Posts Tagged With: Hospital

Log #44: Escape

Log

August 26th

 

Blast our weakness to the darkest depths of Neptune’s realm. I should be writing this as a free man, but I am not. I bide, still, in this accursed hospital. Indeed, my circumstances have worsened: I am now prisoned in this room, with a guard at my door, wearing a pistola.

We were discovered in our attempt this latter night. We got MacManus out of his bed and into the wheeled chair that Lynch had used – the which was a most troublesome endeavor, as it obtained, requiring time and effort and quite a fair piece of forbearance through pain on MacManus’s part, particularly when he himself drew the invading tube from his manhood. Thank the gods I was shot above the waist. But he did draw it out, and bit back the screams; and we did move him into the chair, and then we made our way down the hall and along a second corridor, all without detection. We reached the dressing-rooms, and here we divided, at Lynch’s urging: with his youthful frame, quoth he, he required a more diminutive suit of livery, which he would be unlikely to find among the masculine apparel; and so for him, the distaff chamber.

‘Twas our undoing. For as MacManus and I quickly changed apparel, fitting ourselves into our assumed guises quite readily enough, in my case, and with somewhat greater effort and not a little agony on Shane’s part, Lynch crept into the women’s chamber and there was he discovered, en déshabille, as it were. Some noise of alarm was transmitted to our chamber, and so MacManus and I were largely unsurprised when Lynch came a-gallop from his dressing-room, hissing that he had been seen and that the observer – one of the nurses who had our charge, and they had each recognized the other – had eluded his attempt to capture and subdue her, slowed as he was by his injury. She had made off, back down the hall to the nurses’ station, where reinforcements awaited.

I calculated quickly. Shane was still pale and breathing harshly, clutching at his hip as he slumped over the wheel of his chair; Lynch was pallid, too, and sweating, though he bore two patches of red high on his cheeks – shame at his failure, I thought. But he crouched as well, bent over his wounded gut. And I myself – I favored my right arm, that shoulder made painfully sore by the night’s exertions, particularly the maneuvering of MacManus into his current berth. I made a decision.

“We surrender without fight,” I told them, and overrode Lynch’s outraged cry. “Stay! We surrender, and laugh at this. We wanted a drink, is all. ‘Twas but a lark.”

“But Captain, now they be aware of our intent, ’twill be the harder to find the chance,” Lynch argued.

“Aye, ’twill indeed, thou cursed scrawny pup, and whose fault be it? No matter,” I said vigorously, squelching the boy’s contradiction. “For if we but jest now, the careful watch they put over us will not be wary. That will give us our chance.”

Just as I finished, two lusty stalwarts in blue burst through the door and accosted us, followed by the nurse, hands on hips as was their wont. I threw up my hands and laughed as I gave myself into their custody without struggle; my men following my lead after a trifling pause. Good lads. But a bit unlucky. So now there is another obstacle to be overcome.

This hospital would oppose my will, would captain the course of my life. Very well, says I – Lay on, MacDuff. And damned be he who first cries “Hold, enough!”

 

28th August, after midnight

I must write quickly: we have little time. We are making good our escape – and this time, we may not retreat, for not only will we have made them wary, but full wroth, as well.

We waited a full day and night, and through a new day. MacManus needed the time to recover, and Lynch as well, aye. I spent such time chatting with my guardian – the hospital marked me as the wellspring of our rebellion, and so only I received such accompaniment – an amiable fellow named Jackson. He ushered me to my visit with Margaret in the gardens, and chaperoned our promenade along the white-stone path most politely as I regaled my friend with the tale of our escape attempt. I did try not to let my gaze linger on the trees that bounded that pleasant space, through which we plotted our course to freedom; now I would that I had looked closer!

Any road, Yeoman Jackson sat by and watched our game of draughts, participating in our conversation and relaxing his watchfulness moment by moment.

In the meantime, MacManus was declared fit enough to evacuate his own bladder, and relieved at last of his torturous tether. ‘Twas a relief to me, as it would speed our movements – but ’twas a far greater relief to poor Shane, in truth. Lynch, too, was much recuperated: he is able to move about without his sittable conveyance now, though not too far, and not too long. Long enough and far enough, for the nonce.

That night, my guard changed, and that man was less friendly. So it must be on Jackson’s watch that we made our move, I knew. I had had a visit from the Accountman Sanderson, and he had seemed suspicious of my levity regarding our first attempt, though he had not questioned me too closely over it; he still awaited confirmation of my claimed identity and station – and wealth, of course. Thus, it must be soon, or Sanderson would surely have us locked away, or manacled, or whatever else this place does to its delinquent custom.

Jackson returned this past evening. I took him for a constitutional, and we did pass by the rooms of Lynch and MacManus, where I gave my men the signal. Jackson and I strolled briefly through the gardens – Margaret was not then present – and then returned to my chamber, where we divided, I to my bunk, and Jackson to his post outside my door.

Soon enough, Lynch arrived. As we had discussed, we three all had feigned greater discomfort from our hurts than was true, so as to further lull suspicion; Lynch came in as bent over as an old gaffer with the gout, alist and shuffling like an arthritic badger. I waited as the door eased shut behind him, ere he was halfway to my bunk, and then I sat patiently as he continued to belabor his slow way to me. He arrived at last, looked up from his own feet to meet my gaze – and grinned.

“Art thou a-ready now, Master Cripple?”

He saluted. “Aye, Captain. I stand ready for all.”

I stood, and gathered my meager armament. And my will: I was fond of Jackson, and was not eager for this next task. But we must escape, so – “Then down with ye, O Maudlin Limper.”

Lynch threw himself to the floor, with a crash made largely by the action of unbalancing my supper tray and scattering its contents. He cried out as in pain, and I called for Jackson. The man came in at a rush, and I backed water away to reveal the poor pitiful wretch, who had managed tears for his eyes as he clutched at his ankle with the one hand, and the side where was his true hurt, with the other. Jackson went to him with a kind man’s natural instinct, and knelt, with his back to me. And I, who am no kind man, slipped the loop, fashioned from the ivy tube (which gave slightly when pulled taut, but had the main strength) and hid in my right hand, over Jackson’s head and around his neck. I pulled, bringing him arching back; Lynch was ready, and as Jackson’s hands went naturally to the cord about his throat, my shipmate relieved the man of his pistola. I loosened my strangle, then, and when Jackson slumped forward once more, coughing, I drew back and brought the club which the good doctors had fashioned from my left arm crashing down on his skull.

It worked, aye; Jackson was well and truly a-slumber, but he was breathing well and the blood pulsed in his neck when pressed, as I had hoped. But I was ill-prepared for the agony which coursed through me when I struck; I thought the wrapping was to protect the limb from harm! Hard as stone, it seemed! ‘Tis not. This club-arm is not a weapon I will use again.

