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Fanfic post # 2. This time with Mikasa at the helm such a lovely bote. Happy Birthday Mikasa, also History lessons

At the time, she didn’t think she would be destined for greatness.
Called to service, because they needed to change their doctrine. From the philosophy of Ecole to that of Mahan.
She was simply one of six. Named after various things, provinces, temples, even the stanza of a poem.
She herself was named after a mountain.
Alongside six armored cruisers, she was to form the backbone of their new navy.
The six-six fleet. Created with Empery money, and a need for proper warships, with help from the Royals.
At the time, she thought she wouldn’t see too much action.
Then the Northern Parliament attacked.
In the battle for the port that would later become the city of Dalian, two of the six were lost to Northern mines
However, the Sakura were not to be underestimated, within several weeks, Port Arthur had been captured. It seemed that despite their status as a superpower they found themselves losing to an enemy they should have easily crushed.
It wasn’t until late of May, 1905 with the whole world watching that their fates were sealed.
Under the command of the legendary Admiral Togo, She and her fellow battleships Fuji, Shikishima, and Asahi crushed what was left of the Northern fleet. Ensuring their victory in the war.
It was then that the world came to know of the name Mikasa.
The flagship of the fleet that belonged to a nation that defeated a superpower.
Of course, said superpower was on the verge of collapse, but it was still one of the world’s most powerful countries at the time.
Nevertheless, she became a legend, a symbol of Sakura naval prowess.
Of course, what happened afterward wasn’t really smooth sailing, having been sunk in her own port after her crew partied too hard, but it wasn’t all bad.
She served her country, but of course, she knew it wouldn’t last.
Washington, 1922. A treaty to limit the amount of ships in a navy.
With that, two of her friends, and the entirety of her kind that wasn’t already scrapped after Dreadnought’s introduction were sent to the scarpyard.
Asahi thankfully was spared, converted into a repair ship.
And herself. For her actions in the defense of the sakura empire was to be incased in concrete.
To serve as a memorial, a place where the last pre-dreadnought and one of Japan’s greatest vessels to ever sail the seas.
She didn’t mind it. If her country wanted her to be a museum then so be it.
Admittedly, there were times when she wished she was scrapped alongside Fuji and Shikishima, just to spare her from the horrors of what happened.
Nevertheless, she is proud to serve country. Even now as KANSEN.
That said, she does have some last regrets.

“You’re quite the godsend, Mikasa-san.” I said to her as she poured tea for me.
As usual I was in my office at the naval base working my ass off with paperwork and other stuff the admiralty wants me to work on.
At this point, I was desperately hoping for a Siren offensive. At least it wouldn’t be too quiet.
That said, peace and quiet does have its benefits.
“Thank you, Commander.” She replied, placing the teapot on the table.
As one of the oldest KANSEN at 120 years old, she was rather sprightly for her age. Often curious about the new world she has appeared in.
I wouldn’t trust her with any valuable electronics though.
While she was held in renown as a fierce warrior, Mikasa mostly spends her day in the naval base as a teacher, advisor and my secretary.
As much as she wants to fight, her lack of Anti-air, slow speed and overall obsolete…everything meant that she was nothing more than a liability.
Thus, she felt that for the betterment of everyone she would stay here.
Despite that, she works tirelessly to help others. Teaching the younger ships, discussing tactics in the war room or helping me out with my paperwork.
I will admit, I enjoy her presence greatly. Her beautiful visage and formal uniform is something that is quite pleasing to the eye.
“Is there…something wrong, sir?” She asked, her cheeks tinted with red.
It appears that I have been staring at her.
“Oh, sorry.” I say to her. “You’re looking quite lovely this morning.”
The blush on her cheeks deepen as I complement her, but she easily recovers.
“Thank you, Commander. Flattery will get you nowhere, however.” She replied coyly. Smiling all the while.
It’s quite the lovely smile. I can tell she enjoys our talks like this, after all she only smiles like that when she’s elated, or when she’s sailing in the ocean.
It’s sad really.
Mikasa’s situation right now is like a bird whose wings have been clipped. She is a vessel, a ship. Being away from the ocean is definitely taking a toll on her.
Even if she doesn’t show it.
That said, I do have something in the works
“It is the truth though, I won’t deny it.” I tell her. “Anyway, how’s are the others doing.”
“Very well, the mutsukis and the fletchers are quite the fast learners.” She replied.
From there we began our usual banter. We start off with more pressing concerns such as strategy and whatnot, before moving on to some lighthearted smalltalk and at times… flirting.
…to be honest, all this flirting is… tempting really. I have been planning to take her out on a date for some time now, but I haven’t had the time.
Hopefully… soon. Maybe when this base is rotated out of the frontline. No idea when that would be however.
Nevertheless, I enjoy her company very much. Asking her on a date could destabilize what relationship we have.
I doubt that though.

It had been a few hours since then. Just a little over 2100 hours.
Another day done, same day tomorrow…
…Christ, I need a drink. Thankfully, Blucher’s bar is open at the moment. Ever since we summoned the alcohol connoisseur a while a back, she’s been handling all of the base’s alcohol supply ever since. Much to the joy of the Ironblood, Union and other KANSEN.
It was also quite the nice place to unwind and relax. It was simply the perfect combination of the homely décor, cozy atmosphere, slow music, drinks and friends.
Let me tell you, I’ve only been there a few times, but it was amazing.
I’ll probably be more-or-less alone however, since there’s to be a naval exercise tomorrow, meaning everyone went to bed early.
It’s interesting because I’m actually not needed for this. The exercise in question is about what they do in the event of a Siren Decapitation strike.
