Caribbean, Late 1680s
My eyes were locked and frozen. I couldn't move. My body... this wasn't what I had paid for.
[Sight is not sight.] I heard the old woman say. But her mouth didn't move. Instead she just breathed in deep. Unmoving, unflinching.
I tried to mouth a response. I tried to get up and strangle this witch who'd dare to imprison as salty a man like me. I'd put this dark-skinned hag in her place and-
[Or what?] Her voice was in my head. I could feel something like fingers in my brain. [It hides in your mind. Your inner dream is infected with It. I hunt. Be quiet.]
Something then burned in my mind. It hurt, like glaring into the sun or the burning iron of the bosun's whip. I remembered back to my ship and my mates. To the shipment we'd taken. The gold and the other things we'd taken from that chest at the bottom of that unholy pit.
Our dreams turned into nightmares. Each night, we'd find more men who'd jumped overboard into the sea. Something was taking us. A few started to worship it, to do its will. Those men became depraved things, flaying and singing blasphemies into the night. The rest of us tried to escape, fleeing in whatever we could manage. The cap'n had been the first to die, and no one else had stepped up to yet take his place.
We fled anarchy for the harsh ride of the open stormy sea. Lightning and thunder roared nonestop its seemed for days. Until I found this Witch woman, who promised to cure me of the dreams turned to gorey nightmares.
She wore nothing but a long robe made from the lion's hide. Blackened from age, the lion must've been huge- but one could still see the head and outline of it in the robe. Its head's maw gaped open to form her hood. One could see her nakedness underneath, her ebony skin covered in scars, markings and symbols of so many things I never could claim to understand. Dried bugs and rats hung from her body.
I don't remember how she found my boat. Just that she never spoke a single word.
I laid there, my head burning. I looked up to see her put a single finger on my brow.
[There. Leave monster.]
I she tore out a black, hideous nine-legged thing from my brow. She threw it into the sea, cackling as she stood on the prow. The waves cracked. Thunder boomed.
I realized in the glare of the lightning that this crone's body had been just one shape it could take. An illusion that I couldn't see past. At one angle she was a beautiful maid, her black hair flowing, drenched in the seawater. At another, she was pregnant, her belly wide. At another, she was the old crone.
She cackled once more and point at me.
"Bah. Illusions you men can only dream in. Threes. Bah." She shook her head, the lion's mane shaking off drops of salt water. "I'm not bound by any of them. I hold your thoughts, buccaneer. You owe a Daughter of the Lion now. Remember the name Leo in your sleep. Remember Ori of Leo in your dreams. And remember I choose not to leave you for dead."
There was a flash. Then she was gone. All she'd left was a compass and a full wineskin.
I lived. Sometimes I wish I hadn't. But I know, one day, she'll call on me. I'll answer it. I can't say no to her. I can never say no. I can't imagine it either. Fuck me and fuck the sea.