But all was as planned, and Lynch helped me raise Jackson into my bunk and remove his uniform. Then Lynch went out, now moving far more easily and quickly, and slipped down the corridor to the dressing room once more – this time he would collect his livery from Eve’s side, once he had determined it to be unoccupied, and then move to Adam’s chamber to effect the change; it had occurred to us that the staff here are far more frequently feminine, and so the traffic through their room subsequently greater, and so too the chance of discovery. I strapped my dreaming friend into the restraints on my bunk, and then, as I had watched the nurses do to me a hundred times, I slid an ivy prong into his vein and set the liquid within on a slow course through his body – ’twas the stuff they set in me anight, to let me traipse off to Dreamland despite the ache in my wounds. So far as I know, good Jackson slumbers still.

I donned his uniform – a decent fit, for we were much of a size – and made my way, quickly but not furtively, to MacManus’s room, gathering a wheeled chair along the way. I was soon joined there by Nurse Lynch (Which name we enjoyed applying to the boy, for his face reddened each time – especially when MacManus requested a sponge bath.) and we maneuvered MacManus into the chair after dressing him in the shirt and breeches which Lynch had liberated from the tiring room.

That was when Nurse Winslow came into the room, her head bent over a clip-board – ’tis a thing they often carry and refer to its cryptic contents, somewhat akin to a pupil’s slate but covered with papers bearing hieroglyphics instead of words or ciphering – until she looked up and saw the three of us, frozen with surprise, standing in our transparent disguises before she who knew us all in an instant.

Thankfully, I recovered first, and remembered my new-won pistola. I drew same and aimed at her heart; she but looked in my eyes, and then, aye, she saw me, for the first time, as I am: Damnation Kane, scoundrel and captain of scoundrels. She did not struggle nor cry out as Lynch and I restrained her in MacManus’s bunk, after bandaging her mouth shut.

I will say there are abundant resources in this hospital for those who would kidnap, restrain, and confine their fellow men. Most useful.

From there, ’twas an easy jaunt down the corridor with Nurse Lynch pushing Invalid MacManus, flanked by Guardian Kane. Until, that is, we came to our greatest obstacle: the stairs. MacManus was sure he could manage stairs, with the help of a rail to cling to and a shipmate to assist him, and indeed, ’twas just so that we achieved the first flight of steps, with Lynch bringing the chair; but our progress was too slow, as MacManus could not manage more than two steps in a minute, so very painful was the motion on his injury, and, we discovered, my shoulder prevented me from taking his weight over it, as I have done countless times for shipmates injured or inebriate. Too, the chair was almost Lynch’s undoing – he lost his grip upon it when his wound twinged of a sudden, and was only just able to keep his own balance as the device went crashing down with a clatter that must have woken the dead. And we faced a second flight of steps, then.

This time we put MacManus in the chair, gripping the wheels to slow them; Lynch clutched the handles in the stern and tipped him back so he could remain upright, and I crouched on the steps, set my back against his feet and braced him. Then we rolled down, one step at a time, with curses and cries of pain and fatigue from each of us growing louder and more profane with every step, every drop down a stair. That bastard kicked me in the head a dozen times, and Lynch lost his grip twice, leaving MacManus’s entire weight once on my poor back, once falling back onto Lynch, though Shane caught the rail before he slid and shattered himself.

Then, just as we reached the bottom and were panting, sweating, and cursing our way to an upright alignment, lo – the door before us opened. We three froze once more, just as we had when Nurse Winslow interrupted us, and then turned slowly to face our discoverer –

‘Twas Margaret’s buffoon, the worthless devotee of the Verizon-stone – what Margaret had most aptly named a cell.

He did not spare us so much as a glimpse. His head jerked momentarily in our direction, his eyes torn from the face of his beloved for but half an instant – long enough to recognize the shape of us, but no more – and then he turned and pressed his back against the door, and waited. Holding it open for us.

We thanked him kindly as we passed by, and made our way to the passage which led to the gardens. He did not look up, merely nodding and grunting in response to our thanks; the only element of his being in motion, his thumbs, caressing the stone again and again. Aye, a cell of the mind, it be, and that fool be well and truly imprisoned.

We won through to the gardens, after straightening our attire, wiping away as best we could the sweat and dirt of our descent – though the wheel-marks on my back were still visible on Jackson’s blue uniform shirt – and we headed toward freedom! When a voice from the shadows arrested us – and, very nearly, our hearts in our chests, so sudden and unexpected was it.

“You’ll never get out that way,” the voice said.

We must have been quite a sight, as MacManus leapt nearly out of the chair and then subsided back with a groan of pain, and Lynch spun entirely around and then fell to his knees; I reached for my pistola, but unfamiliar with the sheath that held it to the belt, I fumbled the weapon, and it fell to the ground at my feet. A proper mummer’s troupe were we, aye, ‘struth.

‘Twas the laugh I recognized, even before Margaret came out of the shadows. I introduced her to MacManus – after I retrieved my weapon and shared a look of both accusation and shame with my shipmates; some pirates, we, scared out of our wits by a sick granny – and she explained what she had meant. Out for a walk alone, as Morpheus’s kind embrace eluded her, most nights, she had watched us emerge, recognized Lynch and I and then discerned our intent from our demanor and our attire, which she knew to be but paltry disguises not fitting our station; thus must we mean to escape this place, by means of the forest that girded the gardens. But –

“There’s a wall, all around, just beyond the trees. You’ll never make it over with your injuries – especially not your friend in the wheelchair,” Margaret said. At this intelligence, we three were cast down by despair. The front entrance, we knew from MacManus’s recollection of arrival, was well-guarded, and our disguises surely inadequate to slip us past. No patient moved in this place without papers, and no staff without a portrait-card attached to their tunics, and we lacked both. And surely the Accountman had alerted the gate guards to our erstwhile escape attempt.

But then our discoverer proved to be our savior. Margaret (rather shamelessly, I thought – but then, gray hair grants great license) bid us back to her chamber, and would hear no demur. We went, having no alternative, and there that good lady made use of her telephone to contact her granddaughter, the lovely – and tractable, it seems, as she hearkened to her granny’s call after midnight; though perhaps she is simply a good lass who feels proper loyalty to her blood and respect for her elders – and providential Meredith Vance

Now we wait for her arrival, with a beast-wagon to bear us away; Margaret has made known to us that at the bottom of the stairs – alas, more stairs! But a single flight, however, and we be driven forward by the spur of freedom so close – is a door offering egress, which will, upon opening, sound a fire alarm, as Margaret called it; in the ensuing confusion, which Margaret assures us will be prodigious and profound, we will make good our escape. Fortunately, Margaret was not seen in our presence this night, and so will not be held accountable for aught, so long as we are not discovered here, or with the fair Meredith.

We have all offered this wondrous lady our most solemn gratitude, which she waves off; most humble, is she, and most kind. All she will accept in recompense is a game of draughts with each of us – and, now that she has destroyed Lynch as she did MacManus, it is my turn. I think, with my mind sore fatigued from our activities, that my only hope is that Meredith’s call will interrupt my drubbing.

