He awoke with a scream. Another nightmare. In this one, he watched three men take turns raping his wife. There was nothing he could do; he was as a ghost, invisible and impotent. His wife continued to scream his name until one of them men took a dagger out of his belt. He could only watch as the dagger plunged into his wife’s neck. He awoke with her eyes staring at him, still pleading for him to save her.
He sat up in bed, feeling the reassuring motion of the freighter bouncing on the Atlantic waves. Ever since leaving Alexandria, the dreams had plagued him. He’d never suffered from nightmares like this, not even as a boy. Now every time he closed his eyes, he woke up drenched in sweat, seeing his wife’s dead eyes.
Only tonight it was different. Tonight as he sat in bed, cold sweat dripping into his sheets, he heard a voice. “You can avenge them. You can make them pay,” the voice hissed.
“Who are you?” he shouted into the darkness.
“I am the one who can help you.”
He got to his feet, throwing open the closet doors of his stateroom. He tore out the clothes and his few other possessions, finding no one inside. Then he went to his porthole, trying to open it. The window was locked. He unlocked it and then stuck his head outside, seeing nothing but the dark waves and the side of the ship.
“Show yourself,” he said.
“I will. You only have to follow my voice.”
The captain hastily donned a shirt and pants. Before leaving, he opened the drawer of his nightstand. He took out the 9mm Beretta he kept there in case of emergencies. If someone was playing a trick on him, they were going to get a very nasty surprise.
Once in the corridor, the voice said, “Turn to your right. Go to the cargo hold. That is where you will find me.”
He did as the voice commanded, going to his right and then climbing down the ladder through the bowels of the ship until he reached the bottom of the main cargo hold. Shipping containers of various colors surrounded him, most having been loaded at Marseilles while a few came from Alexandria, from where they had started out, and where the nightmares had begun. “Now will you show yourself?”
“I am in one of these containers. Follow my voice.”
“I am too old for games, demon. Show yourself!”
“Find the container. Then I will show you how to avenge your wife.”
“What do you know of my wife?”
“I know what they did to her.” To emphasize this point, the captain saw the scene from his nightmares play out in front of him. Except now he was awake. He took the pistol from his pocket, aiming it at one of the men raping his wife.
The bullet went right through the man’s neck to embed itself in one of the shipping containers. The man faded away, as did the others. Only his wife remained, still naked and bleeding from what they had done to her. “You must help me,” she said. “You must destroy these vermin. You must give me peace!”
“I tried my darling. I tried. There was nothing I could do!”
“There is still something you can do. You can avenge me.”
“Open the container,” his wife said, but with the demon’s voice.
He didn’t have the keys for the containers with him, which necessitated using a more primitive method. He found a crowbar hanging up and then battered at the lock while the ghost of his wife urged him on. The lock finally gave way, the doors of the container creaking open.
“Where are you?” he whispered into the dark container.
“In here,” the voice said. His wife’s ghost pointed to one of the containers, its label written in Arabic. It came from the National Museum in Cairo, along with the rest of the crates in this container. He remembered these because he had received strict instructions to make sure no harm came to these items, as they were valuable, irreplaceable antiquities.
With the crowbar he opened the crate his wife indicated. He had to push aside some packing material before he saw it. “This? This is it?” He turned to his wife’s ghost. “Why did you bring me here, demon?”
“Inside you will find what you seek.”
“What is that?”
“Justice,” the ghost said in his wife’s voice and the demon’s voice simultaneously.
The captain tucked the gun into his belt and then knelt beside the crate. He reached out cautiously to put a hand on the object, expecting it to be as hot as the flames of Hades. Instead, it was colder than ice.
The moment his hand touched the object, its surface came alive, revealing silver faces, all of these with the horns and pointed teeth of demons he had seen in paintings. “You are a demon!” he shouted.
“I am the one who can give you what you’ve wanted for ten years now.” His wife put a hand on his shoulder, her skin just as cold as the object inside the crate. “How many nights have you wished you could have done something for me? Now you can.”
He stared back at the object with its demon faces. “At what price?” he said. “You would have me damn my soul for all eternity?”
“You would rather I continue to be damned?”
It was then that he looked into his wife’s eyes and saw they were completely black. Black as an angel of Hell’s. “You aren’t real,” he said. “You’re a trick.”
“The real trick is your conscience. You would truly deny your wife justice because of the doctrine of some book?”
“It’s not just a book. It’s holy law. The law my wife and I always followed.”
“And what good did that do for her? Your god failed to protect her. I can give you the power to avenge that. I can make you as a god among these mortals.”
The captain closed his eyes, praying to Allah for the strength to resist this demon’s temptation. As he did, he felt his wife’s cold cheek against his ear. Her voice hissed, “You must free me,” she said.
“Yes,” he said, looking up at her. “I will free you. I will free both of us.”
The captain got to his feet and then turned away from the cursed container. He heard his wife calling his name, but he ignored this. Instead, he stomped out of the cargo hold, down the corridors until he reached the engine room. The mechanic leaned in a chair against a console, a contraband magazine in his hands. He threw this aside as the captain entered. “Sir! What can I do—?”
The captain ignored him, heading for the boiler controls. “Sir, what are you doing?” the mechanic asked. That and any follow-up questions the captain answered by taking the pistol from his belt. He kept it trained on the mechanic with one hand as with the other he overrode the safety controls for the boilers.
“Get the others and abandon ship,” he said to the mechanic.
The captain fired a shot overhead, into the ceiling. “Do it!”
As the mechanic scurried away, the captain settled himself on the chair to wait. He continued to hear his wife calling his name, pleading with him to come back until the boilers finally exploded and the ship began a long descent to the bottom of the Atlantic.
“Now we will be together,” the captain whispered with his last breath.