The Flying Dutchman

Above the vast emptiness a tiny black dot seems to be stuck in one place, unmoving. It is always there, no matter where you are. In this world, every compass points towards the said dot and no matter where you go, it will always be right there, high above the horizon in the sky. The only thing that is not constant about that dot is the fact that in less then fifteen minutes it will suddenly flicker, lighting up the entirety of the vast empty space, cutting through darkness like knife through butter.

If you look closely, you can notice that the emptiness is not entirely empty. In space there are giant rocks floating, neither falling not rising. Some of them can be very small, forming currents of dust clouds, flowing, like a river of sand, permeating the empty vastness. But other rocks are as big as islands, sometimes going on for miles and miles. But no matter how big those rocks are, the whole space can’t be described anything other the vast. And empty.

Well, sure it is not entirely empty. If you search long enough, you can find tiny little specks of life, microbes compared to the surrounding space, who try and make their living tolerable. Some band together to form groups, hunting the scarce wildlife and building homes to stay together. Others travel, alone or in small groups, hoping to find refuge in some of the rumored paradise cities or just moving for the sake of moving.

Each of those little specks is native to the world. They have been here as long as they remember, some born, others just appeared out of thin air. Nobody knows the life before this one. They don’t know how discomforting it is to have whatever goes for sun here just switch on and stay alight for fourteen hours, only to suddenly turn black, plunging this world into darkness. They also don’t know how unnerving it is to look into the endless space in any direction, where there is no end, only more emptiness. They don’t know what it is to stand on the firm ground, knowing full well that you will wake up in the same place tomorrow, all your neighbors beside you.

You might have gathered that things here are not the same as in the other realms. Laws are a little iffy, confusing perhaps. But there are laws, unchanging and unwavering, however strange they are.

A single ship, a pirate ship to be exact is floating in the vastness, exploiting one of the laws of this world. Its sails are folded, to stop it from moving as much as possible. They are currently traveling through the forty-second meridian. The meaning of the word is long forgotten, whoever said it first no longer amongst the living. Now it only means a direction, forty two degrees clockwise counting from the single dot in the sky.

The one well known law in this world is that the forty-second meridian is exactly a 100 kilometers long or 62.1371192 miles to be precise. No matter where you go, while traveling on the meridian, once you pass the hundred kilometers, you end up in the same place you started. A physicist might think and try to call it a space-time möbius loop, but to the ordinary folk it is knowing nothing more then the forty-second meridian.

At night, people turn to face the forty-second meridian and flow in that direction until the morning comes. They will forfeit any activity, be it hunting or plunder, so they won’t get completely lost while floating in empty darkness. Of course you are more then welcome to anchor at any rock large enough, but that is not always an option.

So, it is this same rule that the crew of a flying ship is following right now. Most of the crew is asleep, waiting for the morning to come. Only a couple people are standing guard, staring into the void for the purpose of avoiding any floating debris. In their hands are two metal cylinders, the ends of which produce white beams of light, that go on further into the darkness, hoping to rip something out of the maw of the black beast, only to vanish far off into the distance. It is true, that once you go through the forty-second meridian unhindered, you won’t see anything on your way. But caution never hurts.

As soon as the dot that doubles as sun here lights up the space below, the crew on guard duty are relieved, so they go to have some rest while waking a couple people on the way to their bunks.

In a cabin below deck, in a rich looking bed a mass of what can be only described as ’lovecraftian horror’ is sprawling. When the light enters a single window, an eye opens within the mass of tentacles, claws, fangs and flesh. As it looks around, the mass starts moving about, taking a roughly human shape. A male figure is formed, with broad shoulders, a beard and even genitals, formed from tentacles and other bits. It takes up a set of black clothes and puts them on, taking an appearance of a typical pirate captain, with the jacket, a peg leg and an eyepatch over where the right eye would be. What’s not typical, is the single eye, square in the middle of a would-be face. Pondering for a bit. It squints the eye and moves it slightly higher up and to the left. Satisfied with its appearance, a mass of tentacles that goes by the name of “Davey Jones” steps out of its cabin.

On the deck, people are already running around, happy to be alive and awake, doing their jobs. Most of them are completely obsolete, as there is no water or wind, at least not in this bit of space. Unless a certain contraption deep within the ship is tampered with, it will not go down any time soon.

