Black Betty
by Ben Peek


The Testimony of John Avery, First Mate

We came upon the island in the afternoon, m'lord, and it was an ill omened thing to the eye from the start. The ocean leading to it was a suspicious mix of orange and red on account of the setting sun and the island itself was two jagged, shadowed peaks divided by a shallow inlet with a tangle of thick jungle on either side. It looked like a burnt out port and of anything living, we could see no sign.

Most folk called it the Black Island, but some others called it Betty's Refuge, and a few more yet called it Black Betty's Coffin. Truth was, it was an ugly little thing surrounded by series of ugly brothers and sisters located a week out of Jamaica. Ships of considerable size didn't sail out there and I considered it idiocy to be doing so—begging m'lord's pardon and all, since I know he lost his son, but the Meredith was a one hundred and five cannon ship: a beast in the open sea and wall you couldn't hope to punch through in a port, but it was much too big and much too slow in those waters to be of any threat.

M'lord's son, Captain Lewis, would hear none of my concerns, however. The Meredith had sunk the Black Betty a week past and he was high on that. We had caught her in the middle of attacking a trader a day out of Kingston and it wasn't much of a battle as we came up with the sun behind us and half the crew of Betty on another ship. The Meredith's cannons crippled the smaller girl before she could get untangled and fill her black sails with wind, but the Captain never liked the way we did that. He said it was without honour.


Honour's got no place in such a battle—if we'd given Betty any time to prepare, she would have pulled away from us before we could turn ourselves around.

The Captain weren't a man of the sea, however, and so he didn't understand a bit of God's own blessing when it came to him. When we didn't find Black Betty herself on board, he said that we'd be going straight to her island. He got the position from a tall black man we'd taken prisoner off Betty. He had a name that sounded like the Devil himself had shat it out, so the crew and meself took to calling him Black Bill, which he didn't much like. He was an educated sort an' had airs about him like—well, now, it don't matter who I think he was like exactly, m'lord, cause I won't talk bad about those who survived that island, but Bill had airs, and he clearly felt that he were better than us.

He didn't want to guide us to the island, no, m'lord. At first he just wanted to discuss ransoms, though since the whole crew of Betty were black, I had no idea where he was going to get coin. Captain Lewis, to his credit, weren't interested in what Bill said—he saw it as an obvious lie, and when the black wouldn't tell the coordinates, the Captain began executing the others in punishment: some he killed with a pistol, some by hanging. Three nights after sinking Betty, we pulled up a school of sharks with one of the dead, and the Captain began making the others walk the plank. He'd sent six men into the waters that had turned black in the lamplight from the blood before Bill himself spoke. He'd been chained to the mast to watch and he could barely speak with grief, but he managed enough to put us in direction to Betty's Refuge. The Captain seemed pleased that it had only taken the six men to get him to speak, but for meself, I thought it was cruel thing to force a man to watch his mates die like that.

No, m'lord, I never owned no black man. I been at sea since I was ten—man's got no need to own another man on the ocean. The closest I ever came was transporting blacks to the new colonies and I only ever did once cause it was such a sour thing to me.

I didn't go out to Black Betty's Coffin, no, m'lord. I stayed on the Meredith, which was my duty. Your son—sorry, m'lord's son—he had thirty soldiers with him, and had no need of the likes of me. I remember when they went out well, though. I was standing on the deck and the six longboats were sliding out in the morning sun the shadow of them sharks from the nights before. There were thirty-four men going out, your son included, and I thought that there weren't many who would welcome the sight of them.

They were gone for three days before one longboat returned. It came out in the early morning, but there was no smoothness to the rowing this time. As it drew closer, we heard screaming. Closer still and we saw that the Captain was the one screaming and that he was holding his guts—some spear or sword had ripped him open and he was holding in his stomach with his hand. The rowing was being done by one of the powder monkeys and the Captain's cousin, that boy Aaron, who was delirious with pain, but he'd rowed all the way without saying a word about his wound. We lost him on the trip back, and he was much too young for that kind of death.

