issue thirty-four

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(5840 words)
March 10

       The boat was absolutely heaving with pelts; we were hours -- hours -- from port, and the windfall that would have secured my future -- Helen's future, the child's. Now look at me: banished, penniless, among a pox-ridden clan of savages. They are ragged, sallow; meagerly provisioned: dried salmon, dried berries, and some sort of boiled root. They sit and stare at me as I eat, as though the mechanics of chewing fascinates them. I attempt, using gestures and what few words of Chinook I recall, to tell them of our shipwreck and offer riches if they return me to Baranof. At the mention of sea travel they grow agitated. Something about the islands frightens them -- an evil of some sort. "Dayab," they say repeatedly. Fletcher would know what it means. From here, looking across the strait, I see only a mean scattering of wind-scoured rocks. There is no sign of man or beast.

All of yesterday I watched the sea in vain for other survivors. I must assume the rest of the party and our furs lie on the bottom of the strait. Lest you think me a coward for abandoning Fletcher and the others to their fate, countenance that I cannot properly swim. We are trappers, not seamen.

The Queen Charlottes offered some initial protection but our tireless work at the oars was no match for the swell, the Pacific had well and truly turned on us and we broke upon a bar several hundred yards from the mainland. As we foundered I tied myself to a barrel of wine and a bundle of pelts, snatched a rifle and leapt into the sea. A voice, then, off to my left: Fletcher, his face gray, eyes rolling like a spooked horse. When he grasped me by the shoulder, pulling me sideways and filling my mouth with seawater, I broke his nose with the rifle butt. A rolling wave pulled us apart and I had one final glimpse of him as he struggled to stay afloat, his blood-washed face pointed to the heavens.

The barrel kept me afloat, and the current carried me south. Soon the cries of the men drifted away and I was left with only the cold, which clutched at my chest. Breathing became my principle preoccupation, the simple act turned painful and difficult. Yet a feeling of peace cradled my spirit, despite the violence of the sea, and I lost all sense of direction and time, regaining it only with the dawn, which coincided with a shift in the current and a break in the weather. Finally able to look about, I was surprised to see I had not drifted as far south as expected -- that the Queen Charlotte's lower outcroppings remained visible in the distance, and, God be praised, I was within a quarter mile of the mainland.

As I reached the shallows the barrel became an anchor, its weight dragging me about in the surf. I could not get my footing and thought for a moment that, after surviving the storm, I was to drown in two feet of water with sand in my teeth. But my approach had been observed; someone laid hands on me and cut away the ropes. A group of indians in tasseled blankets and conical hats observed me from a distance. A child with a knife pushed the wine barrel up onto the beach, then returned to fish the pelts out of the water. The indians appraised me suspiciously and I pointed to the pelts. "Potlatch, potlatch," I told them, but they made no reply, nor any move to suggest they meant me harm. One of the men produced a small cross from the folds of his clothing and waggled it at me in a strange manner, as though casting a spell. Then he said something to the boy and the boy came and took the pelts and that seemed to formalize our arrangement. I followed them to a crude log house built at the tree line, which they occupy collectively: windowless, dark and musty with woodsmoke, but blessedly warm. Perhaps I yet held the image of the cross in my mind for despite the shabbiness of the domicile it had the air of a church, a place trembling with secrets and promises. The only illumination came from the embers of a small fire. A red light cast fitfully about, illuminating first one face and then another in the cabin's gloomy recesses, all bearing the bleak expressions of penitents. They seemed, somehow, to be expecting me. The man with the cross beckoned me to the back corner where several hammocks hung, one of them occupied by someone snoring outrageously. For a moment I was certain it was Fletcher and cast aside his blanket, only to reveal a lined alien face, staring up at me impassively with whiteless eyes.

March 11

       Woke today to find the indians have vanished, all but an old man tending a sick child. The child can be no more than two and breathes laboriously, like a train whistle, face and arms covered in angry red blisters. It is the pox, I am sure of it. The old man provides me food at intervals, absently, but does not speak Chinook, or at least pretends not to. He makes vague hand gestures towards the forested headlands and sits his silent vigil beside the dying child.

March 12

       Fletcher, were he here, would suggest we open the wine. Forever hasty in his decisions and speech, Fletcher. Often, during slack days at sea when he would not cease his squealing, I would wish to cast him overboard with his hands bound behind his back. But I enjoyed his japes and tales, and, yes, perhaps at one point, in our cups, promised to bring him home with me, to aid in clearing the homestead. I regretted it at once. Now I would pay a far steeper price, would that it secured my passage home.