Stepping onto the deck, Davey Jones makes a sniffing motion with his face tentacles, imitating normal human behavior. It was unnecessary, the tentacles can touch, smell, taste and hear with any part of their body. The motion was obsolete, except for the impression it gave of the pirate captain being anything alike the humans.

A horrifying toothy grin spreads on his face. If people weren’t used to it, they would faint and have nightmares for weeks. As of now, everybody is used to the seemingly living personification of the human’s worst nightmares. They can feel the sincerity in the smile, no matter how horrible and terrifying.

“Yarrr, what ye say we be doing today?”

The crew looks at the captain excited.

“I haven’t seen my family in a long time!”

“We are running outta grog!”

“Me teeth be falling out!”

“We got no sky-fish left! Only moon-whale and catdog jerky left!”

The captain looks at his crew and ponders for a moment.

“I feel like we be getting fucked today! Set the course for the sixty-ninth!”

A mixed reaction of excitement and disappointment, with slight contempt mixed in.

“Aye aye cap’n.”

“I can’t hear you.”

“AYE-AYE CAPTAIN!”

“Oooooooh…” He once again makes an inhaling motion as if readying to break into a song. But he doesn’t, pirates don’t sing. At least not when sober.

The crew starts moving about, doing their best to follow captain’s orders. Mr. Smee turns the wheel setting the course for the sixty-ninth meridian. The crew unfolds the sails which immediately pick up the wind that’s not there. Nothing, but the tattered cloth of the sail can feel the movement of air, pushing the ship forward. Somebody brings captain his stuffed parrot, which is then set onto captain’s shoulder.

The particular chosen course is somewhat surprising, as they just spent the night trying to not get lost, only to turn to the sixty-ninth and ’get fucked’.

Getting fucked is the usual term for following sixty-ninth meridian, as it has similar yet different properties as the forty-second. Once you set sail, you will start moving very-very quickly, and you won’t know where you will end up until you come to a complete stop.

So now, after few moments of staying stationery the ship quickly starts gaining speed and within moments seems to disappear into the distance. It’s completely safe, as nothing ever hinders the path of the ship on the sixty-ninth.

“Avast ye hearties! We be going for three hours and then sail to fifty-fifth. I can feel the breeze calling.”

Of course there was no breeze, even if they moved at incredible speeds through the air. It was just captain’s way of of saying he has no idea what to do today. They have been lost for weeks, and they need to find some provisions soon. Even finding a straggler would be good for the change of pace.

The captain turns to a stuffed bird and touches its foot, making the beak open and close repeatedly.

“Quack. Polly wanna cracker. Polly wanna cracker. Chirp chirp.”

Pronouncing each word as it is, not as a sound it should make, captain then reaches into a pocket and pulls out a biscuit. He then stuffs it into the dead bird’s beak. This bizarre exchange has been happening every day since the crew met their captain. Nobody knows where he gets those biscuits and nobody dared to ask, because walking the plank is terrifying.

With that, captain turns away from the crew and walks back below deck. They will be traveling for a while, hoping to come to someplace meaningful; they got enough supplies for three weeks at most. Afterwards who knows what might happen. Captain hopes he doesn’t need to eat his crew, he really hates getting to know the new one each time.

While the ship sailed through the empty vastness, somewhere else far away another individual found himself in the similar situation – stranded with nowhere to go.

On a surface of a rock about fifteen meters wide, a certain man was sitting down, thinking about where he ended up. His voidship crash-landed, after being ripped apart from the backlash of different physical forces colliding, while trying to claim him for their own. He was utterly confused, as whatever laws governed this place were entirely different from what he knows are common mostly everywhere else across the multiversal space.

He remained unharmed, safety features performed flawlessly and negated the transformation that would have ripped him apart in order to fit him into this reality. As of now, he still had his superior strength and his hands could feel a surprisingly large amount of mana, unusual for a world in this quadrant of the multiversal space. But none of those things helped him understand what was happening.

Once again a small metal ball zoomed past the rock on which the man was floating. Ten seconds later another one fell from the sky just two meters to the side of the first one. For the last two hours the man was trying to come up with plausible ideas as for what this place is. Even his computer on his wrist brace gave up one hour fifty-four minutes ago and stayed silent since.

