“You do not have enough.”
“What? That’s plenty! I brought more than needed, there’s enough there for fifteen people and we only have twelve!”
“It is not enough.”
“What else do you want?”
“One of you.”
“You can’t have one of us. That is completely out of the question.”
“One of you, or you all die.”
Daniel put his head in his hands, “How long do we have?”
“Three hours. If we do not receive payment you will all die.”
Daniel watched as it stood, then left the room, not needing to open the door, just sliding right through. He pulled out his phone and started dialling frantically, the prices had changed, when? Why was he not informed? This had to be some kind of underling trying to pull a fast one on him, it had to be.
“They’re saying I don’t have enough.”
“The prices went up.”
“What? When? I checked just before we left and we were fine, the treaty clearly states that the what ever price is there when the ships leave port is the one that is valid for that ships journey. We have more than enough.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. Really there’s nothing stopping them from just killing you all. Take the deal.”
Daniel made a few more calls, every conversation as the same. Take the deal and be thankful it was offered. He hung up the phone and sat for a moment, trying to think, to figure out a way out of this mess. He couldn’t just decide for the crew, that wouldn’t be fair. The passengers all paid for safe voyage, they couldn’t be chosen. Even if he did choose one of them once word got out his business would be ruined. As it was he would be lucky if the crew didn’t jump ship once they arrived. He looked at his watch, half an hour had passed. He stood from the table and left the room.
“They’re saying we don’t have enough.”
“So what does that mean?”
“They want someone, one of the crew or they’ll kill everyone on board.”
Everyone started talking at once, Daniel banged on the table for silence.
“We don’t have much time here, we need to figure this out.”
“We’ll draw lots. It’s the only fair way.”
“What about those that are necessary? Some of us are vital to keep the ship running.”
“Oh, of course you would say that, the engines will survive a few days without you.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Yeah. Sure. Everyone here is vital to keep the ship running, but it will keep going fine until we make port.”
“She’s right, none of us are that important. The ship will make it if any one of us is gone. Everyone has enough basic training to figure out something if there are any emergencies.”
Everyone fell silent. Daniel looked at them all, a lottery would be the fairest way to decide, much better than having everyone vote. He looked down at the table, it was his fault they were in this mess, even if the prices had changed mid journey, he should have had enough for them all twice over. He was just being sloppy.
“I’ll do it.” No one spoke, “It’s my fault we’re in this mess. I’ll get us out of it.” Daniel stood from the table, “Make sure this ship gets there safely. The company will go to Jeremy. Everything should be in order.”
Daniel left the room, no one said anything, no one tried to stop him, he didn’t blame them.
He entered the room and closed the door behind himself, “I have decided.”
It walked through the wall and stood before him, grinning, almost leering. “And who will be sacrificed?”
It nodded, “Are you ready?”
“Yes. I think so.”
It reached out for him, long claws gently caressing his cheek, Daniel didn’t flinch, but he waited for the pain. It didn’t come. A coldness came over him, he started to shiver violently, after a second it stopped.
It shook its head, still grinning, “The change will come in time. The call will come too and you will answer. You will not be able to stay away. We look forward to you joining us brother.” It turned and left the room, leaving Daniel alone. He reached up and felt along his cheek, expecting to feel a wound, or a mark, but there was nothing. He had never heard of something like this, the toll was paid or everyone was killed, but never had they let someone go.
He left the room feeling shaky, everyone was still sitting in the meeting room, when he entered they all stood up, “What happened?”
“Are you ok?”
“are…are they going to kill us?”
“No, it’s fine. It was weird it” Daniel stopped talking, it felt as though his tongue was too big for his mouth, “They said there was a mistake. They were wrong and we had enough.” He felt a shiver race across his back. He could feel the tension in the air dissolving as everyone relaxed. “We’ll be getting underway soon, everyone get ready.”
Daniel turned and left the room before anyone had a chance to speak to him, he didn’t want to talk to anyone, he needed some time to be alone, to think. In his office he deleted the message he recorded for Jeremy before he could think about it. He had told him everything that needed to be said, apologising for the choice he made, begging for forgiveness. That didn’t matter now. He was alive. He looked out the window into the darkness, his stomach clenched, he felt a deep longing to be outside in the coldness, in the dark. He turned himself away from the window and just as quickly as the feeling came it went. He shook his head, he was fine. What ever that thing had said to him, what ever it had done to him, it was just messing with his head. They were cruel things, sadistic. What ever those feelings were they weren’t real. He was alive, that was important. He felt a faint tugging at him, a need to turn and look out that window. He took a deep breath and without turning Daniel left the room, and the window, behind.