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The Angelica

The bodies washed up on shore, thousands scattered across the sandy banks in various conditions. Some had faces so severely scratched that you couldn’t see where their eyes had once been, while others were so bloated that their bodies were ten times their normal size and their eyes were bloodshot and bulging in their skulls, their every orifice filled with salt and sand. Some were hardly changed, the only difference being their damp hair and sand coated bodies and their blank, staring dead eyes. A great many had frozen to death, their bodies unable to adapt to the sudden change in temperature so far out at sea, in which case their skin was blue and their lips and skin cracked like a shattered window. The worst of the bodies were the ones that curious sharks had taken a bite at, and they had great chunks missing from their bodies; some had two or three if the creature had found their flesh intriguing. Most of the blood had been washed away in the heavy currents that had dragged their limp bodies to the shore, but the wounds that were freshest left their occupants surrounded by a pool of blood. As they floated, helpless and dead in the water, other fish had nibbled away at their ripped skin. More horrific than these mangled remains, were the innocent faces of children and infants as they lay under the mournful eye of the sun, which had started to rise above them, their mouths open in a scream that had never been heard, their arms and legs laying at odd angles, broken by the waves that had brought them to the beach where their bodies could finally find rest from the sea, which had churned their bodies tirelessly. Their eyes, wide open with a final fear as they had watched the blue world around them consume their lives, stared upward in the brightness of the sun they had searched for so desperately in their final moments, but they could not see it. They would never see it again. They had died under the watchful eye of the moon, who, at the moment in which they needed it most, disappeared from the sky on one of its many unknown journeys, and when it had returned there was nothing it could do but watch as those it had deemed safe suffered a terrible tragedy.


They had all drowned. Not one soul had survived. Families had been torn apart as the boat was ripped in two and sank, lovers had found their love helpless as they searched for a way out, and those in the engine room or staff quarters could do nothing but wait for the water to reach them in their rooms below the surface, where they were trapped. The boat had lifeboats, but no one in the crew had been trained to use them, and in the fear and panic that arose they were forgotten as people made desperate attempts to survive, throwing themselves off the sides of the ship, only to remember that they could not swim. Some had tried to cling to the boat, but they were dragged down with the vessel. Others had simply sat with their drinks and waited patiently with nothing but apprehension lingering at the tip of their tongues, but they knew more than to speak of it. They tried to act like everything was normal as the wooden planks split beneath them, but soon the terror consumed them and they acted upon the instinct that had been branded into their blood at birth, the unavoidable human instinct that, in these times, turns human beings to selfish, destructive animals.


In the hours before the great tragedy, everyone was having a good time. Children were running back and forth across the deck, the ocean wind grabbing at their hair and clothes as their shrieked with laughter, and adults watched them, wistfully remembering their own childhoods. These people were on an exciting journey, traveling from a small town in England to America in the year 1747. They had heard much about the eastern coast and of Plymouth, and were hopeful that they would find prosperity in the new world. The Angelica, a maiden ship made by the people on board, was complete with a dining hall, ornate living quarters, and tables laid out across the deck with hand sewn and carefully embroidered table clothes, was making its very first journey across one of the seven seas. The people, the Paragons, as they liked to call themselves, believing that they themselves were perfect in their way of life, were very proud of their ship, but on it what they were proudest of was their masthead. An eloquently carved figure of a beautiful maiden with long flowing hair, a dress flying loosely about her in the wind that radiated off the water, a ring of flowers placed delicately on her head, and fierce eyes that were to guide them through any storm or rough patch of sea. In her hand, she carried a torch, an international symbol of hope and determination that they knew would not go unnoticed by the heavens above, and they prayed that it would help them survive the treacherous journey ahead of them.


The Angelica was nearing the coast of Massachusetts when night fell and they let down their anchor a little ways into the water to slow the progress of the ship. All was quiet, not a wave crashed against the side of the vessel nor did a cloud block the moon, which shone brightly above them. There was hardly a breeze as they bobbed up and down in the waves.


Then, all of the sudden, thunder began to shake the skies above their heads, and rain poured down on them relentlessly; lighting flashed and the wind screamed terribly. No one really stopped to worry, though, and mothers sang their crying children back into sleep.


Then the first sail tore.


The wind sliced through it like a knife, and then through the other sails, ripping them to mere shreds. It was the worst storm the ship had yet to face, and even their proud maiden at the head of the ship could do nothing as its wrath was unleashed upon the unprepared vessel. Slowly and painfully, The Angelica was torn apart, boards split and planks splintered as the fair maiden sank beneath the pounding waves, her scream unuttered and unheard as she disappeared from the world forever, lost beneath the crashing waves of the world above her.


***


When the people of Billingsgate ventured down to the beaches the morning after the storm, hoping to find some treasure that had been turned up by the angry sea, they were stunned to find the mass of bodies strewn across the beaches, seeming to go on for miles in both directions. There had been merely hundred and thirty-four passengers on board The Angelica, but it seemed like thousands as they stared at the bodies, some lying in groups and others lying alone in the blazing sun. Their rotting corpses had begun to smell, and many people covered their noses, making faces as they pulled their hats farther over their eyes to protect themselves from the sun. A few ventured forward down the dunes, mostly men and a couple inquisitive youngsters who had escaped from their mothers and tumbled down the sandy hill after their fathers. Sticks and pieces of driftwood were wrenched free from the sand and the side of the dune and used to turn over the bodies that had been deposited face down. Almost all recoiled from the disgusting faces of men, women and children, once lovely and handsome, now covered in flies. The young children were shooed away from the bodies and told to run back up to their mothers, while older boys were forced to help search for more bodies, pulling the unlucky ones out of the sea that they had not escaped, even in death. No one had any idea where they had come from, as they hadn’t heard of an expected arrival anywhere in the area, nor did anyone recognize the faces now distorted by their battle with the sea.


It took the people of Billingsgate a long time to decide what to do with the bodies, and they decided to contact the rest of Eastham. The people of high status in Eastham came out to study the mess, but they decided that while they tried to find out where the people had come from, they would drag the bodies up the dune and bury them in unmarked graves along the side, vertical against the water. The press wanted to print a story, but they were told not to. It would ruin their representation and they wanted their population to continue to grow. Telling everyone in the vicinity that bodies had washed up on their shores would not be very inviting.


Over time the people of Billingsgate forgot about the bodies, and slowly they began to use the beaches once more. To this day, The Angelica and the Paragons who made her have been forgotten. The bodies disintegrated in their unmarked graves, and The Angelica herself sits forgotten at the bottom of the sea, though it was said by those who did remember the terrible tragedy that the souls of those who were lost and buried still remained, wandering the beaches and haunting the sea, hoping to one day rise The Angelica and continue their journey across the sea.

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