Meaning what they’re supposed to do when I’m dead.
It’s a pretty interesting exercise. Not only does it demonstrate the leadership skills of some shipgirls of this base, but also Azur Lane chain of command/retaliation contingencies.
Anyway, this means I’m free tomorrow. Not sure about Mikasa though.
Mikasa is a KANSEN meaning she’s supposed to take part in the exercise, Hell considering her leadership skills, she’s my first pick to be interim commander.
…well tomorrow is tomorrow. I’ll worry about that soon.
First… drinks.
To my surprise, however. It turns out that I’m not actually alone in this bar. Seated on one of the stools near the middle of the table was none other than Mikasa the pre-dreadnaught.
She looked like she was drinking some sake and reminiscing about the past.
“Didn’t think I’d see you here.” I say to her as I sat on the stool next to her.
Blucher isn’t here it’s just the two of us. She’s still a combat ship, Admiral Hipper class to be exact. This meant that she went to sleep early too, which usually meant that there would be no drinks.
Despite this, I and Mikasa were still being served but the automated servers Akashi installed at her request. It was supposed to be used when there’s too much patrons, but she gave me a copy of her key in secret in case if wanted to have a drink late at night.
Didn’t know she gave Mikasa a key too, though.
“Ah Commander. Lovely night eh?” She replied, drinking some sake. While I’m partial to the traditional Japanese drink I usually prefer something a bit stronger.
“Rum, on the rocks, please.” I tell the automated server. Within 30 seconds I take my first sip.
Efficient. Impressive were the thoughts in my head as the fiery liquid went down my throat.
“Indeed.” I say to her “Lovely night indeed. Didn’t know she gave you a key.”
“She gave a key to just about everyone that looked like they could drink. Most never use it though.” She confessed.
Not that I mind. Everyone needs a good drink now and then.
I nod in reply while taking another slow sip. “What’s the occasion then?”
She looked at me coyly, as if saying ‘You kidding me?’
“I thought for a self-proclaimed ‘naval enthusiast’ such as you it would be obvious.” She retorted gesturing to a calendar.
May 28.
“Forgive me, milady.” I reply half-jokingly “My work has made forget how important this day was for you, perhaps I can make it up to you then.”
She chuckles slightly before an awkward silence set in.
We sat there like rocks for a few minutes, before I decided to speak up.
“Do you… want to talk about it?” I ask her.
She snorts amusedly.
“That’s the first time anyone has asked that of me.” She confessed.
“Really?” I asked incredulously. Considering who Mikasa was, I’m more surprised she wasn’t hounded by her fellow Sakura ships with questions about the Taisho era.
“Yeah, I’m thinking that’s because everyone respects me too much like I’m some sort of kami. Especially the sakura girls.” She says taking another sip of her sake.
“They mean well, but…” she trailed off.
“It gets a little too overwhelming.” I finished for her.
She simply nodded, agreeing with my conclusion.
“That’s why I miss the old days.” She said ruefully. “Back then I wasn’t ‘Mikasa, Sensou no megami’, I was just Mikasa, sixth battleship of the imperial Japanese navy.”
“I suppose I can slightly relate to that.” I say to her while finishing my drink, motioning one of the servers to refill it with more rum.
I can tell she’s interested by the way she perked up at what I said. Perhaps she’s not used to opening up like this.
“How so?” she asked.
“Well, this isn’t exactly my first rodeo.” I reply. “I assume you’ve heard of the ‘Knights of the Round Table’?”
She nodded immediately. Any shipgirl paying attention to the history should have at the very least have passing knowledge of the 13 commanders who initially led the defense against the sirens.
Mikasa was confused on why I brought that up before her eyes widened.
“You’re one of them.” She said. Her jaw dropping in the presence of a legend.
I nodded. “I was about 19. Straight out of the naval academy, when they told me to go to war.”
“Didn’t know it was that bad.” She said incredulously
“It was.” I replied. A thousand yard stare on my face. “We lost so many in the initial attacks, human and shipgirl alike.”
Even we suffered, considering there’s only 6 of us left. Two retired, the other three formed the core admiralty and then there’s me.
“That’s not all though, as you know each of us had nicknames.” I continued.
Black Dragon, Demon Lord, Butcher, Red King and Kraken were just a few examples.
“You know what my nickname was?” I asked her.
She shook her head. “No.”
I smiled, I always liked dropping this bombshell.
Somehow, her eyes widened even further, and it looked she was about faint.
I wouldn’t fault her.
After all, among the 13, the commander known as Archangel was the most famous of them all, and quite possibly the most badass, yet tragic as well.
“It all started in the Battle of…” I began as I started to tell her my story.
To put it into perspective, I had been compared by my friends and myself even to one space marine chapter from 40k.
The lamenters.
Indeed, I even adopted their creed which I still use.
For those we cherish. We die in glory.
I was given that nickname because of my actions during the initial stages of the war. When the sirens attacked, I always prioritized the safety of the dimension’s inhabitants.
Even over my own.
I saved millions. Maybe even billions of people from the Sirens, yet I couldn’t save those that were close to me. I had the highest amount of KANSEN casualties of any commander out there
I was always in the thick of battle, fighting using an exosuit alongside my shipgirls.
Yet, I could never save them all.
Not the civilians but rather my shipgirls.
Allies, Friends, Lovers.
I have lost count of how many died in my arms.
I kept apologizing. How I couldn’t save them. How they died because I prioritized the people.
Despite that, my girls never lost faith in me. With their last words, they forgive me. Telling me it’s alright. Those that lived echoed their statement.
