Monday, March 31, 2008

Adrift in Doubt

It has been many weeks since we swept past that last visible, invisible isle. Despite magnificent engineering on the part of Madwink McCutcheon and several crew members jumping ship as we swept past, the best efforts of the Captain prevailed, and with his lumbering bulk facing starboard, the land to port remained outside of his field of vision.

After berating us for drunkards
("Monkey?? Are you daft? or drunk? Who has been feeding you the Devil's own spit, and how did they get hold of it? Anyone caught pilfering liquor from the hold will be keelhauled and rolled under to Davey's Locker when found out! Raggah! Bring my keys! We must inspect the goods!") and forcing Madwink to circle the unseen isle three entire times to round up the men overboard, the Captain set us on a course of his own devising, having been up into the wee hours of the night to devise it. Judging from Madwink's sour demeanor over the ensuing days, it made as much sense as skirting an island that couldn't possibly exist in order to rescue crewmen who had to be dragged back on board, kicking and screaming.

But those are normal days for creatures such as we.

I have come to the conclusion that should we ever find a port of call the Captain agrees to visit, Madwink may very well die of shock. We have grown so used to sneaking the ship into docks in early morning hours while the Captain sleeps that we would not know what to do if he were actually to command us to approach one of his own accord. My punishment for faithlessness these days is the sunless hold from the time the Captain wakes to the time I fall asleep. Sorting crates. Recording cargo. Counting endlessly and over again each and every item within the belly of this behemoth, and calculating for report all of the values and fees attachable to each of them.

At the noon hour of each day, all calculations and reports are presented to Mme. Beezel in her spacious quarters, where I intrepidly venture through the clouds of noxious, sulphurous fumes emanating from beneath her perfume. On the last chiming of the noonday clock, Mme. Beezel assumes her correct form - something glittery, green, slimy and gaunt beneath her chosen silks - and her eyes take on an onyx, serpentine appearance behind her spectacles. It pays not to look to closely, nor to appear to be paying too much attention to her machinations as she divines and divides the accountables into that which she will report to the Captain and that which she will keep for herself. As we do this every day, and as the Captain is reluctant to make for shore of any kind, she by now owns virtually all cargo and entitlements.

Having trained under a basilisk, I would never make mention of this, however, and am content to let her slither and hiss and mutter over my intentionally sloppy accounts for the three-quarters of an hour that she will keep me, judiciously allowing me a quarter-hour of sunlight before I begin the inspections anew.

Once she believes the paperwork is in order, she returns to her physical illusion and resumes her endless litany of complaints against anyone who has chanced to breathe within her lifetime. Being a part of her daily scrutiny, I rate highly on her list. In the beginning, due to my scrupulous and impeccable training, I took these baseless accusations and curses to heart; I have since solved this problem and alleviated my own angst by relinquishing any desire to do well and thus make, now, no effort whatsoever at achieving perfection.

While this attitude will allow me to endure this subtle slavery, I pray that my enforced incompetence will not cause me to lose what wits I have remaining - it would be a shame to have survived the stony basilisk only to be ruined or destroyed for all future postings by my first position out of the docks. I try not to look at Madwink as I think these thoughts, for it is hard to forget what levels of competency he had achieved prior to being afflicted with the machinations of those who run this ship, and who never let us forget it.

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