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September 2007

September 2007 -- Pirates

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    Caring for Your Art
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  • Fiction: The Broadsheet
  • Poem: Pirate Ambush
  • Fiction: Pi-Rats

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  • Pi-Rats
    by Shannon Wolff

    "This is the last time I test a virtual reality program for Uncle Donnie," I vowed and continued to pick the lock on the cell door, cursing myself for being stupid enough to agree in the first place.

    Sure, it had sounded like fun when Donnie asked me to test the new virtual reality game he was working on. All I had to do was get the treasure map from the crew of pirate rats, and bam, my work here was done. But- MY WAY OUT OF THIS DUMB GAME WAS WRITTEN ON THAT MAP! Without it, I was stuck here. Donnie forgot to mention that.

    I know what you're probably thinking: How hard could it be to get a map from a bunch of rats? The answer: Hard. So far I'd been caught a dozen times and thrown into the brig -- sorry, 'mouse trap' -- each time. Plus, I didn't know how many more bad jokes I could take. Never mind the fact I was up against a crew of seafaring rodents. Their captain was named Cheesebeard! I was up against the dreaded Captain Cheesebeard. What kind of name is that? Okay, I guess, if you're a six foot tall piratical mouse.

    "Finally," I muttered as the door gave way with a rodent-like squeak. "Thought I'd never get out of there," I added in a huff as I brushed some sawdust off my jeans. The wood shavings in the brig weren't that bad, but Donnie really went too far with the exercise wheel. "Okay, the secret passage should be right about here. Whoever heard of a secret passageway on a ship?"

    As I continued mumbling things I shouldn't let my mother know I say, I slid aside a wooden panel to reveal a ladder, which, as I already knew from my last escape, led to the galley. Once there my only immediate worry would be making sure the cook was elsewhere when I climbed out of the wall. I also learned that from my last attempt.

    "And the bad jokes continue." I sighed once I'd confirmed that the galley was deserted and exited the passageway. "Rodent feed pellets and cheese, how creative."

    I didn't have long to critique Donnie's work. No sooner had I kicked a bag of rodent chow than I heard someone humming off key. And that could only mean one thing: I had to get out of there, fast. I raced to the shelves on the back wall and scrambled up to a hole in the ceiling (another past-escape-attempt discovery) and hoisted myself through as the cook ambled into the room.

    Breathing a slight sigh of relief, I glanced down to make sure 'Cookie' hadn't seen me. It only took me a moment to be reassured the rat setting to work below hadn't noticed anything. (Did I mention Cookie isn't the brightest rat to ever scurry through a maze?) At any rate, I'd escaped detection and now found myself in what I could only assume Donnie meant to be crew quarters. I think the hammocks gave me that idea, then again it could have been the giant water bottle hanging on the wall, but I really didn't have time to wonder just then. I had to get to the captain's quarters.

    I really had no idea where else that stupid map could be. The opening of the game was me being captured by these flee-bitten pirates and Cheesebeard personally taking the map from me. In light of that, the map had to be in the captain's quarters. That is, unless Cheesebeard still had it with him.

    I tried not to think about that as I made my way across the room. Even if Cheesebeard did have the map on him I should still head for the captain's quarters. He'd be bound to show up there sooner or later. My best bet for getting out of this dumb game was to head there, a fact I reminded myself of as I reached the door and opened it just enough for me to see if the outside corridor was empty. (Learned that one from escape attempt number four.)

    "So far so good," I whispered as I slipped into the corridor and double checked to make sure I was alone.

    Other than the door I'd just come though, I had four paths I could take. I could follow the hall, but I knew that only lead back down to the galley, brig, and storage areas. And I would almost definitely meet some of the crew on my way back, as I learned from escapes two and seven. I also knew that the door on my right lead to the officers' quarters, as escape attempt number nine had taught me, and that the ship's second officer was confined to his bunk with a terrible stomach ache. I thought about taking the door in front of me, which lead to the armory, but decided against it as I had no idea how to fight with a sword and Donnie hadn't thought to include any pistols.

    "Guess that leaves up." I sighed and looked towards yet another ladder.

    No sooner had I started for the ladder than I heard two pi-rats making their way down. My breath caught in my throat as I realized I only had seconds to hide. My eyes darted around franticly, but the hall was empty. I threw myself behind the mast, the only thing in the hall, moments before I would have been seen. Still, this didn't look good. The rats were headed my way.

    Just as I was about to write this off as failed escape number thirteen, I glanced up and saw a hole in the ceiling where some boards next to the mast had been broken. Realizing my only chance was to get through that hole I poured all my strength into climbing the mast, pulling myself through as the rats' voices passed below. I swallowed back a lump in my throat as I looked around and realized I had no idea where I was.

