They weren't wrong when they said I was mad. But they were wrong when they said it had happened only after I had been locked in the brig for so long.
"Poor Christophe, a year locked down there would be enough to drive anyone insane!" Yeah yeah yeah sure, whatever.
The truth was I had always been a little mad, even as a child. I mean, sure, being locked up for long might have made me a little more.... unbalanced, but most of the damage had been done long before I ever set foot on the ship. But there was only one person left on the planet who had known me for that long, and that person was so far away that he wasn't there to set the record straight. And so the rumors abounded.
Not that there were many people around to see my madness. Hell, most people on the ship weren't even aware I was still there, hiding in the gloom. I didn't bother trying to make my presence known to them, the mutinous bastards.
Once a day that fat piece of shit Cartman would send Craig down to feed me, which he did while throwing scathing insults and threats my way. If Cartman's navigator Butters had messed something up and Cartman was feeling particularly vindictive toward him, he might send Butters down to feed me instead, as well as empty the disgusting bucket which was all I had for a waste receptacle. I preferred solitude over those two asshats.
And once in a while if everyone else was otherwise occupied, Cartman would send Kenny down to take care of things. Cartman's mistake was assuming that everyone found Kenny as creepy as he did. The story onboard was that he and Cartman had been pals as children, but over time Kenny's behavior became more and more bizarre, and most people were extremely uncomfortable in his presence. Cartman thought sending him down to me was a punishment for both of us, but the reality was that we actually enjoyed each other's company. Sure, ok, I'm a bit mad, but so was Kenny. I think I was the only person who would listen to Kenny's stories about his various encounters with death (though I didn't really believe him... who would?) and Kenny was the only person who would listen to my rants about what a bastard God was (mostly because he completely agreed, or so he said).
It was through Kenny that I learned of Kyle's treatment at the hands of Cartman and the rest of the crew. I had always had a soft spot for the guy, so I was livid that my navigator was being treated so poorly. It was very rare for me to like anyone on any level, so when one of the few people I might call a friend was being mocked and beaten and God knows what else on a daily basis, I wanted to kill anyone who'd dared put a hand on him. Kenny promised to keep an eye on things for me, but there was very little he could do without being caught. Time passed, and I sat and waited, and tried not to let the rats gnaw on me in my sleep. Good fucking times.
A year later it was again through Kenny that I learned about the new man aboard the ship who had been "given" Kyle as a gift. Kenny claimed that the guy seemed pretty nice, but I wasn't convinced. Anyone who would accept a gift of another human being was a piece of shit, as far as I was concerned. I worried about what the man might be doing to Kyle and I paced around my cell restlessly for days. I had this odd feeling that something was coming to a head. Things would change soon, and I hoped it would be for the better, because really things couldn't get much worse. Lock yourself in a room filled with your own feces for a year and see how much you like it, eh?
About a week after Stan had come to the ship, I was surprised to hear two people sneaking below deck in the middle of the night. I could hear their hesitant footsteps on the stairs, which I thought was pretty stupid. There were many people who had business to attend to in my grimy neck of the woods, and the trick to not getting caught, generally speaking, was to act as though you had every right to be there, rather than guiltily sneaking around like some half-assed cat burglar.
Someone held a lantern up to his window and called out my name. It sounded like Kenny, but I was too blinded by the light to see.
"Yeah, I'm here. Did you think I dug myself out or something?" I said testily.
"Well, anything's possible, I suppose," Kenny answered, "I've brought someone to see you."
I was pleasantly surprised to see Kyle's face at the window.
"Jesus, I thought Kenny was lying," he said looking teary-eyed, "Cartman told me you were dead,"
"Well, here I am, not dead. What are you doing down here?"
"Kenny said you were here, but I didn't believe him. I needed to see you for myself."
"We have a plan," Kenny said, "We're going to try and fix this whole mess. But we need your help."
They gave me a rundown of what was going on, from Stan and Kyle's situation, to the fact that a year after the mutiny many of the men on the crew were getting pretty sick of Cartman's rule.
