We heard screaming in the library. It was the wail of a man who had lost all hope, even the hope of a swift end. Uncle Billy drew his sword. Uncle Boris laughed. “Steel is not the weapon we need now,” he said. “The prisoners of that box had no flesh to cut and no hearts to pierce.”
Mrs. Kindersley carefully refilled each cup upon the table. She smiled at me. “Miss Rose? Are you not tired of this place? Are you not weary of the heat and the wet and the smell? Would you not like to see better parts of this world?” I politely sipped my tea. “I hope to visit more of the world, Ma’am, than I have as yet. I thank you for your offer but I am not ready to leave home just yet. And I am not willing to leave without my family and companions.” Mrs. Kindersley’s face hardened. “That is sad,” she hissed.
Uncle Billy’s eyebrows came together. He scratched the side of his nose. “The ship’s been at anchor for more days than any of the men can remember. None of them can tell me when it arrived. No one has seen a crew. Yet, not a lad has been curious about it. They look at it like a rock or shoal to navigate around.”
We smelled the thing long before we saw it. It gave up a stench that burned the nose and churned the guts. How the gulls came near it I do not know. That they could eat of it suggested madness. That eating of it deranged them only confirmed it.
Uncle Billy grimaced. “Cortez said the beast had a lair beneath that oak,” he said, pointing to the sunken tree. Father frowned. “Unless we are to wait for it to be hungry again, one of us will need to go down and poke it.”