They would follow me into hell, to save those whose names even I don’t know, and in return, they would give their lives.
When the attacks finally subsided, very few of my original KANSEN remained. Enterprise, Laffey, Cleveland, and a few others.
They’re still around, acting as my XOs. While we never pursued romantic relationships, I can say that the bond between us is strong.
“Now. Imagine that you were a shipgirl from this dimension, and you found out that the Archangel himself would lead you, how would you feel?” I ask her rhetorically as I finish my tale, while taking a huge drink from my glass.
“I see.” Mikasa said, looking down into her drink, looking pensive.
“How’d you overcome it, then? The whole idol-worship thing.” She asked
“To be honest, I let myself be.” I tell her. “The easiest way to get rid of this is by showing that you’re just like them.”
“Greet them, talk with them, take a bath in the onsen or grab a drink with them. It shows that while we are impressive people in our own right, we are still human. Just like them. We’re not heavenly saviors or goddesses, we’re just like you. We cry, we laugh… we fuck up just like the rest of them.”
“It might take a while, but eventually they’ll start to open up.” I tell her. “Take it from me. Before only Laffey, Enterprise and Cleveland would talk to me. Now that everyone has seen the real me, they’re more comfortable with talking to me. Nowadays, I’m more relaxed, and I’m more open about my issues.”
As I finished saying she nodded her head.
“So… just interact with others more?”
“Yep, don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll be successful.” I reassure her.
“Thanks commander.” She sincerely replied.
Once again a silence descended upon us, but was more comfortable than the last one.
“You know…” She said out of the blue. I simply hummed in response.
“Back in the day, while there was the six of us, I had some other friends as well.” She began as she told of me her experiences in the era.
Kimono, the eccentric pervert of a corvette. Matsushima and her French curves.
“I don’t recall the IJN ordering from France.”
“It’s less about her figure and more about her 13 cm Hotchkiss on her stern.”
Then there was the armored cruiser Asama that acted as her doppelganger. She even talked about some of the early destroyers in the IJN.
As the night went on, she continued her story as the alcohol continued to flow.
She talked about her fellow battleships.
Fuji, the English stalwart.
Yashima, Fuji’s sister who was a tad more partial to Japan.
Shikishima and Hatsuse, the two sisters she never had.
Asahi, the boisterous tomboy of the six.
The six of them were the best of friends. Hell, she considered herself and identifies as a Shikishima class despite being more in common with the Royal Navy Formidable Class pre-dreadnoughts.
She talked about the war, and eventually the Washington Naval Treaty.
“Are you mad at anyone?” I ask her.
She thought deeply for a while before turning to me for an answer.
“… I don’t know. Frankly I should be mad at the Russians. The treaty, Maybe even HMS Dreadnought… yet, I can’t find it in myself to be angry. I understood what had to be done, even”
“Then don’t.” I tell her. “As much as you might hate this, it’s all in the past now. Sometimes it’s better to move on, leave them behind.”
“Except what you have learned, of course.”
I guffawed.
“Yes. Yes.” I tell her “learn from the past, but at the same time don’t dwell on it.” I tell her.
Yet again, silence descends into the bar.
“Thank you, commander.” She says to me. “For listening to me.”
“You’re welcome.” I reply genuinely. “Thanks for listening to my story.”
“Anytime, Commander.”
From there we continued drinking and talking about anything under the sun. We exchanged stories until we were too drunk to continue.
After that, it was quite the blur, but considering how were both in my room with nothing but the blanket as our clothing I could guess what happened.
The throbbing headache wasn’t helping either.
Hopefully, she isn’t too angry that we slept together in our drunken state.

“Isn’t it beautiful, love?” Mikasa asked me as she looked over towards the glistening Tokyo bay.
It had been a year since our talk at the bar and our accident. At first she was rather embarrassed and avoided me for a few days, but she managed to gather the strength to face me.
We began dating soon afterwards.
“It sure is.” I said giving her a light kiss on the lips and admiring the sun with her.
I managed to make a leave request from the admiralty, for both Mikasa and I. At the moment, we found ourselves on Mikasa, as in her actual hull, encased in concrete. Sitting near the bay as if defending it.
“I didn’t expect that you’d end up coming her.” I tell her. “It must be a surreal experience walking on one’s hull.”
“Not really.” She says. “It’s… nice, but I’d rather spend time with you.”
“Besides…” She said carrying some flowers. “I wanted to say goodbye.”
Once again it was the anniversary of that fateful day. This time, however she finally wants some closure.
“Hey guys.” She says in front of the memorial. “It’s me, Mikasa. I hope you’re doing fine, I miss you guys so much…”
Meanwhile, I decided to stand alone, and give her some time with her old friends.
She began to talk about her experiences as a shipgirl. Her times with me, and quite possibly the happiest moment of her life.
Her refit.
It took a while to design and implement but it was a success. From pre-dreadnought she was converted to a Panzerschiff. Similar in concept to Deutschland and her sister.
Some extra 12” guns from Alaska, Type 93 torpedo tubes, 40mm AA and some diesel engines made for an extremely potent ship.
Needless to say, she was so happy she could finally sail the seas with her comrades once more.
Speaking of her comrades, it appears that she took my advice and spent some time with them.
Just as I predicted, everyone began to warm-up to the pre-dreadnought after she began to interact with them more. Even more so, after her refit.
…It probably has something to do with how she has nearly dies rescuing others.
Just as I did in the past.
To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s fate or simple chance, but I think we’re meant for each other.
A goddess of war and an Archangel… truly an interesting pair.

submitted by JOHNfreedom1234 to AzureLane

Feed The Veg

Her name was Martha Llyod, she killed vegetables and made me call her mum.
