Aboard the Terrible Corsair
Nine miles upriver
Herman Gouma was getting annoyed.
“I’ll have you know I’ve been seeing ‘em all morning,” he insisted, “and I won’t stand for you calling me a liar.”
Stefanus wanted him to be wrong, and was now beginning to realise it was this urge that was making him disbelieve his friend.
“I ain’t saying you’re not seeing something,” he explained. “Just that it’s most likely some monkeys or lizards or some such jungly creatures.”
Herman scowled. “I know the walking dead when I see them. Besides, I recognised one of ‘em.”
Now Stefanus really wanted Herman to be wrong.
“It just doesn’t make sense. I know we’re fighting the current and the tide, and I know the wind is against us and them that are on the oars are tired, but how could anything move through that tangle of green fast enough to keep up with us?”
Herman rolled his eyes.
“How can they move at all? They’re dead! But they do move. What’s a bit of jungle to them when they shouldn’t be walking at all?”
“Give me the glass,” demanded Stefanus. “I’ll look for myself.” He rubbed the end with his shirt sleeve then placed the instrument up to his eye. First he saw just the river water, then the dense greenery came into view. Nothing. “There’s nothing I can see, not even monkeys or birds. How many did …Wait! Wait a moment. Oh! Oh aye. I see something!”
“Told you so,” muttered Herman.
There was movement in amongst the leaves and vines, and a man stepped out almost into full view. His putrid flesh was an awful shade of green and his eyes stared blankly while his mouth hung open. He wore a jerkin of leather over a torn linen shirt. In his hand he clutched a pistol, which he suddenly lifted up to aim out at the Tabrizian fleet of smaller ships and boats making their way upriver. Then he stood, the pistol swaying about as if he was drunk, and gave every appearance of watching.
“I see one, and … I think there’s another behind.”
“Is it Kurt?” asked Herman.
Stefanus took the glass from his eye.
“It was Kurt you saw?”
“Aye, and he didn’t look too well.”
Replacing the glass, Stefanus now began to move it along the river’s edge. More undead appeared, a whole bunch of them: one pointing a rusted blunderbuss, another with an arrow stuck right through his belly!
“Manaan save us! There’s umpteen of ‘em. I reckon the whole army is following us.”
Then he saw another three. The two at the front were just as green as the first he had seen, and behind them, still wearing his blue head scarf, still clutching the huge bone he used to use as a club in fights and almost the same colour he had been when alive, was Kurt. They’d left him on the dunes with a rusted cutlass stuck deep in his back and zombies scrambling over him. Now here he was following them.
“I can see him now.”
“Do you think he’s changed sides, then?” said Herman.
Stefanus was not in the mood for jests.
“D’you think we’ll end up like that?” he asked.
“It’s not what I’ve got planned. I wants a proper share of the gold, then a fine time turning it into hot liquors while I play with the wenches in Tabriz, and when I’m done, I wanna be put into the ground, nice and restful.”
Stefanus listened absently to Herman’s words whilst scanning further along with the glass. Suddenly he gasped, a fearful chill coursing through him as he saw the monstrous face of Grand Admiral Galdabash himself looking straight at him!
“Manaan and all the gods protect me!” he prayed, whipping the glass from his eye. Steadying himself on the gunwhale, he handed the glass back.
“Here, Herman, you keep at if you want. I’m done with looking at the jungle.”