Morris House was quiet that evening. Daniel Morris examined the paper close to the fire, reading with concerned eyes. A tale of evil was plastered across the page, describing the deaths at Bennet Manor in another part of the country. By the end of the paper, once he learned all the servants at the Manor had been executed, Daniel shook his head and threw the paper into the fire.
“Dear, why are you still up?” Jane Morris murmured from the dark, wearing her a flowing gown. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, it’s nothing!” Daniel snapped. “Why do you insist on wearing that thing? You look like the Lost Bride when you drift in here!”
Jane scowled across the room, the daggers from her eyes piercing Daniel’s, but she said nothing in reply. Daniel watched as his wife’s dress flowed as she retreated to her bedroom. As she left, silence returned and Daniel calmed with it. Grimacing at the thought of himself, Daniel decided to warm himself beside another hearth.
Collecting his coat, Daniel ventured into the night, cursing his name and those associated with it.
“If I didn’t get it from my father, I got it from my mother,” Daniel spat. “If not the pair of them, then the witches of hell that I call my sisters! You are the ones who drove me to madness and even in peace, I find myself suffering. If any of you were alive...you would surely seek to prolong my suffering and take away all which does make life bearable.”
A thought Daniel hated, but it was true. Even in death, his family haunted him in memory and in life. The house was left to him, with not a single penny to maintain it. A wife, presented by his own mother to wed and love for a bitter eternity. Even the face he wore was not his own, as he bore an extraordinary likeness to his father.
Whatever was truly Daniels was not worth mentioning. Instead, if he could not find peace with himself, he would find peace as someone else. Daniel’s eyes widened as the thought crossed his mind, so it returned and in full-force. With the illogic thoughts that one inherits from the darkest time of night, Mr Daniel Morris began to fade and a new persona began to take control.
Daniel’s steps were smoother, as his stride grew confident. The smile upon his face was twisted, as his muscles fought to smile in a way he never did. From the way Daniel held himself to the way he studied every individual that passed him, he became less himself.
And very soon, he lost himself to a new spirit.
“Are you sure?” Jane Morris asked. “I mean, it’s rather odd for the two of us to be at sea again. I still have no idea how to swim!”
“The captain assures me that it will be calm, my love,” Daniel kissed her forehead. “I think it's time we took advantage of all the time we have now in our old age to reconnect. What place is better than where we first met?”
Jane smiled softly at the thought of Daniel in his sailor’s uniform. The thought of how tall he was back then, how strong. The feeling of being wrapped in his then lifted and carried. Sharing smiles constantly. Yet, that was a different time, when they were different people. The smile disappeared and Jane eyed her aged husband.
Jane Morris wanted to go home.
The captain of the Sanguine Finch greeted the passengers as they boarded. People of all ages, but Jane and Daniel Morris were by far the oldest. Their pale complexions, their deep wrinkles and white hair set them out clearly amongst the rest of the passengers.
Although, the captain had to admire the way Daniel carried himself. He stood tall, chest out and almost seemed to march. Even his commanding officer didn’t show such vigour and strength in his demeanour upon reaching such an age.
“Good to have you, Mr and Mrs Morris,” the captain greeted. “I must say, Mr Morris, you appear in great spirits.”
“It’s a fine day to be at sea, captain,” Daniel saluted casually. “Tell me, would you mind giving an old sailor a tour of the helm?”
“No, not at all,” the captain replied, pleasantly surprised. “We can discuss it further once everyone’s aboard.”
Daniel nodded smartly and marched on up the gang-plank with his wife’s arm hooked around his. Jane still studied her husband with curiosity, but even she was affected by his positive energy. Soon, at dinner, she would write it off as a change in heart. A side of her husband she had not seen since their marriage began and upon further thought, she found herself the smaller person for not replying in kind.
“Darling, do you mind if I join the captain?” Daniel asked Jane.
“O-oh, please, don’t let me keep you,” Jane smiled awkwardly. “Have fun!”
Watching Daniel walk away left Jane feeling saddened, another situation she remembered fondly from her younger days. It was overpowering her to such an extent, she couldn’t stand to be in the dining area any longer. Instead of joining the droves of people retiring to their rooms, she decided to stay out in the night air. With a light heart, Jade Morris looked out at the dark sea.
A relaxing moment disturbed by the deep sigh beside Jane. Many thoughts crossed her mind and none of them was pleasant. For a moment she thought it a snake or perhaps steam escaping some pipe. Yet, she found only her husband looking tired and upset.
“Daniel? What’s wrong?”
“It appears the captain has taken ill, the tour was cut short.”
“It’s a shame, but I am sure you will have another chance next time. When do we return?”
“The ship docks at eight. Come, let’s wait in our cabin until-”
“It must be nearing eight, why isn’t the captain heading to shore?”
“The captain knows what he is doing.”
“Well, you’ve sailed, what is he-”
Jane’s questions began to unravel the mask. In the cool light, Daniel Morris's face did not appear to be his own. He stared wide-eyed, youthful and angry. It was a flash of wrath, but in a flicker, it disappeared and the calm nature of her husband returned. However, that moment was enough for Jane to hesitate and once more when Daniel stepped closer.
“Jane, what’s-” Daniel began, but her eyes showed nothing but fear.
That fear alone gave the entity a joy it relished. A fear that it had seen moments earlier when it demonstrated its will on the captain. A fear that fuelled it to demonstrate more as it reached into its pocket and drew a dining knife.
“‘...believed to have drifted off to sea or sunk in a storm, the search for the Sanguine Finch was called off on the 12th of July.’ It’s a shame, Finch was always packed with people.”
“I’d say it was the captain.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know, the captain. He must have done it, wiped ‘em all out in one fell swoop!”
“Show some respect, I knew the guy.”
“Same here. He was a good man, a strong man. Even during the war, he was calm and as steady as his sailing. I tell, if there was foul play, someone else did it.”
“I can believe that.”
“Hey, hey! Why does someone have to be a killer? It could have been an accident, a tragedy.”
“Well, why not a killer? It’s fun to think that something scary happened out there. The best stories are exaggerated anyway. Let’s...hey, listen to this...”
Those that didn’t gather around still listened as the man spoke. Taking in every detail of the story he began to weave and despite its impossibilities, they continued to listen and imagine.