Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Boy Named Nod: Seas of Blood and Fire Part 1

Salt Dreams

The taste of sea salt never leaves your tongue after you’ve married yourself to the waves. I remember so clearly the sun shining down on my stony self as I handed out orders to the crew. They would snap to attention and move on the double. There had been only one attempt at mutiny by a fellow Englishman that thought me a coward. With a single blow, he had been hurled out to greet the lapping waves. The rest of the crew would never question my orders again. Not once had my orders unreasonably jeopardized them, but they now knew that even the burliest among them stood not a chance at sinking The Gentleman aboard his own ship.

I sipped quietly at my green tea, sitting next to Michael on the E-Rail trip to Pelé Station. He was fast asleep. He liked to pretend that the brandy helped him sleep. It didn’t help him do anything, just like the rest of us. Alcohol, drugs, disease, we all seemed to be immune to them. I chuckled softly to myself. Even the heartiest mug of grog hadn’t been enough to put a dent in me.

Breath slipped in through my rock nostrils and I exhaled through granite lips. If my lungs and innards were stone, like I assumed, how was I alive at all? Had there ever been a voyage across the seven seas? If there wasn’t, how was it that I had acquired my love of green tea?

It had been a wonderful experience, reaching Singapore. It was not as difficult as one would have wagered. The Chinese had been remarkably receptive once my scurvy lot had laid down their guns. Well, after that and after I caught the first three cannonballs they fired at me and began to juggle them.

We had stayed among them for a time, stretching our legs seeing the sights. Incredible beasts had roamed the countryside. In those days, dragons were still common enough to be found in nearly every lake and river. Their company was such a blessing over the months of being confined to quarters with odiferous humans.

I looked down into my cup of green tea and frowned. The leaves had all settled into a single pile at the bottom of the cup. There was no fortune there to read. It was the same as it always was when I drank tea.

Mr. Jonathan was watching me from the other side of E-Rail car we had to ourselves. Rebecca was passed out on his shoulder. Trevor was laid out across five seats with James, Manfred, Charles, and Whitfield curled up next to him in various sprawling positions.

“You smell the sea again don’t you Gregor?”

“I always smell it Jonathan. It never leaves my nostrils. Just like the feel of it rocking me to sleep at nights has never left my legs.”

“It’s the same for me. The fog always comes rolling in behind me while I’m not looking. It creeps up on me just like it used to.”

We sat silently, just watching each other as the E-Rail car sped through the darkness towards Gravesite, towards our latest assignment.

“What did you and Trevor find when either of you ran away Jonathan?”

“I found out how the love of my life died. She remembers me now; that was all that really concerned me. I’m here and she’s here and Trevor’s here and Nod’s here. Trevor… Other than finding a girlfriend, from what he’s told me, found something far more important. He found some reconciliation with whether or not we are fiction.”

“Did he?”

“He came back uncaring, saying that someone far wiser than him had told him something. He said that he was told not to look for his limits or he would find them.”

I sipped at my tea and nodded softly.

“That’s not the answer you were looking for Gregor?”

“It is a good piece of wisdom and one that I agree with wholeheartedly. It is not our abilities that concern me Jonathan. It is our pasts. It is the memory of walking the streets of London and Paris and Barcelona. It is the taste of sea spray on my tongue and sound of dragon-speak in my ears.”

“You want to know if you’ve lived them?”

“I want them to go away. They are distractions that occupy far too much of my mind when I must be looking out for Michael.”

“I don’t think so. They are as real as any other part of us. Nod made us for specific reasons, even if he doesn’t understand them.”

“He is a boy who is fatherless, motherless, and until very recently, lacking both siblings. We are orphans just like he is. I am not asking you to forget the feeling of a moonlit prowl through the London streets under a slippery fog with your razors gleaming. I simply wish to forget the adventures of old because those places do not exist any more. There is no England, no China. For all we know, half the sea has evaporated and that is why the Judges want in so badly.”


“My only concern is Michael’s safety. That is why I am ever after him about drinking too much even though I know it is like water to every one of us. That is why every time we were called into being, I was at the forefront. I am his butler and his bodyguard Jonathan. I do not wish to be plagued any further by the memories that call me The Gentleman. I do not wish to remember coming above deck to lob our anchor at merchant ships before pulling them in single-handed to be boarded. These things do not matter any more. They are only ghosts to me Jonathan. I wish to give them a proper burial and send them off to sea to trouble me no more. We are not real. I wish for my mind to stop pretending that I am.”

Michael rolled over next to me and wrapped himself around my forearm. He sniffled in his sleep, whimpering softly.

“Do you know why he cries in his sleep Gregor?”

“He cries because he is afraid of the darkness. It is the same darkness that we were born in.”

“No. He cries because he is alone. We were real in his mind long before Abe ever put him through that window. We are a part of him that came out to protect him. Everything about us, even if it never happened, was made for us specifically.”

I drank down the rest of my green tea and sat there in silence, watching Michael sleep, curled up around my left arm.

“You may not find it proper that you have been given these memories Gregor, but he did. Trust in him. He hasn’t steered us wrong yet.”

I watched Michael’s hair rustle as his bowler fell off and into my lap.

“He has given up valuable years of his life to keep us with him Jonathan. I cannot pretend that there is a memory I have of anyone being willing to do that for me.”

“Me either Gregor.”

I leaned my head back against the wall of the E-Rail car and closed my eyes. The sea salt was burning my nose and filling my lungs. I could smell thunder on the horizon. A storm was coming. But we already knew that. After all, since The Commandant had taken over Gravesite, not a single person had emerged from Pelé station alive. Michael had accepted the task though.

Yo ho ho and into the maelstrom with us. A jolly band of privateers were we.

I smiled. Maybe there was some point to my memories, if for nothing but poor jokes.

No comments:

Post a Comment