Bill was there, yes, m'lord, he was.

He was still chains and sitting straight and dark and serene in that lonely longboat. There wasn't a wound on him.

The Testimony of Robert Blue, Powder Monkey

I was hired in Jamaica, sir. The Meredith put into Kingston with a skeleton crew with the aim to flesh her out with sailors who knew the waters and I was hired by Mister John Avery.

I knew—everyone knew—that Captain Lewis was going to hunt the Black Betty. The rumour went through the ports quickly as to why: they said that he had killed a landed man in a duel; that he had left a string of poor girls pregnant; that he had gambled too much; and that he had been stripped of his commission in the army because he sympathised with the Indians. It was difficult to know for sure what he had done, and the Captain was not forthcoming with the information, but we were all certain that he was disgraced and needed redeem himself before returning to St. Lucia. Yourself, sir, must known the reasons for that, because you financed your son-

No, I apologise.

You're right, sir. It is not my place to question you.

Yes, where was I? Mister Avery told me that there was easy money to be made for anyone signing onto the Meredith. I was a bit concerned at first, because I had never been on a ship before, and Avery is—well, you've seen him, sir? He's a squat, hairy man, with scars across his back from a harsh lashing that he took some years ago. I heard tell that he used to be a Captain himself, but turned to hiring out his skills after a falling out with a Commodore over unfit behaviour. The last part I can credit—I found out that Mister Avery's interest in me was not just my education on the sea.

You looked shocked, sir. Is your moral compass that straight?

No, I do not believe that I will lie for you, sir. I've not enjoyed my time in on the Meredith and I want nothing more than to be away from it and everyone involved. I should have listened to myself and signed onto a smaller vessel. One not charged with hunting a pirate. But I allowed myself to be made a fool by listening to Mister Avery. He told me that Black Betty was now one hundred and four years old, if she were alive, and that the Black Betty—which she didn't captain anymore—was one of the fastest ships on the ocean. We wouldn't be meeting either, he assured me. Personally, I count myself lucky to be alive and I never wish to sail upon the ocean again. Your kindness of confining me to that cursed ship with men I no longer wish to be with was one that I could do without.

The crew? Yes, most of the crew had been to sea before. They were quite familiar with Avery, so he no doubt had sailed with them and was quite confident in their ability. This was proven when, two days out of port, we found ourselves in battle—which I should have taken as a sign of Avery's misjudgment of the task and jumped overboard. I suppose I found reason to ignore my instincts because the battle itself was so short and one sided.

When they bought the survivors of the Black Betty on board, I discovered, as the rumours about the ship said, that the crew was made up entirely by black men. My first thought was that they were runaway slaves, and Black Bill confirmed it for me later, shortly before we set out to the Black Island. It was not uncommon, he said, for Betty herself to buy slaves and give them their freedom, which I considered quite curious, since I had never heard that rumour about her. It is strange how the positives are often not repeated, is it not?


I thought Bill was harshly treated on the ship. He spent most of it chained to the centre mast and was barely feed food and water. In fact, his presence was the cause of some friction between Avery and the Captain. The night before we left, they had an argument about him, which though they kept it confined to the Captain's cabin, was one that we all heard. The two of them had been at each other’s throats for the entire voyage, mostly because the Captain was so ignorant of the sea. For all his good looks due to his height and blond hair and clear blue eyes, he did not know a thing about the ocean. He needed Avery to run the Meredith: to organise shifts for the crew and to pick paths to sail. It bothered him, I think. The Captain had been trained to hold a rifle, to use a sword, to lead troops, and it chafed at him that he was clearly unable to command here, and he and Avery were always arguing because of it. On the night before we left, they fought over Bill. The Captain wanted to take him and two of the Black Betty's crew onto the island, but Avery would have nothing of it. He believed the Captain planned to use the other two men as ways to ensure that Bill cooperated. Given that we had all seen him march men into the sea for sharks, none of the crew disagreed with the accusation.