 

Later

It did not. But we are free.

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Log 43: Most Interesting Encounters

Log

August the 24th

Yesterday after noontide, I had a most interesting encounter. I woke from my postprandial slumber and made my way out to the gardens for my evening game of draughts with my dear Margaret – who, like many of nature’s most graceful creatures, is most active about the hours of dawn and dusk. I found her in the gardens already, and accompanied: accompanied by a vision of beauty that set my heart to racing, and dazzled my poor rattled brain.

‘Twas Margaret’s grand-daughter, one Meredith Vance. Tall she is, for a lass, and slender and shapely, by Jove. Locks of deep red, nearly crimson, and skin of ivory, and a smile that would charm a dead man, with a voice so melodious that the birds themselves must hush to listen. I did approach, nowise showing my flusteration, and made my courtesies and obeisances; I flatter myself to think that I did detect a becoming flush in Meredith Vance’s cheek when I smiled and bowed to kiss her soft hand.

Then she crushed me at draughts. While Margaret sat and watched and the two of them laughed and laughed.

A most fetching woman, this Meredith Vance. Alas that she must see me thus, aswaddle in bandages and without my finery, my weaponry, my gold, or my ship. My humble self did seem to her liking, though, so perhaps I can impress her anon.

I hope she will visit Margaret again.

Later

Ah, and here I thought la policia would be the dread and torment of this serene place. But Drucker and Rice have been as mere gadflies to he whom I did encounter this day.

Today, at luncheon’s hour, I was visited by one Tobias Sanderson, hospital accountman. A factor, it seems. A rabbity fellow, of damp eyes and pale flesh; one more at home with books and parchment than wind and rain, or sun and moon and sky.

Master Sanderson made a brief courtesy, and then moved right to the heart of the matter: the bill for my keep. Apparently, the hospital had contacted my mother country, as Ireland now offers her aegis to her sons when they ail; something called the National Health Service pays the doctors’ wergild – the blood price, that is. But neither the consulate, an office I know nothing of, nor the National Health, had heard of an Irish son by the name of Damnation Kane.

Aye, I thought, for such a name surely vanished when I did so, in 1678.

But I smiled my most charming grin, and told Master Sanderson: Nay! Damnation be but a friend’s name for my humble self. My Christian name is Nathaniel, known also as Nate. What kind of mother, I scoffed, would name her child “Damnation?”

As he wrote this new intelligence in his folio (I have my own folio?), my mind was racing. Once he fails to find this Nate Kane, I thought – or, if one such there be, by chance, once the accountman discovers that he is not I – I feared this acquaintance would grow rapidly discomfortable. How does one dissuade and put off a functionary, I wondered. Then it came to me: like a nobleman, of course; the bane of all government.

“My good man,” quoth I, in my haughtiest tones, “There is no need to search me out in this, this – National Health. I am here. I am all that you will ever require. The Kane name is one of the finest in all of Europe; of course we will stand for our obligations. I will make good on whatever is owed; for myself and my companions, as well.”

He looked me askance, then, peering over the top of the folio and the spectacles he wore. “Well, Mister Kane,” he said slowly.

Lord Kane,” I interrupted him. In for a penny, in for a pound, so they do say.

He coughed dryly into his fist. “Excuse me, of course. Lord Kane. You should be aware, er, sir, that the American health care system is quite different from the British system you’re used to. Primarily in the matter of cost.”

I waved my hand impatiently. “Bah! Money is not a concern, I say. It matters not to me – bother me not with your pounds and shillings and pence, I – “

As I preparing to wax rhapsodic on the matter of my supposed immunity to Mammon, he flipped through the papers in the folio, and then put his finger on one and interrupted me (Clearly he has no experience with nobility; lucky to still have his head and whole skin, I should say.), saying, “Your current amount owed is just under 85,000 dollars. Lord Kane.”

Into the dead silence that followed this pronouncement, while my mind reeled – by Lucifer’s ballocks, Master MacNally asked less than a fifth that for freeing all of my men from the Florida gaol! – Sanderson looked at me again and then added a second blow while I reeled: “The balances on your companions’ accounts are considerably higher, as both required the aid of surgical specialists, as I recall.”

Were I but myself at this moment, I would have swallowed my tongue and spat fire at this highway robbery – and this man’s name is Toby, the very word the English use for such iniquity! – but Lord Kane must care nothing for amounts, no matter how exorbitant; he must not haggle like a merchant. And so, to cover my discomfiture, I put my hand to my head as though my wound pained me, and then waved him off again, repeating that money was no matter, that the Kanes ever paid their debts. I dismissed him, peremptorily, and ordered him out so I could rest. Sanderson closed his mouth – as tight as his pursestrings, I wager – bowed over his folio, and left the room, muttering about telephone calls he would make.

By Saint Patrick, what bloody money-grubbing bastard has been allowed to run rampant over the medics here? Who permits this pillaging? Have they no king, no chieftain, no man of honor to defend holy justice? I recall what I was paid for my service as the Enchantress’s maid-man; how would a working man ever earn enough to pay such a debt as this place would load onto my shoulders? Let alone a sick man, in need of such care? It was the sort of thing I might expect in my Ireland, the Ireland held firmly under a conqueror’s bootheel, and pillaged by foreign soldiers every single day; but I had thought that these people were free citizens under a sovereign state. But it seems they are in truth ruled by these avaricious doctors – or else by the functionaries who keep the books, by Sanderson and his High-Toby ilk. ‘Tis madness. Sheer madness.

And so, it seems, we will not be staying in this hospital. My lies may have earned us two days, perhaps three, but before such time passes and Sanderson returns, we must be gone from here.

I must rest, now. I will need my strength later.

25th August

I bid farewell to Margaret this morning – and in a fit of foolishness, bid her give my fond regards to her lovely and charming grand-daughter. To no good purpose, as I do not expect to see them ever again in this life. Still, she has my regard, and it is no ill thing for her to know it. Lynch, MacManus and I had laid out much of our plan, this yesternight, after I rolled Lynch’s chair down to Shane’s room and informed them of the exorbitant wealth I had purported but in fact lacked, and our need, therefore, to flee.

This afternoon, then, Lynch and I must explore these halls. I know the route we must follow to escape the building entirely, but before then, we will need uniforms for myself and for Lynch, and ordinary clothes for MacManus. We will pretend to be in service here, Lynch and I, like that simpleton attending Margaret when first she and I met, and we will claim to any interrogatories that we are taking Master MacManus for some fresh air out of doors. Lynch is sure that he can walk, though not far; he will lean on the chair as he rolls it, for support, and I will help when I can.

We must find, too, some means to disguise this stone sheath on my arm.. I have asked the doctor, and it must not come off for at minimum another fortnight, or my arm will be too weak to be of any use to me. Then, with the quiet confusion of the hours before dawn to conceal our disappearance, we hope to walk right out of St. Vincent’s hospital, and seek out my ship and our shipmates, if they still be free, and if we can find them.