She wasn’t my mother. She was something else. Something I can’t even begin to put a finger on. But she certainly wasn’t my mother.
It was in the winter of 2014 when myself and a few friends went off camping. I was sixteen and trusted by my real parents to be allowed to stay away from home for the weekend. I wasn’t a bad kid. Completely the opposite. I imagine that’s why my parents let me go.
The camping site was in Wales, 230 some miles away from my home in the South-east of London. A concrete jungle compared to the lush rolling countryside of Wales. There were four of us on the trip all loaded into my friend's small Vauxhall Corsa.
It was on the last night it happened.
A dusting of frost coated the tent's fabric and our shoulders as we drank around a campfire. The warmth of spirits and beers kept the chill dampened by our drunk coats. I would tell you about my three other friends but they play little part in this tale other than they were the reason for my presence in the Welsh countryside. After that fact, they had little choice but to leave me.
It’s not their fault and I don’t blame them. They thought I got lost drunk somewhere and did the right thing by calling the police. Apparently, and I didn’t know this until after, a search party ranged for three days. Bless them, they looked, just not hard enough.
I did get lost. I was inebriated, in a dark forest, surrounded by trees, going to get more firewood. I suppose I wasn’t paying attention. I collected some, moved on, got a few more sticks, repeat, repeat. When I looked up, I couldn’t see the glow of the fire anymore. I was disorientated. Off-balance. So I decided to just pick a direction and see if I could remember anything about the path.
I stumbled around for about an hour. It was super cold. Fridged. My fingers were turning blue, like my lips. I couldn’t stop the chattering of my teeth as I stumbled down a steep decline.
I remember falling. I remember the flash of moonlight. I remember a face. But after that, well, that’s when the nightmare began.
“There ye go, nice and warm. How ye feeling my love?”
I cracked open an eye. My head hurt. I knew vaguely that drinking played a part. But something else more painful was trying to beat its way into my mind. Had I fallen? I couldn’t remember.
A lady hovered over me. The lady I would later know as Martha. Her bright green eyes and lock of curly brown hair waved in my face.
“Ah, there ye are. I thought we lost ye.”
I tried to rise, but a firm hand pressed me back down.
“Oh no, deary. Ye’ve had a bad fall. Ye must stay put. We’ll have ye better in no time.”
“My friends?” I croaked. “They will be looking for me,” I swallowed the bile in my mouth. It tasted of blood. I wondered if I had broken or dislodged a tooth.
Martha bustled around me clicking her tongue.
“Friends? On a night like this? If ye friend will be leaving ye in a pile of snow, I think ye need to get better friends.” Hail pelted the roof. Martha glanced at the window worriedly and then busied herself around a tray. “The storm is fast upon us. Mark my words, this will be a long one too. Here, drink this.”
I felt a gentle hand lift my head, then my lips touched warm broth and I drank greedily. I forgot how hungry I was. I closed my eyes letting the warmth defuse through my body. Martha clicked her tongue some more. I heard the clatter of china and pots, and her fretting around the room speaking to someone. Gratefully, I let the sounds drown out the pain in my head and slipped back into unconsciousness.
From the darkness, a faint sound of classical music lured me awake. Like a cat toying with string, it pulled me forward, spun me around. Slowly a room swam into focus. I was on an old couch. The sides draped with patchwork blankets. The room was small but jammed packed with oddity. Each wall held a magnitude of Bric-a-Brac on shelves. Porcelain ducks, dogs, ballerinas, old iron horseshoes, crystal figurines, pots, plants, pictures. You name it, the room had it.
A clinking sound filtered through the door. The paint cracked and peeling. I thought maybe it led to the kitchen, so I rose off the couch. I fell back, instantly. My head hurt terribly, but my body hurt more. My ankle was swollen, the bruising black and blue around the lower calf. Gingerly I touched it and was rewarded with pain.
“Ouch,” I pulled my jumper up exposing my ribs. Thick ribbons of bruises ran up the left side of my torso. I lifted the other side to inspect it and was grateful that only a light bruising coloured the top part of my hips. I glanced around the room some more and noticed for the first time something that had me perplexed.
The couch I sat on was one of four such spaces curated for the derriere. And each one was taken by an enlarged vegetable. I first thought maybe it was a contest sort of thing. You know, the first prize at the village fete sort of deal. But, each of them was wearing clothing. The carrot looked more like a mandrake root, its arms, spindly runoffs, poked out of the knitted jumper it wore, likewise did the malformed legs through tiny shorts.
It wasn’t just a carrot. A parsnip took place next to the carrot. A beetroot the size of a basketball stained a chair off to the right and a blossom of broccoli wearing a ruffle dress sat poised on a lap chair. Across from them was a marrow wearing a nightcap. Only one seat didn’t hold any vegetables, but it once had. The indent and staining suggested so.
It was strange. I knew that. But at that time, I didn’t know the full picture.
The door banged open. A small, curvy lady holding a tray backed into the room. Her clothes looked old but neatly mended. The patches sewn in using other materials. Her hair was a ferocious bob of brown curly hair that swung around as she placed the tray on a coffee table before me.
The aroma of fresh tea and rosemary baked potatoes made my mouth water.
“Ah, good. Ye awake,” Martha said, opening the lid of the potatoes. I leaned forward sniffing the air. “I’ll bet ye hungry,” she said matter of factly, piling a plate full of the potatoes. She added a scoop of butter on the top and then served them to me.
Like a rabid animal, I tore into the dish expressing my gratitude around the mouthfuls of masticated potato. Suddenly embarrassed, I stopped remembering my manners.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just I’m so hungry.”
