I could no longer characterize Mr. Garrett’s eyes as being “full of life”, instead finding more accuracy in terms such as “crazed” or “murderous.”
Life Among The Savages
Turner, sullen as usual (though this time with obvious and copious justification), crossed our paths, pushing before him a mound of lifeless and decomposing gulls with a wide rectangular-headed broom. Though we made no gesture for him to stop, he paused in his task directly before Jones and myself, preventing our advance, and leaned upon his broom while sighing mightily. An interval passed before any words were spoken.
Finally, Turner announced: “Dead birds.”
“Thank you for sharing, Turner,” Mr. Jones said, teeth clenched on his pipe.
At the behest of Dr. Blight, the passengers were asked to recount the nature and circumstances of their journeys. Naturally I deferred to Mrs. von Kant to share her tale first, for reasons of both courtesy and – I will admit – curiosity, and though I could see she was somewhat reluctant to be focus of our attentions (due to her admirable modesty, I am certain), she acquiesced and began to relate her story, while we enjoyed our first course, a quite serviceable potato broth.
The second course, when it did arrive, was a nourishing combination of roasted potatoes and some other root vegetables (though mostly potatoes), delicately seasoned and only very slightly burnt.
Though I wanted to explain the whole situation to him, as I believed he had a good heart and was a man onboard that I could trust implicitly, I had to defer that conversation to a later time. “Pay it no mind, Starkey, but know that I will try to clarify matters for you when I can. Also, I hope I can count on you should I need assistance, as I did with Martin Garrett.”
I could see Starkey’s proud smile even in the dim lanthorn light. “Oh, aye, you can, sir! Just call out and I’ll be at your side!”
I believe Starkey tripped over another stray pile of rigging at this point, as I heard concussive sounds as of a man falling upon the deck, and Starkey’s voice was no longer beside me but far behind as I reached the stairs and heard him say “I’ll be fine, sir, carry on!”
My period of unconsciousness was uncharacteristically brief this time, for I found myself still on the floorboards of the corridor, with Captain Stagg, Dr. Blight, and Mr. Jones standing over me and studying my face, illuminated by a lanthorn held by the doctor, presumably in the hope of determining my health. I deduced, as they were still engaged in assessing my condition and had not transported me to my cabin for a more prolonged period of convalescence, that the duration of my incapacity could not have been more than a few minutes, and felt quite strongly that my estimate was an accurate one. I was about to ask how long they had been considering my condition when Dr. Blight spoke.
“Lad,” he said, “we must discuss your peculiar habit of lying on the floor in inconvenient locations.” Captain Stagg moved to help me to my feet, but Jones waved off his encroaching hands and assisted me in standing himself.
As I brushed off my clothes and searched myself for open wounds, I said, “I assure you, Doctor, this is no idle pastime, nor is it voluntary.”
“Who hit you this time?” Jones asked, around the bit of his pipe.
I held the lanthorn low near the floor and saw the faint remnants of a single pale gray footprint on the threshold of the cabinet itself. I smiled, as my deductions had been proven correct; the fiend had concealed himself here, and was none the wiser to the fact that I had uncovered his “impenetrable” hiding place. Ha! I thought to myself. The blackguard’s outsize self-confidence would be his undoing.
Whatever small debate occurred between these two aspects of my judgment was quickly neutralized by the emergence of what I can only describe as a malevolent gurgling somewhere nearby, and then a handful of words uttered in a language which I did not recognize, but which was guttural and salivary in character and immediately filled me with both dread and nausea.
“Do you know what the source of that noise is?” I inquired.
“There are many strange things within the bounds of this cabinet,” Spiegel replied. “I’ve never felt the need to become more acquainted with any of them.”
The existence of a terrifying, seemingly limitless void that ran counter to humanity’s understanding of the universe naturally reminded me of my father.