Thanksgiving Challenge 2016 Saturday: The Pilgrim
This is the second story in a seven-day Thanksgiving writing challenge I issued myself and other interested writers. The word of the day is Pilgrim. For the rules, look up Thanksgiving Challenge 2016
Every story starts with an action. The action is what the character is doing when the scene comes into the mind of the reader of that story. Now, the scene that plays in the reader’s mind is different for each person who reads—even if the setting is described in great detail. One person’s red might not be as red, as riveting, as another person’s perception of that color. If one hundred different people read the same story, there exists the possibility for 100 different iterations of that story. A story leaves enough space for the characters to morph into the perfect version of themselves for the reader.
Reading Stephani Meyers books of vampires and wolf-changelings, he imagines the characters differently than the ones chosen to portray them in the movies. The movies are good, but imagination can be better, is usually better, almost always is better.
Well, Kincaid thinks so. A day dreamer is what he is. For hours, Kincaid sits and dreams about far off places. No, not because he wants to go anywhere necessarily. No. Kincaid loves to use his imagination to reinvent himself into another iteration. No. Not the same version of himself as it constitutes Kincaid Prime. His same iteration physically, but personality changed. That gets old once the stories are familiar enough. This time, he had to experience it. Kincaid did not have anything to lose but time.
Orphaned at a young age, his foster parents raised him until the age of adulthood before they left for the Americas. Kincaid did not want to leave, so he remained in their home. It is time to visit them. The holidays and all….
Last minute decisions to visit do not work well. Kincaid has the funds, but does not have the means to secure passage at the time he needs to leave, NOW!
So, at the port he stands waiting to see if some good person would help him get to the Americas. Yes; a man, middle ages or so stood ready to depart. Not being shy or fearful of people due to his foster parents rearing—it does not hurt that he is a pretty capable defender either—he meanders over to the man, a dad-looking man with broad shoulders and an unassuming permanent smile. I have to make a cool approach he thinks. Kincaid knows startling someone is no good way to gain that person’s trust.
Clearing his throat and making sounds with his shoes on the floor to alert the man of his presence, Kincaid prepares to speak. The man glances toward Kincaid and back to his pad.
“I heard this ship is going to the Americas,” Kincaid announces to a startled privateer, Kwani Mason at the port preparing to board his vessel for departure. The port is a bee hive of activity with ships approaching and leaving every ten to fifteen minutes. Kwani did not expect anyone to address him this stop at the Port. After taking a second to give Kincaid the once-over, he put his pad to his side with raised brow—the I-Get-This-Game brow.
“Hey buddy, I see the look on your face. I don’t have time to play games,” Kwani informs him. “If you are planning to rob me, I have already unloaded my cargo. Plus, this….” Kwani reveals a weapon ready to use. This usually works to stave off people.
“So, let’s not do this today. I have to be home….”
“No,” Kincaid assures the privateer. “I never intended to… No! I have no intention to… Sir, let me….”
“I got a schedule,” he response just a little apprehensive that the kid did not leave at the sight of the weapon. A quick memory flashes in his head. “What did you hear and how much you got to get where you need to go?”
Thinking it was supposed to go a different way, Kincaid sighs in embarrassed frustration. In all the books he had read, he mimicked the cool guy that convinced people to do his bidding with slick words. In his head, it seemed like the cool thing to say to the privateer to gain access to his ship. Kincaid realizes that his attempt to be another person, another version of himself would not work this time.
The thing that he really wants to avoid is creating an unequal relationship. For some reason, he always ended up being in uneven relationships with people he encountered because he was unwilling to assert himself. Rather than ask for passage on the vessel outright, he figures that the privateer would respond better with an astute statement of fact.
“No, sir,” Kincaid explains, sweat starting to form at his ribs as he fears he will not convince the privateer. “Will you give me passage on your vessel? I have more than adequate compensation.”
