As I approached the cabin a flickering candlelit strip cut across the dark corridor in front of me and I could see that the door was ajar. I stood silently for a moment and gazed through the gap. My heart was beating loudly in my ears and I hesitated. Raising my left hand I clenched a fist and made to knock on the dark oak panel facing me but before my knuckles could make contact the boat swayed and the door fell gently back on its hinges, accompanied by a low sea-sawing creak.
I looked in and cautiously crossed the threshold, searching for the occupant but noone was to be found.
Moving slowly to the bunk opposite I found the grimy bedclothes crumpled up in a heap against the wall and a battered leatherbound edition of the New Testament hanging precariously over the edge of the mattress. Bending to pick it up I noticed the sheet was still warm.
Closing the Bible I placed it on the shelf above underneath the porthole.
Of the assortment of similarly bound books already there, the gold leaf emblazoned spines revealed them to range from novels by Jules Verne and H P Lovecraft to a number of heavier tomes concerning topics as varied as astrology, ancient tribal legends and modern occultism. However several had no markings at all.
Turning from the shelf I crossed to the flickering candle on the table at the foot of the bunk. Although the candle’s wick was almost done the room was also bathed in the strange blue moonlight reflecting in through the open porthole from the still ocean outside.
I then noticed the upturned wooden chair and, picking it up, sat to survey the table’s contents.
The candlestick’s thick wax ran down its sides and onto the corner of a large nautical map that that covered the entire surface.
Smaller charts were dotted around on top of it including two star maps held down by a volume of tide forecasts, but there were several whose contents I could not decipher. One, which sat next to another of the large unmarked books, was held down underneath an old jam jar whose contents I could only make out to be a noxious mix of whisky and rum.
Lifting the sheet I marvelled at the strange assortment of runes and hieroglyphs and then noticed that on the last line the ink was still wet.
Although I had heard no sound of a wind picking up or engines starting, the calm silence was suddenly broken by the boat’s hull letting out a low moan and a marked increase in its, until then, gentle rocking.
Jumping up I went for the porthole but was thrown back against the edge of the door as the boat rocked violently.
The last thing I recall before losing consciousness was the sound of an almighty eruption of water off starboard and a huge wet leather thump on the bow deck.