The Pale Bride was a modest commercial fishing vessel, a stern trawler to be precise.
Which meant that by design, it was supposed to haul heavy catches up the ships stern and onto the working deck.
Whereupon the deckhands would ply their trade should a catch prove mighty or, through which, other less obstructing catches might be dropped down below decks for later sorting.
And indeed, this was its chief use for the past five days (and eighteen years hence), as it cut its way through the waters of the north pacific in search of game.
Game which, much to the chagrin of her captain, Antoinette Orkhem (Commonly referred to simply as Netty by her crew), proved elusive at the best of times and barely apparent at their worst.
No trip to sea is ever a guarantee you must understand. Even with all the modern comforts such as radar, sonar, and global positioning.
The seas withhold their bounties on a whim, and give little for how much they take in return.
Such is the way of nature in truth, as she holds little love in her heart for any creature be they big or small, fool or pharaoh.
Which in its own way, makes an act of love or kindness, one of unnatural tenderness.
And so it was that Netty, sitting in the wheelhouse of the Pale Bride, scanning around with her binoculars for the faintest light, the faintest glimmer of a shore that might be,
prayed for an act of unnatural kindness.
Lifting the handset for the VHF radio, she gripped it like a vice before her mouth and with a final supplication of an inward;
'Whoever's fucking listening, Please, just gimmi one little light'
"Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Pale Bride, Pale Bride, Pale Bride, Theta Chi One One Eight Niner. Over."
"I repeat. Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Pale Bride, Pale Bride, Pale Bride, Theta Chi One One Eight Niner. Over."
A thunderclap lights the sky, blinding her eyes for a moment.
"Last known position approximately, 57.879 by -143.377. Pale Bride currently suffering from technical issues, unable to determine current position due to radar fault.
Require immediate assistance in acquiring current position due to inbound storm front. Over"
She lowered the binoculars from her face, allowing them to hang around her neck as the sound of empty air filled the cabin.
Her salt-worn eyelids creased with a frown as she lowered her gaze down towards the blank screen of the radar.
Her now free hand raised to gently squeeze the roughed bridge of her nose, massaging it gently as she allowed her eyes to shut for a moment and rest.
In this quagmire of semi consciousness she allowed herself to sink, her mind feeling as if it were sliding down into a marsh of warm silence.
But she would not surrender her mind, and with a will like a net of iron, she bound her mind up and forced it to focus on the task at hand.
How had they gotten here? What had driven them into this madness? She wondered as recalling their journeys she deemed the entire expedition cursed from the onset.
Be it by some malaligned gull or some misdeed by one of her crew, something had run afoul of the Pale Bride.
Or at least so, she was sure, as such are the habits of some coastal folk who make their livings upon the open seas.
Theirs is a workplace, where during a bright day a wave (or lump as they're sometimes called) may take a man as silently as a whisper and kill him before he has time to scream.
And where by stormy night, all light fades from the world and is driven into the black depths of the sea below.
As if to accentuate this note, a gust of ice stained wind flew into the cabin from somewhere below. Sending an ominous shiver up Netty's spine before she had a chance to silence it.
And though the deep ocean skies have a beauty all their own, that many a landlocked citizen may never get to enjoy (or even be aware of).
Such as the endless vistas of colour and light that paint the sky with filaments ten billion years in the making.
Or the sparks from the anvils of creation still fluttering as they fly amidst the darkness of the aether, lighting strange new worlds.
This was not a night of such beauty however. This was a black night of starless skies and hateful depths.
This was a night where even the moon fled in fear of what may happen, and the only light to be found was in the sickening purple arcs of lightning.
Like inverted rainbows, as they shot forth in spiralling forks, only to curve back upwards and strike some cloud formation deeper within.
Or, where it was still possible, the floodlights which were mounted along the wheelhouse exterior.
But fighting against the spray of foamy brine and the whipping snowflakes, they lit little but thei own immediate surroundings.
"What's the word boss?"
