The Dodo (ii)

My ideal existence didn’t last for long. The meals came less often, the plates came less full. I complained to Kidd but he seemed to be losing weight as well. My health began to fail and I lost the progress I made – it was a slippery slope back to the realm of illness and delirium. Eventually, I lost the energy to read. All I could think of was food.My eyes could barely on the words while I fell into a half dream state.

Puffins and feathers colliding, collecting into fractals I dived through. With a blink I was back on land, standing on the mountain that shadowed my home. I saw the Gnasher in the distance crash through sandbanks and paddocks – riding a wave of blood, bone and screaming souls – sailing upon the land as smoothly as on the sea. A shout echoed from behind me, I turned to see my mother pointing behind me. The Gnasher, a beautiful ship corrupted by some unseen evil, rumbled behind me with its bow cracked into a mouth. Its maw was lined by splintered wooden teeth but its insides were flesh. Someone screamed in the distance and I was consumed, sliding down its gullet till I came to rest in a warm pool housed by a cathedral of bone, its arched ribs were slippery and impossible to climb. My skin felt sticky and then gelatinous, dripping off my body like melted butter leaving my glistening muscles naked underneath. I screamed but the only answer was a breathless laughter. A man’s obese silhouette stood in the distance, he held a lantern and watched me with glee. This man was the source of the corruption, I was certain. He laughed while I screamed till my mouth bubbled away though my jaw bone still flapped away through the bloody stew of my face. I had no mouth, yet I screamed on- I was nothing at all but pain, dead, yet the agony continued, red hot pain pouring down my raw nerves which floated in the syrup of my remains.

I woke startled and swung my fist at the darkness. The punch connected with something that groaned and fell down to the floor.
“Who arr ya?” I spurt out, still half asleep.
“God’s blood! It’s Kidd, put down those bloody weapons,” he grabbed my shoulder and from the warmth of his hand I knew he was not a ghoul. I apologised and then he explained why he was sneaking around during the graveyard shift.
“I brought you some food I stole from under the quartermaster’s nose.” He handed me several loafs of bread and some foul smelling cheese.
“They’ve got all the stocks right under their noses, lucky for you I don’t smell as bad as the rest,” he grinned.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” I said shoving a handful of bread into my mouth.
“Just don’t punch me next time. And don’t worry about it, there’s plenty more where that came from. ”
Plenty more? Why are we being starved then?”
The boards above us creaked, “I’ve got to go, we’ll talk later.”
Like a shadow diving into an inkwell, he disappeared without a whisper more.

I ate my fill of the bread and that stinking cheese (I was hungry enough to eat the paper out of my books at that point) and hid the rest inside under the behind books on the shelf. With my belly full I got some well-needed sleep. But it didn’t last long, I woke up again to the sound of boards creaking above. The footsteps of a very heavy set man paced up and down the deck while incoherent shouting went on.

“WHERE? You bastard— where the devil—-” was all I could pick out of the muffled argument among some curses that are too obscene to repeat to you.
More shouting echoed down to my cabin and I clung to the hammock. Was it a mutiny? Was it Davy Jones taking his tax; the souls of sinful sailors as they slept? I knew not until I saw the planks directly above me bend under the weight of the beast. The hairs on my neck stood up. It froze and began sniffing, softly at first, and then had its nose right on the floor so that I could see its horrid nostrils through the cracks of the floor. The sniffing stopped, beads of sweat rolled down my face and rested on the tip of my nose but I couldn’t dare move a muscle. The paralysis clung to the air and even the ship seemed to stop swaying, but it ended with a single word that he grunted through the boards, “Food!” I heard footsteps running down the stairs, and my door burst forth to a more frightening figure I could have imagined. There stood the silhouette of the man from my dreams. It was as if he had stepped out of the veil of dreams, he let out the same breathless chuckle I had heard before and pointed one chubby finger at me.
“Gotcha.”