"The profits he promised everyone haven't been distributed properly. Normally on a pirate ship everyone should get a certain percentage of the booty, but he's hoarded almost all of it. That plus the fact that he treats nearly everyone like shit has gotten everyone riled up to the point of rebellion. Even Butters is sick of it, and he's put up with more of Cartman's bullshit than anyone. All the crew needs is a little push," Kenny said. I was delighted to hear that that fat piece of shit was doing so poorly, but.
"What the hell do you think I can do, though? I'm locked in here, if you didn't notice," I said.
"Don't worry, we'll get to that," said Kenny.
That evening we carefully laid out our plans, down to the last detail. I'd tell you about them but hey, why ruin the surprise, right?
"I hope you realize that if this doesn't work, Stan and I will certainly die," said Kyle before he headed back to the deck.
"Kyle, if this doesn't work then we will all die," I said, "So don't assume you're the only one with anything on the line here."
He nodded. "See you tomorrow then."
And then he flounced out of the room as he tends to do. No wonder people picked on him.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't think much of Stan when he met him. His cursing was elementary at best, and he seemed too nice to be aboard a pirate ship. When I introduced myself he seemed scared and unsure of himself, but then most people were scared when they met me so maybe that was normal. I don't know.
But somehow Kyle had fallen for this man, and his survival was part of the plan. Ok. So when Cartman and his cronies came to drag Stan and Kyle to the deck, that was my cue to begin my part of the plan. Oh, and don't ask me why Kyle was pretending not to know I was down there in the cell. I think he just liked being overdramatic, fucking weirdo.
Anyway, weak though I was from spending a year locked in a tiny room with too little to eat, I still had enough brawn to fight off nearly anyone who got in my way. It helped when the person who was in my way was someone I hated as much as I hated Cartman. I'd been waiting a whole year to give him what he deserved, and I cracked my knuckles in anticipation.
"What do you think you're doing?" Cartman asked nervously as I approached him. He looked like he was about to piss his pants. Wonderful.
"What do you think I'm doing, idiot? I'm going to beat the shit out of you."
He screamed for help, but no one came to his aid. They were probably too absorbed in what was happening to Kyle and Stan on deck. I grabbed the lantern he'd brought down with him and smashed it over his head. The lamp went out, since it was broken and all, but the fuel went everywhere, and lit Cartman's shirt on fire. He screamed, but I had no mercy. I pummeled him until he passed out, and then carefully put out the flames, not wanting my ship to burn down before I could reclaim it.
I wanted to kill the man, but that wasn't part of Kyle's sacred plan, so I simply locked him into the room that had been my prison for the last year and left him there. Problem solved.
I ran up the stairs to the deck and was immediately blinded by the sun. I could hear noise all around me, so I could at least tell where other people were, but as my eyes began to adjust the noises died down.
"Jesus fuck," I mumbled, stumbling around until I was in a shaded area. It still hurt to open my eyes, but at least I could see a little. And what I saw was confusing. Or confusion, aimed at me. Whatever.
The entire crew appeared to be on deck, and they had apparently been squawking at each other like pissed off hens. Cot cot cot, get away from my nest you swarthy barnacle sucker. I didn't know what the fuck they had been up to, and frankly I didn't give a shit. Their pistols and cutlasses were poised for battle, but they all stood frozen in place, staring at me in shock. Excellent.
"It's a ghost!" Butters yelled, right on cue. The crew, rather predictably, panicked. Stupid fuckers.
Kenny and Ike helped to rile up those who were against Cartman's Captainship, and they went on the warpath against the few idiots who still supported him. An hour later and a few small scuffles and I was back in charge of my ship, with our enemies properly punished.
Though most of the crew seemed to be confused as to exact circumstances of my revival (most of the crew seemed to believe that I was actually a ghost, but Kenny was going around spreading the rather amusing rumor that he'd revived me with voodoo and was controlling me with his mind, and that theory was quickly gaining popularity), none of it really mattered to me. Cartman was locked in the bilge, beaten and burned, Craig had been keel-hauled and tied to the mast as a punishment, and Clyde... well, Clyde was supposed to have been keel-hauled as well, but he had started blubbering the second they tied his wrists. Disgusted by his display, I sent him to the Captain's quarters to clean them out, so that I might make use of them without getting Cartman's filth all over my body. I was already filthy enough. I would have punished Butters for usurping Kyle's position of navigator, but he was helping us out, so I guessed I could let it pass. I did still throw a few idle threats his way, though, just to keep him on his toes.