“How much are we talking,” Kwani inquires. In truth, no matter what the young man says, Kwani plans to agree—free if needed. The voyage is long and tedious. It is a risk to say no. This kid will make good company he assumes if all is as he seems. Kwani assumes the guy is good people by the way he carries himself. Neat fellow, with a boyish look. Fit, tall, well spoken—handsome even. Healthy teeth. This has happened before, however.
“Wait; does this mean that I can go with….”
“Exactly, no questions. Get your stuff. I trust you.” Kwani does not like to do much talking once he has decided something. Going with his gut, he has made some great deals over the years. He is not a rich man, but privateering has provided well for his standard of living. Top-notch vessel and facilities. Plus, this way is safer.
“Thank you, sir,” Kincaid responds with such exuberance that Kwani laughs out loud.
The boy’s face is full of wonder and innocence so much so that he almost lets down his guard. Some people just have those personalities to make others feel at ease. That is the type of look Kincaid has. I must be sure, Kwani thinks.
With the Port fading into the distance as they speed away, Kwani gives Kincaid a crash course in navigation. “I need help piloting this vessel. You watch navigational controls making sure this thing here always stays center of the white line. Okay?”
“Check,” Kincaid beams like a little kid.
“I’m deathly serious about this. If this is not just so, we can lose our way ending up in a bad storm. I can’t afford to get an automatic one.” Following the long introductions to the ship and some settling in, Kincaid and Kwani prepared for the long voyage to the Americas mentally.
The stars look spectacular from the vessel Kincaid thinks. Never before has he voyaged in such a fashion since he never left the Port area. Kwani named her Pilgrim, the vessel. It has traveled far and wide for all of Kincaid’s life, nearly 19 years running cargo.
“What’s this, then?”
“Sir?” Kincaid responds to Kwani’s inquiry.
“You staring off into the heavens with that look. What are you thinking is what I mean—got it?”
“Sorry sir, I did not take you for the conversational type.”
“Well, I ain’t. But I figure we will get around to talking sooner or later. Why not sooner?”
“I am a simple person. The Americas are where my family lives now and I want to visit them.”
“Nice to have family. Had one once.”
“Oh, Sorry, sir.”
“It’s fine. You know, we haven’t traded names yet, Kwani here. Yours?”
Kwani stretches out his hand for Kincaid to grab. “There,” he says. “We now know each other. Friends?”
“Sure.” Kincaid thinks it odd that their exchanged did not occur earlier but brushes it aside.
“Here,” Kwani offers a small contraption to Kincaid. “Put these on your hands for protection.”
“Protection from what,” he asks placing them on both hands.
Click, buzz, and snap—a pair of restraints appear on Kincaid’s hands.
“From you,” Kwani shouts with his eyes tight. “I know you from somewhere. I just cannot tell. Three times I have taken the voyage. Three times I took on a traveler and three times that person tried to kill me.”
“Sir, I am no killer!” Kincaid could not comprehend his misfortune. “Release me. I mean you no harm.”
“Do you think I have done this for years without being suspicious? Do you‽” Frustration heavy in his voice, he stifles a sob. “I lost my family with the same type of approach you made to me.”
“Sir, what are you talking about? Please release me.”
“Who are you working for‽ Who put you up to this, young as you are‽
Kincaid realizes that Kwani is seriously frightened of him.
“Tell me what I did wrong.”
“The first person that approached me like this, I turned away 15 years ago. The man, a big fella like yourself, was young. My wife and kid where in the vessel. I told him so—idiot I am. The oaf grabbed me right in front of the Port. All those people, but our bodies struggling warranted no attention from the authorities. Just a sea of people moving about the walk.”
“The man overpowered me and took my ship with us in it. I offered him all I had. But still, he took my wife by the hair and threw her out of the ship breaking her neck. No one even noticed! He did the same to my boy.”
“Sir, I assure you…”
“S-SHUTUP! You will hear me. You people doing this to me. I lost one cargo. I pay my insurance, and you still try to harm me. You took my family first. You try to take my vessel twice again after that. Now you try to kill me like you did my wife and kid!”
