”
“FOR! OUR! FREEDOOOOM!”
“PIRATE CREW!” Blackbeard bellowed, mounting the helm and gripping the dark wooden wheel. “Prepare for the culling.”
It was early afternoon, and Tim McSean was taking care of the dust bunnies in his quaint Seattle apartment. Clad in his favorite forest-cashmere sweater and wielding a bright orange feather duster, he strode over to his mantle, where he delicately began cleaning off his exact bottled replica of the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
He could have sworn he heard little voices.