Log #41: Meetings

 

When I woke once more, it was to the feel of tears on my hand, and warm fingers clasping mine tightly. I opened my eyes and saw, to my joy and surprise, a pale and drawn Balthazar Lynch seated in a strange wheeled metal chair by my bedside, weeping softly over my hand. Even as I watched, still somewhat befuddled by sleep, I saw him place a gentle kiss on my palm. Poor lad! I have been his only father since his parents’ death in a fire, the which drove him to life on the sea.

I moved my fingers then, gripping his (though without any strength), and he started and straightened, releasing my hand as though burnt by it. He winced, pressing a heavily-bandaged arm against his side, and dashed away tears with the other hand before he met my gaze. Then, as he saw my smile, his face burst into dazzling joy, and he caught my hand once more in his.

“Oh, Captain,” he said, “thank God you’re alive, sir. Thank God in Heaven.”

“I’m glad to see you, too, lad. Are you well?” I asked him.

“Aye, sir, well enough. I cannot yet walk far, but this chair gives me the run of the floor.”

“There is another of us here?”

He nodded. “Aye, sir – ’tis MacManus. He were shot in the leg, and splinters went into his gut. He cannot get out of bed yet, and it chafes him sorely.” He squeezed my hand. “But he’ll be joyed to hear that ye are awakened, Captain. We’ve been most fearful for ye, sir. Most fearful.”

I thought of the kiss, and looked at the lad – so young, he was. “Aye. Howbeit, I’m awake now, young Lynch.” I pulled my hand from his, touched at the place the doctor had shown me, and raised my bunk into a chair, so I could look at Lynch properly.

“Now we must plan our escape from here.”

 

Log August 18

 

Unfortunately, our escape must needs wait. We are very weak and in pain that, while not so great as experience tells me it should be, is still more than can be easily borne, especially if we must live the life of the pursued, with the hounds baying at our trail, as we might: Vaughn did not know the fate of Hobbes and the Sea-Cat, nor his devilish Shadow, but the foreboding of my dreams prevents me from thinking them vanished or purged from my world.

But despite pain, and worry of impending doom, I am grateful to our fates. Surely our wounds would have been fatal, had we remained in our natural time, or had my crew not found their way here and known to deposit us three at this place, where we recover our strength – albeit slowly – instead of mouldering in a grave.

It has taken much of yesterday and this day to be able to stand and walk once more; my legs were unhurt, but rising to stand on them sent such roils and twists of dizziness through my poor broken head that I could not remain upright for more than a few breaths at first. But with time and custom, the dizziness has lessened; I have regained my sea-legs. My shoulder requires that I wear my (elsewise healthy) right arm bound to my chest; the good doctor tells me the bullet broke a rib and then grazed and chipped my scapula – the shoulder blade, that is. My left arm, fortunately, is functional in the main; I have the use of all of my fingers, though I cannot bend the wrist, as the bandage encasing it is a hard as concrete. ‘Tis called a cast, as a plaster sculpture before the bronze – but ’tis a singularly ugly sculpture, as such. I am able to brace this logbook – the which was brought to me through the kindness of Miss Winslow, who has been most accommodating, her brusque manner notwithstanding, as I dreamed delirious and, apparently, called out for pen and paper  – with my cast left arm, and write in it with my weak, but dextrous, right hand. It will serve.

I will rest now. Tomorrow I will visit MacManus, who cannot yet leave his bunk.

Later:

Had a refreshing and exhilarating visit this afternoon. (To say true, I do not know the time, nor the day, but for the testimony of my caretakers; without window I have no inkling of the sun’s place, nor the moon’s color, and I am not allowed to rise and perambulate. More, I am not yet capable.) Aye, if I am to say true, ’twas not a visit, but an invasion, and ’twas not refreshing, but rather – terrifying. Perhaps it is my hurts which make me vulnerable, which makes me so womanish; I have never played the coward ere now. I admit, here in this log (which may never meet another’s gaze but mine), that I did fear that they might take me and abscond, and none might ever know of it, nor come to my aid. Lynch would know something had chanced, aye – but the boy’s gut-shot. These doctors may have worked miracles, with their white rooms and their ivies, but that? They can repair him, in truth? Or have they merely stretched out what few days remain to him? I bethought myself, while they stood there and looked down on me with eyes as cold and lifeless as those of a fish – or of a dead man – that perhaps Lynch would flag and fail, and MacManus might be quick to follow him to the grave, and then, as the Grace could be lost to storm or taken by Hobbes, there would be none to know of my fate, or to care. I thought that, and I trembled.

But I have pulled at a skein, and lost the pattern of the weave. I was visited, not half an hour gone, by la policia. They were polite at first, and as long as pleasantries were exchanged, so was I too. But then they began to inquire as to my injuries, and the events and causes and culprits thereof – as though I would forego mine own vengeance to them! Then I did recognize them as threat: then they became to me West English, as Ian O’Gallows has well-named the people of this place and time. The same sort of poxy bastards as those I had encountered in Florida, set in the same mold as the English soldiers who oppressed myself and my countrymen, who tortured us and beat us and cheated us; then did I know them for untrustworthy rogues, and then did I stop answering their questions, schooling my face to stone.

As it obtained, however, I had a rescuer: my new friend Doctor Kelashnikskaya. He had come in with la policia – there were two, named Drucker and Rice – and as they asked their questions, standing at the foot of my bunk, the Doctor stood by my right side, and examined me. Needlessly, methinks, as he had done a more cursory check not an hour before, but while he there stood and twiddled at my ivies and dithered at my bandages, it kept la policia mindful of my ailing condition, and kept them courteous. And then, as soon as they started in on who shot me, and where was I, and what was the name of the ship and where was she now (They obviously had some intelligence from Lynch or MacManus or both, which I dared not contradict but did not know what had been said, and so I said nothing at all.), Doctor Kelashnikskaya interjected with this pearl: “Gentlemen, Mister Kane’s head injury will very likely have caused some memory loss, and confusion, particularly about the time when the incident occurred.”

