Water lapped, slapping the sides of the little boat, and Joe’s oars slipped from his fingers. The ocean, glistening black like treacle, swallowed them without regret. Joe stared, wide-eyed, into the darkness, his pupils dilating as his jaw slackened. Wisps of fog curled about the debris floating on the surface and he gulped as white swirls caressed the drifting scum.
The moon peered through the mist for a moment, illuminating rainbows of oil atop the water, until the gloomy clouds closed rank and Joe was lost again, a single soul in a tiny boat.
He refused to look behind, refused to acknowledge the final flickering flames that sank lower and lower, fading into the night and into the hungry sea, but the wails, that had been vanquished hours ago, still echoed inside his head.
He rubbed his greasy hands, trying to find a spark of warmth, but the cold that had stolen his oars, stole his fingers and then his hands and goose-bumps sent chatters through his teeth. His head shook with cold, and with insanity, and his last grasp on reality slipped away.
He shook his head, trying to evade the demons that swam through his mind, and squinted. Swirls of fog danced across the waves, imitating white horses, but the sea was too still for waves. The hazy spectres waltzed and whirled atop the flotsam and jetsam, and Joe shivered.
A hefty piece of driftwood clunked against the little boat and Joe jumped, and the scars on his heart tore just a little wider as the little boat rocked.
Ghosts reached out to him, white, watery fingers extended and beckoning. Joe sank back, flinching, as the wisps curled about his little boat. Oily streaks ran down his face as terror invaded his head. He huddled down, trying to hide behind a barrel and between a chest and a sack of provisions. The cold fog spread wide and behind him fingers gripped his soaked jacket, tugging and wrenching at his body.
Joe stared wildly about him, slipping out of his sodden coat, and wriggling free of the arms that tried to capture him. He was too crazed to see the fingers were just gusts of icy wind, and he stood, grabbing the chest from the floor of his tiny boat. It took but a moment for the wind to seize its chance and the waves, and debris and driftwood flooded the boat. Joe tumbled into the grasping arms of the sea.
The silent ocean took the renegade fire-starter and dragged both him and the treasure down into its depths, where the ghosts of the recently drowned could finally reap retribution.