I groaned as the light hit my closed eyes. The previous night was a haze, as usual, but normally when I wake up it’s in the darkness of my apartment. I started to sit up, and hit my head on something soft hanging above me. It moved as I lay back down, rubbing my forehead, and a man’s face appeared upside down above me.
I figured I must have been dreaming, so I closed my eyes again. Then I opened them, realizing that I had seen that face before – it was hard to forget those blackened teeth and the gold hoop in his nose, or the scraggly blond beard that encompassed the bottom part of his face. When I looked at him again, he began to laugh.
“Figured out where you are, did you, barkeep?” he cackled. His head disappeared for a moment, and then his body came flipping over the edge of what I could now see was a hammock. He landed in front of me and did a spin to lazy applause. I finally got a good look at my surroundings, and saw many other hammocks slung from the ceiling, all of which contained another rough-looking man who clearly hadn’t seen soap in an age or two.
Watching me take in my surroundings, the first man executed a perfect courtly bow. “Welcome to your new home, barkeep,” he intoned with solemnity. Then he straightened and cackled again. “Hope you didn’t leave anything at the bar, ‘cause I doubt you’ll see that again!” The other men began to roar with laughter.
Slowly, I worked my way out of the hammock, pausing to untangle my foot from the edge of the heavy cloth. I managed to stand, but almost immediately pitched forward as the ground rolled under me. I had had inkling as to where I was, but the moving ground confirmed it. I had been shanghaied. This…this bastard, had come into my bar, drunk my beer, and had stolen me away from my home, from everything I knew, and thrown me on a moving bathtub.
I managed to get my feet under me, and glared at the blond man who had started all of this. He merely gave me a mocking salute, and called “All right, you lazy maggots, get up on deck! You, too, barkeep,” he said, prodding me with the hilt of his sword. “You’re here, now you’re going to work, or you’ll end up taking a very long walk.” He smirked, still waiting for me to move. The rest of the men had easily gotten out of their own hammocks and left, climbing up a stair so narrow it might as well have been a ladder.
His smirk faded as I remained still, trying to get my bearings and stay upright. He drew closer to me, grabbing my shirt in his fist. “You didn’t ask for this, I know,” he said in a tone that betrayed his aggressive stance. “You need to take this opportunity and make the most of it. Most of all, you need to get up that stair and get to work on my ship!” The last few words were shouted in my face, and on the last, he shoved me toward the stair and remained right behind me so I couldn’t go anywhere but up. I glared at him over my shoulder, but reluctantly got up on deck.
I don’t know what I was expecting on the deck of a pirate ship, but it wasn’t what I saw. The men had all spread out to different parts of the deck, so I could only see two or three of them. Even though there was a bright light below decks, coming from an electric bulb hanging from the ceiling, the ship was clocked in darkness. I could hardly see three steps in front of me. The blond man, apparently the captain of this ship, shoved me forward, and I feel on my face, trying to feel for the edge of the ship so I could avoid falling over. I couldn’t even tell where the ship ended and the ocean began, but I could hear the waves lapping against the hull, and the ship rocked with a movement that was not quite regular enough to be stable. I heard a round of derisive laughs as I tried to get my feet again.
Last night, it had just been drinks. The blond man had been attentive, and his outfit was a novelty in the city. You don’t come across many men dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow this far from Hollywood, and I had told him as much. He laughed after a moment, when one of his fellows – a man I had seen scurrying around the deck in front of me – had whispered in his ear. The two of them kept knocking them back, and kept buying rounds for me as well. My boss hates when I drink on the clock, but what the hell? I was planning on quitting as soon as my screenplay was finished, anyway, and that was going to happen any day now.
They kept buying, I kept drinking, and…and then I was here. Surrounded by pirates, on a ship, going God knows where, and being poked in the back by the hilt of a sword. With the help of a convenient barrel, I managed to stand upright, and received a smattering of applause. I took a bow, then flipped them all off. Screw this, I thought. I started walking slowly forward, fumbling in my pocket for my cell phone. If I could get any kind of signal, then I’d use the GPS, figure out where I was, call 911 and get all these bastards arrested for kidnapping.