    Forcing myself to breath normally, I looked around the dimly lit room. A sputtering oil lamp cast ominous shadows that moved as the ship rocked, but near as I could tell the only things in the room were dark, canvas draped objects. Thinking I must have stumbled into a storage room of some kind, I got to my feet and started looking for a door. I'd thought all the storage areas were at the end of that hall, but apparently Donnie had snuck another one in. Mentally adding that to the growing list of things to yell at him about when I finally got out of this thing, I found a door. Holding back a sigh of relief, I reached for the knob.

    "Arr, I wouldn't be doin' that if I were you, Matie," scoffed a voice behind me.

    I froze in my tracks as my blood turned to ice. Slowly I turned around and soon came face to face with the dreaded Captain Cheesebeard; he must have been hiding in the shadows waiting for me.

    "What are you doing here?" I gasped as I backed into the door.

    "I hear you haven't been very appreciative of my hospitality. With how often ya be escaping there be only one thing ye could want. The map." Cheesebeard chuckled as a fat fly landed on his shoulder and waited to be fed. "There must be treasure at the end of this map and I aim to find it," he added as he took something unidentifiable from his coat and fed it to the fly. "Now what ye be doing in me quarters?"

    My jaw dropped. This dump is the captain's quarters? Well, he is a rat so maybe he likes it this way.

    "I-I was hoping to get the map back so I can go home." I stammered, unable to lie at the moment.

    "Then, Matie, we have a problem."

    Cheesebeard chuckled again as he lumbered towards me, his eyes catching the dim light in the room and glowing blood red as he drew closer. I swallowed hard as he leaned over me, my eyes watering at his rancid breath. Suddenly I doubted he would simply send be back to the mouse trap. I cringed as he reached for me, my mind racing with all the horrible things he could do.

    Then I saw it. Tucked in his belt was the map! I didn't need long with it, just enough time to find out how to get out of here.

    Before a plan could form in my mind I reached out and snatched the map from Cheesebeard's belt and nearly tore the door off its hinges opening it. I raced onto deck only to be greeted by a dozen pi-rats, all with their swords pointing at me.

    "That be yer last mistake." Cheesebeard chuckled as he moved to snatch the map from my hands, only to scowl when I moved back, flinching as the points of three swords poked me in the back.

    "Maybe we can strike a deal," I started, my mouth speaking before my mind could think. "You see, I don't want to keep the map. I just need to look at it, then it's all yours."

    The rats found my suggestion hilarious, a fact I was made acutely aware of as those swords at my back jiggled with laughter. Cheesebeard, however, looked somewhat less then amused.

    "Yer orders, Captain?" The first mate asked in a raspy voice.

    "Our guest wants to look over the map, Mister Hairball. I say we let her." Cheesebeard smirked and gave me a look that made my skin crawl. "We'll consider it a last request."

    Last request? I didn't like the way that sounded, I guessed they'd gotten tired of me escaping. Forcing any thought of what they had in mind aside for the moment I unrolled the map and hoped all I had to do was click my heels together three times. Once again, I proved not to be that lucky.

    The map said nothing about going home! It was just a bunch of cheat codes made up to look like a map. I could have used most of them a dozen escape attempts ago, but now they weren't very helpful.

    "I think we've humored our guest long enough," Cheesebeard snapped and snatched the map out of my hands. "Make her walk da plank, boys!"

    I cried out as two burly pi-rats grabbed my arms and started dragging me towards the side of the ship while their crewmates laughed. My mind raced as I struggled uselessly to free myself. What would happen to me if they made me walk the plank? It was just a game, so I couldn't drown, but how would I get home? Just when I was about to give myself up for lost, one of those cheat codes jumped to the front of my mind. It seemed like a long shot, but I had to try something.

    "Avast ye scurvy rats!" I screamed at the top of my voice.

    The words had barely left my lips when I fell back onto the deck. Swallowing back the lump in my throat I sat up and looked around only to find myself surrounded by a dozen normal sized rats. Guess my long shot paid off.

    I wasted no time in snatching up the map, hoping I'd overlooked something before. The only things on the map now were the words "X marks the spot." What kind of lame clue was that? Then it dawned on me, there was only one place Donnie would put the way out of this dumb game.

    I raced to the end of the plank and looked down. Sure enough, a big white X graced the water below. Reminding myself never to test a program for Donnie again, I took a deep breath and walked off the plank.

    Shannon Wolff was born in Alaska and grew up in a little town called North Pole. This fact has lead every one of her relatives not familiar with Alaska, and complete strangers, to ask if she knows Santa Claus. She now resides in Cartersville, Georgia and is having mixed results with informing her new neighbors about her previous residence.
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