Steam rose from the funnel of the ship as it cut thru the water. The captain was pushing his luck again, the deadline for the shipment was in 4 hours and we still had 70 miles to go, and the ship could barely hit 18 knots on a good day. The captain would tell us this was the joy of owning a ship with character, but really he just spent all his profits on women and gambling. Though the ship was old, it has gotten us out of a lot of situations and it never seemed to fail us.The captain had started the ships schedule 3 hours late today. Most likely he had been up all night boozing and gambling but he will rant and tell us he was securing a new shipment over the radio and plotting a route late into the night.
The captain was unreliable, crude and rough as hell but he’d do anything for his crew and the loyalty of his men was reflected in this.
The ship was shaking from the effort of hitting max speed, the passengers below deck were restless and a babies cry punctures the sound of the ship struggling. Illegal trafficking of persons from Hamburg up the Elbe river to the coast was a tricky affair, but a profitable one. While the war rages to the west, refugee’s and citizens escaping the madness of the city’s would sell anything for a way out. Luckily we only had to get them to the coast by the north sea, and not further or there would definitely be trouble.
A fresh puff of steam rose again, and fresh cries were heard from below deck. In the distance an air siren pierced the air. This was something of a daily occurrence now, and there was been talk of getting out of Germany ourselves. Until the captain decides it, and while there are people still desiring to flee from Germany we will persevere. To me, the money was not important, seeing the relief on our passengers faces as we let them out at the ocean is certainly satisfying.
If we don’t make the deadline, they will all have to wait for the next boat on the coast, and who knows if they will last with the army looking for them.
In the distance, the sirens still ring, and on the planes start to fill the skies. Bombers and fighters seem to dance everywhere above us, and the booming of anti-air guns can be heard in the distance over Hamburg. Luckily we are well away from the cities and its unlikely we will get caught in anything. My main concern now is the ships rattling, the engine is working overdrive and the captain is really pushing it.
I’m going to go check on him, hopefully he knows what he is doing. Running up the stairs to the bridge, the ship rocks and I am thrown to the wall. On getting up, I open to the door to the bridge and shout out
“Captain, you can’t push her this hard!”
“She’ll hold skipper, she’ll hold”
and this was the last thing the captain ever said to me, as a bomb rocked hit the bridge and thrust me out the door.
Ringing in my ears, eyes blurry, I go to grab a nearby rail and find that I can’t. At least the pain in my shoulder stops me from reaching out. I was alive, but the ship wasn’t and I scream out “abandon ship!”
Rushing to the life boats, I pass by the cargo hold where the passengers we being transported, I can still hear the baby’s cry piercing thru the ringing in my ears. Kicking the door to the hold in, the sight before me is akin to hell itself. Water fills half hold and many lie motionless in it, the color of the water a horrible red. The baby lies above the water line and its parents are nowhere to be seen or are unidentifiable amongst the other bodies. I scoop the baby up and run back to the deck. With no-one else around, and one of the lifeboats already gone I jump into the last lifeboat and lower her down.
As the lifeboat slips away, the baby cries and I watch as the last voyage of the Lisoba.
“Interesting short story Evan, I would of liked to have seen some more historical accuracy as I doubt steam engines were in use for transport that late into the war, and you really escalated the climax a bit unnaturally, but you do certainly portray some of the horrors of world war 2. I would also expect a bit more characterization of the captain, who seems to have been given some effort to describe but is then snuffed out with only one line. Still you get a 7/10 for it”
“Thank you teacher”