The only problem was that my phone was nowhere to be found. Now that I thought of it, my backpack hadn’t been near me when I woke up, either. I turned to the captain, frustrated. “It’s not enough that you kidnapped me, but you took my stuff, too?”
He tilted his head to one side. “Well, what did you expect? Pirates!” This was met with a roar of approval, and I spun, realizing that there were many more men than I had originally thought, and they were nearly all out of sight. The darkness seemed unnatural, but I could see the stars up above and some thin clouds high in the sky.
The captain stepped closer, pulling his sword. “You don’t have what it takes, barkeep,” he sneered. “Falling down every five seconds, mocking my crew – you need to be taught a lesson.” Another man stepped up beside me and wordlessly handed me a sheathed sword. I looked at him blankly, then looked up at the captain and saw what little light there was glinting off the blade he held in front of him. Shaking, I took the sword and unsheathed it. The metal was smooth, and the sword felt heavy in my hand.
The captain grinned and held his sword in a salute. “You ever use one of these before, barkeep?” he called mockingly, and I watched the other men on deck come closer and form a loose circle around us. I turned around and saw that there were several men directly behind me, keeping me from moving away from their captain. Swallowing hard, I turned back and raised my sword in salute as well. I had taken a few fencing lessons in college, but this sword was much bigger than the foil I had used then. It also looked like it would do much more damage than the foils, and I had an inkling the captain wouldn’t stop just because the tip of his sword touched my chest. Still, if I beat him I might stand a chance of getting my things back and getting the hell out of here.
Before we could begin, the ship was flooded with lights that came from all directions. I dropped to my knees, letting the sword fall as I covered my eyes. Around me, I could hear a few of the others swearing at the brightness as well. Eyes streaming, I looked around, trying to figure out what had happened. Had we been hit by a cannon or a missile or something? Did the sun go supernova? What was going on?
Floodlights. All around the ship, floodlights bore down on the deck. Squinting, I could make out the “sky” behind them, and I realized that it was paint on a backdrop. I groaned, dropping my face back into my hands.
“Hey, Ro-oy!” a voice sing-songed from somewhere. “Are you actually crying? I don’t think I’ve ever gotten you to cry before! That’s like, fifty more points, easy.” The voice had moved closer, accompanied by the sound of heavy boots walking across the deck. I suddenly realized that the “ship” wasn’t moving anymore, and I raised my eyes in astonishment.
“Seriously, Derek?” I tried to stand, and one of the “pirates” behind me lent me a helpful hand. “What’d you do, rent out an entire sound stage? Just for a prank?” I wiped the tears from my eyes, nodding my thanks to the man who helped me stand.
“Not just for a prank,” Derek chirped. “For the most EPIC PRANK EVER!” He crowed as he ran around the ship, high-fiving all the actors who had been playing the pirate crew. I could see quite a few grins on their faces now, and I rolled my eyes. Derek stopped when he got back around to me, and cocked his head to the side. “What’s the matter, Roy? Don’t you like being beat at your own game?”
“You think this is over?” I snorted. “Please. All you did was up the ante. Now give me back my stuff, bird brain, and let me out of here.” Derek was still dancing around, giggling inanely to himself, and he refused to answer me.
The “captain” came over to us, carrying my backpack. “Here, man,” he mumbled, thrusting it into my arms. “Everything’s there. And hey, nothing personal, all right? It was just a paycheck.” He met my eyes and winked. “You’re pretty cute when you sleep, you know.”
I blushed bright red as I pawed through my bag to get my phone. Pulling up the GPS, I found that I was at least ten miles from my apartment, and I groaned again. “Dude, really? How the hell am I supposed to get home?” Derek stopped in his deranged “I got you” dance, thought for a minute, shrugged, and kept dancing.
“Hey, uh,” the blond actor said. “I can give you a ride home, if you want.” Looking more closely, I could see that the beard was just spirit-gummed in place, and the black on his teeth was already rubbing off. He watched me inspect him, and gave me a shy smile. “Come on. Maybe we can figure out how to get the goofball back.”
I slung my bag over my shoulder and followed him out. He really was kind of cute, when he wasn’t trying to stab me. “I’m thinking alien invasion. What do you think?”