In the morning, however, when we set out in longboats, it was only Bill who came with us. He had chains on his wrists and ankles and he sat straight in the boat as we rowed into the narrow inlet that ran into Black Island. He had a look upon his face that—well, in truth, I suppose that you might have called it a mix of ecstasy and fear. He was a man caught between emotions, of that I am certain. I myself have been caught in such moments and I can recognise it in any fellow man.

When we landed, the soldiers dragged him from the boat, for he would not leave by himself, but once his bare feet were on the dirty sand, he led us readily enough through the narrow trails that weaved through the dense forest of the island. 

The town that he led us to consisted of a dozen buildings, each building made from mud brick and wood and grass thatching. As a whole, the town was coloured brown and sat like an ugly stain in the forest around it. The whole thing had a hastily, slapped together feel, as if anyone who lived there did not truly care in what conditions they lived. A sword, rusted brown, had been thrust into the middle the road, and it sat there, sticking up, like a sun dial, allowing for the passage of time to be marked, even if there was no one around to watch. Which, of course, there wasn't. The entire village was deserted.

Now, sir, if I may, I'd like to discuss being removed from the Meredith—I'll tell you no more until I'm removed.

Testimony of Shawnte Belzar, Prisoner


My name is Shawnte Belzar. I was on the Black Betty for three years before your Meredith sank it.

No. I am not the First Mate your Mister John Avery suggests. We sailed under the Captaincy of a man named Sebastian White who kept no First Mate. His name came from Black Betty herself. She told him that he was the only power upon the ship. If he were here he could tell you the truth but Captain White was killed when the Meredith opened fire upon us. A cannon splintered a railing and it pierced his neck. It was from there that command of the crew fell to me though I do not wish to say that I was anyone of importance. I am a deck hand only. But I am also the only survivor who spoke your English. It is the last that elevated my status with your son and made me responsible for the crew of the Black Betty.

The night before the longboats left the Meredith I tried to tell your son that I had never been to Betty's Refuge. He was unwilling to believe me and told me that should I lie to him more of Betty's crew would be killed. I was in his cabin when he said this and the comment was overheard by Mister Avery and it resulted in an argument. The First Mate threatened mutiny and said that your son did not have enough soldiers to stop him and the crew. He must have been right because your son did not chain Mister Avery beneath decks. I am grateful for his words though I fear our fate remains the same-

What right do you have to take their lives?

What right?

I do not care what happened to your son! He died! Is that not enough? The crew of the Black Betty is still alive and they are my concern!


You would have them hang from the docks of St. Lucia?


I see.


You are like your son. You offer me this... what is it that you call it? A carrot. You offer me a carrot made from men.


No. I will answer your questions. There is no need for threats.

To answer your first question: I did not know what was on Betty's Refuge because I had never been there. Only Captain White went to the island. He said none but he were allowed and that we would be killed if we stepped upon the island. I had seen it twice though both men died at the Captain's hand and nothing else. I tried to tell your son this as he was rowed up the inlet but he would not listen to me. After a few attempts to get him to speak I lapsed into silence and listened to the oars slap quietly in the water. Around us were the soldiers that your son commanded. Each of them carried a rifle and sword. Some had pistols. I wondered how they would react to what we said upon the Black Betty about her namesake? What would they think if I told them that we thought Betty to be dead? She was too old to be alive. We believed that Captain White came to the island so that he could hide his goods and put fear into other captains on the ocean. Black Betty was nothing but a myth now.

