Chapter 39 Withered Hands

Those two withered—obviously human—hands were so shrunken and dried up that they looked like strips of firewood as they rested on that woman’s shoulders. I didn’t know what she was feeling, but even just looking at this scene had me feeling so creeped out that my back was covered in a cold sweat.

Those two hands didn’t move any further and just hung there limply, almost like they were nothing more than decorations on her clothes. Wanting to see where these hands had come from, I tried to see the arms they should’ve been attached to, but the woman’s hair was too disheveled to see anything clearly.

I could see that she was obviously terrified based on how much her body was trembling. If she were an ordinary woman, she probably would’ve passed out long ago, but I could tell that her body was already starting to go limp. She had probably reached her limit.

The captain was kneeling with his back to us and kowtowing while muttering something in the local dialect. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I could guess that he was performing some kind of ritual, presumably asking for Mazu’s blessing.(1) After reciting a few words, he took out two strange semicircular pieces of wood and threw them onto the deck as if he were asking for a sign from the gods. He then looked at the results, kowtowed a few more times, picked them up, and threw them again. When I saw his whole body start to tremble, I knew that the results weren’t good.

I had never believed in this kind of thing before but I was a little worried when I saw the captain being so pious. After all, these kinds of people were very particular when it came to things like this. If the result of the divination said that I was an evil spirit, I had no doubt that he and the others would throw me into the sea without an ounce of hesitation.

At this time, the woman suddenly cried out and her whole body jerked backwards. I didn’t know whether she hadn’t been holding onto the boat properly or whether she was being dragged away by those ghost hands, but she suddenly ended up on the ghost ship. And the worst part was, that ghost shift immediately began to drift away! I knew things were bad whether I looked back or not so I turned around and moved to jump over and save her. But the captain rushed up and grabbed me from behind while saying, “There’s nothing we can do! Once you’ve set foot on a ghost ship, you can’t come back! Don’t throw your life away!”

The captain was so strong that I couldn’t shake him off at all and the crew…I didn’t know whether they had been bewitched or not, but they still didn’t dare turn around. I started cursing them out in my heart, but at this time, Bald Zhang suddenly ran out of God knows where, grabbed our boat’s anchor, and threw it hard. It flew through the air before hooking onto the ghost ship’s railing. The ghost ship was moving so fast that the anchor’s rope pulled taut in an instant, and then our boat shook before it was abruptly pulled along after it.

The captain was scared out of his mind and pulled out a knife to cut the rope but Bald Zhang knocked him to the deck with just one punch. The other crew members became angry and rushed at him one by one but he suddenly pulled out a pistol, pointed it at the captain, and shouted, “Don’t move or I’ll kill him!”

The crew members had never been in such a situation before so no one dared approach after hearing that threat. Then, Bald Zhang said to me, “Young Wu, I’ve got them under control. Go and save her!”

I opened my mouth, wondering if I had heard wrong. Was he expecting me to swim over there in such a stormy sea? He glared at me and then pointed to the rope as if it were a given before shouting, “Go! Young people should be brave!”

I shook my head. This was ridiculous. I was weak when it came to sports so not only was swimming over there basically tantamount to death but climbing that rope wasn’t a solution either. Even if I did manage to climb that rope and make it over, I figured I’d be lucky to have a single breath left in my body. How could I possibly save someone?

But at this time, I heard the woman start screaming on the ghost ship. I looked over and saw her desperately trying to climb onto the rope, but it was as if something was dragging her back. She couldn’t move forward at all and had to grab onto the ship’s railing with both hands just to stay in place. “Mr. Wu!” She shouted. “Help me!”

When I heard this, I began to have second thoughts. I cursed and gave myself a slap. Wu Xie, ah Wu Xie, are you still a fucking man or not?!

I didn’t know whether this slap brought me back to my senses or turned me stupid but I suddenly felt a sense of bravery well up in my heart. I clenched my teeth and shouted, “If I die, so be it!”

I took a deep breath, picked up a pair of swimming goggles that were lying off to the side, put them on, and then took off my shoes. Once that was done, I walked to the side of the boat, clumsily grabbed the taut rope, and looked at the stormy sea in front of me. I could see the rope getting submerged in the water from time to time.

The rope was about twelve meters long and definitely strong enough to support my weight, so as long as I moved my hands and feet quickly enough, it shouldn’t be very dangerous. But the main problem was that the rope was constantly being swamped by the waves. When I thought of this, I almost changed my mind.

I had never been in a situation that required so much determination before. I cautiously scooted my butt off of the ship’s railing before slowly crawling along the rope. I copied the method I had seen those special forces soldiers use on TV where they hung upside down on the rope and used all four limbs to move forward. I was praying as I crawled but before I could close my mouth properly, a wave suddenly surged up and almost drowned me. My face was green by the time I resurfaced, but thanks to this, I was able to understand just how strong the waves were. I figured I shouldn’t have any problems crawling the rest of the way to the ghost ship.

In this way, I stayed motionless when a wave hit me and then crawled a few steps when the water receded. I didn’t know how long it took, but I was finally close to the ghost ship when a huge wave slammed into me and pushed me more than a meter below the water’s surface. The impact was so strong that I nearly blacked out but I held my breath and forced my eyes open. That was when I saw a strange sight—there was a very long rust-covered chain floating deep in the water beside the bottom of the ghost ship. And at the end of this chain was a strange thing which couldn’t be seen clearly.

I exhaled and tried to take a closer look but the rope suddenly lifted and pulled me out of the water. This time, I was at the crest of the wave, and when I looked down, I saw that the woman was lying on her back but somehow moving towards the ship’s cabin. I froze in shock when I saw this because I knew that she wasn’t the one moving, it was those two withered ghost hands!

I noticed that she wasn’t resisting at all, as if she had lost consciousness, so I had no other choice but to quickly crawl the rest of the way, climb over the railing, and fall onto the ghost ship’s deck.

<Chapter 38><Table of Contents><Chapter 40>     


TN Notes:

(1) Mazu or Ma-tsu is a sea goddess still widely worshipped on the southeastern China coast and in southeast Asia. Info here.


4 thoughts on “Chapter 39 Withered Hands

  1. “Young people should be brave.” Xiao Ge shouldn’t blame Wu Xie in the future for his recklessness. He himself encouraged him.


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