Martha waved away the comment and poured the dark tea.
“It is what it is. Tell me, what is ye name?”
“Jordan,” I said, watching her expression change to mild surprise.
“Is that so,” she said, placing her fist on her hips. Silent stretched for a moment as she thought about something. Then she huffed. “I like it. Jordan it is.” She turned on an old TV that crackled to life. She laughed mirthlessly and then came to sit beside me.
I thought it a bit strange at the time, but the tea took the thought away. The china cups floral design appeared faded with age. The other, equally as old, had a slight crack at the lip. She selected the better one and placed it before me, and poured the tea. The steam wafted in the cold air.
“This will be good for ye, warm the heart and soul.” She took a folded square of paper and poured the powder into the tea and stirred it.
She noticed my gaze and explained.
“Something for the pain. Easier than swallowing the tablets.”
I took the tea and drank deeply. Again a blissful warmth spread through my body. I drained the last of the tea and leaned back.
“That’s it, Jordan. Ye go to sleep. Mammy will watch over ye.”
Drowsiness crept around the corners of my eyes and my head began to feel heavy. I let the warmth pull me under as she stroked my hair.
“That’s it, lovely, go to sleep.”
I woke to a commotion. Martha stood in the centre of the room screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Who did it!” She screamed at the other couch, the one with the carrot and parsnip on it. “Who broke Mammy’s china”
Groggily, I glanced at the floor. A cup laid shattered, it’s content spilling across the floor and onto a dirty green rug. It was the same cup I had used to drink the tea. I pulled my leg back into the couch, away from the coffee table.
The tv crackled static in the corner. I wasn’t aware of the time. Not knowing how long I had slept, but it couldn’t have been long.
“Jacob? Veronica? Which one of you did it?”
Martha’s ruffled dress shook with anger. I didn’t know who she was addressing. The pull of the drugs lured me under again and I suddenly didn’t care. Instead, I fell back into the blissful darkness
I woke again sometime later. The curtains were pulled and the black of night reigned outside them. I sat up and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. A single candle burned on a shelf by the door. The shadows danced around the room like mischievous spirits. My head still hurt, as did my ribs and ankle. Gingerly, I swung my legs off the couch and prepared to stand.
It took me a few attempts but I finally got up. There was a faint smell in the air. It reminded me of sitting in the living room with my family while mum made a Sunday roast. Hungry gnawed at me. With my belly in my mind, I crept to the door and pulled it open.
The glow of a candle in my face surprised me. I stumbled back as Martha clicked her tongue.
“Going somewhere?” She asked, wrapping a hand around her shabby dressing gown. I felt like I was being scolded by my mum such was her venom.
“N-no,” I stammered. “I, uh - was looking for the bathroom.”
“No bathroom here laddie. Ye’ll use the pan.” She pushed past me. I watched helplessly as the door closed slowly behind her.
“Here,” she said, producing a metal bedpan. “Use this,” she handed it to me and placed her hands on her hips.
“Uh, here? Now?” I asked, shocked.
“Ain’t nothing Mammy hasn’t seen before.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I stood dumbfounded as she gestured for me to urinate in front of her.
“I, uh, I can’t,” I said. The thought of relieving myself the furthest thing from my mind.
“My god,” she said, turning away with a tut.
I looked around in sheer panic. She wasn’t going to leave. I had to live up to my lie. I adjusted my footing to better accommodate my ankle, unbuttoned my trousers, and glanced at her back. A small divot appeared at her cheek as the sound of my piss hit the pan. A few seconds later and it slowed to a stop.
“There,” she said, turning and taking the pan from my hand. “That wasn’t so hard was it,” she said, smiling.
I swallowed the slowly creeping dread climbing my throat. I winced at my ankle. Martha saw and tutted again.
“Here,” She said, taking a small pink pill from her dressing gown pocket. “For the pain.”
I held out my hand, but she bypassed it. I froze as she pressed the pill between my lips. It went in with a pop, closely followed by her finger. I didn’t know what to do. Awkwardness, confusion, and the sense of violation rooted me to the spot. She pulled her finger out slowly. The divot in her cheeks pronounced further with the shadows.
I felt sick. Both physically and emotionally.
“Now, it’s back to bed with ye, ye ankle won’t heal if ye keep standing on it.”
“Uh, in the morning,” I asked, while she guided me back to the couch. “Can I use your phone to call my parents, I think I lost mine in the accident.”
Martha chuckled and pulled the thick cover up to my chin.
“Wouldn’t do ye any good even if I had a phone, laddie. The storm has cut off the power. Ye rest up, and let Mammy take care of ye.”
“Aye, my poor child. You must have banged ye head more than we thought,” she chuckled again and patted my shoulder.
I was lost. I tried to remember the fall, I was out in the woods. I knew that. I vaguely remembered a fire and, and… the thought trailed off. I couldn’t remember, it was fuzzy and congested.
My eyes flicked up as Martha bustled around the other couch. Darkness was creeping at the corners of my eyes again. They whispered promises of escape from the pain. Martha leaned down and kissed the parsnips on its perceived head and tucked it in.
“Good night, Veronica.”
She did the same to the other vegetables as I drifted into sleep. But even in my drowsiness, I noticed the carrot had vanished.
Over the next week, the bruising yellowed. My ankle, although wrapped tightly, sent prangs every now and then that left my leg a spasming mess. I sat on a chair in the kitchen while Martha hobbled around the stove cooking up a stew.
I hadn’t slept a wink the night before, although I didn’t tell her that. If she knew she would up the dose of my medication as she did when I told her I remembered camping.