When we beached I led them down the one path that I could see. The village was empty and old. I believed that we were on the wrong side of Betty's Refuge for it was clear that no one had lived here. There were no human tracks. The buildings that were open had the tracks of wild pigs in and out of them. The only thing that suggested that a person had been into the village at all was the sword stuck in the middle of the road. It was a short and straight bladed weapon without anything fancy upon it. The blade was coated in dry blood. Betty's? Or was the sword Betty's? It was not an old sword though I think there was some rust gathering upon the blade. One of the young men told the other that it was all rust. We were standing in the middle of the village with your son as his soldiers swept the area. When the first boy said this your son looked to reply but at that moment two soldiers returned.

They held an old woman between them. She was small and slim and her hair had gone white. She wore a loose dress that I think was once red but was now a faded brown. The two soldiers were dragging her through the mud. Her frail legs could not keep up though she continued to try to find her balance. As she drew closer I could see that her mouth was empty of teeth and her eyes milky with disease. Yet she was cursing at the two men loudly in Creole and calling them White Devils on account of their skin so she must have retained some sight.

“What is this?” your son said.

“We found her in a hut-”

The soldier was cut off as she screamed at him.

When she stopped he said, “She says her name is Betty.”

Your son laughed. I looked hard at the old woman twisting before him and when he asked me if this was Black Betty I could only shrug.

“That's not all,” the shorter soldier said. “You should see where she was living.”

I followed though it was not requested of me. I was curious as were the two young men and so we all went. I was not terribly pleased to think that Betty might be this old woman. In ports men spoke of Black Betty the runaway slave who would sooner kill a man than bed him. She was the girl who made deals with the Sea to live forever. She would bow to no man or woman or god. She was fearless and dangerous and beautiful. But all men and women must grow old and perhaps both she and Captain White had always known this. I thought it possible that both had secreted her here for a reason. I thought it better if they had just killed her.

The two soldiers led us into a small hut. It smelt of shit and piss and animal. There was a bed at the far wall and across the floor was bottles. At first I thought them to be wine. There were too many to count in such a short time but it saddened me to think that Betty could be an old drunk woman muttering in Creole. But as your son raised one of the bottles I saw that all was not that. I saw as he did. I saw a set of eyes tumbling slowly in liquid. The shadowed stalks floating like tails behind them.

As my eyes adjusted I saw that in all the bottles around us were pieces of men.






Each of them had ragged ends as if they had been hacked from the larger hole. Your son turned to me and said, “What horror is this?”

I had no answer but one was given by Betty who began screaming at him. In Creole she said, “Put them down! They are mine, devil! My trophies!” She broke free of the soldiers and lunged at your son but fell before him instead. She could barely walk it seemed. I looked at your son still holding the bottle of eyes. He had a look of disgust and pity upon his face and I could not say that he was alone with it.

I wanted-


Yes. I can read.

A Letter by Andrew Lewis, Captain of the Meredith

Dear Matthew,


I have lost twelve men to the Black Island now. I will lose more, before we leave.

Our cousin, Aaron, sweet young Aaron, he who has never been to war, never known a girl, he who is so innocent... our Aaron found the last man. His throat had been cut and bloody fingers marked his neck from where he had tried to stop the blood. The prints tattooed across the skin like the wet marks of a strangler. Yet, perhaps most horrifying was that the man's—his name was Daniel—Daniel's tongue had been sliced out. A trophy to be placed into a dirty glass bottle for this old pirate we hold, no doubt.

I fear for the boy more than myself. He is too young for this and should we manage to make it back to the longboats and back to the Meredith and then, then, back to St. Lucia without a mutiny—it is coming, of this I have little doubt—then I will thank God himself for keeping him alive. I will be asking of God tomorrow when we try to leave. When the light leaks into this dirty village, those of us that remain will make our way through the paths.

Outside, I can hear movement. The wind? I cannot tell. I have not seen one of our killers. No one has.