The man was observing as two virtually identical ball-bearing were exhibiting different and anomalous behavior. The first one fell down, reaching the distance of 12.6 kilometers, at which point the distance would start going down close to zero and then zoom past the man downwards. This would approximately happen once every sixteen minutes. The ball has reached its terminal velocity long ago which is much smaller than what it is supposed to be, as gravity here is exactly the same as on Earth. What’a more, it is uniform everywhere around.

However, the more astounding of the two balls was the second one. It zoomed past every thirteen and a half minutes. However the distance it travelled wasn’t 12.6 kilometers but instead 12.6 trillion kilometers. Yup. Considering that the ball looped around each time, it travelled at about a hundred thousand times faster than the speed of light. Which is impossible within conventional space. This space was so unconventional. The temporal flow around each ball was relatively normal and no space anomalies could be detected. This whole space was one big anomaly.

Another thing that annoyed the man for the last three days was the sun or whatever was in its place. Switching from complete darkness to midday in an instant was beyond annoying. The man couldn’t adjust properly and there was nowhere to hide from it, his ship trashed and nothing but the rock around him. He could take a gamble and jump, but that didn’t seemed like a good idea.

He had a headache since last night with all the thinking and annoyance. And why was he here? He was supposed to pop into a small stable pocket universe within the multiversal space, to allow his shield to recharge as he had been traveling through inter-dimensional chaos for a little too long, only to find out he entered a rare anomaly. Having his ship torn apart and plummeting through empty space only to crash on a rock floating in the middle of nowhere, he was now stranded.

Of course, he wasn’t in any danger, the overabundance of atmospheric mana would be enough for the ship’s surviving life support to feed him indefinitely, but what would he do on this rock? There didn’t seem to be anybody else around, he didn’t have a mode of transportations and he couldn’t make any shelter as his materializations circuits were damaged in the crash. This was not a situation to find one self while traveling to your daughters’ weddings.

He sighed loudly and pressed the button for his testing sensors to come back. The next time the balls would zoom past, they will stop and return to the wrist brace.

Lying on the ground, he stops thinking and tries to enjoy the light-rays hitting his skin. He was shirtless for the last three days and he only got a little tan and didn’t get burned. It showed the distinct lack of UV rays in the sunshine of whatever that weird dot gave off. Just like that he slowly nods off to sleep.

A couple hours later the man is woken up by a presence of a foreign sound. The empty space was so still and tranquil, you could almost hear your own heartbeat, so the sound of creaking wood seemed deafening. He shoots up and looks around to see a ship with white tattered cloth for sails and people moving about the deck.

He jumps, flailing his arms around, shouting to get some attention. The ship is slightly lower than the man, so he sends a couple of flares towards it to ensure to get their attention. After few minutes the commotion aboard the ship settles and it starts closing in on the stranded man. He is honestly happy to see somebody else, even if they are on a wooden ship that seems to want to fall apart any time now.

When the ship is somewhat level with a rock, a creature that seems to have the same origin as the man’s father-in-law, dressed as an old age pirate, steps forward and speaks.

“See this maties? We have ourselves a landlubber!”

“Ahoy!” Shout all the crewmen.

“Who we be speaking with?”

The stranded man looks at the Pirates and thinks for a minute. Three emerald stones embedded into his temples and his forehead shine for a moment, doing a slight surface scan of the people before him.

“I am Ylgrdren Barshaft, a traveler who crashed here. I have no means of getting home and no money, but I hope you will take me away from this cursed rock. I can imagine your name being Black Beard?”

“Hear that hearties? The lad already got himself a name!” The captain says pointing at a man with green messy hair and green scruffy looking mustache under his noes. “We don’t take scallywags and freeloaders. What good be ye with no booty to plunder?”

“Your crew seems little malnourished. Whatever is left of my ship can provide some provisions. Of course you won’t be able to operate it without me” Ylgrdren waves towards a wreckage nearby.

The monstrous face of the pirate splits in half, showing a horrendous smile, the excitement of his good fortune unconfined. He knew the breeze was blowing his way this morning. He motions for the man to get on.

“I welcome ye aboard the Flying Dutchmen.”

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