Archive for the 'Rebecca Crane + Patrick Stephens' Category

Looking Forward

We launched on the nineteenth of October, in the winter-borne months of 1762. The London Gazette declared our departure a success for the Royal Navy, having already announced the date our keel was laid to sea – a fact with which Captain Larean boasted, voicing his inconstant satisfaction. And while we shall not be commissioned for another sixteen years – our purpose destined to be served in the dispute with the colonies – I can attest that, by serving aboard the HMS Britannia, I have seen wonders far greater than my eyes were ever intended.

It began with an argument. Our Captain had set sail for an uncharted region of the North Atlantic, condemning the threats of ice and unfortunate flotsam drifting upon the northern ocean. “Straight ahead,” he’d cried, “I want to see the very tip of the world on my bow at all times. For that is the only way to live, always staring towards the horizon.”

I’d shown hesitation, and while my thoughts were more focused on how not best circumnavigate what would become a deadly terrain, our Captain perceived this is as hesitancy unhealthy for the crew. He ordered another crewman to spread the word of our journey, and banished me to the crow’s nest atop the ship – I suppose, now, it was his attempt at forcing me to look ahead in the same manner to which he’d grown accustomed. I was to be in the moment, always looking forward, and attempting to guide me and my shipmates through what could potentially be our first and last voyage. It was there that I saw the island. Cresting above the water, shrouded in mist, it revealed itself to me slowly. I called out below, to the Captain who still stood upon the deck – his gaze set towards the same horizon as mine.

“I see nothing!” He called back. His frustration with me was evident. “Stop trying casting fears about and hold the dignity of the perch.”

I tried to argue, the island stood dead before us, many distances before us. The first building, stuck to the shore in what seems to be a bed of sand from the beach, peaked through the mist. Welcoming to the beach, two stairways arced around to the large entrance where I saw the arch, tall and triumphant, yet compacted by the immersive sky; four roman columns supporting its girth; around what had to be the second floor, stone garlands draped across the archway, while roman statues decorated the Corinthian pillars. It was grand, painted in a way that told me it had survived years in an effort to stand. And yet, when I called down once again, our Captain Larean shouted at me, with more force this time, “Eyes ahead, we’ve no time for fancy!”

But it was right in front of us. If I could see it, then he could see it too. How could he have been so blinded by what was in front of him? Was he so focused on what he felt was right that he refused to open his mind? No, he was our Captain – that could never be.

We sailed closer – this time the second and third buildings appeared. Interspersed between the two were trees, barely grown their leaves still learning to flutter in the wind, waving at our bow like the greeters on the shores of Toulon. They were both edifices I had never seen before, their design almost alien to me. Starting with the one behind the first, was a mansion in miniature. All evidence pointed towards it being much larger than its scope had intended. Pointed arches decorated many windows; a single spired clock tower stabbed at the clouds above, higher than the first building, while the stone work looks rectangular, almost blocked. And behind it stood the third: a vast expanse of grass seemed to stretch out in front of it, endlessly cresting the many trees and other two buildings before it. Had we not been moving at such a slow pace, I would have felt that island itself to be moving, growing.

It bore a triangular top, like a weapon unsheathed from a far studier foundation. Red clay colours adorned the flattened walls, begging for arches, pleading for pillars. All it gained were windows, glass portholes staring out at the world, the island, the mist. I wanted to call down, but after my previous encounter with the captain, my breath held short. Instead, I watched the island, sure that our approach would lead to the shores soon enough, and that our Captain would see that which stood in front of him.

But then the island moved. It seemed to take league after league of distance, gradually turning the sand covered beaches into a cacophony of tides. Water splashed violently against the buildings until finally six great tentacle arms extended from the perimeter of the island. My heart struck hold – this beast seemed to be carrying the world on its back. Its arms extended again, then swung towards the water. Our distance was great enough so that I could see, and warn our Captain should it come out way. But something told me that it wouldn’t. The way the buildings on its back hulked and stuck to their haunches, how the foundations refused to buckle and crack under its movement. The great beast below pulled two more tentacle appendages out of the water and sank them into the sea again – causing a wave to begin billowing from where it rested.

I grabbed the edge of the basket and began to climb down. The wave had grown to twice the size when I’d left the nest. I rushed up to our Captain and told him what I’d seen. Told him to brace the crew for impact, as the wave must certainly be seconds from our bow. He eyed me with concern, but them sighed. “There is nothing other than water, only the water remains, and only the water shall remain – if you continue to pursue these flights of such ardent fantasy, then I shall have no choice other than to arrest you on the grounds of potential mutiny. I will have no speculation on my crew. Only those who are grounded in the basest of reality deserve to be on my crew.”

I waited. And that was it. The wave never came. We returned to port soon after, and our Captain continued to berate me for what I’d seen, and what he was too stubborn and self-righteous to see. And yet, I can still see the buildings floating on the creature in the sea – they live in my mind. When we returned home, I could see characteristics of those self-same buildings starting to manifest in the world around me. I could see the pointed edges, the castles in miniature. By the time the century turned, I realized that, on the back of that creature stood the future – where we were intended to go. There was no other explanation, as even now I can see effigies of what used to be, and what will be haunting the streets in ways our Captain never could have imagined. And I wonder, if he was looking forward, how was it that he could not see the world blossoming into so much diversity around him? Would he ever see the waves? The islands propelling themselves out of the ocean? Would he ever see the future unfold before him, or only what he knew stood in front?

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