Drowned in Black


In 1862, James sailed the James blue. Aboard the CSS Jamestown, James Plumb and his crew voyaged with six others past the Union’s view. They captured three merchant vessels, turning the flags over with blatant heckles. They towed them to Norfolk, victory now built within the framework—a preemptive claim shared by the Confederate fame.

At the end of April, James met his first peril. Men fought on the frontline and died line by line.

In early May, James saw an awful display. He vowed to bring his brothers home to Richmond, but their deaths happened quick, unplanned.

As the middle of May came, James lost his acclaim. Unable to complete her mission, his beloved ship became an obstruction. She blocked the canal, and with her, James fell.

And so our story ends.

I jest. 

But oh that it had.

James was a splendidly bloated man and found himself floated from Richmond to Jamestown. Though Jamestown had been occupied since April, James was secure. And he could only attribute his survival to the beauty who revived him. For the water had done more than drenched him, he was stationed on the plank between life and death. As he’d lifted one leg to lower into the ventripotent waters, she’d sung his praises and lured his soul back.

If only our beauty had known the ilk of the man she saved.

Our beauty, miss Lorelily, tended to him but maintained her distance. As she should. Conversation on the mansion wherein her family resided, she carefully avoided, no matter his incessant begging for invitation within. She stood firm on the subject, and to avoid conflict—for that time—he relented.

Instead, he found his pleasure in her presence. He pried into her life, plying her with intimate questions to which she offered no reply. She artfully redirected him, blarneyed him into speaking only of himself. Of that, he had an uncanny talent; he held an audience, and she listened.

She was kind to him though he thought her misguided. She invested in every dramatic story with voracious interest. Tails of war had her exuberant, but the deaths of his brothers, his kin, barely ailed her. And though she resided in Jamestown, she hadn’t seen the war firsthand, she barely knew of it. Her only opinion was that war was a wasted effort.

How could she be so flippant?

Their people—the Confederate people—were fighting this war because…because their opinions were not being heard! Had she no loyalty to her southern roots? And that’s when ego-inflated James became suspicious. His family had its fair range of issues—from witchcraft to deviltry—but never once had they raised objection to the war. It was what had to be done, for the sake of all southern people. 

But she persisted.

She had principles, the gall.

So after a week of pleasantries, arguments bloomed. He was well, and she insisted he depart. But he would do no such thing. In these enemy-infested lands, he would ploy to free her. But first, he would meet the family she so desperately wanted to conceal. Was she wed? Was she hiding a gaggle of Union children born to a general? Was she of the Union herself?

His curiosity was piqued and repugnant. It drove him to infringement.

As he approached the house, tearing through brush and trees with vicious abandon, miss Lorelily let loose a pitiful cry. That cry was enough to gather her sisters at the front door. Two identically entrancing women stood on the perch. And into their arms, our Lorelily sought to rush. But James drug her back, his fingers tangled in her pinned curls.

James knew witches, these women couldn’t compare to his brothers. No, they were anything but. So what deviltry did they believe they could cast upon him? With a slick grin, he patted down his belt. Our guarded Lorelily hadn’t been cautious enough. James unsheathed his knife. He wasn’t much of a witch himself, but he knew enough to curse these women to the depths. Metal edge to our beauty’s increasingly verdant skin, James prepared the ritual he’d performed only once. 

In desperation, Lorelily’s amorous voice resounded through the thicket, even as his meaty fingers made to suffocate her.

He was the archetypal prey, the idyllic victim. Men such as him were the most easily swayed, and yet, he barely hesitated. With growing apprehension, the two other women joined into the chorus of Lorelily’s rapturous song. But the only tremble they wrought was from the James blue. It lapped and thirsted against the shore. 

Where were their weapons? 

Why hadn’t they bled him dry? Their approach was futile, their methods archaic. He’s a witch, my lovelies, there could be no more pressing time to betray an oath. But they didn’t listen to me.

Sirens.

Instead, blood saturated James’s arm from his own blade. 

If only he bled to his death

But alas, he did not. He smeared that wicked scarlet across Lorelily’s cheek, down her neck, onto her shoulders, where he then placed his edge. The sisters sang louder, their voices carrying far beyond. And while they lured others to watery graves, they were unable to affect the one man they longed to. His knife slashed, and Lorelily slumped dead against his chest.

He bathed in her demise, tasting her sweet blood for himself. The blood of a siren, so precious, so rare, so intoxicating. That sight is what spurred our sisters two too late. To demulce him, they betrayed their oaths. The oath to remain disguised, the oath to do no physical harm. From within their trepidacious legs, scaled tails fought themselves free. And the tides lunged for them, yearning to embrace their voluptuous forms. In their stead, it engulfed James—Lorelily still wrapped in his revolting embrace.

But he still did not expire.

With his knife firmly planted in the sands on the shore, James drug himself free. Anger, hatred, serpentine violence swam in his eyes. And as his wicked blood seeped through the gluttonous waters, our sisters were devoured by the James’s lust. Those cursed waters wanted nothing more than to taste the sirens’ bones in its belly. Their pleas echoed behind James as he stood, water-logged, facing away from their descent. For a moment, he was sorry for the loss of such beautiful women, but he soon shook the guilt free from his jacket. 

He could never be as sorry as I am that he was the one who lived.

In June, James was welcomed into his brothers’ commune.

At the beginning of July, the coven Plumb prepared a hexation, though their plans went awry. 

Even so, August saw the coven Plumb become the South’s last hope.

And in the winter sun, the Union met Hell. Deviltry had won. 

Here our story really ends, a year from whence it began, the Union now more listless than even our demon Pithious.

The James River flows through Virginia and figured prominently in several naval actions of the American Civil War.