So, my beloved ship returned to me and everyone was back to where they belonged. The plan was working out wonderfully so far. But this was where I threw the plan out the window. We were supposed to find Stan and Kyle where they were marooned, but I would have none of that. Nothing mattered more to me than finding the Justice. If Kyle and Stan had made it to the island they'd aimed for then they'd be ok for a little while longer. I had waited for a year in my own personal hell, so I figured Kyle and Stan could wait a few weeks on a sunny tropical island, pas de probleme.
Only Ike had tried to argue with me about our destination, and once he'd seen the look on my face, he'd backed down. Like I said, being locked up for so long had done unsavory things to my mind. I guess I looked pretty deranged. Maybe I was pretty deranged.
"What is it we're looking for, anyway?" he asked me.
"The Justice. It's a ship."
"And what's so important about this ship?"
"The Captain is a friend of mine."
"A friend? We're aimlessly searching the ocean for one ship because you want to see your friend?"
"It's not aimless. He's always loitering in the same general area," I said, sitting at a table and pulling the map toward me. I pointed to an area off the coast of Florida, close to Cuba. "Somewhere over here, usually. See, he thinks he's going to single-handedly stop the slave trade."
"That seems... ambitious," Ike said.
"Yeah. He's an idiot. But, so, he parks his ship out here, a few hundred miles off the coast, and when the slave traders leave port he ambushes them, stealing their goods and then sinking their ships."
"If he wants to stop the slave trade, why doesn't he ambush the ships before they reach Cuba?"
"And what would he do with the slaves, hm? He can't just turn them loose somewhere, and he wouldn't have the time or money to take them all back to Africa. He attacks the ships in the hopes that the slavers will take a hint and just stop trying, but he also has to make a profit somehow. He likes to act as though he's high and mighty and doing a noble deed, but at the end of the day he's still a pirate."
"Sounds like he's pretty self-righteous," Ike said.
"You have no idea."
Though I'd said the search wouldn't be aimless, my main method of deciding where to go was really just pointing at a spot on the map and insisting to go there. I'd promised Kenny and Ike (who were the only people who actually knew what I was up to) that it would take two, three weeks tops to find the Justice, and by the end of the first month they were quickly becoming irritated. The other crew members were still convinced that I was actually a ghost, and that I was taking them on a suicide mission as revenge for mutinying against me. I was fine with that. But the truth was that I knew exactly what I wanted, but had no idea where the hell it might be. Or he. Where he might be.
"Did you forget how big the ocean was?" Kenny asked one day.
"Well, floating around the sea with no real destination is fun and all, but we're quickly running out of food and water. So if you don't want us all to starve before we can find your friend, you might want to do something about that."
"Ugh, fine," I said, "Let's find a ship to pillage then."
"Cool, which one do you want to go after?" he asked, shading his eyes and looking at the empty ocean on either side of the ship, "That one over there? Or that one over there? There are so many to choose from!"
"Jesus Christ, shut up," I shouted, "If you think you're so good at this then you fucking decide where to go!"
"Gladly," he said, and began to plot our course.
He was surprisingly knowledgeable about the navigation courses a slave ship might take, which seemed odd to me. Sure, I liked him well enough, but I've never thought he was a particularly intelligent man. He was very quickly proving me wrong with the course he set.
"We'll start out at these islands," he said, pointing at the map, "and then sweep northward. If we don't find a ship on the first sweep we'll go south again, and so on until we run into someone. Good?"
He looked at me with a smug smile on his face. It was very good, actually. Better than my scattershot approach. I wasn't about to tell him that, though. He could go fuck himself.
"Whatever," I said.
We were only three days into his plan when we ran into another ship. God clearly likes making me look like an idiot. Asshole.
The ship was exactly what we were looking for. We attacked without hesitation, damaging the ship beyond repair, and setting the mast on fire in our attack. Hasty to steal our loot before the whole ship burned down, we boarded with muskets and cutlasses in hand, and though the Captain claimed they were simply a merchant vessel, an investigation of the hold showed exactly what kind of merchandise they had been carrying. Shackles were hardly needed in the transport of dry goods, after all. My ship was now laden with large drums of sugar; we had taken as many as we could carry, as well as their entire supply of food and all their water and alcohol. It was a good haul, and we were all pretty pleased as we returned to our own ship. What we hadn't noticed was a third ship approaching, drawn in by the smoke while we were below deck, pillaging.
