A pall hung over the moon, misty clouds stringing across the sky like the tattered remnants of a ghostly sail. The endless sound of the ocean forever in motion whispered ceaselessly like the incomprehensible roar of a far away stadium crowd. Pale light from the moon reflected weakly off the constant gently rolling water, illuminating the upward motion while casting faint shadows on the downward movements of the water’s ceaselessly flowing surface.
A sound moaned softly somewhere in the darkness. It was the creak and groan of ancient lumber flexing and bending with the pressure of the waves pressing upon it, trying to bend the wood to its will. With it came the soft lapping of the waves licking against the slowly rotting timber, carrying it on an endless voyage across the sea.
Within the dark confines of the ancient ship’s hull, the air hung heavy and stale. Dead. Throughout the empty cargo hold was the rotten wood remnants of long ago stalls and pens for the transporting of livestock. The spaces between these broken lumber remnants were filled to capacity with tightly packed rows and rows of shelves from ceiling to floor. Littered among these shelves were shackles. Some were red-brown with the rust of ages, some seemed black as a new cast iron pan and freshly oiled. Many lay within the ranges in between. There were shackles on the shelves and lying discarded on the floor like dead metal vipers. Still more hung down from the low ceiling, swinging casually with the gentle rolling of the ship on the sea, swinging silently except for the occasional light ching when two touched briefly in their never-ending dance. A thick gritty and greasy dust clung to everything.
“Is the cargo secured?” a voice called out. The captain was feeling nervous about the dark clouds looming on the horizon.
“All secure,” called back the first mate.
“Secure the masts,” the captain called out, “bring in the sails.”
The sounds of men scurrying about the deck, voices indefinable and vague, echoed down to the hull below.
On the vacant deck above, the pale light of the moon caressed across the ship from bow to stern. The sails hung limply, tattered and shredded, stained and rotting. The planks of the deck lay clean and dry, repeatedly washed by the waves as though by invisible deck hands. Endless days under the sun had left the timber bleached.
The moans and groans of ill and discontented souls oozed up from the bowels of the ship with the creaking and groaning of the timber, the only sound other than the waves and shifting of what remained of the rotting tack that touched the deserted deck. Sometimes a terrible scream would be carried on the wind, fleeing the terrors locked within the weeping timber of the ship’s hull.
This is the Illopogas, a cargo ship that was once used for transporting many different types of cargos over the years, the last of which was livestock that was not of the four-legged variety. Stories of the Illopogas migrate like some of the denizens of the waves, travelling from port to port, whispered in the darkened corners of inns and pubs by sailors who have drunk too much. Even in the telling of these tales, these drunken louts eye the room suspiciously through narrow slitted eyes, making protective gestures behind their backs, wary of jinxing themselves and bringing the Illopogas across their path when next they sail.
Few sailors have crossed paths with the legendary ghost ship, The Illopogas, and lived to tell the tale. None has been able to hold on to their shredded sanity. Some say that the ship is haunted by vengeful ghosts, others that the ship itself seeks revenge.
There is something about ghost ships, forever sailing the seas manned by an invisible crew, which strikes fear into the hearts of men. None as much as the Illopogas.
Beware the ghost ship.
Beware the Illopogas.