March 13

       The rest of the savages have returned and brought with them a squaw crone, some sort of doctor or holywoman. She immediately entered the cabin and began administering to the child. She carries a basket laden with strong smelling substances that I estimate are medicinal, but who am I to say. One season working the trap lines is not sufficient to familiarize a man with these indians, their customs, or their inscrutable chain of command.

March 14

       Heavy rain and wind confines us indoors. The holywoman has not slept; she sits up with the sick child day and night, as though enraptured, speaking to nobody. The child's condition has not improved.

The savages seem in no hurry to be rid of me. None care to meet my gaze with the exception of one squaw who stares at me with a penetrating ferocity and looks to have had one of her breasts removed. She occupies a corner of the longhouse, sequestered away from the rest of the clan. Perhaps she is some sort of low figure or slave, rather than a member of this strange and extended family.

I predict we are no more than 100 miles from Port Alexander as the crow flies. But I am no crow, and will need travel by land or sea. I hold out hope of persuading them to transport me, at least to Prince of Wales, in one of their dugout cedar canoes, which they pilot with great alacrity. Alas, their reticence persists -- and the canoes are too large for a single man.

March 27

       On the day I left to muster with the trading company, Helen stood in the doorway of our small cabin, the child at her breast and the steady hiss of rain falling down the chimney and into the stove's belly. "Three months," I told her. "Not a day longer." She had trembled and clutched the babe tighter, such that the little thing startled and flung her arms wide, as though to accept a benediction. Helen and I looked down at those delicate arms, pink creases in the creamy skin, eyelids that fluttered like the wings of a moth. We did not need to speak on the precarious position I left them in, nor how little resemblance it bore to the world I had promised when I persuaded Helen to leave Cleveland to its foundries and seek our fortune in the West. "Promise you'll write," she said, and I left before my courage failed me.

The indian child died after a night spent hauling air into and out of flooded lungs, coughing with a brittleness that suggested his small bones were cracking from the strain. The indians seem indifferent to the loss, though I imagine they lose many children. That, at least, we have in common.

The coughing disturbed my slumber and I woke at one point to see the squaw holywoman lying on her side, asleep. I rose angrily, meaning to shake her awake, but stopped when I beheld her face, creased and collapsing in the repose of someone utterly drained. Instead I lay down beside the infant and held a compress to his brow; there was naught to be done save ease the poor creature's discomfort. As the end approached the piteous thing began to vomit uncontrollably, waking the crone, who shooed me away as the longhouse filled with the reek of blood and feces. The body was placed in a crude pine box and set outside by the man with the cross. He is the chief, or "tyee." I do not know how he came upon the cross, but I mean to take it with me when I depart. These people are no Christians; they have not abandoned their indian gods.

March 28

       The tyee calls this island Metlakatla. This is their winter camp. Soon, he says, they will travel south to their village along the Skeena River. The wrong direction. I have nothing to entice them north. I cannot help but wonder if Fletcher would manage it. He (was? is?) a pervert, but perverts are persuasive. They will leave soon. They are short of food. The men, when the weather permits, have taken to net fishing out in the strait but their catches are meager, an assortment of herring and candlefish.

Several members of the clan are ill and have taken to the hammocks. I feel duty-bound to help them in some way, despite my fear of the pox. I approached the holywoman but she merely clucked and waved me away. Instead I wandered inland, to escape a squall, and listened to the wind tear limbs from the trees.

March 29

       The pox has spread rapidly. Half the clan is confined to the longhouse. Just as the afflicted child, two of the indians have erupted in pustules upon their arms and backs, which they attempt to hide beneath their clothes as they lay by the fire. The single-breasted woman brings the sick water and food, though they do not seem to have any appetite. Instead they claw at her feebly, as though drowning, their faces contorted with pain and confusion. Why does she not flee? Nought keeps her here but some sense of duty, one I cannot help but admire. The truth is I have become unnaturally preoccupied with this woman, whom the others call simply "Ikt": One. Perhaps she is named thus on account of her abundant and singular breast. Yesterday I allowed myself to listen as Ikt copulated with the tyee. Later, when I asked him about her, he described her as something between a guardian and a slave, with influence over the dangers that come by sea. He believes that lying with her bestows upon him magical powers, though what dangers he fears are unclear; when I pressed him he became agitated, striking his palm across his face repeatedly in a strange manner. At last he fell to shaking his head and repeating "skookum saltchuck, skookum saltchuck": demon sea. He fears the Haida, a fearsome variety of savage that patrols these waters in war canoes the size of sperm whales. There are stories of Haida sacking whitemen's ships. One Haida village is supposedly armed with a cannon stolen from such a venture. Long ago the company determined it was better to pay them off than fight them.