 

The Dodo (i)

A good rest was all I needed. Now with my back stretched and my head on straight, I can tell another tale for you. It’s a tale I’ll need vigour for. Vigour and strength are required because of my obligation to punch anyone who calls me liar or questions the true events of this story – doesn’t matter who speaks out, a pirate, a prince, a pauper or a poet – be it man, woman, or child I’ll wallop them. Especially the children! They’ll need to hear and learn from the journey of the Great Gnesher, that is if they want a chance at surviving the jaws of this vicious life which we have all been involuntarily spawned into.

The adventures of the Great Gnesher and her fearsome crew have been argued about for the past two decades, from sailor inns to princely halls across the globe. I am sure many a merry fist fight has been fought over the facts and events of her journey, I am sure because many of them I have started myself. Decidedly I am getting long in the tooth now and my fists merely bruise fools rather than break the hinge off their jaws. It is time to set down what I saw as a crew member on her maiden journey – though not a very maiden like – and the fate of her crew. Hopefully, when I pass onto the next life there is room at the Great Feast for a writer because I fight today with pen and paper rather than sword and axe.

You know how I was found by the Great Gnesher, in few words, a mess. I felt as if I had melted away with the iceberg I arrived on and that this strange hammock I was strung up in was a manger, I was a babe once again. The delusion that I had been reborn or reincarnated wasn’t much an err from the truth, in that the day I was rescued was the start of a new life for a young Leif Erickson.

I woke up in a room under the deck. Compared icy ocean I had lived in the past week this was heaven, an oaken cocoon oozing comfort. I spent my days here illuminated by soft lantern light and my hammock rocked by the gentle swaying of the ship. I was so intoxicated by this comfort that I felt a shock of guilt when I realised I had forgotten about all those that I had left behind.

Apart from a filled bookshelf left by the previous occupant, the last pilot of the ship, all I had for entertainment was stories told by my carer, the young lad William Kidd. He was barely older than me, on the brink of becoming a man, he was sprouting a thin blonde moustache that could only be seen in candlelight. He told me stories of the crew and the places they had travelled.

I listened passively, not having the energy to ask many questions.
“Today the Captain came out of his cabin for once, everybody ducked their heads thinking someone was about to get the lash… but it was only to grab a leg of turkey from the kitchen…” Kidd was a natural born storyteller and maybe that made him a natural born leader as well in the years to come, he knew exactly who he was, where he came from, and where he was going.
“Oh Tahiti was heaven on Earth, the land of milk and honey, no miserable snow and no rain, no offence to Iceland Leif…”
“No offence taken, it only snows 10 months of the year anyway.”
I laugh remembering those times but not for long, the memory is tinged with what was to come.

It was a peaceful and comfortable experience but in that soft womb, I felt guilty that I forgot about my mother, my father and of course the puffin. The puffin was being kept by Cohen, the First Mate. I met him only briefly while recovering — when I saw the way his spindly fingers reached round the door I already knew what sort of man he was.

“I am taking care of your little birdie, he is too tired to come see you though…” he spoke lazily, letting his bottom lip droop down. He was a lazy liar too, every time he lied he simply pointed his droopy eyes at the wall behind me, unable to make the sheer effort to make eye contact.

“Thanks,” was all I could mutter, feeling greasy having just talked to him.

“And don’t get too comfortable,” he prodded me in the chest with a bony finger that he used to comb back his greased black hair, “You’ll be earning your keep up on the high ropes soon enough. I hope you’re not afraid of heights!”
He left laughing with such a lack of enthusiasm that he didn’t seem to even convince himself. ¬†Cohen¬†was the type of man that thinks he’s clever for taking advantage of the sick and helpless, which was the exact state the puffin was in. I needed a plan to get back the bird.

However, that wasn’t Cohen’s only sin to speak of, Kidd told me many tales of his singular brand of functional insanity — which I have never witnessed in another man before or since.


Part 1 of XX ->