Clio. Setting.

Damn it all.

Later

We have it. The attendants arrive in clothes suitable for wear in the city streets, and then re-dress themselves in hospitallers’ uniforms. There is a chamber, at the end of a hall that crosses ours, where they effect this change and then store their unused clothing. We watched two women enter wearing the blue livery of the staff here, and then depart in ordinary habiliments; at the same time, a man made the reverse transformation. There are two doors to two chambers, it seems, dividing the sexes and preserving propriety; I cannot be sure as I was prevented from entering. We will endeavor to go there undetected this night, and obtain such apparel as we need.

Later

I cannot sleep. I know I must, I need rest so that I might have all of my faculties and all of my strength, as I must not merely captain this journey, but also lend my good right arm to my companions, a shoulder to lean on and a hand to help, perhaps even an arm to shield. But I have no good arm left me.

This reminds me: I must find armament for us. La policia may pursue us, and I feel sure that the accountman Sanderson will have strongarms at his disposal, and will likely set them on our trail, considering the clink they say we owe, the which we will not, of course, be paying. I must be ready. I must be strong. I must sleep.

I cannot.

My mind will not be still. I find myself pondering the possibilities, and dithering. Me! I am Damnation Kane, captain of the Irish rover the Grace of Ireland, and master of the manly and barbarous scalawags what crew her. I am not this indecisive namby-pamby who fears to be caught on the spot without a plan formulated already. I have no need to predict and counterbalance every contingency: I will face what comes when it comes, and confront it, and conquer it! Who is this coward that occupies my mind? Who made my hands tremble when questioned – without a single threat, without one instant of torture either implied or applied – by a pair of fat, aged West English policias? Who keeps me from my rest now?

Who am I become? Am I not me? Am I not Damnation Kane, dread pirate of the Irish seas?

I know not what to do. And that, too, is not me.

Perhaps the blow to my head has addled my wits. Perhaps the long time abed and away from my ship has stolen the strength from me, has cooled the fires of my blood. Perhaps the medicaments, the potions and infusions and tinctures, and perhaps the limp and tasteless food, have all served to weaken my heart and mind.

Bah. Perhaps I just need a drink.

It matters not. Whatever fear I feel, however I may lack rest – on the morrow, I depart. Then we will see if I am who I should be, and if I can do what must be done.

Then we will see if I am still Damnation Kane.

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Log 42: Draughts

Log

The Twentieth of August in the Year 2011

My exploration met with success! Today I did find gardens, which I am permitted – though it sore chafes me to admit I am liable to be permitted anything, rather than taking whatever I want; but still I am not hale – to wander. The heat of the noon sun is oppressive, but the light falling on my flesh is most welcome, most invigorating. At last, I have cast off this feeling of entrapment, of entombment, in this place with its ever-white walls, unpierced by sight of azure sky, its air that whispers through grates rather than singing through open windows with Nature’s breath.

It has also greatly advantaged me that at last the good doctors have removed my ivies; the visit to MacManus had been made doubly awkward, and vexatious, by the necessity of hauling along my chirping fluid-filled ivy box, which at the least is on a wheeled stand and thus can be rolled (and used as some manner of support, should one be struck by a wave of weakness and wish to avoid shaming one’s self by falling to the floor like an inveterate drunkard) as one walks. But still and all, I am most cheered thus to be rid of its aid and its incessant chirruping and tugging at my limbs, tethered to it by ivy strands rooted in my flesh. Extricating these from mine extremities in a fit of pique was entirely inadvisable; and made of me a most compliant and complacent patient thereafter.

I had, as well, an amusing encounter. These gardens without the hospital are reached through a pair of heavy glass doors, which took some strength to open; I surmise it to be some form of test of one’s recovery, that if one is incapable of passing through this portal, then one should remain abed. But just without, a reward: a wooden bench, most comfortous, and which affords a splendidly pleasing view; it is flanked by large and vigorous flowering plants, the blossoms of which flood the air with a perfume as lovely as ever met my senses.

As I sat, enjoying my time in the sun (and I did vow that I would roll Lynch’s chair out here on the morrow; on this day, he slept), I heard a rattle-scratch at the door, which was astern of my left shoulder. I turned to look, and beheld two figures at the portal, visible through the glass. One was a youth in the livery of the hospital and apparently in its employ – though I question his actual capacity for such employment – who stood idle before one of the heavy doors, his hands drawn up before his face like a nearly-blind deacon holding his Scriptures, and in the boy’s hands was one of the Verizon-stones that I have seen frequently since our arrival here. This was obviously one of the god Verizon’s most devout worshipers, as he did not look away for an instant, so enraptured was he by the face of his god.

The other personage, clearly a fellow sufferer come here for succour, was an elder woman, her hair white as thistle-down, her face a map of the passage of many and many a year, but her back straight and her eyes clear. She pushed lightly at the heavy door as I watched, the which did make the rattle-scratch sound I had heard; then she turned and stared at the youth, clearly waiting for him to break the chains of inhuman stupidity that kept him from realizing: not only was she a lady of some dignity, not only was she a grandmother and deserving of great respect, but she was a weak and injured patient of his employer, and obviously he had been assigned to see to her needs. Yet there he stood, unmoving but for his thumbs, which caressed the Verizon-stone as obsessively as a friar with his rosary.

I made to rise and carry out the fool’s proper duty, but ere I could do more than stand, the lady threw up her hands and shoved her way through the portal – showing an impressive vigor for her age and condition. The lad, still without looking up – his hair, which fell foolishly before his eyes, may have served as a second barrier to observation of the world, just after his ape-like imbecility – stepped to the side and then quickly through the door which the lady had opened.

Shaking my head and gritting my teeth, still I must first offer the lady some courtesy, as it was so sorely lacking from other quarters. I bowed to her, and gestured to the bench beside me.

The boy sat down. “Let me know if you need anything, okay, Mrs. F.,” he mumbled.

The cast on my left wrist, it obtains, is a fair club: it made a most satisfying thump on the back of the imbecile’s head. He cried out and at last – for a wonder – looked up. I struck down at his god, then, and sent it rattling across the ground – broken into pieces, I saw with no small satisfaction. “Hey!” he yelled, stretching his hands out toward his broken stone, like a child deprived of its sugar-sop.

“Aye, the lady doth need something, in truth,” I growled at him. “She needs to be treated with due reverence, and some semblance of manners. But not nearly so much as you need a drubbing for manners’ lack.”

He opened his mouth to protest, surely, but then a toss of his head cleared the hair from his vision – and perhaps the shaking of his rattling-dry walnut of a head cleared some of the cobwebs from his brain, what little there be of that organ – and he saw my expression. His mouth closed and he slunk off to retrieve his broken stone, which he proceeded to manipulate mournfully, clearly unable to return it to its proper shape. I shook my head once more, muttering a Gaelic imprecation, but I wished to help the lady more than I wished to beat the lad. Though ’twas a slim margin, in truth.

