3 of 5 stars.
A psychological ghost tale presents itself when First Mate Lanson of the Gloucester Maid finds himself the last survivor after 21 days adrift on the 19 ft. lifeboat. Over the previous days and weeks, he’s released his captain and other companions’ corpses back into the sea. Now, days beyond food and fresh water and the ship itself slowly sinking with 8 inches on the lower deck, Lanson fights to discern real from hallucination.
Rescue comes in the form of the Flying Dutchman, centuries past its own expiration date. The ghostly crew lack facial features, though Lanson recognizes the deceased captain of the Gloucester Maid among its ranks. Only Captain Vanderbeck of the Dutchman has facial features, and he seems just as surprised to find a living soul on his ship as Lanson does in the deathly ones. The captain gives him rest and medicine before feting him and treating him to an even stranger visitor.
Captain Vanderbeck’s fate is chanced to throws of the dice every 7 years at the hands of the devil. And every year he loses and must serve the next stint on his eternal journey. Being a living soul, Lanson must take up the dice to roll whether he stays on the Dutchman to serve or returns to the sinking lifeboat. It’s a devil’s choice if ever there was one.
This tale is included in Writers of the Future: Volume 33, the anthology of winners of the contest by the same name started by Hubbard. This year’s anthology was edited by David Farland. I’ve previously read Hubbard’s “The Last Admiral” and “When Shadows Fall” included in prior contest anthologies.
[Check out my other reviews here.]