Martha placed a cup of tea in front of me and I inspected morosely. Two pink pills sat off to the side like pieces of candy. She nudged me to take them and I faked a smile.
I slipped the pills into my mouth as she watched. Clenched then between my cheek and my teeth and raised the tea to my lips. As I swallowed she beamed and turned back to the stew pot.
I felt disgusting. The smell of spice filled the room. The slow bubble of the stew held my attention. Last night “Mammy” had a fit of rage. The relic of the tv had blown up and she couldn’t watch her favourite show. In all her explosions I was never accused of the wrong deed. Instead, her other children held her wrath.
Mammy brought the cleave down on the rabbit. The muscles glistening with fresh blood. I watched the wicked blade chop up the meat imagining it being used against me if I tried to leave. She scraped the chunks into the pot and pulled over the parsnip which had been made to watch the spectacle.
“Now, this is your last chance, Veronica,” she warned.
I swung my gaze up from the pot expecting her temper toward me, but instead, she held the knife threatening over the vegetable. “Ye tell me now young lady or god help ye?” Her eyebrow rose. The impending doom was already sealed.
I winched as she cleaved off the head of the vegetable. The grassy sprig rolled off and fell to the floor. I swallowed.
“Well, I did warn ya, didn’t I? And now look what ye made me do.” She wipes away a stray tear as she venomously chopped away. Frozen to my seat I watched her slide the pieces of parsnips into the stew and slam the chopping board and knife down on the countertop.
“Forgive me,” she said as she swept out of the house.
My thoughts returned. I quickly pulled the pills out from my teeth, wrapped them in the paper containing the other pills, and slipped them back into my jean pocket.
I rose, darting forward to open the cupboards and drawers looking for anything useful to aid my escape. I hefted a long knife considering it. I let it fall back into the drawer. I wasn’t a killer. Hope was fleeing as I pulled open the last drawer. But that hope came back in full force. Inside was my phone.
I couldn’t believe it. She had my phone? I heard the scrunch of footfall and quickly closed the drawer and shot into my chair. Mammy returned.
She sniffed and wiped her nose on a tissue, then dabbed at her eyes
“Onions,” She said. “They always get me.”
I nodded and smiled.
“Listen, Jordan. I need to go out to town today. I would take ye, but ye ankle is still bad.”
My Christmases and birthdays had come at once.
“I can come,” I ventured. “My foot isn’t that bad,” I said, wiggling my foot. The pain was excruciating, but I didn’t let it show. Town equalled people. People equalled help.
“No no. Ye’ll stay here and mind ye brothers.”
It took me a moment to realise she was speaking about the vegetables.
“But I -“
“But nothing! Ye will stay home!”
The echo of her rage dispelled into silence and my plan for escape did the same. My head fell.
“Ye will stay home,” she began again, quieter this time. “And I’ll bring ye something nice back from the market.”
I nodded slowly as she grabbed her coat off the back of the door and gathered up her keys.
“Now, what will ye do?”
I kept my eyes to the tiled floor. “I’ll stay home and watch my brothers,” I mumbled.
“And ye’ll keep an eye on the stew too. Don’t let it burn now, ye hear?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Yes, what?” She asked, hand on hips, eyebrow raised.
“Yes, Mammy,” I forced out.
Martha huffed and left. I strained in my seat waiting for the start of a car engine. I rose in expectation as the revs increased and it slowly disappeared.
I pulled out my phone and turned it on. I can’t begin to explain the joy at seeing it light up. But it soon drained away as quickly as it came. Wherever I was, it didn’t have any reception. I cursed my bad luck flicking through my apps. Whatsapp, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat, none of them worked.
The bubble of stew drew my attention, I raced over, turned the dial right down and gave it a quick stir. I needed time. I hobbled to the door and opened it to the bitter cold air, and stepped out. My feet slipped out from underneath me and /I banged my head hard, I surrender to the darkness.
I came to with a sheet of snow on my face. I didn’t know how long I had been out but I still grasped my phone. The forest was covered in snow. The trees sagged with the weight of it on their branches. Robins and other small tits bobbed about in the white tundra as I got up and held my phone to the sky to get better reception.
The shingled ground scraped under my feet as I limped around the house. My head hurt but thankfully no blood came away when I touched it. The phone danced in the air while I looked for better coverage. As I rounded a corner I stopped. The forest ringed the garden from north to south, but at the western edge of the clearing stood a greenhouse partially covered with snow. Curiously I stumbled over leaving a small trail behind me.
I peered inside the greenhouse with morbid curiosity. Whoever Martha was, she could definitely grow vegetables. A marrow as long and fat as a large dog sat on one counter. Beside it on a similar table was another carrot. It was bigger than the one I had seen in the house but equally as deformed. The more I looked the more I saw giant veg.
Suddenly I remembered my phone and held it up. A single solitary bar lit up and the carriers logo flashed in the corner.
I raced back outside, opened Snapchat, snapped a picture of the house and wrote a quick note. Not dead, please find me. And hit send, it didn’t go through. The distant sound of a car made my heart race. Anxiety nearly strangled me. Somehow I managed to pull myself together and raced back over to the greenhouse. I didn’t have a choice. I had to do it even if the price was getting caught.
I placed the phone under a large leak in the furthest corner and stumbled back outside. The car was getting closer. I didn’t know if Martha had neighbours but I highly doubted it. I raced forwards again as fast as my legs could carry me but halfway to the door I tripped and fell. Pain flared in my ankle again. I was sure it was broken.
Through gritted teeth, I rose and pushed on. I couldn’t afford to be caught outside. Especially if Martha found out I had found my phone and called for help.