“Please, Madame, I beg thee to join me. This pleasant garden lacks but gentle company – a dearth I vow thou canst most ably fill.” With a flourish, I bowed the lady to the bench, where she sat after placing her dainty, wizened hand in mine and murmuring a delicate thanks for my humble assistance.

“Nay, milady, thou hast my gratitude for thy fair presence, which doth make this good garden all the more lovely.”

The lady arched a brow at me and then laughed. “Well, aren’t you the honey-tongued devil,” she said.

I bowed my head at the compliment. “‘Tis only meet to whisper sweet words into this well-perfumed air, and only a gentle manner should greet such a rare and beauteous lady as yourself.”

She snorted (in a most unladylike manner, though to say true, it made me glad, for though I can don a semblance of manners, ’tis not to my comfort, who am happiest with my salty brethren and the buxom tavern-wenches who keep us company) and said, “Too bad I have to be followed around by Justin Beeber over there, then. Though his manners are about what I expect from his generation, in this country, at least.” She shook her head at him – I would swear she spat! – and then turned to me. “You’re from Ireland, unless my ears have finally gone on me. I thought I heard you use a touch of the Gaelic to that hairy dullard.”

I bowed my head once more. “Aye, milady. I find my mother tongue to be unmatched in the application of vigorous insult. And if I may, I am Damnation Kane, of the Ireland of old.”

She held out her hand, and I took it and brushed a kiss across her knuckles – gnarled they were, but her grip was strong. “Margaret Boyle Flanagan, born in Dublin but raised on these barbaric shores. A pleasure, Mister Kane.”

“Nay, the pleasure is mine, milady, especially knowing thou to be of the right and proper blood.” I winked and placed another kiss on her hand, and she laughed. A proper laugh, too, full-throated and honest. A tavern-wench’s laugh.

“Tell me, Mister Kane. Do you play draughts?”

This was a good day.

 

Log August 22nd

This place, this hospital, has at last become hospitable. Though the food remains questionable – ample in quality but sorely lacking in savor – all else is grown most comfortable. La policia did return to question me once more, but the same application of hand to head and furrowing of heavy brow did foist them off once more. I feigned to remember a detail or two, selecting the most apt of MacManus’s tale; ’tis to be hoped they will be satisfied with this narrative, and be off to find an imagined ship and imagined enemies, and leave us in peace. The medicaments given me by the doctors have greatly eased the pain of my wounds, and my strength returns rapidly; the bedchamber and washroom adjacent are small, but adequate to my needs, and clean and well-maintained by the staff, who are numerous and generally quite solicitous. Now that I am ambulatory and can visit my companions at will, and with access to the gardens and my newfound and most delightful friend Margaret Flanagan – I find these accommodations most satisfactory. We will stay here, I think, until our hurts are well healed.

Margaret (as she insists I call her) is a woman of grace and gentility – though not, I must hasten to add, in the manner of one of those insufferable noblewomen, haughty and priggish. We have spent much of the last two days in company in the gardens; we found the means to play draughts, and with this and with conversation were thus occupied for many hours, though the time seemed far shorter, in our tranquil and enchanting amusement. Between games we walk through the gardens, her hand on my arm for support, and talk endlessly. I had her cackling like a hencoop over the exploits of my young self; particularly the occasion when my cousin Colin and I determined to set a trap for a giant, an endeavor that ended with a sheep bleating piteously, a-dangle from a tree limb with a rope about its middle, and Colin’s Da flat on his back in a mudpuddle, as Colin and I hied for the hills. Margaret, in turn, sang me a ribald song about a Scotsman which I must learn to heart so I may sing it for O’Gallows, that half-Scotch bastard.

Aye: with Margaret and the gardens to fill my days, and restful sleep o’nights, I find myself – happy.

 

August the 23rd

Today I met with Lynch and MacManus. I had woken in the night from a dream of the Grace, and bethought myself to read again the letter I have from Vaughn. This sparked my curiosity, when I read of how my companions held clues to the whereabouts of our beloved ship – or rather, the means to ascertain such knowledge. I called Lynch to come to MacManus’s room, and we discussed the matter.

They had clues, indeed, but none of us knows the meaning of them. Lynch had been told two words, which had been repeated often enough to root them well in his fevered memory, though the lad knew but the syllables and not the sense: the word “setting,” and the name Clio. I wonder if my educated friend Llewellyn meant to refer to the Muse of history. Or perhaps it is the name of a person, or an establishment hereabouts; I recall seeing taverns and eateries with similar names in Florida, while we sojourned there.

MacManus, who had maintained control of his faculties despite his wounds, had been given directions. He had been told, by Vaughn, to return to the point where they had docked the Grace – an old and unused pier in a quiet harbor not far from here – and then proceed, with his back to the ocean, for 100 paces, there to turn left and walk 30 more. Simple enough, but as these instructions had been withheld until after arrival at this hospital of St. Vincent, MacManus had no idea where they would lead. I hope then when we stand at that spot as directed, the words given Lynch will reveal their meaning, as well.

But this can all wait for another time. I must eat, and then sleep, and then – draughts!

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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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Log #40: Hospital

Log August 17

 

I will not say my situation has improved over what I found when first I awoke in this place, but at the least, I do understand it, now. Howbeit, I understand this place just so well as I understand any place in this world of 2011; that is to say, not so very well at all.

I drifted rudderless, in and out of my dreams, for many days. I remember seeing this place, the white ceiling and walls, the strange pipping of a tiny bird, slow and stately and regular as a funeral march, as if a sparrow were singing me to my grave, myself flat on my back and unable to move; I had some recollection of waking and choking on a thing which passed through my mouth and down my throat into my gullet as it was being removed, but the memory was strange and befuddling. I felt no pain, but I could not grasp and hold a thought, not a single one; and often I heard a quiet susurration, a whisper as of words spoke just beyond my hearing.

Aye: in my dreams, I did think this place to be Heaven, or Avalon, or Elysium, I know not what awaits us in that far-off country. But I bethought myself there, aye.

And then I woke, truly woke, and felt my mind catching hold; like an ox pulling a cart through spring mud, the great hooves slipping and sinking, and slipping and sinking, and then, at last, the hooves strike ground just firm enough beneath the muck to press back, and the cart begins to move: thus did I arise to the waking world. I knew myself alive, then, and in pain. My arms were strapped down, and my legs, as well. I had strands of clear stuff attached to my arms and my face, below my nose, and thin strands of white like spider’s webs or thread ran to my chest and brow; following them back led my eye to a tall white box, on a metal stand, with a quantity of depressions and obtrusions and dark places, numbers and letters and strange words written around and about, here and there. Above it on metal hooks hung two sacs of fluid, like wineskins made of glass; from these ran the clear strands to my arm. I felt a terrible thirst.