Aye: I grabbed at that lifeline, I did. For the rest of that encounter, I frowned and looked befuddled; I put my hand to my head as though it pained me, and I remembered nothing. Nothing at all. At long last, they departed, unsatisfied.

As he ushered the West English out of the room, I caught at Master Kelashnikskaya’s sleeve, and when he paused and looked back at me, I said, most sincerely, “Thank you, Doctor.” He nodded, and flashed just enough of a smile that I wot he knew the boon he had given me. A good man, he is.

I do not doubt la policia will be back, but perhaps it will not be soon: perhaps we will have sufficient time to do what is needful, ere they return.

 

August the Nineteenth

I have been humbled, this day.

I gathered all my strength and fortitude, screwed up my courage ‘gainst agony and travails, and made my slow and clumsy way down the hall to the room where lies my shipmate, Shane MacManus.

And there he lay, his leg wounded, his pelvis damaged by the bullet’s passing and the surgeon’s cutting. He may not rise from the bed – not even to relieve himself. I will not speak of the vile contraption with which these people invade a man’s body in order to evacuate it; suffice it to say that its discovery, upon waking from a long sleep, is horrifying in the extreme (most particularly when one has been told that there are ivy strands attempting to take root in one – and for one such strand to take root there, oh, gods and devils forbid it!), and its removal a torture which shames the cruellest gaolers of the English king. I cannot imagine how Shane survives its continued emplacement. Of course I did not ask, but only clapped his shoulder and gave him my deepest sympathy, in very truth.

Lynch had said he chafes at his state, and ’tis true. I have this log to occupy my time, and I have been spared many hours of inaction by my broken crown, for which I am now oddly grateful; the concomitant dizzy spells necessitate many hours of rest, which do nicely to fill the time – and defy the questioning of la policia, of course. Lynch has survived with some of the same medicine: the surgeons did invade his core to repair the bullet’s invasion and the terrible havoc it wreaked on the lad’s innards, and thus did he spend some days entirely in slumber. Then, when he woke, he had permission to move about, cautiously, and so was able to explore and exercise, to increase his strength and decrease his time as invalid abed. Too, ever since Vaughn taught Lynch his letters, the boy has spent hours reading all he can; he tells me that this place has something of a library, which he has availed himself of. Though for myself, I confess I wish that my companions, or indeed anyone, would let me prevail on them for a game of draughts; I have been so used to enjoying a game in the evening, even when all else had gone askew, these past months, but have lacked a fair match since losing Vaughn’s company to Monsieur Navarre, and now again to the vicissitudes of injury and pursuit.

But MacManus, though capable, does not enjoy reading nor writing (nor draughts, more’s the pity), and so rather than pass the time, such pursuits do stretch the time out. He is a man of action, one who would hunt throughout the day, and then spend the night carousing in taverns, be it drinking, brawling, dancing, or availing himself of a harlot’s generosities, it would matter not. Just so long as he was not as he is: trapped, immobile, damaged in such wise as worries him deeply regarding his future capabilities. He was too afraid and ashamed to inquire of the physician as to the subject of his possible gelding, but he was able to hint at his fears to me, and I did so inquire – and was able to reassure him fully, which I think did bring him some peace. Seeing that strong, good man so trapped, so enfeebled, and yet still and all a man of courage and tenacity, I know that I cannot complain of my wounds nor my discomfort. Not in the face of his so much greater suffering.

Lynch arrived in his wheeled chair as I sat with MacManus, and we did have a jolly time of it for a short while, ere the nurses chased us all back to our rest; I for one was glad of the excuse to return to my bunk, as weakness had crept up on me rather faster than I would fain show the lads, if I can so hinder their knowledge of my incapacity. Perhaps I worry overmuch, but I wish to have their confidence, and not their pity.

We did find a chance to discuss our tales for la policia: apparently their earlier visits had focused on MacManus, the only one of us to be cognizant when we arrived and remain so for those first hours and days. Even when Lynch had awoken, he said that they had been merciful and delicate, even solicitous with him; perhaps his youth and the severity of his injuries softened their hearts. Any road, Lynch was allowed to give little response, and so MacManus’s account has stood as the official record, thus far. We had been sailing on our pleasure boat, the Courser, when we had been attacked by pirates; our captain – one Hugh Moran – had sailed on to Jamaica, our original destination out of Dover, England (MacManus had rightly surmised that these strange-speaking West English would not be able to place the sources of our accents, though MacManus is as plainly Northern Irish as Lynch and I are southrons). We could not contact him aboard ship, but he would return for us on the way back to England. So shall we all say.

Now: to regain my vigor, I will now eat – though the food here, while largely satisfying, is most bizarre: the meat is both limp and burnt, the accompaniments are over-sauced and strange to the tongue, and the dinner and supper have both been companioned by a strange substance, of a violently brilliant hue, carved into cubes like dice, slick and taut to the touch, like the skinned flesh of an animal, and which wiggles most disturbingly when provoked. The nurses call it Gee-Yellow, and seem surprised that I will not consume it. It appears too much like jellied blood, which somehow still clings to life, and I am nauseated by the thought of it wriggling in my gullet. But apart from the gelatinous cubes, I will eat all I can, and sleep all I can.

Tomorrow I will explore.

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