Breathlessly I managed to get to the door and stumbled inside. The bubbling stew on the shove greeted me. The aroma was amazing. Again I found myself hungry beyond measure. Relief flooded me as I regained my chair. The crunch of wheels on gravelled snow sent my nerves up my back. The cold wash of anticipation, dread and guilt all playing their part in making me uncomfortable.
I rose quickly and began to stir the stew before Martha’s keen eyes spied through the window of the backdoor. I swallowed the fear and smiled.
“Good trip?” I asked.
Martha eyed me suspiciously, a bag of shopping in either hand. She pushed into the room, slamming closed the door with her foot and placed the bags on the table. My heart was in my throat. Without a word, she darted out into the other room. My hands grew slick with sweat as I waited. My heart pounded in my ears.
I heard the shuffle of feet and turned back to the stew as if nothing was a miss. Martha came beside me and turned my chin.
“How do ye feel?” She asked, her eyes searched my face for a reaction.
“Tired,” I said, the ladle in my hands almost forgotten. “But I have to stay awake to watch my brothers and not to let the stew burn.
Martha’s face twisted from a scroll to a smile. The dimples in her cheeks returning. I smiled weakly and fainted a yawn. Martha clicked her tongue and bustled around the shopping.
“I don’t know if ye liked the dark chocolate I got ye last time, but I got some again…”
Chocolate? I thought.
“I also got some harelip tarts! They’re old Murphy’s recipes,” she said rubbing her belly. “I know how much you like them.”
I let her ramble as I thought about the possibility of escaping this place. My thoughts were interrupted by silence. My daydream popped. Martha stood, hands-on-hips, glaring at me with a savagery I had only witnessed on my first night here.
Martha’s eyes flicked from my face to my legs and back again. I shifted my weight slightly so more was on my good foot, and looked down. I cussed under my breath. How could I have been so stupid?
“So, where were ye going?” Martha came to stand beside me. Her small build seemed to encompass me. I was like a tadpole in the Atlantic sea.
“I, uh - I was curious,” I said, hoping that my semi truth would register with her.
“Ye know what curiously managed to get herself into, don’t ye? Ye’ve been outside,” her eyes narrowed. “Have ye been trying to escape.”
I swallowed. “N-no!” I stammered. “I’ve saw -s-saw a rabbit. I, uh, thought I could capture it for dinner.”
I knew I was fucked. The lie was stupid. It may have worked on a ten-year-old but even I didn’t believe it.
Martha eyed me intently again. From the wet patches of snow on my legs to the dirty marks on my wrist and hands. I swallowed again.
Time stretched under her quizzical gaze. Then she burst out laughing.
“Ye catch a rabbit? On that leg?” Martha howled with laughter and I slowly joined in.
“Ah, that’s a good one my boy.” Her laughter died to a panting gaggle. “Ohhh, I needed that. Ye was always a joker.” Martha bustled around the kitchen pulling open drawers and cupboards to put stuff away. I continued to stir the stew.
“Where the hell?”
For the second time dread clamped down on my throat. I swallowed and glanced over my shoulder envisioning her standing by the last drawer.
Instead, Martha’s leaned over a bag on the counter, her hand fishing inside for something.
“I could’ve sworn I bought a leak? Can’t have rabbit stew without one. Oh well, I’ll just use the one I’ve got.”
I nodded dumbly and continued to stir and fake yawn. Martha brushed passed me, her musky scent cloying my nose. I followed her gaze as she reached for the outside door handle.
I froze.
Martha turned, her eyebrows thick and angled in indignation.
“What’s a matter with ye? Ye stupid boy,” she said, the door slightly ajar.
The cold air wafted in chilling the cold sweat on my forehead. I was sure I had a fever, but I didn’t want it to show. I had to think fast and the pain from my ankle wasn’t helping.
“I’m allergic to leeks,” I managed, hoping that my lie would seem genuine.
“Allergic? Since when?”
“Uh - that time last year, remember?” I crossed my fingers hoping that her delusions would aid in my lie. “You made leek and potato soup, and I was sick for a week.” I clenched my teeth and winched. Had I gone too far?
Martha’s eyes roamed around her head in thought. Those green orbs flickered to me and held me pinned to the spot. I was had. She knew I was lying. I could tell.
“Ok, then,” she said. I let go of my pent up breath. “No leek, but it will be a tad bland if ye ask me.”
Martha came over and took the ladle from my hands and shooed me away.
“Ye go and lay down, Ye don’t look too good,” she said, placing the back of her hand against my forehead. “Ye adventure has got ye a fever now,” she clicked her tongue. From her pocket, she produced three pink pills and popped them one by one into my mouth. Each time letting her finger slid in and out over my tongue.
“Can I have some water?”
“Swallow,” she said again.
I dry heaved and opened my mouth. The pills tucked securely in my cheeks like a squirrel.
Martha slapped me hard around the head. The concussion sent my eyes into spasm along with my mind. She grabbed my hair and forced my head to one side ramming a finger inside my mouth.
“Do ye think I’m stupid?” She asked, prizing a pill from its confines. “If that is? Ye think Mammy is a stupid woman that don’t know what’s best for her babies? Right? Isn’t it!” She yelled, lapping my face again.
Tears swam in my eyes as drool dripped from my open mouth to the floor. I sucked in a breath, trying to control my heartbeat. She knew. She knew everything. I was never getting out of here.
Martha’s heaves of anger slowed. I watched her go to the sink and fill a glass with water.
“Now, let’s try this again,” she said, holding out her palm
I reached down and picked a pill up and placed it in my mouth. Then I took the proffered water and swigged the pill down.