Father would tell me that I was being idiotic, but there is something about this island that is not quite right. Something... unsettling. My men broke the jars of white men's body parts in Black Betty's hut, believing, unreasonably, that they were responsible for the deaths. But even with the cuttings lying wetly on the dirt, nothing changed. We found another—Richard, his name was Richard—we found him sitting in the middle of the street, his face a discoloured bruise, as if it had suddenly stopped getting air. There was no other mark on him. No sign of a murderer. In our attempt to find one, we tore open buildings, knocked down roofs, and scoured the jungle. We found nothing but death, however, and the emptiness of the village has now been altered. It is as if we are standing in a pit of snake eggs, waiting for the beasts to hatch, fully grown and lethal.

I would think it the work of Black Betty, but she is clearly mad from age. If that is not alibi enough, her and her madness have not been out of my sight since we found her. It is possible, however unlikely, that she killed the first man before being found, but how does that account for the others? She has been by my side since then, accompanied by Black Bill, who, I will admit, looks as if he has been forced to reevaluate his entire life in a short span of time. I imagine that it must be hard to meet the woman you idolise and find her to be that which is before me. He does not even request that his chains be removed anymore, or that he is not the First Mate of the Black Betty, or that he was born free. Instead, he sits beside her, watching, and talking to her softly. She replies always with loud laughter that distresses him more.

Tomorrow morning I will have to take the chains off his feet. I want him to be able to run, and to carry the old woman, if need be.

I do not like the idea of taking the old woman to Father, Andrew. In truth, I do not like the idea of doing anything for him. His thirty soldiers are not mine, but rather keepers, who exist to keep me in line, and to make sure that I bring Black Betty back. They defer to me, yes, but only because he makes them. Each one of them knows about Zaierra, and the commands I refused for her. What man could do otherwise? She only worked as a doctor—and if she used herbs and potions rather than knives and drills, what did it matter? She did not deserve to be hanged by our father. His anger against the black men and women is-

I'm sorry.

I have gotten angry again.

It is not your fault. You argued with our father. You said the same things I did.

It does not matter, anyhow. Zaierra is dead, you are gone, and Father has sent me out to regain my stature in St. Lucia. Thus it is that I find myself here, on this island, listening to every sound, and imagining that every one of them is a death or the prelude to one. If we are alive come the morning... well, my luck shall have changed, finally.


Testimony of Shawnte Belzar, Prisoner

Your son sounds bitter.


I have no respect for you.

I realised as I was reading this letter that the crew of the Black Betty and I are dead. If a man would treat his own son like this then how would he treat strangers? How would he treat runaway slaves? You will hang us all. You will brand us with a letter P. You will hold a festival for the day. You will invite white men and women like yourself to watch. You will give white children gifts. And as they enjoy their day you will hang us all. You will hang us one by one. You will do it for the festivity.

There is no need to threaten me.

You want to know what happened to your son? You want to know how he died?

It was much like he said. When the morning arrived in the village it shone its light on three more corpses. They had lost ears and teeth and eyes. They had died painfully but quietly. I thought that it was as if the village were alive around us. That it reached out with its limbs and murdered us one by one. You mock but how else to explain it? Betty herself had only seen one person on the island in the last ten years and that was Captain White. He would arrive with bottles made from glass that held trophies he cut off captains at sea. At least that is what he told her. I had never seen him take any eye or ear in my three years on the Black Betty.

After finding the three corpses your son wasted no time in leaving. He gathered up the soldiers left and unlocked the chains around my legs and told me to carry Betty.

It was there I told him no.

“Do as I order,” he demanded.

Tall and strong though he was I told him no again.

“You must.”

I shook my head.

Your son looked as if he was going to speak again when the powder monkey said, “Captain, I don't really give a damn about the woman. Leave her.”

The remaining soldiers agreed with him. I doubt your son would have allowed it if not for them. We were all standing in the middle of the village. Near us was the sword that we had first seen. In the morning light it looked redder. Bloodier. Betty was sitting in the mud next to it. Her thin legs were pushed out in front of her and her thick tongue was running across her gums. She was talking about the kind of food she would like for breakfast and did not seem to notice us. She had a habit of forgetting that anyone was with her and would begin talking about food and clothes and men she had known in the past.


