On the day he retired, Granddad declared himself Her Majesty’s unofficial Un-corker of Ocean Bottles. Now, if you were a superhero, your superpower would be the ability to recite, word for word, the mundane scribblings of long-dead mariners who never made it to the history books. Safe to say, Granddad thought postcards were dull as ditchwater.
It was no surprise that the old man wanted his ashes corked up for the ocean to decide what to do with. Nor was it a surprise that he gave his entire ocean bottle collection to you.
There’s one bottle you don’t recognise. You pour its contents into your hand: a tiny slip of paper and an assortment of tin bits. They look like the transistors you had to solder onto circuit boards at school, eerily anachronistic next to the crewman’s abridged scrawl:
‘Shp & crw infst’d with clckwrk spidrs. I rmv’d hndrds frm th dec’d. I encls a dzn as proof. Cptn ordr’d srvivrs to abndn shp. Gd hv mrcy.’
The handwriting must be centuries-old.
A dozen. You count the transistor-things. Altogether, there are ten. In his delirium, he must have miscounted.
You count them again to be sure.
Now you count nine.
Gareth Durasow lives in Huddersfield. His poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Shearsman, and French Literary Review. His collection ‘Endless Running Games’ was published by Dog Horn Publishing and featured in The Guardian’s Readers Books of the Year. You can find him on Twitter here.