Time will tell - Part 1
"Har! Har!" he yelled wielding his sword. "Give me all your cookies or you shall walk the plank matey."
"Oh Come on. I don't have time for this." his mother replied. "And I don't like the pirate thing. You know that." She never did.
It all started when he found the book 'Treasure Island' in his father's library. And ever since then his mother was building more and more distance between them. His dad had to explain to him it was because of her father and grandfather. Both were captains of their own ship on the river Weser in Germany. And both died, sinking with their ships.
But it made the subject even more alluring to Daniel. “Were there pirates on the Weser?” he would ask his father. But of course, there were none. It's just a normal river, used mostly to transport goods from the ports deep into the country.
"Junior" his father called for him. "Come on. I still have to do a few and you can help me."
"Ah," Daniel sighed. "Do I have to?"
His father was the graveyard’s groundskeeper. His job was to take care of the graves no one else was left to take care of and to tend to the graveyard and the church's garden.
"You don't have to but at least come along and leave your mother alone, she has to work" his father said.
So they went to the graveyard and, while his father was doing his work, he spent his time sketching drawings of the headstones. Daniel was fascinated by them. Different fonts, sculpture-like engravings, and the dates of course. How come some people lived longer than others?
Even though he was only nine years old, he already knew all the roman numerals and how to read them. His father taught him to keep him busy while he was taking care of those graves.
There were still many stones he did not sketch yet, especially around the church, and among them one caught his eye. It was an old one, very old. The engravings on the sandstone had become victims of the elements a long time ago. So Daniel decided to take an imprint. This old pencil trick could sometimes reveal things lost in the light of day withered away by rain and storm.
"Dad, this one is weird" he said.
"It's a big stone but the person only lived for 10 days"
"Might be a mistake." his dad tried to explain. Even though his voice was skeptical. "Don't worry about it"
"Dad, it says the year was MDLXXXII. That's 1582, right?" Daniel asked.
"Correct. So it's very old. The bigger question would be why it's still here. But that's not our problem. Our problem is to make sure they all are taken care of." his father said. He seemed urgent.
Daniel was still staring at the headstone, admiring the engraved symbols barely visible after all this time. Then he looked at his watch.
"Hey, today is the 5th" he noticed.
"Yes, it is. Now come on, I still have work to do and if you're not helping then at least let me do it. Sketch some of the newer ones, they are more beautiful and your talent won't be wasted on such an old thing there."
"Dad, this person was born on the 5th of 1582 and died on the 14th"
"Daniel, I don't have time for that. Now come."
Daniel gave up arguing with his father and followed him.
But the mystery of this headstone would be in his head for the rest of the day.
He spent the evening sitting at his desk at the window and trying to decipher the imprint he took from the stone. The date was still clearly visible but the symbols intrigued him. What were they? His parents sent him to bed but he could not sleep.
When he was sure they were asleep he got up again, sat back at his desk with a flashlight and started connecting and tracing the residue spots like a connect-the-dots he drew when he was five. Did it make sense?
Over and over again he erased his tracings for a new beginning. Time went by while the clouds started to come together. The first flash of the thunderstorm made him look up again. More lightning followed by loud thunder. His parents might wake up from this sound. He had to turn off the flashlight. With another flash of lightning, he thought he saw people outside, walking along the street.
He pressed his hands against the window to take a better look. Yes, there were people walking down the road and they were carrying something. Three or four of them pulled a huge trunk up the street. Daniel grabbed the spying glass from the shelf. 'Luck be a pirate tonight' he thought and took a closer look at was going on.
Those people were walking down the street, all dressed in black clothes wearing wide hats carrying a trunk and there was a giant dragon seal visible on it. He lowered the spying glass, lowered his head, and noticed the drawing. A few more strokes with his pencil and it was done. A Dragon. Just like the one on the trunk. There must be a connection.
He took another look with the spying glass. The people were gone. How was this possible? The way they had to strive to carry it, it must have been really heavy. They could not have gone far.
Daniel decided to put on his jacket and sneak out. He had to see what was going on. What was the connection to the headstone, if there was any? The lights in the house were all still out, his parents didn't seem to have been awakened by the storm.
He put his drawing and his flashlight in his pocket and went on the street in front of the house. Another flash of lightning allowed him to see for a brief moment. Two more lit up the night for a fraction of a second. There they were, those figures that were in the side road towards the church.
They were slow, still carrying the trunk, so Daniel was able to sneak up on them. They either did not speak to each other or, he could not hear it with all the rain and stormy weather being louder than their voices.
Daniel followed them, hiding behind the bushes and fences along the way, towards the graveyard. The rain was getting lighter and the lightning less frequent. When they reached the graveyard, the rain had stopped. Yes, it seemed they were heading for the headstone that caught Daniel’s attention earlier that day. But the grave was opened. At least the big pile of dirt next to it suggested it.
The men still had not noticed Daniel, or so it seemed to him, when they reached the opened grave. He decided to use the other headstones as cover while trying to get closer. But that also meant he lost sight on them while hiding between his jumps. When he glimpsed around the stone, behind which he was hiding, there was no sight of them anymore.
Where had they gone? And where is the trunk? Did they put it into the grave? Daniel had to see for himself, he had to get closer. He slowly crouched over to the hole in the ground and looked inside. Was the trunk down there? After he took a look around to make sure no one else was there he dared using the flashlight to have a look. Yes, the trunk was down there. It was open and … empty.
“There ya arr” he heard a loud deep voice behind him. Daniel turned around in surprise. He lost his standing, the earth on the edge to the grave loosened and he fell into the trunk in the grave.
He must have lost consciousness. It was pitch dark when he awoke. Moving his hands around, he tried to find out were he was. Was he still in the trunk? Did someone close it? The time for stealth was gone. “Help!” he yelled. “Help!” he screamed several times, banging his fists against the closed lid.
The trunk was moved. Lifted up, it seemed. Being trapped in a trunk scared him but at least he was not buried alive.
The trunk was put down, someone opened the lid. The bright daylight hurt his eyes, it was not night anymore.
“Hey, boss. There’s a young one inside.” He heard a bright, almost squeaky voice.
“Let me out!” Daniel yelled and tried climbing out of the trunk.
“What ya say?” a loud deep voice was raised in anger. It sounded like the man that suddenly lurked behind him in the night. Daniel tried looking towards that voice but his eyes were still hurt.
“Blimey, there’s a kid inside, captain.” Said another man and Daniel was pushed inside the trunk again.
“Let’s cut his throat!” the squeaky voice added. “Dead kids tell no tales, aye?”
“No! Help!” Daniel yelled, trying to fight off the hands that were still trying to push him back into the trunk.
Headstone: Picture taken by me, manipulated with inkscape
Divider designed with Canva