The fog pressed in on them, turning the open channel of the river into a claustrophobic nightmare.
The crew of the steamboat Mermaid were gathered on deck, peering out into the mist, straining eyes and ears for any sign of the shore.
“Lord, sir, I ain’t never seen it this thick before.” Said the boatswain, crouching to his captain’s side.
“Hush up.” The captain ordered. “Keep sharp, mister. We’ll make it through.”
The sloshing of the paddlewheel in the black water carried on until one of the crewmen yelled out, “There! In the water!”
Before them, eerie orange light sprouted from the water. Something was afire on the river.
“A wreck!” Came a voice in the darkness.
“Pikes to front! Clear a path!” Shouted the captain. A half dozen men scrambled forward, hoisting large pikes to guard front of the ship from flotsam.
A piece of smoldering wreckage floated past their port side. It was a broken piece of a boat hull, and there was something stenciled on the side.
As it drew closer, tongues of flame illuminated the lettering.
Mermaid, it read.
“Sir,” said the boatswain, a tremble in his voice. “I…I don’t think we made it through.”
Memphis was one of the most important ports on the Mississippi River, and its harbor was always full of boats. But, travel on the river wasn’t safe. The average lifespan of a riverboat was five years, and they were lucky to make it that long. It is estimated that there are hundreds of lost wrecks between Memphis and Saint Louis. I imagine if ghost walked on water, that stretch of the river would be amongst the most haunted in the world.