The gentle pull of slumber never finds his bones. That, he is sure of.
The undead are forbidden to sleep. For him, his nights are mostly spent at the eastern railing of the stern. It is usually silent. Sometimes, some stray rock shooting across The Spiral will pass wordlessly by the ship. Sometimes he’ll spy a luminous fish sailing the windlanes. But it is mostly silent, other than the sail above stiffening and bulging taut with the breeze, ropes creaking as they take up the slack. To him, the grey wolf emblazoned on the linen sail seems to leap from the canvas.
The windlane runs across the blanket of clouds like some wide, great blue nerve. If he is lucky, some of the clouds will bulge high enough for him to touch. A man of flesh and blood may be able to steal a piece of them, to feel the wet and cool. But hands of hollow bone could never hold tight. He is sure of that as well.
When the sun rises and the crew emerges from below deck, the ship resonates with laughter and the warmth of living voices, and all is well. Sometimes it rings with cannon fire, or the spark of steel on steel. He is alright with that as well. Anything trumps the silence of the night.
It is the night that haunts his skull and chills his marrow. For he has seen what lies in the outer dark, within the void. What reaches for his lingering soul. The Dark Crawler beckons only at night, when the ship sleeps and the moonlight cascades down. He is never sure when he will come, and that only makes it worse.
In the terror that is his endless wake, he is joined by a different crew member every night…at least when the person remembers. Tonight, it is Bonnie. They talk of Albion, of marksmanship, of life. Ratbeard always comes the night after Bonnie, so they joke how he never stays awake for his shift. The next night, Ratbeard keeps tradition. One by one, night by night, they come. He speaks, he listens, and the night eventually recedes.
Every two weeks, it is the captain’s turn. One time, he asks her why she ordered this rotation. She tells him that it is better to have two eyes on lookout than one. “The jewel is pretty, Scratch, but I’ll take depth perception over carats any day.” He pretends to take offense. She playfully sticks her tongue out at him, and laughs when he tries and fails to return the favor.
A comfortable silence wraps around them, and she falls asleep an hour later. He grabs a blanket from a storage chest and drapes it over her. Then, he sits down beside her again, and stares out at the empty skyway.
He has never said a word about it, but she knows he is grateful for the company. That, he is sure of.
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