Today I ranged north along the craggy beach and up into the headlands in search of a promising overland route home, but the country is rugged, slashed with unfordable inlets. To brave the interior would be akin to suicide. What looked to be faces, white faces, appeared in the gaps between the trees, and I called out to them. I received in reply only the whistling of a prevailing westerly rushing through the treetops, a sound which I mistook several times for Fletcher's girlish giggling. Better to try and swim for Baranof, he would say, knowing full well I do not swim.

March 30

       In the night, as the sick moaned and befouled themselves, Ikt passed to and fro ministering to them. She has no apparent fear of the pox, laying hands on the hapless souls unreservedly. She and the holywoman are in cahoots, I sense. They huddle and whisper with an urgency that extends beyond the immediate demands of nursing the sick.

Ikt. When she stares at you, proud and unashamed, you feel the full force of her otherness, her savagery. The sensation is disquieting yet irresistible. Intoxicating. She is no great beauty, her face scarred in places where someone has taken a blade to it. And there is the missing breast, the space where it had been covered in a large, smooth scar -- like a puddle of wax on her chest. (Yes, I witnessed her disrobe, quite by accident. She possesses not a shred of modesty). The certainty of her movements, the poise, precision, confidence… they belong in the opera house, not a sodden, disease-ridden hovel on the shores of a cursed sea.

March 31

       The noise and smell of sickness was so great last night that I was unable to sleep. I lay in my hammock, debating whether to attempt sleeping outside, when I noticed a flash of light from the doorway: moonlight, spilling in as someone slipped out. I followed. The night was still and clear, the light of the moon reflecting brilliantly off the strait's surface, and there stood Ikt, staring out across the water. I wanted to approach but hesitated, filled with the uncertainty of a lovesick schoolboy. Surely she sensed me there, but did not turn or otherwise recognize me, such was her fixation. I followed the direction of her gaze. Was there movement on the water? No; it was a figment, some trick of the eye. I kept my distance. Still, we shared an intimacy of thought, both of us lost in our ruminations, which I believe ran parallel: she, too, was called to the sea. Perhaps I should feel shame and remorse, but I cannot. There is a righteousness to whatever draws me to this woman, a truth that she alone can reveal to me. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Helen's face will no longer present itself to me when I summon it. I can conjure a wisp of flaxen hair, a faint odor of camphor, and of course the implacable shrieking of the child. But her face eludes me, as though she is perpetually turning away, concealing herself from view.

April 2

       A masted boat today. Twenty, thirty miles southwest. Too far to hail but encouraging.

I woke this morning to find Ikt missing and my mind immediately began developing outlandish and disturbing fantasies of her and Fletcher fornicating like animals. I prowled the beach, first south for two miles, then back and north of the camp for a further two. Something came over me, a poisonous blackness. I found myself crashing through the understory, ripping long-dead and rotten logs to loam, exposing small earthen cavities and tangled roots. Everywhere I expected to find them, to catch a flash of Fletcher's pale haunch. When my strength gave out I walked back to the surf and pressed my face against the rocks and allowed the waves to rush over me. As they receded the waves forced silt around my mouth and nose. I lay and held my breath for as long as I could, waiting for God to deliver some message, but I heard only the roar of the sea.

When Ikt returned to camp late in the evening I nearly wept in relief. She, too, had seen the boat, and had thought it was coming to collect me. She was afraid of the sailors -- the ship men -- and preferred to be absent when they arrived. She had gone in search of a plant she believed would soothe the discomfort of the painful pox. She did not find it -- something about this island being wrong, or in the wrong place. This particular plant could be found across the water, she explained, where she was from, and hoped to one day return.

She is, as I suspected, not of these people, though her position is more complex than I suspected; she is no mere slave. Warriors from an opposing tribe snatched her during a raid on her village. She was a child, but old enough to remember -- to recall her birthplace, the craggy island across the strait. Haida. Several years of chattel slavery followed before she was traded to this tyee, who treats her better than her previous captors, though they are not man and wife. The years have hardened her. She lost her breast in a battle with Russian trappers. Carried and lost two children, both the tyee's. Her family must think her dead, she says -- if they knew where she was, just across the strait, they would send a raiding party and return her home. Someday they will come for her, of this she is entirely certain.