I attempted to call out, but could do no more than croak weakly. I fain would struggle against my bonds, but my strength had fled. Then the tall box gave a louder chirp, and then – cool, soft peace stole over me, starting with my right arm, spreading quickly across my chest and shoulders, my neck, my jaw, my head – and then again I slept.

When next I woke, the mud enmiring my brain was drier, easier to pull through and then out of. My pain was back, and the thirst; I bit at my tongue until I made enough spittle to swallow and ease my aching throat, and then I called out, “Hallloooo!” Soft at first, bare more than a whisper, but then a bit louder and stronger, and then a bit more with the third repetition.

After my fourth call, a door opened behind me, and soft footsteps padded in. A woman appeared at my right side, and smiled down on me. Neither young nor old, her golden hair tied back from her face, she wore a strange tunic and loose trousers, brightly colored and bearing images of – were those kittens?

Her cool fingers touched my arm, then my brow. “Are you awake?” she asked. “More than a quick breath before you go back under, I mean?” I frowned at her and tried to speak, but coughed through my dry throat. “Thirsty? Here, let me get you some ice chips.” She vanished. I croaked after her and struggled weakly, feeling like a toad tied to a board by a cruel boy. Did they plan the same sorts of childishly evil tortures for me as that toad would suffer of a heartless lad? I strained, but I could barely make a fist, let alone loosen my bonds.

The woman returned, a small cup in her hand. She touched something on the side of the bed near my hand, and suddenly the bed moved beneath me, lifting my head and trunk until I sat nigh upright. She held the cup to my lips, and when I opened, tipped it so that many small fragments of ice fell into my mouth; ’twas not unlike eating snow. They melted on the instant, and brought blessed relief to my raging thirst. The lady gave me a second and a third mouthful ere I pulled my lips from the cup.

She placed the cup on a tray and turned to the chirping box whereto my strands were tied.

“Where am I?” I asked in my toad’s croak.

“In St. Vincent’s Hospital,” she replied.

“And where be that?”

She looked somewhat strangely at me, and thus became familiar; now I knew myself to be, still, in the world of 2011, in the land of America, where all my questions are met with that same look. I could not suppress the sigh which escaped me at this revelation.

The woman returned to my side, placing cool fingers on my wrist. “It’s in Charleston.”

I said nothing.

She looked to my eyes and saw my befuddlement. “In South Carolina? In America? The United States?” When I showed no particular response, she put a hand on her hip, tipped her head to the side, and asked, “Say, where are you from?”

“Ireland,” quoth I.

She shook her head. “First time I ever met a white illegal,” she murmured. She had a pleasant accent, somewhat English, but softened in a way that seemed French to my ear.

My initial query answered so well as it could be, I moved to my next most pressing ignorance. “Wherefore am I bound?” I strained lightly against the strap crossing my forearms in illustration.

“You were struggling, flailing your arms all over. You kept pulling out the ivies.”

I looked wide-eyed at the strands attached to my arms, and I saw now that they pierced my skin – as if they were taking root in me. “Ivies? Why are there ivies planted in me? What hell is this, woman?” I began to struggle against my bonds, but I had not strength; the slight woman took hold of my shoulders and pressed me back against the bed-chair, restraining me with shameful ease.

“Calm down now, you just calm down. You need the ivies to get well again. They’ll come right out when you don’t need them any more.” I fell limp once more, already exhausted, and she released me. She arched one brow, hands once more placed on her hips. “And my name is not ‘Woman,’ it is Julie Winslow, RN.” She tapped at a card pinned to the breast of her tunic, which bore a tiny portrait of her. “You may call me Miss Winslow, for now.”

I turned my head away, shamed by my weakness and dulled by despair.

“I’m going to get the doctor now, all right? He can answer any of your questions.”

My innards growled then. “Will I be fed with more than mouthfuls of snow?”

“That’s up to the doctor. Just a moment.”

She departed, and then my throat informed me that it would appreciate another mouthful of cold relief. I looked down at the cup, placed on a tray that was easy to hand – or would have been, were my arms unbound and uninvaded. I looked more closely at my hands and saw that I was held only by wide leathern thongs, without locks; perhaps I could get my fingers to the clasp . . .

The door opened, and a manly voice said, “Well now, I hear someone’s finally had enough napping.” A man appeared at my bedside then, with white hair and beard. He wore a white coat over a blue shirt and a brightly colored neck-scarf; I had seen similar attire on Master McNally, and so took this man to be a gentleman of breeding, as well – as befit a medic.

“Aye,” I spake, my voice coarse. “How long did I sleep?” There was no window, no way to read the hour – or season, for that matter. By my dreams, it had been days, but what truth is there in dreams?

The medic repeated many of Miss Winslow’s motions, examining the ivy-box, placing fingers on my wrist while staring at an ornate golden torc on his own wrist, which resembled a compass. “What do you remember?” he asked me.

The shuddering blast of cannon. The stench of smoke, and salt spray – and blood, the corrupt stink of death. Hobbes, grinning like a skull, with a shadow-man at his back. Men rising from behind the rail of the Sea-Cat, thunderguns bursting, and screaming – my men – I fired and –

“I was – shot?”

The man nodded, his bright, intelligent eyes meeting my own. “Twice, once in the right shoulder and once in the left forearm. Both bullets passed through, but left you some fairly severe damage. You also suffered a fractured skull and a serious concussion, so I would expect your memory to be a bit fuzzy.” He drew a metal tube from his pocket, and with it, beamed a searingly bright light directly into my eye. I cried out, partly with shock at the brightness of the tube-torch, and partly with outrage at this imposition, and drew away. He frowned at me and at his tube, and then placed a gentle but firm hand on my brow, holding me like a fractious child, and moving more carefully, shone the light into my eyes for but an instant before releasing me, murmuring comfortingly all the while, to wit: “Don’t worry, I just need to examine you, only take a second, that’s it,” and so forth.

“Unhand me, sir!” I said then, and he did. When he was finished gentling me and prodding at my very sight.

He stepped back and put his hands in his pockets. “Do you know where you are?”

“Aye, the lass told me where I am. A hospital of the order of St. Vincent, though I do not know those monks.”

He frowned at me. “Do you know who you are?”

I stared for a moment. “Aye – I am Damnation Kane, captain of the good ship the Grace of Ireland.

Christ! I had not thought of her afore now; my brain still wallowed half in the mud of sleep. “Where is my ship? My crew?” I had a new thought, then, an explanation for my bonds. “Are you holding me captive? Are ye in league with the Devil’s Lash?”

He held up his hands placatingly. “Hold on, hold on, simmer down, now. You’re not captive, you’re not under arrest, and I’m certainly not in league with the Devil. We’re here to help you. The restraints are only so you don’t hurt yourself, and if you’ll promise me you won’t struggle or try to get out of the bed, I’ll take them off right now.”

I relaxed my limbs. “I am not held for Nicholas Hobbes? Nor for la policia?”

