“Did you hear me? We’re under attack!” the dreadlocked man stared at Maxine with an intensity that made her want to move out of his view.
“Um, sword?” Maxine flexed her right hand fingers unconsciously.
Before he could answer her, another BANG made the ship tremble and Maxine fell back against the wall of the cabin. The dreadlocked man cursed loudly and yelled to someone as he ran from the door, “Falcon, bring her a sword–a weapon of any kind, really–and tell the crew to hold positions. We aren’t letting this behemoth of a beast bring us down now when we are so close to Minka’s Port.”
Beast? Minka’s Port? Maxine’s mind raced. I must be dreaming. She closed her eyes and pounded on her head with her fists. Not surprisingly, when she opened them, she was still slumped against the wall of the cabin, not in the little antique shop. Fine, she thought.
A man, presumably Falcon, rushed in, saw her on the floor with her head in her hands, and shouted, “Let’s go, you worthless rag! You heard Captain Gray Wing!” With that he thrust the worn handle of a rusty-looking sword into her hand. The leather was long gone and the metal was so old, it almost had a glaucous film over it, as if some ancient mildew had found its way under the worn leather and stayed. The dull, rusty blade curved in a way that reminded Maxine of a single word–swashbuckling. The only redeeming quality of the sword was a single jade stone embedded at the end of the hilt.
Maxine did her best to grip the sword in a way that looked natural even if it didn’t feel like it. She followed Falcon through the cabin door and was immediately taken aback by a rank, burning odor, something like burnt omelettes. She knew, because that very morning, which felt like worlds ago, she had tried–and failed–to make a basil tomato omelette in her new eco-friendly non-stick pan.
The source of this odor was much worse than her smoky kitchen, though. Maxine shrieked and staggered back, suddenly forgetting how to walk. A monstrous scaled head was towering over the ship, its hot breath covering the ship in a sulphuric fog. You’ve got to be kidding me! Maxine ran down the ship, away from the attacking beast as the crew assembled in her wake, ready to strike.
The beast let out a long, rattling belch and more fog covered the ship, causing the crew to cough. It leaned onto the railing of the ship and the wood creaked with crunchy little pops. Maxine covered her mouth as she saw it lower its massive scaly head, ready to snatch up a woman armed with a nasty-looking barbed spear. Throw it! Throw it! Maxine thought. But then the beast suddenly stopped and turned its head. A single bloodshot, gray eye fixed itself right at her and she swore she could see the beast grin savagely. It lowered itself into the water and quickly moved toward her. She screamed and fell back onto the hard boards of the deck, feebly lifting the sword in front her in a futile effort to protect herself. She couldn’t even see where to point it through the rotten egg foggy breath that seemed to surround her from all sides. All I wanted was to get out of the rain, she thought to herself. This cannot be how I die!
She was waiting for the jaws to pick her up when a loud scream made her open her eyes just in time to see a large squirt of dark blood shoot out from the side of the beast’s neck. Growling in pain, it fell back into the frothy waves. Maxine dropped the arm holding the sword and stared up into the overcast sky, looking for a sign that this was real. That she was real.