Somewhere deep in the dry and desolate Sonoran desert, there is a shipwreck.
It certainly seems an unusual place to find the remains of a seafaring vessel, so far inland from the Pacific ocean; and yet there it lies,
its blackened and decaying body half-buried in the pallid sands. Stranded from the watery grave it deserves.
Tourists and explorers come to marvel at it and search it for abandoned treasure. They all wonder how a ship could become wrecked in a remote desert.
But they never ask us what we, the ghosts who guard this ship, know about it.
If they asked, they’d learn its true history.
We remember that in 1615, a Spanish captain sailed to China and snatched away the enchanted water nymph whose lovely songs had the power to control the waters.
The cruel captain, docking in the Sea of Cortes east of Baja California, demanded that the nymph flood the Colorado River far inland,
in order to sail his ship into the desert and unearth the treasure buried in the mountains. He promised to set her free if she did this. She obeyed.
But when they found it, he did not keep his vow to her. He gathered his newfound Spanish gold, his perfectly-round pearls, and his vibrant rubies.
He used them to make her bridal crown, and he married her.
To punish his treachery, the water nymph sang away the flooded river with a piercing shriek, driving it back to its faraway canyon.
The Spanish captain and his men were run aground. Trapped forever in a waterless desert, a month’s walk from civilization, they died where they stood, thirsty yet gloriously gilded.
If they asked, those modern-day explorers would learn that we see this ship arise from its grave every night, sailing across the sands lit silver by the cold moonlight.
It moves silently and solemnly, as if drifting on calm seas, searching for the long-lost treasure.
For the hidden gold in the mountain carried its own curse: those who find it are doomed to repeat and relive their deaths, every night, for eternity.
If they asked, they’d understand that not far from the ship is the tiny skeleton of a water nymph, its hands and neck bound in chains, its brow bedecked in the most rare pearls.
Her bones have been gnawed upon; perhaps the sailors killed her and attempted to eat her.
And her unearthly voice, dried up from thirst and torture, failed to summon a final wave to bring her escape.
We still hear her wails in the night, echoing mournful and despairing through the canyons.
But they never want to know these stories. All they ask us about is the treasure the ship must possess.
So we reveal it to them, hidden quite close by under a thin layer of sand, and we encourage them to take home a souvenir. Nobody leaves here empty-handed.