He shook his head. “The police will have some questions for you; we had to report your wounds, as they were gunshots, and the whole story isn’t yet clear. But you are not under arrest, or any suspicion, and you are free to go as soon as you are physically healthy enough.”

“I have your word on that?”

He paused, frowning slightly. Then he nodded. “You do.”

“Then ye have mine. I’ll not struggle nor fight you.”

He nodded again, and then he released the leather thongs that held my arms and legs. I tried to stretch my limbs, but was hampered by the strands of ivy. “Will ye take these out of me, as well?”

Now he shook his head. “I’m afraid you still need those. We are giving you fluids and antibiotics. You lost quite a bit of blood, there, and there was a fairly serious infection in the shoulder wound. Your friends bound it, but their materials were none too sterile, it seems.”

“What of my friends? Where are my shipmates?” I coughed at the last word, and the doctor took up the cup of snow and placed it in my hand; I emptied it gratefully.

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything about a ship. You were brought to the hospital, along with two others, who were also shot. They’re still here, and you can visit them when you’re feeling up to it. The men who brought all of you here left as soon as we took custody of you. The police have spoken to your two friends about them, but I don’t know any more than that.”

I returned to an earlier question. “How long have I been here?”

He paused, then said, “You’ve been here for seven days.”

Gods! I’d been shot twice, broken my head, and been feverish and delirious for a full week – and now I felt nearly hale, though weak and in pain. Not nearly so much pain as I would expect, howbeit. I nodded to the medic. “Thank you for your good care for myself and my compatriots.” I attempted to place the cup on the tray, but could not reach; the man took the cup from my hand.

“I want you to rest now,” he said. “In a little while I’ll have Miss Winslow bring you some soup to eat – and maybe a little surprise, if you’re feeling up to it.” He touched the side of the bed as had Miss Winslow, and I found myself reclining again. “Now you should try to sleep. It will help you get better.”

If he said more, I did not hear it. I fell into a deep and thankfully dreamless slumber.

I woke but slowly; as I lay dozing, the door opened and another woman came in, this one younger and darker-hued than Miss Winslow. I wakened further as she came to my ivy-box and examined its lineaments – why did they all stare at that box? And where was that damned cheeping bird, or the whisperers behind my head? – and gave her greeting. She smiled at me most prettily, and soon enough I had been brought upright once more – and the means of so adjusting my position shown to me – and she brought me a bowl of broth and a glass of golden juice, most delicious both, and surprisingly filling, though my gut did rumble ominously as I ate.

The doctor returned as I broke my long fast, and introduced himself as Albert Kelashnikskaya, a name I had to see writ on his portrait card ere I could repeat it. After a cursory examination and some idle questions regarding my mental state, he drew a folded paper from his pocket and gave it me. Then he politely withdrew – a man of quality, indeed.

It was a letter, from my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn, and reading it gave me more peace than even that good soup.

***

Captain Kane,

It is my fondest wish that this letter will soon find you hale and well, once more. My deepest regret is that I could neither return you to health myself, nor be present when these kind folk do so; but my own skills are far too meager for the first task, and our situation too dire for the second.

As of this morning, we are free of the Devil’s Lash. The Grace sustained but minor damage, apart from our casualties, and we had soon sailed out of sight of the Sea-Cat. O’Gallows has command, and after we are assured that you will be safe, we will sail elsewhere, to escape and perhaps draw Captain Hobbes away from you. I will not say where, as I cannot be sure Hobbes will not retrieve this letter. If you wake (and God will it so!), inquire of your companions, who will have the means to guide you to us.

God keep and preserve you, Captain, and us as well.

Llewellyn Vaughn

***

My ship was safe. My crew were safe, but for the casualties – and those were not so many that my dear friend Ian could not sail my ship to safety. Satisfied for the nonce, I held the letter to my breast, and thus slept.

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Book II: Chapter 1, of The Adventures of Damnation Kane — Log 39

Captain’s Log

But am I still captain? I am not on my ship. Where is my ship? Am I even myself?

I have slept long and dreamt – strangely. How long? How strange!

I dreamt that I was home, in my mother’s house. I awoke in her bower, the carved oak bench she was wont to recline on, the which I would steal for slumber whenever opportunity arose. And the dawn sun shone through the flowers that grew there, up trellises and down walls so that within the bower, all seemed a fairyland, without hint of human corruption in the sweet breath of nature. The perfume of the flowers drifted to me, and the birds gently chirruped, weet, weet, weet.

My mother came to me, moving slow as the tides, the sun shining on her face, her golden hair. She wore a gown of blue, and with gold shining at her wrists and her pale throat, she seemed the very sky itself, the heavens come down to bless me and ease away my cares.

“Are you home?” she asked with a warm smile.

“Aye, mother, I have returned to thee,” I said. I tried to arise, but – could not.

“Are you home?” she said again, and her smile faded. The bright dawn did as well, and a shadow crept into the bower. Again I tried to rise, but could not. Something held me to the bench, flat on my back. Helpless.

Then my mother raised her hands from her sides, and I saw she held an athame, the druid’s dagger, the weapon used for rituals. For sacrifices. “Are you home?” she hissed, and now her lovely face twisted with anger. Of a sudden her slow, tranquil movements flowed as quick as thought. And my mother stabbed me, and stabbed again. Behind her, in the leaves and vines and blooms, the birds chirruped on.

***

I dreamt I walked a road in the night, the moon bright above and a thousand thousand stars that danced musingly across the sky. From a thicket nearby came the slow sound of an owl hoo-hoo-hoo in the darkness. And as I walked, I felt a hand slip into mine, a hand soft and cool. I turned to look, and beheld – Genevra. My Genevra, alive again, in the perfect blossom of youth and health, as she had been once, but was not, that last time I looked on her. She smiled at me and said, “Hello, my darling devil. Give us a kiss, and then dash us away to your fiery pit.” ‘Twas such she ever said to me. I caught her up in my arms, laughing with her, her voice ringing like bells, like bird’s song, and I kissed her, aye, I did.

And as I drew back, her face looked as it had when last I looked on her: pallid and drawn, her eyes shrunk into her skull, her sweet lips drawn back from her teeth by the pain, her soft white throat swelled up like a frog’s by the buboes, her flesh blackened by that bloody English plague. They brought it to us after their city burned (When God wreaked his vengeance on them, aye, did he.) and they took my Genevra from me, and drove me thus to a life at sea.

That dying, agonized face looked back at me from my embrace, and now her grimace seemed a smile, and she licked her lips with blackened tongue and said, “Welcome to Hell, my devil, my Damnation.

“Give us a kiss.”

And she laughed like bells.

***

I dreamt I stood on the deck of my ship, my Grace, and the wind filled the sails and carried us over the waves. From somewhere far off, gulls cried, their harsh voices softened by distance into a gentle, regular note, repeating every second or two, Ha! Ha! Ha! As always, I looked to the sails, the lines, the coursing of the sea: all was as it should be, and I smiled as my heart swelled with joy, to be where I was. Where I belonged.

