After three years out to sea, never stepping on land, and then to feel the soft sand give under my feet, and to smell meat sizzling over a flame—there was no cooking aboard the Sisyphus, everything was preserves—to have that wonderful taste of freedom, well I just started running right then and there. Jumping out of the longboat, the splashing water washing over my toes, I raced toward the shoreline.
You remember that I came from a cooler latitude? I had never been anywhere as warm as Ariesland. Think back to those summers when the sweat would drip from me like I was a raincloud, how miserable I was until the fall? Well that first day, setting my foot onto the burning white sand, I was so covered in perspiration that when our master put a halting hand on me, grabbing my shoulder, I slipped from his grip without even trying.
I watched our master ascending the steps out of the hull, chuckling to himself. Waiting in the darkness for about a minute, looking around madly for the “they,” he said were coming, I clutched my pick in a desperate fist. As the swaying ship rocked like a cradle, I slowly put the nail away, and began a creeping tiptoe. Coming to the stairs, I gazed up into the bright daylight sky.
Thinking of Captain’s reaction to the last time I was not where he had had me put, I continued onward into the shadows, until stopping at a porthole. There was our master’s ship. What do they call them, submarines? I had never seen anything like it before. It just floated there, mostly underwater.
Hearing footsteps, I dived behind a crate. Peering over it, I got a glimpse of a crewman. Sighing to myself, I went back to the porthole, gazing at this strange black vessel. I could hear him fiddling with a lock. It was sad. Whether or not the lock was set, and they often weren’t as it was much harder putting them back the way I found them then picking them open, the zombies would take the key Captain had given them, and turn the already sprung mechanism.
But he didn’t. I had heard the sound of jangling chains, but now the crewman was completely silent. Turning around, I looked over at him. He stood still as a statue, drool dripping down the side of his mouth. In one hand he had the key, in the other the lock, and he held the two close to each other like he was about to undo the mechanism and open the door. But he just stood there.
Walking up next to him, I heard this sort of low moan. Circling around, I came to his other side. None of the zombies had ever done this before. Taking his hand in mine, I pushed the key into the hole. He still didn’t move. Turning, I jumped. A man’s shadow was cast against the wall next to us. Not giving my back to the crewman, I eased over to the stairs where the light was falling from.
Poking my head around the corner, I spied another one. Paused mid-step, it seemed, he stood with one foot upon the topmost plank of the stairs. Swallowing, I climbed up to him. There was that same moan coming from his chest. Peering over his shoulder, gazing out on deck, I saw them all. Many had fallen over, most just stood there lifeless.
I tried to squeeze myself around him, but I knocked him over and he fell into the dark hull. Looking after, I stared at his motionless body. Remember me telling you with what dread I was taken along deck the night I first came aboard? How they dragged me backwards so that I could only hear these men working and not see them? Walking amid them, in the daylight, hearing nothing but their monotone collective moan, set my heart to racing as it had that night.
Standing in the middle of the doorway to Captain’s cabin, his hands firmly resting on his hips, our master, like the crew, remained motionless. I tried to go around him, but the door was too shallow for the both of us. Thinking of the crewman I had sent falling down the stairs, I put my hands around his neck and tried to lean him over.
“What you doing?” he asked.
Screaming, I jumped into the air, and, landing hard on my bottom, fell at his feet. Wide eyed, I gazed up at his frowning face. He was a statue again, silent as the grave. We stayed like that for some time, me sitting, him standing, until I got up and tried to move him again.
This time he grabbed my arms, and, kicking my legs out from under my torso, threw me into the room. Flailing through the air like a drunken seagull, I came crashing down onto the settee. It flipped over, and I rolled onto the floor. Opening my eyes, there was our master, his foot on the overturned couch, leaning over it to have a look at me. Glaring, he shook his head.
“What you give me in hull, Gakuto?” he said frowning. Confused, I had forgotten about the brandy bottle, I stared up at him a mute. Shaking his head, I didn’t know him enough to see he was playing one of his jokes, he deepened that scowl of his. “Your captain not like it.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I think it give him indigestion.” He turned, looking over at the other side of the room.
You never liked using poison, your father was poisoned or something, right? Well, believe me, it is satisfying to see the violence poison can do to your enemy. Sitting by his glass ball—the eye, as he called it—Captain’s swollen tongue protruded from his mouth, a dark purple.
The lips had taken on this shade too, and the eyes looked like they were mere moments from popping out of his head. His rotundity seemed to have swelled beyond belief. His lifeless eyes gazed out at me as if they still held that dreadful hatred he had. About then, I saw the brandy bottle. It was clasped in his hand, the fingers turning black.
Coming to Captain’s side, tutting like the man had uttered something insanely stupid, our master said, “You drink too much.” As if waiting for a response he paused. Finding none, he asked, “Do you mind I take your cabin boy?” Dropping his voice to a staged whisper he added, “I think he make good apprentice.”
There I was, running through the jungle, free. I didn’t want to be an apprentice, especially after my first lesson. Shoving a knife in my hand our master started talking about the places that bleed the most when cut. Finishing this spiel, he gestured to Captain. Standing dumbly a moment, it suddenly came flooding into my mind what he wanted me to do. I tried to hand the little dagger back to him.
“Either stay with him, or cut,” he said, closing my hand around the handle.
“How,” tears were pouring into my eyes. “How can I…”
Putting a hand on my shoulder he whispered into my ear, “Hate him. Think of everything he’s done to you, every beating, lie, every abuse. Bring it back now and let the darkness overwhelm you. Embrace your anger, and let the knife do the rest.”
Flying through a bush, I came into a clearing. There was our master, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Sliding towards him, I tried to turn and run, but that, you’ll remember, is when we met. You had me pined to the floor in a moment, your forearm crushing my throat.