the end of the world, everything was different.
There was endless sky and water, each mirroring the other, and endless
twilight, with nary a sign of the sun nor the moon. Strange seabirds called
and whirled around the sails and the air was cold and thin. When they found
the Black Pearl, she was rimed with frost; ice crystals shone like
jewels in Jack's hair, but he was hale and whole, beneath the ragtag
assortment of coats and comforters he wore.
Elizabeth had dreaded this meeting for months, but Jack merely smiled and
said he'd known he could count on her. (Neither of them felt the need to
clarify what it was he could count on her to do.) Will was so glad to see
Jack that he forgot to maintain the forlorn fašade that he'd carried with
him across the ocean. The relief on Will's face loosened the knot that had
been sitting in Elizabeth's chest since they'd abandoned the Black Pearl
so many months before.
Barbossa announced that his obligation was fulfilled and that he was sailing
on. There was no question that everyone else would return with Jack.
The Pearl was more tattered and ghostly than she'd been under
Barbossa's command, but Jack assured them she was seaworthy, and now that he
had a crew, they could return to more familiar lands. Three days' sailing
led them to the mouth of a sluggish, brown river. Jack piloted the ship into
a deep channel, and they sailed upriver for many days, seeing nothing but
hazy blue-green trees, until they rounded a bend in the river and Elizabeth
thought she could see figures standing on the fog-shrouded banks, reaching
out their arms and pleading.
Ragetti said they sounded like angels, singing so sweetly, and before anyone
could stop him, he'd clambered over the side. He didn't even try to swim; as
soon as he hit the water, he sank into the murky depths. When they fished
him out, he'd forgotten what little he'd known. Pintel nursed him tenderly,
and in time, Ragetti regained some of his memories, although he never seemed
quite the same as he'd been before.
Afterwards, Elizabeth wondered what it would be like to wipe her mind clean
and start over, ignorant of what had gone before. With Will once again
avoiding her and Jack watching her with taunting eyes, oblivion seemed a
At the end of the world, everything was the same.
On and on they sailed, up the unchanging river. Without knowing how he'd
come by the knowledge, Jack knew beyond any doubt that their course was
correct. However, he had no more idea how long the journey would take than
he knew how he'd come to this land. One minute he was being devoured by Davy
Jones' pet monster and the next he was adrift on this strange sea. And from
that time until the moment that Elizabeth had set foot on the Pearl,
he'd needed neither food nor water. In fact, he'd been untroubled by mortal
appetites of any kind. It was a mixed blessing; he'd welcomed the return of
normal cravings, but there were times when it would have been more
convenient not to need satisfaction of one sort or another.
Elizabeth had her booted feet propped on the table, her legs sprawled wide
in her breeches, and she was eating a blood orange. Sticky, red juice ran
down her chin and leaked through her fingers, trickling down her arm and
staining her sleeve. She took a long suckling bite and licked her lips, and
Jack had to turn his head.
Damnable woman! She had to know what sort of effect she had, flaunting
herself like that, and her the only woman on the ship.
Her hair had slipped from her braid, and fell across her eyes. She peered
through it cannily and Jack was reminded of her kiss, so tender and
treacherous. Pretty girl, but not Jack's type, he assured himself. She was
too clever by half, and there was no way to know what was artifice and what
If he could've stayed awake on the island and watched her sleep, perhaps he
could have known her true-self, stripped of the masks she wore and the games
she played. But he'd missed his opportunity, and there was little chance of
catching her unawares again, not with Will in the picture.
At the end of the world, nothing was the same.
Will and Elizabeth were searching for Jack, who'd ventured onto that dim
shore in search of fresh, drinkable water. The trees grew close together,
and the thick fog obscured everything before and behind them; even the tree
tops were hidden from view. Were it not for the line that Will had tied to a
stump on the bank, they would have no hope of finding their way back to the
ship. Will gave the rope a hard tug ever so often, to ensure that the other
end was still secure; Elizabeth followed just behind him, letting the line
run loosely through her fingers.
Every time Will turned to check on Elizabeth he wished fervently that she
hadn't come. The situation was awkward enough when they were surrounded by
the rest of the crew, but it was unbearable to be alone with her. What he
couldn't understand was why she continued to pretend that everything was the
same between them. He both dreaded and longed for the moment when she would
tell him the truth: that she loved Jack. Instead, she seemed determined to
keep up the fiction that she intended to marry Will. Will wished he had the
courage Norrington had shown, to give her up with his blessing, but he
couldn't bring himself to set her free. Not, at least, until she asked for
As they walked on, calling Jack's name, the fog seemed to seep into Will's
brain, until he could hardly recall his purpose. He was alone, and that
wasn't right. He remembered that someone was supposed to be with him, but
even that vague memory flitted away from him when he stumbled into the small
clearing. Watery light illuminated the break in the trees and tall silvery
flowers bloomed profusely. Walking forward in a daze, Will tripped on
something and plummeted to the ground. Hidden amongst the flowers, there was
a man sleeping. Will felt a momentary shock of recognition before sleep
rolled him under like a crashing wave.
At the end of the world, nothing had changed.
Elizabeth wandered through the sweet-smelling mist, unable to remember who
she was or what she was looking for; she only knew that she must find it.
Unshed tears burned in her eyes and the rope she grasped stung her hand.
The stifling air was stirred by a cool breeze, scented with some exotic
flower. Elizabeth yawned and leaned against a tree, then carried on a few
more feet to a small clearing. There on the ground were two men. Memory
stirred and Elizabeth gasped in fear, thinking them dead. But then Jack gave
a snort in his sleep and Will twitched. All was well.
The weariness that she'd been fighting overwhelmed her, and she curled up
beside Will and tumbled into sleep.
She awoke to a sprinkling of rain. She couldn't recall her dreams, but her
cheeks were sticky with dried tears. The rainwater was cool and soothing,
washing her face clean.
Will bolted upright with a pained cry and looked around him in confusion.
Elizabeth smoothed the tangled hair back from his face, murmuring soothing
noises until his ragged sobs quieted. While Jack slept on, they sat in
silence, their heads leaned together.
In time the rain stopped and the sun came out, burning off the fog. The
woods, which had seemed so mysterious, now had the neat and tidy look of an
orchard. At the bottom of the ridge, Elizabeth could see the Pearl's
sails, dark against the blue sky.
"Everything's different now."
"Not this." Will took her hand and pressed their palms together fiercely.
Once her hand had been white and smooth; now it was as rough as his. "This
has never changed."