top of page



It seemed like a miracle at first. To be adrift at sea for months, spun and shattered by black storms such as none in the crew had ever seen, and then to wash ashore on a lush paradise hidden from the gaze of any cartographer's map.

We dreamed of the sanctuary we would build. A new harbor. A new town. A place for those who lived under the black flag of piracy and freely embraced its sins. We were thieves and worse, but who among us could not imagine living as a better man?

It wasn’t until we discovered the temple that the howling began. The storms returned, punishing and relentless, with ghostly voices churning in their violent winds. Each night, I listened, helpless, as others were dragged away. Each night, a new horror, murder committed by macabre means possessed by neither man nor beast.

Until only I remained.

There was no choice but to face it, to stand—sword in hand—at the entrance to the temple and brave the darkness that waited inside. What could it do to me now that I had not done to other men? As a soldier. As a pirate. Had I not spilled blood, burned holy places, and left broken men dying on the field?

As a boy, I had put my life into the hands of commanders and captains, then brigands and criminals, each fighting their own wars and eager to recruit young hands to swing the blade and suffer the consequences.

Whatever monster inhabited this old crypt was surely no match for such a lost soul.

The temple’s arched doorway was familiar, a vision from another life. Roman. Byzantine. I had seen many grand structures of this type during the campaigns of my youth, ancient sanctuaries with dark cloisters that harbored a deathly chill even in the hottest climates.

Its ceiling was veined with ornate detail, its pillars framing an abandoned hall with a curving set of steps at its end. I descended the stairs into the unknown, my fingertips tracing the cold stone wall now leading me deeper into the abyss.

The howling of the storm outside grew fainter, replaced by the slip of a hollow breeze through the deep chambers below. I could hear movement, a kind of shuffling from the darkness, then a flap of large and leathery wings.

I caught sight of the vault at the bottom of the stairs, its open rotunda stretching before me with a floor covered in bones, leering skulls, and broken ribs.

Massive lanterns hung from the ceiling, tended not by beasts, but fueled by whatever malignant force held sway within these forgotten passages. And there, in the center of the room, I beheld the creature that had hunted and devoured my crew.

It was a grotesque, twisted being, its figure hunched forward on thin gray legs with clawed feet and its sinewy chest half-concealed by a pair of enormous wings. Its massive head was dulled by a blunt nose and dotted with four pairs of milky eyes.

The creature stirred, sensing my presence. Its face contorted into a grimace of pain and anger and it unleashed a guttural howl, vibrating the air around us.

I stood frozen, my gaze locked on its malformed shoulders and hideous teeth, hearing the labored rasp of its breathing. It was tormented, a victim of the island’s curse as surely as I was and I knew the only way to end its suffering was to return it to whatever hell it belonged to.

Summoning courage, I lunged at the creature with my sword raised, cutting its wing and piercing the tough skin that covered its ribs. It roared in pain and defiance, its limbs flailing wildly as it snapped back in attack.

I struck again, smelling its blood in the air, feeling its desperation as it lashed blindly into spaces I leaped away from. It turned, ready to kill, sink its teeth to the bone, but it was a predator that relied on stealth and surprise, and here, it had neither.

I stabbed it again and again, feeling a cold panic growing inside me with each blow. My heart suddenly felt as if a fist had closed around it, spreading weakness from my chest to my limbs, and draining my strength even as the beast fell before me.

With one last piercing of the blade, I struck the creature down. Its body crumpled to the cold stone floor, a final, anguished scream echoing through the chamber. As its life ebbed, I felt the numbness turn to pain.

Agonizing. Unbearable pain.

I dropped the sword, my hands drawn into claw-like fists, and my chest bursting outward as new ribs formed under my skin. My arms and legs stretched from their sockets, reforming flesh and bone, transforming man into beast. Great wings sprouted from my back and spread like dark sails against the light.

My screams turned to monstrous roars, my body convulsing with the cruel power that was now consuming me. The island’s curse had not been broken; it had merely found a new vessel. There would be no better man, no better life.

The hate that burned, the evil that had been done, was now the cage in which I would suffer, with wings and claws, and hunger that desired human flesh above all else. I felt the need to roam, to fly, to reign over the island that had claimed me.

It was my domain now, and I would fill its caverns with the skulls of my prey, men who fed on violence and savagery, their souls made weak by greed. I moved forward, feeling my ponderous weight shift and roll as I followed the closest passage to its end. A new doorway appeared ahead, a stone opening cut into the side of a cliff.

I spread my wings and took flight into the darkening sky, the sunset line of the horizon full of color with a delicate web of stars weaving the first threads of night above. Another storm was coming, with another ship caught in its fierce grasp.

I rose higher on the ripping wind, ignoring the soft and anguished cries of the man I had once been, his memory now a ghost trapped in the heart of a beast.

And this, I realized, was my true form at last.


Morgan Karpiel is an author and copywriter who pens fiction stories by night and helps international companies to find their voices through marketing and branding by day. Apart from writing, she enjoys learning about multimedia storytelling by publishing videos on YouTube which can be viewed at

© Cursed, 2023, Morgan Karpiel


bottom of page