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The Silken Shawl

by
Sarah Das Gupta

The view from the brig Fedora was bleak with a chill wind blowing across the Channel. As far as the eye could see, the waves were flecked with white horses. The sea was a sullen grey, reflecting the clouds scudding eastwards. On the deck, a small group huddled together for shelter and comfort by the fo’c’sle. Even the most casual of observers would have noticed that their number was slowly, but apparently inevitably, diminishing in number. A glance to the port side would have provided the shocking reason for this grim observation. A long spar of wood, roped securely to the ship’s timbers, jutted out over the sea like an angry finger, pointing north. A sailor, blindfolded, his arms and legs bound with rope, his face bleeding

and bludgeoned, struggled desperately with a tall burly, figure in a dark coat and three-cornered hat. This man half pulled, half carried him up the plank, before pushing the hapless figure into the sea. A forlorn splash broke the silence on deck, followed by a woman’s scream from among the prisoners.    

    

          The woman was the final victim. It seemed the pirate crew hung back. The woman’s screams  and sobbing might well bring bad luck, a curse on the Fedora. The frightened woman was the wife of the captain of the captured schooner, the ill-fated Hunter. As she was dragged and carried across the deck, a tall, bearded man stepped forward to retrieve her beautiful silk shawl. Even in the misty air, the iridescent colours shone bright and alluring. Her face, white with terror, turned back to her killers, before she sank beneath the cold, grey waves.

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             The pirate captain, on his return, had presented the silk shawl to his own wife, without  revealing how it had fallen into his hands. In fact, if the truth were known, this pretty, dark haired woman knew little about her husband’s seafaring ventures. There were rumours in the Cornish village of Hawlyn , but there was always gossip about someone or something in that small community.

               That Sunday, Marietta threw the silk shawl over her shoulders. On the way to church, she received so many compliments on the shawl’s beauty. In the winter sun it fluttered and shimmered, now bright blue, now gold as the sun itself, then silver inside as she sat in the ancient, wooden pew. On her return, Marietta combed her long dark hair and glanced in the hall mirror near the front door of the pretty, thatched cottage. A terrible, heart-rending scream echoed and re-echoed as if trapped by the low, white-washed ceiling. In the mirror another face looked back at Marietta. A woman with bedraggled, wet hair, with a blindfold over her eyes. The cheeks were bloated, discoloured, a curious mixture of now blue, now green, now a sickly yellow.

 

                The woman’s finger pointed at the silken shawl.

Sarah Das Gupta is an English teacher from Cambridge, UK who has just completed one year of writing. Her work has been published in over 15 countries including US, UK, Canada, Australia, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Germany, Croatia and Romania.

Writing has given her the motive and determination to learn to walk again after an accident.

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