“Good,” she said watching me.
I took another and repeated the process, pop, swig, gulp. As the last went down, I could already fill the pull of the drugs. I knew why she was doing it, yes they helped with the pain, but they also made me compliant. My eyes began to close as the warmth of the pills and the darkness crept in. Martha’s face grew long, and rose as I fell to the floor.
Groggily, I cracked an eyelid. I was back on the couch. Martha was searching frantically around the room, upending cushions and pillow muttering under her breath. I closed my eyes again, diving back into the darkness.
Movement aroused me but I was too deep in my head to climb out. Somehow I knew it was the pills and at the same time, I knew I was being moved. I fought the darkness, trying to zone out everything but the scraping of loose gravel. I became aware of the cold biting at my face.
It took all my efforts to crack one eye, my lashes filled with snow inhibited my vision. Martha’s cruel twisted face was focused on something up ahead. Her snorts of breath clouded the air. I twisted as best I could to see where we were bound. I blinked away the snowflakes and saw the corner of the greenhouse.
Panic forced the drugs to retreat. More of my senses kicked in. The scraping amplified. The birds chirping in the trees screeched like banshees. The drone of engines shook my head.
“No,” I muttered, digging the fingers of my free hand into the gravelled path. Martha grunted at the sudden resistance and turn to see what had happened. Her surprised gaze left my gorging fingers and trailed to my face. I didn’t recognise the women who had held me captive for over a week.
Martha’s eyes were cruel and empty, those soft dimples in her cheeks were gone, instead, they were hitched up as she bared her yellow teeth in a snare. My eyes caught the flash of steel as it rose and fell with each stride. The blade swished at her side as she struggled to pull me along.
“No,” I said more forcefully
“Don’t ye no me, ye bloody git! It’s all ye fault! It always has been! If it weren’t for ye, ye father would still be around, ye - ye - damned demon! Ye was too much for even him to handle. Bloody deformity.”
She let me go. The back of my head smashed into the gravel path and I momentarily saw stars. Martha looked around wildly, a worried expression on her face. The sounds of cars were almost upon us. I shuffled backwards on my arms, the pain in my ankle flared again so much that it took my breath away.
Martha looked back down at me as if she had forgotten about me. She snarled and brought the cleaver up and over her head.
“It’s ye fault!” She screamed, swinging the blade toward my head.
I kicked out with my good foot and caught her knee. It wasn’t much but it was enough to knock her off balance. I felt the passing air from the cleaver as it missed by millimetres. The momentum of her swing made Martha overextend and tumbled by my side. I didn’t have the strength to wrestle her but I did have enough to snatch the cleaver as it fell from her hands.
“Get the hell away from me!” I shouted, the roar of wind, adrenaline, and my own voice sounded in my ears. Anger welled inside me. All the pain she had put me through. The days missing my real family. They were all her fault. Martha rose slightly, blood leaking over her lip. She saw the cleaver, gazed back at my angry eyes and rolled away.
“Ye won’t hurt ye Mammy, will ye?” She asked, pushing herself up onto her knees.
I shuffled back some more as she kicked one leg under her to rise.
“You’re not my Mammy,” I spat “Don’t move! I swear I’ll use this.”
I felt braver than I probably looked hefting the cleaver back over my shoulder, but it did the trick. Martha stopped, palms up facing me. I didn’t know if she knew I wouldn’t use it? I sure as hell hoped she didn’t because the anger wasn’t enough to hold my fear at bay. The drugs were slowly kicking back in and my hand was growing heavy. I heard the sound of snow being crunch by tires and began to scream for help. Martha looked quickly in the direction of a silver Ford, jumped to her feet and shot back into the house. Men piled from the car in thick winter clothes. Relief flooded my body, and I started to weep.
I was saved that day. The men were police officers. The snap I sent was enough for them to trace and rescue me. Martha was detained and taken for a psychological evaluation after my testimony. She was sent to a psychiatric hospital where she died three months later by suicide.
The house was sold to a young couple who started to renovate due to their first child fast approaching. When knocking down the greenhouse they found a single homemade headstone underneath. The police exhumed the unknown body.
The skeleton, identified to be a child of around thirteen to fourteen years old, was riddled with broken bones. The legs had been repeatedly broken and allowed to fuse back together causing them to be crooked. Likewise, the arms share similar defects. Only the deformity was a birth defect.
Across the shoulders, legs, arms and head were numerous chips and notches suggesting trauma infected by a heavy pole or stick. The child had been repeatedly beaten. Heaven knows what other injuries the child suffered at the hands of his mother. Martha’s child was never registered. With a home birth and being far out in the Welsh countryside the birth of her child easily went unnoticed. Perhaps that was why the death was never caught.
I went to the psychiatric hospital to see Martha a few days before she died. I didn’t really know why I had to go? Maybe it was the morbid curiosity of seeing the women getting help? Or, in reality, it was more to do with seeing her suffering in a place she deserved? However, I did thank her for saving me, and she did save me. It may have been the tiniest of a coincidence that did the saving, but I could have died out in the snow.
The doctors said she often bundled clothing together and spoke to them as if alive. There were always five. Jacob, the carrot, Veronica the parsnip, Trevor the marrow and Claire the broccoli. I’ve been thinking about the fifth a lot.
The name on the headstone was Jordan, my name. That was the coincidence that saved my life. I know Martha would have transgressed back to the event that would have triggered her to kill me. That I have no doubt. But, she did save me, and for that, I’m always thankful.
Despite a thorough search of the Llyod estate, no other bodies have ever been found.
submitted by granthinton to nosleep