I confess to a jealousy of her ability to look across the waters and see, to know that things remained unchanged, her island home safe in its stoic persistence, her people, wherever they hid among the crags, safe and accounted for. And I think of Helen and the child, down on Lopez, their fortunes riding on my ability to collect and sell pelts, my own personal indentured servitude. It was always supposed to be a short-lived enterprise, an expedition from which I would return, our fortune secured, such that we could establish ourselves and complete the homestead.

How diminished our ambitions.

Chased out of Wisconsin by the cold, and out of South Dakota by the Sioux; our stock run off by scoundrels in Wyoming. Then the mountains and the endless prairies adjacent, where the vastness conceals the truth that you can walk but one path: a packed out wagon road to Oregon City, which is no city at all, rather a clapboard jungle scrum of criminals, the drunken Land Officer first among them. The tale he spun of the island paradise up north in the disputed territory deserves a place in a fairy tale and I, fool that I was, eyes still agleam with the promise of the West, was only too eager to sign the claim. When we arrived at our new home a month later I could scarce believe the island could hold up such monstrous trees, their trunks broader than train cars. I could not bear to look upon my wife, such was my shame, until she put my hand to the restless child in her belly and said, "We shall become farmers of trees, then." We managed to scrape a patch of sunless, rocky earth clean, to erect a small cabin in which Helen expelled the child, red and squalling. It was then that I realized I had not expected the babe to live. She was to arrive, like the others, blue and clammy, a clay offering to be immediately interred in the earth and released unto the Lord. Looking upon them I felt the stirring of hope, a small spark in the cold ashes of my ambitions. Perhaps we had at last come to the place God had promised us.

But how long will she wait? There are plenty of lonely men on the island. Most of them have squaw wives, but would happily cast them aside if a white woman became available. The truth is I do not know the limits of Helen's resolve. Perhaps she has reached it already, or been pushed beyond it.
Tomorrow I will prepare a signal fire for the next boat sighting.

April 5

       The smell of sick in the longhouse is now flavored with decay. Fletcher's degeneracy made him vulnerable to disease, so it is well if he did not survive the wreck. Surely death by sea is preferable to the pox. Thank God the house has no windows; I fear what the light would reveal. I remain unaffected by the illness and spent several hours retrieving fresh water from the closest source, a distant stream, with which the holywoman brews her noxious tinctures.

Firewood has grown scarce as the clan's men have lost their ability to work, which I will seek to remedy tomorrow. I passed the balance of the day near the shore, where the breeze coming off the water blew the sick air out of my nostrils.

April 7

       Storm. Writing difficult in the wet and the wind.

April 9

       The storm has abated. I walked the beach and found debris from our ship washed ashore -- an assortment, little of value. The indians discovered it before me and had already picked through the debris in search of God knows what, carrying away a few salvageable pelts, scraps of fabric, bits of metal.

Two more men expired. The tyee, himself increasingly unwell but more able-bodied than any of his men, attempted to build coffins, as had been done for the child. The crude adze with which he pursued his task fell repeatedly from his hands. Each time it fell he would stare stupidly about, as though he could not see the tool lying at his feet, until I retrieved it for him. As he extended his hand a final time his blouse fell open and released a miasma of putrefaction. As I turned my face away he stumbled and collapsed. I carried him back into the house and laid him out by the fire. He clutched at my clothes, spoke to me in a bubbling whisper, stopping periodically to cough. The gist of his feverish rambling seemed to be this: he and his people had fled to the coast from the interior. An evil spirit had cursed the land, bringing the violent whiteman, hungry for furs, and great sickness. They had managed to claim a place for themselves among the territorial coastal tribes, but now the spirit -- a raven? -- has found them, and is punishing the tyee for his lack of generosity, for he has not hosted a potlach in many years. He has sent word to the Haida that he has Ikt, that he will return her to them, that perhaps this act of giving will release him from the curse. When I left him I went to scour myself in the sea. I am not sure a brine bath is enough to keep infection at bay, but it is all I can do. That and pray.