“Steady as she goes, Captain?” called a voice, and I turned to see my friend and shipmate Balthazar Lynch at the wheel. Gladly I climbed to the poop deck to stand beside him, clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Aye, we sail fine and true, and naught is ill in all this wide world.” The boy smiled at that, and I noticed the gleam of his white teeth, hale and straight and true, and the blush of health in his smooth cheeks – still too young to shave? – and the sparkle of his green eyes. He’ll reap through the lasses like a very scythe, I thought, as I have many times before, they’ll fall before him and aye, beneath him, too.

Then I noted a tear, bright and full, trickling down from the corner of his wide eye. “Why weepest thou, my lad?” I asked him.

He smiled bravely, though his eyes were full of suffering. “Because it hurts, Captain.” He looked down, and I followed his gaze to where a blade was sunk deep into his chest, and on the hilt were curled my own fingers. Blood burst forth from the wound then, hot and wet on my hand. I tried to release the dagger, but could not. I looked into Lynch’s eyes once more, and I tried to speak, but my tongue cleaved to my teeth, and my lips would not open.

“Please stop killing me, Nate. Please stop killing me.” And his face became Genevra’s face, and then my mother’s, and still the blade in my hand, in her heart, ran red with blood, and I could not let go.

***

I dreamt that I sat in a tavern, in a dark corner by the fire. I looked around the room – ’twas a fine place, a proper Irish pub, with smoking torches in sconces and warm smells thickening the air, though a cool breeze from the open door cut through the room and freshened a man’s breath. In the corner, on a raised platform, three musicians stood, tuning their instruments, fiddle and flute and drum, and the fiddle and the flute played a single note back and forth, back and forth, while the drummer tapped gently at the skin, a slow beat like a heart’s.

I looked to the bar, and behind it stood a man I knew, though he was dressed as an innkeeper, in an apron and shirtsleeves stained with food and ale: ’twas Sean O’Flaherty, my Quartermaster that was. At the bar sat Edmund Burke, who raised his mug to me, and I saw a long chain dangling from his wrist, and blood dripping down its length. Beside him was Donal Carter, sawing at a hunk of meat with a great, curved blade, and Elliott Shluxer, who had a barmaid pinned against the bar, hemmed in by his arms, though she laughed and tickled his cheeks. She glanced back over her shoulder, and I saw ’twas the Enchantress. She winked at me most saucily.

And on top of the bar, laid out like a roast goose at Christmas, was my cousin, Hugh Moran. And all of them sliced and tore at Hugh’s flesh, thrusting dripping chunks into their gaping, bloody mouths, and laughing as they swallowed. Hugh struggled, and tried to scream, but he had an apple in his mouth, and O’Flaherty held him down. Hugh looked at me, his eyes pleading.

I turned away.

“Would you care for a plate, Master Kane?”

The voice, mellifluous of tone and refined of accent, came from my table companion: Captain Nicholas Hobbes of the Sea-Cat, known as the Devil’s Lash. He sat in deep shadow, though I could make out the outline of his thin features, and the shine of his white teeth, the gleam of his eyes. He smoked a pipe, the white plumes curling idly between us.

I shook my head. “‘Tis not to my taste, sir.”

“Then perhaps a draught, to quench thy thirst?” From the shadows that enwrapped his side of the table, he pushed a goblet brimming with a red fluid. Wine? Blood?

I demurred once more. “I do not thirst,” I spake, but I lied – my throat was a fire, my voice cracking like a pine log on the hearth. I strained my eyes, peering through the smoke and darkness, and I saw that there was not only one smile, or one man’s eyes agleam in the dimness, but two: behind Hobbes lurked another, lost in the shadows but for the white of his smile and his gaze, the which gleamed hungrily.

“Then mayhap this is what you seek,” Hobbes said and across the table he thrust a pistola. As he leaned forward, he came into the light, and I saw that his face bore the waxy yellow pallor of the dead, and around his throat I saw two hands wrapped tight and squeezing, the fingers dark and scarred.

“Aye, I thank thee kindly, sir,” I heard myself saying. And I took up the pistol from the tabletop, pressed the barrel against my head, and pulled the trigger.

***

***

I am thankful that I have never been press-ganged. I’ve known men who have, and I have spoken with them about the experience. Some were pressed into a better life than that they left, for all that it was the British navy they now must needs serve; still, a British seaman gets food and clothing, a berth and companions, and if he serve loyally, mayhap even the gratitude of the Crown. And some, of course, were stolen away from happiness, from hearth and home, companions and kin, to be flogged like brutes and treated like beasts. These latter had escaped, while the former were generally released from service after some years before the mast.

But for all, that first waking was a memory that haunted. That first moment of awareness, when the last thing you recalled was a walk through dark streets, or perhaps a drink of ale or wine in a tavern by the docks, and now you find yourself with aching head in a hammock, or sprawled across the rough planks of a deck, on a ship at sea, moving with the waves when last you stood on solid land; in your nose the smells of salt air and a ship and men, and in your ears the sounds of wind and waves, sails and shrouds, and chanteys and shouted orders to rise and work – perhaps punctuated with a kick, or a blow from a belaying pin or marlinspike: every man to whom I spoke of it said that the confusion, the bewilderment of such a change, from landsman’s life to the world of a ship at sea, all of the world altered in the single closing and opening of an eye, had filled them with a terror and a despair that none had otherwise known. Their lives had gone, and they had no memory of the going. The sensation did not last long, but those moments were sheer and absolute Hell.

And now I know what they meant.

I am in a room with white walls, without window, with one door. I am in a bed, clothed but in a thin wrap like a robe made of parchment or threadbare linen. My arms are tied by leather thongs lined with some soft material, bound to the rails that run on both sides of this bed, and thin tubes are – attached to me, somehow. The tubes lead to a contraption of metal and white-lacquered stuff, with clear sacs like wineskins made of glass, filled with variously colored fluids. The thing chirps like a bird, though more regular-like. My left forearm is well-bandaged, as is my right shoulder, and both pain me severely. My head seems awash in porridge: somewhat thick and warm and impossible to grip are my thoughts. I have slept and woke and slept again, sometimes dreaming, sometimes aware, even as I have written this. I write these words on a bound sheaf of paper which rests on my hip, with a pen I found alongside the sheaf when I woke.

I do not know where I am. I do not know the fate of my ship, or my men, or even myself. I do not know how much time has passed, or what has befallen us since – I do recall the battle, though I know not how it has ended.

Aye, this confusion is terrible, in truth. I am adrift, and alone. It would, like those press-ganged men I have known, be the worst sensation I have ever felt in this life; except for that I have felt it before. When my ship sailed through time, stranding my crew and I three centuries lost from home.

Has it happened again? I do not know.

Sleep pulls me down. I fear my dreams.

Gods and saints preserve me.

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