The Wretched Soul

By:
ernstluchs@gmail.com

(The following is a selection from the logbook of the Wretched Soul, an accursed ship driven to its doom by the likes of Captain Jack, a mad Cornish sailor and adventurer extraordinaire, quite possibly the greatest unsung hero of the high seas.)

Liverpoole, Saturday 7 Aprill 1693 — The sun arose at six o’clock. A good sign. The ship be loaded and the sea is calm. Ah, my nostrils heave to the scent of the spray. I sent out the quartermaster early this morn to drum up some “fresh meat.” By Jove! He comes back within the hour rolling a barrelful of bold Irish apes suitable for framing. Hear me now, good strong lads! Climb aboard and leave your hags on shore. God help your heathen souls, boys, we’re a-blowin’ to the edge of the deep blue brine. We cast off. Methinks to consult the ship’s astrologer as to where the dangers lie on this voyage. In a low voice he says only this: “Beware the wrath of Neptune.” Well boo to the Fates says I! Let’s be underway.

Sunday 8 Aprill 1693 — Only eight miles out to sea yestermorn our ship’s carpenter, D’Amico, lost an eye to a mad seagull. The bird responsible was placed in hot irons amidships, subjected to the jabs and jeers of my ill-tempered crew. He should be thankful to have been spared a grim communion with tonight’s hamster stew.

Thursday 12 Aprill 1693 — I caught the cabin boy pinching my tobacco. This so distressed me that I retreated to my quarters for several hours. After a great deal of deliberation I reluctantly had his nose cut off. There were some of the crew who found this amusing. They too paid through the nose.

Sunday 15 Aprill 1693 — Horrors! This afternoon we quite accidentally tangled a huge serpent in our anchor chain. Fearful were its eyes. The quartermaster tried to flog it to death but presently the monster tired of that irritation and snapped at the man, impaling him clean through on one of its perilous fangs. The poor bloke beseeched us with piteous cries for several minutes before succumbing to the slavering maw of that treacherous beast. We watched helplessly all the while and saw the man’s head broken off, whereupon it flew up and landed in the crow’s nest. The young tar on watch up there cried out like a banshee and jumped straight down to the water. May God have mercy on his soul.

Monday 16 Aprill 1693 — We awoke this morning to find the deck swamped with a multitude of jellyfish. Swarming over the jellyfish were millions upon millions of tiny green flies. The cabin boy was first up and he might have smelled the trouble if his nose had not been missing. As it was he received stings on both heels. Severe was his discomfort and he let out a sound you cannot imagine. This alarmed the flies, which straight away attacked the boy and covered his entire body a foot thick. We did not suffer so greatly as he, but even so none of us escaped without being bitten several thousand times.

Tuesday 71 Aprill 1693 — I write these lines with a hand now swollen to the size of a cabbage. The cabin boy’s single cry continues with an intensity equal to yesterday’s. We’ve tied him face-down onto a bale of cotton. All of are now stricken with the laughing/crying disease (Jester’s Death), surely visited upon us by the fiendish green flies and their devil’s spawn, the jellyfish. Spineless scum! As if this plague were not enough to break the mortal spirit, another tropical storm comes presently upon us full force. Many men are delirious and have taken to swallowing frightfully long lengths of rope (“fishing for fool’s gold,” says one). It is still morning, aye, but dark as night on deck. I keep forgetting where my feet are.

Tuesday 18 Aprill 1963 — A large flock of East Indian palm trees flew over us this afternoon. We managed to snag one with a gaff and land it after a fierce struggle. But alas, its flesh was poisonous and our mulatto cook, Nubi, lies near death, trembling so and coughing up small yellow lumps of bile. The foul acid burns his skin and chafes his lips. Thank the Lord it will all end soon.

Tuesday 9 Aprill no make that Monday 163 — Sky still dark as a coalminer’s lung. Opium running low. Threw the cabin boy overboard in search of China or Marco Polo or something or other. But if I know a devilish boy with six guineas in his pocket I’d say that’s the last we’ll see of him.

Apilr today, many moons — No more fresh water I’m afraid. I had medicinal doses of brandy doled out to ward off the cold. What a storm! Double the brandy ration I say! That’s right. Regale and be merry.

221 B Baker Street, 8 paces, 7 bells — More brandy! More! More! Drink yer fill lads. There’s half a barrel left in the hold. Bones, tattoos for everyone. Be quick about it, you old leech juggler! Ah, what a jolly storm!

May? — Lo! What fierce fever has laid me out? The tropical sun bears down on the brow. Yea, to my astonishment and complete demoralization I find the entire larder ransacked, every brandy barrel drained, my crew gorged like pigs, many of them stark naked, all unconscious or dead, with the telltale stench of liquor lingering over their skins. So help me, as God is my witness those responsible shall pay dearly for this outrage.

May or Aprill, 1693 (?) — Several of the surly foreigners were put to death to atone for those mutinous crimes committed during my absence. We are all anxious to forget the whole dreadful incident.

2 May 1693 — Land ho! We were greeted on the beach by a crowd of noble savages who offered us doormats and slippers made from shark’s teeth. One of my crew, eager I suppose for some fresh beef, blew the chieftain’s head askew with a blunderbuss. The rest of the savages turned tail and took refuge down the beach, hiding under bits of seaweed and dead fish. We routed them out, secured them in chains and dragged them out to sea. Anyway, we are fully provisioned once again. The weather has taken a nasty turn, but fog or no fog we sail tomorrow.

4 May 1693 — Hell’s bells, disaster has struck! The fog blinded us like the Devil’s cloak and we drifted into a school of whales. One couple in the heat of nuptial foreplay rammed the ship to bits and swallowed half the cargo and crew. A few of us made it to the shore of this barren, godforsaken island. Only giant reptiles live here. They must have subsisted on volcanic ash until we came along to whet their appetites. They are surprisingly fast.

5 May 1693 — The lizards keep coming back for more. The scent of their stools is everywhere. We tried to make a signal fire but it only attracted more lizards from the neighboring islands. The new lizards are bigger, hungrier, and noticeably faster. I pray we were judicious in sacrificing those two cowardly Frenchmen this morning. They disappeared like hors d’oeuvres. Surely it won’t be long before the heathen lizards break bread with my carcass.

Mayday! Mayday! — This is it. No one left but me. They’ve been dancing all around me in a terrible frenzy, lashing wickedly with their long purple tongues. They have a healthy fear of my campfire. But by now all the fuel is spent, and as the last glowing embers fade the lizards grow calmer and exchange knowing smiles with each other. I see an occasional wink. Yes, the jig is up, lads. I have a lovely bunch of coconuts with which I intend to bash in a few heads before I’m finished. I will now place this journal inside one of the nuts, hoping that he who finds it will be forever dissuaded from joining the Navy. Ah, God must have loved giant lizards. He made so many of them. Their eyes — (end of manuscript)

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