That was what he said. Fine. Your son was angry but I do not think he truly wanted to bring her back to you. It was as his letter said.

We left her sitting in the mud. I would turn back as we walked to see if she had moved but she had not. When the trees closed in around us and the village disappeared I stopped looking but she was never far from my thoughts. It was better for her to be dead I thought. Better for anyone to be dead than to live like that.

The shore and the longboats emerged from the forest slowly though we had made our way quickly and there had been no problems. We thought we were free. We thought that as we grabbed hold of the beached longboats. We thought it as we began to push them into the sea. We thought it as the first arrow fell. We thought it as the first man fell.

That was when I heard the screams. There was the sound of arrows hitting the wood of the boats. The spears punched through with a loud crack. Both were coming out of the jungle behind us though I had not yet turned. I did not dare turn. I pushed the longboat out into the sea. Your son was pushing also. Neither of us turned to look at the men screaming. We had both broken. This final attack had broken us and we were running. We did not consider anyone but ourselves. The powder monkey and cabin boy pulled themselves into the boat. If they had not we would have left them. I was pulling myself in when the boat sagged dangerously.

It was then that I saw the spear in your son.

The long wood was sticking out of his back like the mast of a ship.

Behind him I could see the remaining soldiers lying on the beach. Spears and arrows stuck from their bodies and they screamed and moaned. The sand was black with blood. One man was trying to stand. From the jungle there was an eerie absence of movement. I could not see anyone there but I knew that there was a presence. I could feel it.

Your son had not let go of the boat and neither boy would row while he was there.

The absence of movement from the forest began to worry me. I turned to your son to push him off. His gaze was desperate. Pull me in it said. Pull me in!

It was the cabin boy who did so. He climbed past me and grabbed your son. With a scream they both managed to get him over the edge of the longboat. It caused him more pain and opened his wound more. I thought that we should throw him over. I considered saying it to the two young men but they were rowing now and I did not. I still had chains on my wrists. It is very difficult to row a boat in chains. Instead I sat and saw that both boys had injuries. The powder monkey had cuts on his face and neck but it was the cabin boy who had the worse. An arrow had struck his lower back but he had broken most of the shaft off so it was not immediately noticeable. There was dark blood seeping out of him and I did not think that he would live much longer than your son.

Of myself I took no injury.

A miracle?

No. I do not believe so.

Whatever is on the Black Island left me alive but I do not know why.

From the Diary of Meira Louis, alias Black Betty

Mister Avery's bird arrived today. All is ready in St. Lucia—I sail out tomorrow.

I will enjoy seeing it burn. I will enjoy hearing the screams of men and women. I will enjoy parading the venerable Lord Richard Lewis before his port gallows. I will cut off his cock as he stands naked before me—and I shall put it in one my jars and take it back to the Black Island where it shall be my most prized trophy! But before that, I will cauterize the Lord's wound and put him in a gibbet. I will watch as the crows feast on him before I leave. I will watch as they peck at his skin and at his eyes and pull at his hair and I will relish it like nothing else.

There are but a few pleasures left to me, and revenge remains one, thankfully. No man hangs the granddaughter of Black Betty and lives. No man's family does, either. All that is before all them is pain and suffering.

This plan of mine has been a difficult thing to accomplish. It was complicated at first when Lord Lewis learned about my granddaughter's heritage—a fate that was ensured when my own daughter bitterly spat out the knowledge when she collected the body. Lewis responded by increasing his garrisons and the bounty on my head and, finally, by taking his disgraced son and his own considerable fortune and putting them on that huge warship of his to hunt me down. It forced me into spending my not very considerable fortune in repainting and refitting a ship to look like the Black Betty to take its place. The real Betty (and the fake) could not stand against the Meredith—few could, especially when it sits in the port of St. Lucia...