...Well, I suppose Butters had noticed it, and had been trying to get our attention while we were busy, but who the hell pays attention to Butters? Not me, that's for sure.
So we were all shocked to see another ship docked on the other side of the Sloop John B, and a handful of unfamiliar men loitering about the deck. Well, most were unfamiliar. There was one man with whom I was rather intimately acquainted.
"My God, Christophe, is that really you?" Gregory called from the deck. He looked exactly how I remembered: decked out in finery from his well-polished boots to his ridiculous feathered hat. What a fucking showboat. Still, I was glad to see him.
"You look like shit!" he called. Nevermind.
We returned to my ship, and I pretended I wasn't affected by seeing my friend for the first time in a long while. I mean, Gregory is a proper British lady, so he'd have been offended if I tried anything in front of the others, anyway.
Gregory being Gregory, I wasn't surprised to see a black man among his crew members. He's into diversity and all that shit.
Gregory introduced us, puffed up with pride for being such a revolutionary, forward-thinking individual. Token, he said, which I thought was a weird name, but whatever. Apparently the man was capable enough to be the ship's Quartermaster. Hey, thumbs up, good for you, et cetera.
Though Gregory was practically shitting himself in his excitement when introducing Token to us (yes, Gregory, you're so amazing, now pull your head out of your ass), Token was overlooked by my entire crew, because their attentions were elsewhere. It's rare to see a woman upon a pirate ship, but Wendy had been a part of Gregory's Quest For Equality since the very beginning. We both had known her since we were kids, and frankly I think Gregory has always had a bit of a crush on her. Too bad he wouldn't know what to do with a woman if she fell naked into his lap. She did look damn fine in her breeches and perfectly tailored jacket, though.
Wendy, it seemed, had been instructing my men to load the canons. Pretty and efficient. Very nice. And so we gave the old heave-ho, and blew what was left of those slave-peddling motherfuckers out of the water, with both our crews taking pot shots at the men in the water who tried to come our way, thinking we'd rescue them. Gregory might feel he has some kind of moral duty to rid the world of these men, but for me it was just a good time. It stirred my blood, and I turned to Gregory, hoping we might go somewhere private to celebrate. But when I saw the look on his face I knew he wouldn't touch me with a ten-foot pole. I was still filthy, see, and he's such a God damn neat freak. But he did want to go somewhere private. To talk. Shit.
He took me into his cabin, which was much nicer than mine, of course. The Justice was a larger ship than the Sloop John B., so the Captain's quarters were naturally larger as well, but there was also the fact that Gregory decorated like a god damn princess. His bed was larger and nicer than any of the ones I'd ever had in my landlocked days, and it was covered in what seemed like a hundred plump pillows, all encased in expensive silk pillowcases. He even had a god damn fainting sofa for fuck's sake, upholstered in fucking velvet. And a potted plant next to the windows. Who the fuck has a potted plant on a pirate ship? Not me, that's for sure. I wondered why his crew wasn't constantly trying to overthrow him just so someone else could get a crack at his fancy accommodations.
Anyway, so yeah, we went to his cabin, and there we talked. God damn it.
He'd wondered where I'd been: We'd had a plan worked out before the mutiny where we'd meet in a port town in the Keys every other month, and obviously I hadn't shown for a year. He thought I was done with the whatever it was we had together. Nothing had been further from the truth, of course. I'd thought of him the entire time I'd been locked up, and I told him so. Shut up.
"You really do look dreadful, though," he said, eying my tattered clothes, "Couldn't you at least have changed into more presentable clothing?"
I shrugged. "There wasn't much on the ship. I think Cartman enjoyed seeing everyone else in rags while he paraded around in his fancy clothes, so there was nothing to spare that wasn't just as bad as what I'm wearing."
"You smell wretched, though," he said, holding one of his delicate hands against his nose, "Why don't we dock in Key West and get you a bath and some fresh clothes, hmm? Because I certainly won't touch you until you're a little cleaner."
