- Vol. 02
- Chapter 11
Image by Vestry House Museum
All HandsWe had travelled far. Faces whipped by the spray of the ocean. Red faces. Frail bodies. But we had arrived. The new world. Hope. It lingered like an Albatross, watching, antagonising.
He stood on the prow looking like an explorer, crazy eyes fixed firmly on the shore, expectant.
“Prick,” someone muttered but it was lost on the sea spray, and drowned like dignity. We left that behind long ago.
In the time it took to row from ship to the shore, the crew fell silent. There were no murmurs. Fear was in our bellies and it filled us more than the beef stew. We waited for orders and shivered against the cold. A cough. Some puked. Someone sobbed.
“Come,” he said, loud and pompous, a Walrus, belly aching and horny, “let us greet our destiny.”
He ignored the comment and leapt from the prow into the hooves kicking and thundering underneath him, pulling him down, trying to drown him. One or two of us cheered but it passed on the breeze, a cry, stifled and wet. Someone pulled him up, dripping and smelling of brine.
“All right sir?”
He looked at the man as though trying to remember the name. He shook the seaweed from his ears, heard the horses, baying and whinnying, the albatross laughing.
“Yes, quite,” he said.
All HandsShall we?”
We saw them then. Standing on the beach. Watching us. Someone said they were laughing at us. They were laughing at him. He had taken us there, promises nothing more than damp paper tossed on a wild sea. They laughed at him with cruel eyes. They were just children.
We watched him stride across the shale beach, hand outstretched, grinning like an innate fool. They smiled and we all, all of us to a man, knew that he was doomed. That we were doomed.
“Oh Christ,” I heard someone shout. I tried to see who but they were lost behind grey shadows and darker skies.
I saw fear bridle up his back like a lecherous gremlin trying so hard to topple the ram rod back. What have you seen I wondered? What afflicts you so? I watched him drop to his knees, hands clasped together as if in prayer.
All Hands“No,” that voice, louder, clearer, “Christ, no.”
"I couldn’t see who. They were lost.
“What have I done?”
And I laughed. It felt good. I heard others laughing. We all laughed at him. Fool. Praying to a child. It was tumultuous like thunder. The children laughed too, sounding like lightning, all high pitched and heavenly. We stopped laughing. Tears streaked our faces, stinging the whip-lashed, sea sprayed sores.
How I have cried since the day we leapt from our gig into the foam soaked shores of our own childhood. Death can be a cruel mistress at sea. We were lost with all hands.