26/01/2016 by paulinebsc
The ship on which the divers were working had sunk in the Morava River hundreds of years ago. Theirs was the second team of archaeologists sent to investigate the wreck. The other had vanished without trace, but with the exception of an over-superstitious first mate the crew were not concerned by this. Accidents happened.
Ctibor and Kamil had managed to penetrate the gloom of the well-preserved wreck to get important film of the condition of its outside before venturing inside. Inside it was much as you’d expect following a shipwreck – a jumble of assorted artefacts. Ctibor took pictures of the main hold as Kamil peered through doorways.
Kamil followed when Ctibor indicated a find with a grin on his face and an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ gesture. Neatly stacked on shelves, as if they were newly put there, was a group of beautiful porcelain cups with lids. Unlike the rest of the ship they appeared almost new, with no sign of aging or sea-weed. The two divers looked at each other with delighted surprise.
Up on deck the captain was staring into at a monitor which showed what was happening below when his first mate tapped his shoulder.
‘Sir, there’s a man coming this way.’
I was spotted. I was a long way from any village so they were noticeably wary. I could understand that, but I can be charming when I want to be.
‘Who are you, and what do you want?’ The captain’s voice wasn’t friendly.
‘Hans Vodeneek’ I answered veering only slightly from the truth. I always have trouble making a good first impression. I swear I shave every day, but you would never know it to look at me half an hour later. Modern fashion isn’t a good look for me so my hair is still long, and more than a little straggly I try to hide it under a hat, which also hides its green colour, but my hat is as out-of-style as my hairstyle. My clothes have been stolen from clothes lines over many years, and I could never stop the back of my jacket from dripping. In short I look like a tramp. I hoped the green tinge to my skin would be blamed on reflection from the abundant trees overhead.
‘I’m here as a trader.’ I continued.
As I spoke I picked up my bag of cups and headed up the ladder they had helpfully lowered for me. The men gathered round as I took the cups out to display them, fingering them and looking them over. I had picked some of my best wares to bring for display, knowing people who could afford a boat like this had money, and I would need to impress them. I know how to play a mark. While the men were looking at the cups I glanced around the ship. The captain had kept to his post but the first mate had left the wheelhouse and was whispering to him, to my disgust I heard the word ‘Vodník.’ I hate superstitious people; they have a tendency to know their folklore. Luckily folklore only mentions swords or daggers. Vodníci have improved techniques. I drew out the Kalashnikov from its concealed pouch in my bag and before any of them had a chance to attack me, I had collected all their souls, and put them into cups and secured the lids in place securely. I try to have the most beautiful cups to keep my souls in and most of the crew were soon beautifully housed. However occasionally a pattern doesn’t work and the colours clash. I chose the ugliest for the first mate – he deserved nothing better.
I drew out my traditional dagger before sinking to the wreck with my bag. Ctibor and Kamil were collected with much more finesse. I could take my time, with them, just as I had with the first boat sent to investigate the wreck, before I sank it and towed it down river. With a bit of luck more archaeologists will come soon to look over the wreck and I don’t want to leave any clues as to their predecessor’s fate. Hopefully they won’t know anything about their country’s folklore. As I said before, I like to collect with care.
Global warming is gradually destroying ponds across the country and I had been forced to abandon my previous hiding place. The sunken ship was the perfect answer. It had room to display my growing collection, and shelves on which I could display them.
Some people collect old masters, some collect football stickers, some collect golfing memorabilia, why doesn’t a collector of souls have a fancy name like philatelist? Instead of being feared we should be admired for our dedication, don’t you think.
A Vodník is the Czech version of a Vodyanoy.