So I paid for a second Betty just so it could be sunk. I furnished her with a crew of men I could buy. I care not for their fate, even now—disposable men for a disposable ship. The only members of my actual crew on it were Mister Belzar and Mister White. The pair had once run slaves and did a very admirable job of organising them as a crew—or at least one that would pass for being seaworthy to any that came across them.

It saddened me to hear about Mister White's death. He had sailed in my name for nearly fifteen years and a shaft of wood through the neck is not the way that such a man should die.

Yet still, Mister Belzar was more than capable of taking his place, especially with the aid of Mister Avery. He is a man worth his weight in gold—and gold, indeed, I paid to have him assigned to the Meredith. More gold than I have paid for any bribe in my long, long life, but I could not waste time, and forged documents and men moved into positions of power in such short notice are never cheap. The risks for all are much higher. I fear, however, that I have grown partial to 'John Avery' the rough spoken First Mate—or at least of the stories I have heard about him in which he prowls the Meredith's deck, spewing orders in a butchered dialogue that must be twisting a knife in Mister Blue's stomach. Ha! I should give him a tiny fortune to continue it, though I doubt he will do it for me. 'Robert' will never allow it—and Mister Avery has forever played second to his brother, even as he employs him and the rest of the Black Betty's crew to run the Meredith as if it were their own.

What I would not give to see Lord Lewis' face when he realises that his money has financed my crew I do not know. But I would give more to see him when he realises that his beast of a ship has been turned and unleashed upon his own home.

All of my crew has had a part to play and I was no exception. Taking out my wooden teeth and storing away my cane shone a harsh light on my frailty, but it could not be helped. Lord Lewis' son had to be delayed on the island while Mister Avery and rest of the crew made their way ashore in the night. To do this, they had to be 'given' Black Betty, but not the real Betty, just as they had not sunk the real ship. Regardless of this, there was a moment in which I thought I had misjudged it all, and if not for Mister Blue's poisons and skill with a knife, the blade that Captain Lewis had pressed against my throat might have torn my skin open. Thankfully, no one notices when a powder monkey disappears, though even now, I can feel it's warm metal pressed against me. The Captain's strong grasp bending my neck back. The eyes and tongues and teeth of the men that I had killed over the years watching.

I had a strange distaste for the Captain's death. Mister Blue, as always, used his knives and herbs and other valuable skills to pull St. Lucia's secrets from the Captain and surviving soldiers, but when it came time to kill him, when his belly was sliced, slowly, shallowly, and repeatedly, open until his stomach fell out... I did not like it. I felt that he should have died quickly. A bad man for the sea, true, but not a bad soldier and, from the letter he wrote to his brother, a man unlike his father.

But it is done, and what has been done cannot be undone, especially now that Lord Lewis has seen his body. He will have known the pain of that death and that pain for him, I find, is enough to make me dismiss my misgivings.

I must remember to savour the feel of my blade pressing into Lord Richard Lewis' genitals. It could very well be the last time I am allowed such tactile pleasure.


Tomorrow I will take command of the Black Betty and, with her skeleton crew, sail to St. Lucia. There will be no black sails until the night that we drift into port. The night that the Meredith's own sails turn black as the Devil's heart. And there, beneath those flags, both sets of cannons will begin to open fire. In the wake of that destruction my men will sweep out and into the streets with swords and pistols and fire. They will make their way to the beautiful houses of Lord Lewis and his family and secure them first, before returning to the town itself, where they will set about turning it into an ashed husk filled with the dead.

And I, I will stand upon the deck of the Black Betty and watch St. Lucia burn.



About the Author:

Ben Peek is a Sydney based author. His novels include Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, an experimental autobiography published by Wheatland Press, and Black Sheep, a dystopian novel published by Prime Books.

His short fiction has been published in the Leviathan, Polyphony, and Agog anthology series, as well Fantasy Magazine, Aurealis, Overland, Phantom, and reprinted in the Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy series.  Ben keeps a blog at  


Story © 2007 Ben Peek.