Later while relieving myself I noticed that the box containing the remains of the dead child had not been buried. The new dead are now stacked outside. Ikt says they will be interred in a mass grave or burned, depending on the fickle sensibilities of the holywoman. I found this notion abominable and told her so. Her response was that this clan is weak of spirit and lacks the strength to keep their dead aloft, whatever that meant. I will try to assemble coffins for them tomorrow but doubt my ability to employ their primitive tools. Ikt and the holywoman continue to practice their bizarre form of medicine, all poultices and pastes and dried plants thrown on the fire. I can see no benefit from their labors.

With Ikt occupied I am at loose ends. Thanks to God that Fletcher is not here. The man is abominable. No man that buggers livestock should be allowed aboard a boat. In the close quarters demanded by sea travel the afflicted man is too likely to pass his illness on. I have seen it happen, it is more common than most know. At one point when we were far upriver, just the two of us, I believe I contracted Fletcher's disease, but was fortunate enough to find an Armenian gypsy who cured me with foxbane. I doubt this holywoman even knows what foxbane is. She is a charlatan, capable of nothing but conjuring dreams, but I dare not challenge her. She commands the other indians' absolute respect.

I spent today writing a letter to Helen that I have no way to send. Rereading it I find it full of senseless rambling, promises I cannot keep, confessions of unpaid debts. Would I say these things in a letter that would actually be delivered? I think with no small guilt of how she and the child fare. I am due back in two weeks. Has word of our calamity reached them? Unlikely, but not impossible. Though they cannot eat knowledge.

April 10

       Interrupted by a volcanic trembling from my insides. I can still feel the burn about my anus. I pray it is my stomach rejecting a bit of spoiled fish flesh, and not the pox laying hold of me.

In the brush, emptying my fagged bowels, voices carried to me through the trees. Hushed, whispered voices: Ikt and the holywoman, who was pointing to the sky as she jabbered about the sun. The tale involved a raven, who they seem to credit with bringing light to the world, and a threat to snatch it away again. A prickling at the nape of my neck as I wondered if it be the same wrathful raven the tyee spoke of. Nonsense, of course.

Later I stood on the beach, studying the sky for clues, but it was the sea that spoke, revealing a strange sight: hundreds of gelatinous blobs floating in the shallows and cast upon the sand. They had a brown hue, most of them, though it was faint, like a dusting of grain stirred in bacon grease. Some had a pink hue at their center. I do not know where they came from, or what they are -- an alien being for an alien world. I expected the holywoman to make some sort of snake oil from them, another useless tincture for the sick, but no, she just poked them with her stick. When in my curiosity I picked one up, she knocked it from my hands and spat on it. Now my hand burns most painfully.

Often I find myself sitting on the shore, clutching the barrel of wine and fighting the urge to break it open. I am not even sure what I wait for. I am not a man given over to drinking, but there is allure in anything to draw my thoughts away from this endless, frightened waiting.

I informed Ikt of the tyee's plan and now regret it, for now she has eyes only for the island. When I ask Ikt when the boat will come to carry her back across the water, she says, only, "now," and leaves me watching the snap of her hair on the wind.

Now. It has been now for nearly a week.

April 11

       I slept last night upon the beach wrapped in furs, driven at last from the longhouse by the smell of sickness and death, and woke to a crackling of flame: someone had kindled my signal fire. I rejoiced, thinking I would find a ship in sight, but found nothing, just the wrinkled squaw holywoman standing there, expressionless. The winds out of the west were up, piling in from the sea, whipping the flames and throwing sparks into the nearby trees, and I left her to her devilry. She tended the fire throughout the day, muttering and chanting. Several of the sick savages managed to crawl to the fireside as though called by some mysterious beacon, beset with pustules and vomiting blood, eyes gleaming like a constellation of stars fallen to earth. Some impulse found me rolling out the barrel of wine, which I tapped and began to pour as we sat in audience. I handed it round to the savages in a delirious urge to precipitate something, anything. They accepted the wine with dignity, sipping delicately, an impromptu Communion that soon spiraled into sacrilege and farce. The holywoman shuffled out before us and spoke for what seemed like hours, dancing shambolically as though drunk herself.

Under the spell of the holywoman's incantations, I imagined Fletcher sat next to me cleaning his rifle. He would not cease his girlish giggling, showing me those teeth that huddle close together in the center of his mouth like frightened sheep. I felt a strong urge to reach over and strike him, to sew his laughing lips shut, to remove his hands and feed them to the gulls.

