Wells and Jules edged quietly along the edge of the pier, where an ancient merchant ship, still partially wood and iron, unlike the more modern steel hulled ships, soured and rotted. Or at least appeared to. High above the Pilot's Station, and above the sails, stood a lone sailor, eye to a telescope, which was pointed not to the waters, but to the dock, where no one worked or loitered.
He was a young boy, which was normal enough, but something about him was off. He stood in the one position without moving for many minutes, not so much as blinking an eye, or striving to keep the hair from his face that the stiff morning air was blowing in off the Thames.
"It's as we thought. Something not right is going on here." Wells whispered to Jules for fear of the water carrying their voices to the lookout, who was as still as a scarecrow in a farmer's fields.
"I agree. It's not natural to stand so still like that."
"Remind you of anything, Jules."
"Too much." Jules agreed, taking time to spit the disagreeable flavor the memories brought to his mouth and his heart. He and Wells had suffered much over their lifetimes. Something that few knew besides their wives and children, whom they kept well away from the masses, for their protection. For this world, while not dominated by evil creatures, had more than its share of such.
"Should we inform the others?"
"Watson was close to becoming that." Wells responded.
"That's a yes then?"
"Yes." Wells replied, taking his eye off the boy in the crow's next. They started to inch their way back through the stacked cargo crates, when there was a disturbance on the deck of the ship. A young woman came screaming to the deck, flinging her arms wildly, as if in desperate straights. She ran to the gangplank and tried to reach the dock.
Jules started to run to her, but Wells held her back. "Wait!" He urged.
Jules was about to shake him off, when the young woman reached the rough old sea weathered wood of the dock, then stopped as quickly as she had run. She turned around slowly, a great smile blossoming on her face.
A stout man of about six feet came down the gangplank, smiling as well. "Well done. Well done. Soon we shall enough sailors to embark."
He took her by the arm and they returned to the main deck, then vanished into the Captain's quarters.
"This stinks." Jules swore, his eyes flashing with anger.
"We must reach the others at all costs. This is more serious than anyone suspected."
Before they could move forward again a couple Sailors came strolling into view, talking happily. "I've heard this ship requires a few more to work the sails." The taller one spoke.
"Likely as not, seeing as how much sail they have."
"My Jenny will be proud of me for working again. We've not had much to spend these last months."
"Aye. The pay has been sordid and the working conditions even more so. I wonder if Edison is aware of what is going on within his merchant ships."
"Likely as not. The rich seldom pay attention to what we poor people experience or have."
The taller one sighs. "Sods is what it is. Sods. What is the use of being alive if you're only to work and work until your heart breaks, with few moments for peace of mind and pleasure."
"But then again, if we took on a landlubber's squatty job, we'd be even more miserable."
They both laughed. Most ships these days were steam and electric driven, not sail. And the jobs they referred to would be feeding the machinery that built the ships, and that was very hard work indeed, most men not lasting long on the jobs.
The shorter one stopped at the beginning of the gangplank. "Why's it so quiet?"
The taller one held back next. "Where's everyone at?"
"This is bloody wrong!" The taller one swore, then made to turn around and leave, followed by the other. At that same moment the young woman's scream of terror shocked them to a standstill. They turned about and saw her racing onto the deck, flailing her arms.
"We must warn them." Jules cried out.
Wells held him back again.
"Let go, Wells! We must stop this horror before it's too late!"
"It's already too late!"
The Sailors reached the main deck and immediately a ring of unseen sailors rose and surrounded them.
Jules blanched at the sight. "We stood no chance."
"None at all!"
They watched in horror as the two sailors were caught and forced to descend into the hold, both men crying out in terror as they were done so.
The two sailors finally stopped struggling against the horrible men who had captured them. Their eyes were lifeless, their faces expressionless. No mercy could be found in their faces, nor humanity.
"What do you figure they'll do with us?" The taller sailor asked.
"I don't want to know, but I'm afraid what I want don't count for much here."
They were taken to a cabin door, which was swung open and they thrown inside. The door swung shut, closing them off in darkness, at least until their eyes got use to the gloom and the faint rays of light that came through the porthole in their cabin.
The shorter one rose to his feet and tested the hole. "No way out here. Even I would get stuck and I'm double jointed."
The taller one paced the cabin, looking for something that might suffice as a weapon. "Not a bloody thing here to defend ourselves with."
"What do you think they want with us?"
The smaller one sat down and faced the door. "Whatever happens, we can't let them just have their way with us."
The taller one nodded, and sat next to his buddy.
"Matey, them's me exact thoughts, if not actions as well."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm thinking. You saw their eyes. Their faces?"
"Too much for so little of a time."
"Blank and empty like a mug of ale that's been downed to the last drop."
"You're not thinking this is supernatural then, that we're in the clutches of a vampire master and his slaves?"
The taller one chuckled. "Vampires in Greater Britain don't do that anymore, not since our peace treaty in the fifties."
"Aye, but there's always the rogues, aren't they?"
The taller one sighed then and nodded.
Suddenly, the door flung open and the two sailors jumped to their feet. What faced them was far worse than a vampire, and it had no concept of mercy or humanity in its slimy, oozing flesh. Its great red eyes inspected them just a moment before it charged the men, pieces of its flesh dripping as it rushed, and other parts extending outwards towards them, like tentacles from an octopus.
Outside the cabin, the lone guard there didn't even flinch as the cries of the two men for help and mercy were lost to the sounds of complete and utter horror and terror.