Servants have stowed supplies, enough for months;
deck hands have readied ropes and sails for our voyage.
A scholar and linguist, I’m chosen as one of the party:
a noble calling, and one that I’m proud to accept.
Day one: crowds waved us farewell and we embarked
gloriously into open seas toward the unknown,
seeking new lands to inhabit, new creatures to name,
new people to teach, new treasures to bring home.
Day three: the novelty has already worn off, as all
around is nothing but ocean, an unbroken horizon,
endless sky bearing down upon us. We dine in relative
comfort, though the crew are a bunch of surly rascals.
Day seven: a full week at sea with nothing to report
beyond immense skies full of colours and the vastness
of the sea beneath, writhing with untold life-forms,
about which the sailors tell stories that knot my stomach.
Day nine: the weather, fair until now, has turned stormy.
The ship rolls and pitches day and night, and with it my
previously idle mind is tossed around into discomfiting
visions of torture and death at the hands of savages.
Day twelve: the skies are clearer and the seas calmer,
but my nightmarish imaginings persist. To make matters
worse, one of the crew has contracted a burning fever.
Distressed moaning comes from his quarantined cabin.
Day fourteen: The groans continued day and night, until
they became screams, indistinct words yelled with horror
to all and sundry, over and over. The captain – I cannot
tell from ruthlessness or pity – ordered him sedated.
Day fifteen: the sailor has died, his body tossed to the waves.
Worse, another three people have contracted the fever; already
their moans become louder. Enclosed in my quarters my only
companion is fear, with whom I’m becoming well acquainted.
Day sixteen: the fever is spreading, and with it my terror
grows hourly. I fear for my life, for the ship, and for all I had
previously held to. There is nowhere out here to land, no
anchor to steady our vessel. There is a knocking in my soul.
Day nineteen: the doctor has turned on his patients. Instead
of treating them, he uses medication for murder. The captain
knows well of this carnage; perhaps he is helping dispatch
of the passengers, taking the law into his own wretched hands.
Day twenty-two: creatures have emerged from the ocean,
crawling the decks on tentacles, fins and chitinous legs,
seeking prey to devour. I watch from my porthole as unhallowed
beings drag crew members, into the sea. Their screams haunt me.
Day twenty-three: all is darkness and howling! The legions of hell
have broken their bonds and roam the seas. They have chosen
our ship for their home and our consciousness as their playground.
Surely the mercy of death will find me and swallow me yet?
Day twenty-four: the last of the sea beasts has finally vanished,
along with all of the crew. Alone, I cower inside my quarters,
waiting for heaven knows what. The horrors I’ve witnessed
have withered my heart and seared my soul for a lifetime.
Day twenty-five: I emerge from my cabin. What else can I do?
Hunger drives me below to the galley, where disorder is king.
I find scraps among the chaos, which I chew like a desperate
man, wanting to live, but knowing my days are numbered.
Day twenty-eight: days and nights of isolation are starting to
burden my mind. Wandering the ship, I call below deck, hoping
to find a survivor, someone to weep with, to share in the torment.
On deck, I scour the horizon, needing to know I’ll find land.
Day twenty-nine: hope beyond hope, there in the distance,
a landmass appears. Though no one is steering, the vessel is
heading directly towards this new country. I stand on the prow, my
eyes fixed on the promise of deliverance from this watery hell.
Day thirty: a shoreline emerges, and still we are sailing toward it.
The scars on my conscience are starting to heal and the knots in
my stomach loosen. Before day is out, it’s clear that this is not a
discovery: familiar landmarks tell me, in fact, it’s my home.
Day thirty-one: as the coastline looms closer and dwellings are visible,
I take to a lifeboat and row. The ship will no doubt be wrecked on
the rocks: the most fitting end I can think of. Rowing hard now,
heart racing, hands blistering, I try urgently to remember my name.
Painting by Graham Hudson
“Haelyoneem: Upper Ones”
from the series “Angels & Demons”
Mixed media on canvas