A delusion? Perhaps. Perhaps another man has moved into my house and is sleeping with my wife, has sold my daughter to that Godless Norwegian on Doe Bay. I drown in the unanswerable.

The holywoman stood at last and shouted something and pointed at me in a way that seemed a bit accusatory. I stood, thinking myself challenged, only to discover my equilibrium entirely eroded by her magic, for the wine alone was not a sufficient inebriant. I teetered, stumbled, fell. I knew I was surrounded by people but felt no eyes upon me. Instead there was an emptiness. I felt as though I were again in the storm-tossed sea, with no sight of shore upon which to fix my attention. Just the vast roil of brine the color of lead, indistinguishable from the sky. I feared to breathe, uncertain whether I would draw air or water into my lungs. I heard Helen's voice call, a shrill vein in the wind, and then, more subtle still, the trill of an infant. The voices faded, and I was alone with the slap of the waves, one upon another. My westward dreams had brought me as far as they could; here they foundered upon the uncaring ocean, broken to pieces and scattered by the currents. An accounting was in order but my mind seemed unwilling to perform the computations. I lashed out at the waves but hit only empty air, the space opening up around me, a terrifying void. God help me! I cried out, but received no answer. Then I cried out for Ikt, and, when she did not come, for Fletcher. He did not come either. All the while that devil woman was chanting her incantation, as though conducting some sort of exorcism upon the afflicted indians.

The wind shifted and began to blow straight in off the water in great blinding sheets. The daylight itself seemed to tremble and diminish, as though the sun were beginning to set. I blinked and rubbed at my eyes, running through possibilities: the thickening smoke of a forest fire; a flock of birds -- raven? --  or, simplest, the blotting of a thunderhead. In that gloaming stillness a frightened voice cried out and was quickly joined by others. Faces and hands were raised to the sky, a cloudless sky that afforded a clear view of the sun as it was consumed by some black magic. A dark hand was passing over its surface, blocking out its light and casting us into deepening shadows. When the sun was at last extinguished -- or, rather, blocked out by that great hand, for its luminescence continued to leak out and around whatever hellish object obscured it -- the world went quiet as a grave. Even the holywoman shut her mouth. I turned to Ikt and found her staring at me. Our eyes locked for a moment but I could not bear her scrutiny and looked away, suddenly and completely cured of my madness, my lust and shame laid bare.

In the end it lasted no more than a minute. As the light of the sun returned there were shouts of joy and relief. I wept too, overcome, and realized that I had shat myself.

A time passed; a moment, an hour, during which I lay befouled and prostrated, pressing my feverish face into the cool, smooth stones. A shout went up from the indians, breaking my reverie, and I rose to witness the arrival of a massive dugout canoe, nearly a hundred feet in length and powered by a legion of fierce-looking braves. They spilled out of the boat and fell upon the hapless clan, rounding them up as though they meant to run them out on a slave line. Ikt embraced one of them -- her father? -- and settled herself in the massive canoe's bow. I was held off to the side, certain that I could expect no dispensation, that the Haida saw in me not a storm-tossed refugee but a man of hostile provenance best kept at bay. They looked on me as I would look on an otter in my snare, its days of playful gamboling over.

The tyee came forward, somehow remaining on his feet to parlay with the invasive seamen. He seemed to be pleading, imploring Ikt with sidelong glances. But she ignored him entirely, looking out across the sea with a patient longing. In that moment I expected the Haida to scythe down the pox-riddled clan like so much diseased wheat. But at a cue from their leader, the braves turned and pushed their vessel back into the channel.

I stumbled into the water, motivated by the collaborative urges to observe Ikt's departure and clean my fouled breeches. A numbness took my lower legs and traveled upwards. Soon my mind too became paralyzed and I could do no more than stand in the shallows and watch that massive canoe carry Ikt away, the boatmen's oars a hundred teeth biting into the waves.

April 12

       The last of the pox-struck Indians died in the night. I sit here throwing green cedar boughs on the fire in the hopes it will block out the stench of burning corpses. I listen for Fletcher. I believe the little degenerate has absconded with the sextant, my only piece of navigational equipment. Perhaps all along he has been hiding among the trees, building a boat, and now means to execute some sort of brazen expedition. Fortunately my vigil by the pyre affords me a clean line of sight up and down the beach. When he drags his vessel down to the sea I will be ready. I am willing to wait.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, Brendan McLaughlin. All rights reserved.
Brendan McLaughlin
The Queen
of the Apocalypse