I laughed, exasperated, but it was nice to know that some things never changed.
We did as he'd planned, docking in Key West and selling off our looted sugar, as well as some things Gregory had pillaged before he ran into us. We used the money to replenish the supplies of both our ships, and then I split my leftover profits with the rest of the crew, though there wasn't much to split. Most of my share was used trying to appease His Royal Prissiness. I (only somewhat willingly) let him take me to a tailor, and ordered serviceable clothes that were nowhere near as opulent as Gregory's peacocky ensemble, but would be a vast improvement over my outfit which had a year's worth of filth embedded in its fibers.
When we were through at the tailor's I allowed him to take me to a small house owned by a friend of his who was frequently out at sea. Thankfully the house was empty. As soon as we had settled in Gregory pulled water from the well to fill the small metal tub, and forced me into it, though the water was still cold. He compensated for this by scrubbing my back for me.
"I did miss you, you know," he said, leaning up against my back once he had deemed it clean enough to touch. His breath was warm against my ear.
"I don't believe you," I said, teasingly.
"Oh no? Well, I suppose I'll have to prove it to you," he said, dragging his nails across my chest.
He did so thoroughly and with great enthusiasm.
The week we spent in Key West was better than I can put into words. After a year of torture, being in a sunny, warm paradise with the man I... um... for whom I have affection was like a balm to my mind and soul. We couldn't leave earlier than that because the clothes we ordered were not yet finished. As such I spent the entire week either naked or simply wrapped in a sheet, because Gregory refused to let me put my filthy clothes on again. In fact, he tossed them into the fire in the hearth when I attempted to do so. I didn't object too much because he kept me well fed and well fucked the entire week. What did I care about getting dressed?
Still, I began to feel guilty about seeking my own pleasure when Kyle might be dying on some deserted island. The longer I basked in my own happiness, the worse I felt. I began to envision all kinds of awful things that might befall him, from starving to death, to being torn apart by wild dogs.
...Of course, wild dogs weren't too common on the scattered islands of the Caribbean, but you never know.
So as soon as my clothes were finished, I began to round up what was left of my crew, flushing them out of their various dens of sin. Gregory objected, apparently not satisfied with a full week of laziness, but I had an objective, and I wouldn't be deterred.
The vast majority of the crew was nowhere to be found. I can't say I was surprised. Who wants to serve under a Captain that you've mutinied against? Especially one that was a ghost zombie something or other. So I found a few good men to fill the gaps in my team, and we set off for Cuba, with the Justice following in our wake.
It took us another two weeks to get to the island where Kyle and Stan had been marooned. Kyle had carefully marked the island he had aimed for when they were tossed overboard on the map. Butters was still a horrifyingly bad navigator, but Kenny was proving to be more capable than I'd ever expected, and between the two of them we made our way without too many major problems. I mean, we ran into a fucking hurricane, but hey, shit happens. I think they're pretty fun, though I guess that's probably Exhibit A. in the Case Against Christophe's Sanity. But I haven't met a storm that could kill me yet. Obviously. Victory is mine.
And of course we stopped along the way to sink a few ships, because even though we had a destination in mind, Gregory took every opportunity to dole out what he believed was God's vengeance. Or something. I'd had enough of God's vengeance, personally. The profits were nice, though.
When we reached the island I half expected to find two skeletons cuddled up together... or maybe picked apart by seabirds and scattered along the shore. But no, they had a cute little hut set up, and we all gawked as Stan wandered around stark naked before he noticed us. Good show, Stan. Thanks for showing us all your cock.
So we got into our little boats, and went ashore, and rescued those stranded bastards. Yay for us. Or as Gregory would say, "Good show old chap. Stiff upper lip, and all that. Quite. Let's have tea!" or some British shit like that.
So that's about it for my part of the story. I'd bore you with the part where Gregory and I sailed off into the sunset and continued to pillage and plunder and blow ships out of the water together (pretty romantic if you ask me, but Gregory probably disagrees... I'm sure he still expects me to carry him off in my arms and make love to him on a bed of rose petals or some stupid bullshit) and had lots of delightfully sinful sex, and lived happily ever after, et cetera, et cetera. But you didn't really come here for that, did you? I'll let Stan take it from here.