Dom, first mate of the Pale Bride asked as he made his way up the service ladder to the interior of the wheelhouse. Carrying in hand a thermos of coffee for Netty.
She had been expecting him and with his arrival let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding.
She slowly opened her eyes, hoping, wishing that her prayer might be heard.
But her only response was another crack of sickly lightning and the rattle boom as it shook the thick plastic windows of the cabin.
She offered plainly, eyeing the thermos which she reached for after seeing Dom to his feet and up in the cabin beside her.
Bringing the object to her lips she allowed herself the joy of a deep, hedonistic breath in of the foul smelling substance.
It smelled like burnt dirt and steel. It tasted like a roadside rest stop set on fire. But it was caffeinated, so with a pull of the trigger she gulped down the coal black liquid.
"Don't know how you can drink that shit boss"
He said in his usual, nonchalant way of sounding only vaguely interested. His focus pressed to the radar screen, then to the hanging cables beneath.
Walking over to it, he poked and prodded, turning at the last to Netty for a final quip;
"Shits gonna kill you"
He allowed himself the gradual collapse that came with an aged man trying to kneel aboard a seafaring vessel and looked at the connections of the radar as he turned back.
"Waste of time"
Netty offered with a scowl and a shrug, snorting the acrid aroma of her coffee down into her stomach.
"Connections, wires, everything looks good. Just doesn't wanna turn on"
A man too curious to simply wait for an explanation, Dom had already begun to tinker and touch.
One finger eventually making it to the power button and turning on the radar with more than a little excited anticipation.
Much to no ones surprised, nothing happened.
"You wouldn't think some stupid lighting could do all this would you?"
Dom mused, more to himself than to Netty as he rose with a groan and leaned against the useless console.
"It's not supposed to, things designed to be able to take a hit or two, but this..."
Netty's eyes went wide as all of her faculties finally returned to their senses and she felt the vibrating tingle of something new flow through her veins.
"How's the crew?"
She turned and looked to the rear of the cabin, down to the four crewmen bringing in the net. Their bodies battered by spray like molten glass which cut and burned in equal measure.
Their minds hardened against the threat of the waves which clung like tar against their bodies as it washed up and over the sides of the ship.
Caleb, the boatswain, looked up at the cabin and offered a wave, or at least, what passed for one at sea. And Reaching for the radio unit strapped to his chest, called in.
"Almost done down here Netty, the net seems like she caught something on the way up. But she'll be right in a tic"
Netty smiled, offering her crew a firm nod and a wave back. They didn't need to know more than their jobs for the time being, or at least so the captain had decided.
"They're good, don't suspect a thing so far"
Done with the view, Netty returned her attention to Dom, missing for a moment as she turned, a dull flash of light somewhere down below.
"Good, no need to start a panic. As it stands we're not totally fucked"
This was a ploy of course, one that Dom had witnessed a great many times to try and dissuade him from thinking the worst. Which he often did regardless.
And though usually he had the patience to pretend he didn't notice, this time was different.
"Give it to me straight boss, I can take it"
This was the moment Netty had hoped wouldn't come. She had hoped that everything, somehow, would be sorted by some miraculous act. But of course that was utterly ridiculous.
And the thirty two other lost ships this year alone were a testament to that fact.
"Alright. Last time I saw anything we had a force 10 moving in on us. Radios fucked since the lightning strike.
Radars fucked since the same and with the water the way it is, there's no telling which way is home til morning."
Dom let the news sink in as he stroked his chin nervously, despite it being entirely clean shaven.
"How quick you think? Before the storm hits us"
A question a child would ask, but not a childish question, as his mother would say. And such it was as Netty merely gestured with her head to the relentless hammering of the rain.
"I think it's safe to say its already here"
Again he stroked his chin thoughtfully,
"What's our options, you think?"
"Hunker down, put the boys to sleep. I'll keep watch over night, in morning we get our bearings and head home for repairs"
Dom, ever the good first mate, offered to his captain a satisfied grin, rubbing his hands together as thoughts of lemon and garlic filled his mind.
End Part 1