“Mr. Kwani. I….”
“You call me by Mason. You are not to say my given name. I am taking you to the authorities.”
“That’s it!” Kincaid fumes frustratingly at this predicament. The cuffs restraining him are subpar and easily negotiated. As one slips off his left risk and using that free hand, Kincaid grasps a startled Kwani with such force around the forearm the man falls to his knees with no chance to remove his weapon from his side.
“What is the meaning of this treatment. You are a privateer. That is dangerous work, to begin with. Kincaid relaxes his grip on the frightened Kwani to show him he is no threat.
“How did you get out of those restrains,” Kwani whispers as he reaches for his weapon quickly. The expression on Kincaid’s face, cold and calculating, snatches away his confidence. If Kincaid had wanted to kill him, he would have.
“I just want to get to the Americas. I don’t know your family. I do not want trouble. I cannot be taken to the authorities. I am unregistered since my foster parents left the Port.
“How… the restrains?”
“I have a past. I am no threat to you, sir. I would not….”
“You could have broken my arm with your grip! What are you? NO boy is that strong or large. What are you?” No leverage really to get an answer being that he is no killer, Kwani stares at Kincaid in confusion. The only reason he let the young man on the vessel was out of fear of another attack on him like that of his wife and son. The man looks harmless, despite his imposing physical stature.
“You are going to kill me and take my vessel!”
“Sir, I am not here for trouble.”
“What then.” Kwani understands that he gave away any edge he could have had by not reaching for his weapon and shooting the kid. He is not killer. For the past decade and a half, he has traveled port to port hoping to hear word of his wife and son. He avoided two other attempts on his life, but this last one with Kincaid, if that is even his name.
Kincaid gave mot response. “What are you then? Tell me something since you have decided not to kill me. You obviously could overpower me. You stand there threateningly.”
Silence again. Silence for 30 minutes as Kincaid prepares to ask his question. “I have one question.”
“You have me listening.” Kwani refuses to leave from the spot at which Kincaid left him upon releasing him.
“You say your name is Mason. What is your wife’s name?”
“You don’t get to ask….”
“The name, Mason!” The boyish face disappears from Kincaid’s visage. “What is her name?”
“Zhania,” they both say at the same time.
As they stare at each other in disbelief, the console starts to chime that the navigational alignment is off and they are heading toward a gravitational eddy that will pull toward Saturn. The Americas, a group of colonies on Saturn's Titan moon was still hours away. Neither man felt inclined to move at the warning. The vibration of the ship shakes Kwani’s gaze away from Kincaid’s to adjust the flight pattern. Each man silently assists to put the ship on course before continuing the strange conversation.
“I thought you were dead. You call yourself Kincaid. But you are Zhane.” Both men said the name at the same time.
“When you said your last name was Mason, I knew it. I had read a report from the day I was a child.
‘Zhane Mason was found with his deceased mother and taken to the Port Authority.’”
Kincaid closed a holographic screen, which displayed the information he read emanating from his waist.
“There I was paired with foster parents who trained the children to work for the Port Authority.”
“You are Zhane,” Kwani says with bewilderment. Both men reach to each other in gratitude for an embrace. After exchanging stories about the last 15 years, the computer alerts them of their approach to the Americas.
“When we get to the Americas, we can have a feast at my foster parent’s home at my great fortune for having found you.”
“I do not want to impose,” Kwani responds.
“You won’t. You are the reason I lost my commission and am unregistered with the Port Authority. Bringing you in will restore my commission and I will not have to sneak into the Americas, now.”
“You said you meant me no harm!”
“I do not, sir. But, I know you killed your wife and tried to kill your son….”
“Kincaid,” yells a voice through the house. “It’s time for dinner. Stop daydreaming and get down her to wash-up. The whole family is ready to say the prayer and eat some turkey.”
“Coming mom,” Kincaid replies putting his spaceship dubbed The Pilgrim on the his display stand as he saunters off for prayer.
© 2016 Rodric Johnson