Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cabin Fevre ~ 3. A Feast of Shadows

Wallace Smith

My gut is an empty space at my centre. It has been months since I last ate, months, and yet this hunger has not taken my life away.
How long does eternity take to pass? I lost count of the days a long time ago. The pages of my impenetrable bible are worn and browned by the grubby fingertips of minutes that pass in absolute isolation. Sometimes the words seem to laugh at me and my plight, sometimes they are meaningless tangle of sounds and shapes inside my head, and then I have to speak the words out loud in order to make sense of them.

My last meal came down the black chain on eight legs; a caterpillar invading the rotten apple that constitutes my existence. They were tense and naked; three men and a woman; they all but sniffed the air like wild animals as they clambered up onto the Aurora’s deck. I sniffed the air myself; I could taste their fear, fresh as the smell of earth, beautiful. They spoke in terse and monosyllabic bursts, in what I eventually came to realise was some unfamiliar dialect of English. Three men and a woman – even before the storm that sunk the Aurora, I had not seen a woman for months.

It is becoming more and more difficult to find a reason to continue writing, given that I no longer have a comfortable chair, and that the ink from the captain’s desk is returning to some previous form, tiny squid-like blotches that sometimes find some life to swim across my page.

Taking the invaders for demons from some deeper level, I shadowed their movements around the Aurora. They searched the galley for food, rifled through the cabins to dress themselves in the threadbare garments vacated by my erstwhile and long-digested shipmates.
At nightfall, though it was not particularly cold, they lit a small fire in the kitchen, using the wood from the captain’s chair. They crouched around its light like a coven of witches in one of Mister Shakespeare’s overrated plays, muttering low in their strange accents with occasional furtive glances outward into the darkness.
The acquired clothing, while lending them a modicum of civility, failed to cover their fear and fragility. At one point she, the woman, looked straight at me, holding the look for some long seconds, as if unwilling to disbelieve that sense in her that knew she was being watched.
My bare feet tread silent on the rough board, aware of the location of each creak and squeak; I realised that these demons had entered my world and that it was I, William Fevre, who held the advantage – a strange sensation for a man of meek disposition, used more to doing the bidding of those who held power – father, tutors and masters all.
One of the men – obviously the leader, presumably self-appointed – spoke of the place from whence they had come. He spoke of magic and of gods and of imminent bloodshed sounding not unlike the sermons of my brethren in a life long past. He spoke of injustice and indignity, and strangest of all, called for a ballot on whether to turn back or to continue along the chain. One of the men professed his belief that they should return to the island, that things only get worse the further you travel the chain. The woman spoke forth in a manner I found quite unbecoming her gender. I believe she put forth the fact that even should everyone else turn back, she would continue down the chain. The man who’d advocated turning back, shrugged under the cabin boy’s nightshirt, his face resentful, his mouth remained shut.
The knives hung from my belt; no longer tools for the old chef’s chopping; hunger and self-preservation sharpened to a hair on tedium’s black whet stone.

Hunger is a cruel companion, allowing little concern for life’s normal rituals.
I cup my hands to drink warm dew from the water barrel, noticing how the lines on my palms stand out in relief, so ingrained is the dirt of my sentence here.
Perhaps if I were to run my tongue along those gritted tracks I would yet taste her there; some bittersweet remnant of my last human contact.
I catch a blurred reflection of my face on the water’s murky surface and feel the hair rise at my nape as if some phantom breath or fingertip has caressed me there; some creature whose face I can no longer recognise.
And I wonder if perhaps, in the dungeon or green field where she now resides, she might think of me some time and see me not as the demon but as the man I should have become.
They left all pretence of morality behind when they fled, left her to her fate in my hands. She fought that fate with everything she could lay her hands on. The flap of cheek that she ripped with her teeth hangs yet at my jaw, bloodless and unhealed.
The hunger lent me the strength to overcome her, but her screaming echoes still between the great beams of Aurora’s hull, like a memory of trees.
New blood caused the wood grain in the deck to writhe in what I can only surmise to be some aberration of the long-dry sap’s desires. I realise now that I have never been alone here, this vessel was made from living trees, they too have been damned to this hell.


the walking man said...

In passing to the next link in the chain it is good to know that Charon too must pay a price before sending her, the only intrepid soul, on her way.

Yodood said...


Anonymous said...

I am in awe, as well!

Pisces Iscariot said...

Walking man: not sure about Charon, but Mr Fevre appears to be in conflict - perhaps between mind and body (or what's left of either)

Yodood: :D touche (once more) For the rest who don't get the joke, I happened to mention on a resent post over at the Dood's place that I have a particular dislike for the inordinate and ubiquitous use of 'awesome' - perhaps stemming from my misguided stay in New Zealand where the word is used to replace "um" or "er" - the kiwi accent means that the word comes out as "ossum"

Subtorp: awesome

the walking man said...

The way i read it in this scene Master William is acting in the role of Charon the Boatman of the river order to get to the next link in the chain those who would cross must pay for their passage.

Pisces Iscariot said...

Walking man: a good interpretation (although it was not my intent) Mr Fevre's position holds no relevance but to himself - he is where he has placed himself through his own fervent belief in a vengeful god

jams o donnell said...

This is excellent stuff Pisces

Pisces Iscariot said...

Thank you Jams - glad you are enjoying it.

JeffScape said...

Just finished parts 2 and 3. Lovin' it.

I noticed a typo in the first paragraph: "Sometimes the words seem to laugh at me and my plight"

I shall return!

Pisces Iscariot said...

Jeff: Thanks, I'll fix it :)