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Adventure Fiction Speculative

I found Capt. Ahab on the first day. On the second, a crate, surprisingly undamaged, reached the shore. On both occasions, I had my trousers wet with seawater, but managed to get the stiff objects to the shore and in the shade of the palm trees. The contents of the crate were as follows: three candle-sticks; a matchbox; two or three sharpened quills; a pint of ink, black, iron-gall; the Bible; the captain’s log, of almost no entries; a knife, sharp. It was a cruel play of destiny that I should find those items, almost none of which I could trade for food, should we reach the natives of the land. I, however, decided to make the most of them and to thank the Lord I should find anything at all, since I had been bereft of my friends and my belongings.

On the second day, I caught a sea turtle on the shore and roasted it on the fire. Capt. Ahab was sleeping in the shelter I had built, but I set aside a decent piece of turtle meat for him. Water was a bigger problem, but after many an hour of wandering, I managed to find a spring of fresh water and to bring a drink to Capt. Ahab in the turtle shell.

He woke up on the third day, just after noon, and his moan startled me, for the scorching sun had me feel rather weary. “Water”, he murmured. I took the turtle shell to his mouth and he drank until there was nothing more to drink, and then asked for more. I gave him some fruit I had picked. Then I went to fetch more water.

An hour or so later, I came back carrying the turtle shell full of water just to see Capt. Ahab clenching the knife I had found in the crate. I thought he intended to cut the meat, but the meat had gone off in the sun. Then I spotted his fake leg lying next to him, the leg he had had the carpenter made for him out of a whale bone; he was frantically eying it. I took the water to him and he promptly drank it.

When the dark came, I put some more logs in the fire. I thought we should celebrate Capt. Ahab’s awakening, even under such strange and inconvenient circumstances, so I caught us another turtle and roasted the flesh so that we could dine. But while I was preparing the meal, Capt. Ahab got hold of his leg and started to hew it. I called him, but he grunted incomprehensively to himself. Then, when I tried to take him by his arm to make him sit by the fire and have supper, he took a swing at me and nearly got me with the knife, so I let him be. I put the meat and some water next to him and turned in for the night.

The next morning, having added logs to the fire, I went to take a swim, for it was scorching; and when I came back to the shore, I saw that Capt. Ahab hadn’t moved since last night, that the food had gone bad and the water stale. I also saw that one of the candles had burned down. Capt. Ahab was still hewing the leg, but at some point, at night he must have had got up, took the candle and lit it with matches. We were down to two candles, while most of the matches had burned, as if he had been burning the leg the whole night. I looked at him, but he was consumed in his work. I tried to get him to eat, but he wouldn’t, and again took the swing at me. I realised I had to take the knife off him in order to get to him.

I spent the day wandering up and down the beach and concluded that we must have reached an island after our three-day whale chase. I saw no man nor any trace of heathen tribes inland. I went back to the camp, deciding that we should build an even bigger fire, so that, when a ship passes, we could be seen by the crew who would salvage us. I explained that to Capt. Ahab but he didn’t listen. I read the good words of the Bible to soothe myself and prayed a bit. Then I got some fruit and dug out a turtle egg. I didn’t offer any of the food to Capt. Ahab for fear that he wouldn’t eat it and then it would spoil and draw hungry wildlife. I hadn’t spotted any wild animals, but they might be hiding, waiting until I’m asleep to attack us, driven by the scent of rotten food. I ate everything I had gathered. Capt. Ahab didn’t stop hewing. I could see the shape of the item he had the intention to make. At first glance, it looked like another knife and I feared he would use it against me, but I soon realised it was something of smooth edges, so I let him be. I thought of the good words: love Thy neighbour, so I continued to bring him water even if he wouldn’t drink it.

But, during the following night, he burned yet another candle and even used some pages of the captain’s log as fuel for his own fire, as if the fire I had so neatly built gave no light. I asked him why. He grunted. Even now, after all the sad events on the forsaken island, while I write this in solitude, I can hear Capt. Ahab’s insane grunting and the furious sound of the bone being hewed.

On the third night since he had started making the object, I got the glimpse of what it was. I crossed myself and whispered the Lord’s Prayer. There, in Capt. Ahab’s massive brown hands, clawed by dirty fingernails, lay the carved White Whale. I only saw it because Capt. Ahab, having finished his work, had swooned, with his chin on his own chest, and his fist opened, so that the White Whale almost fell to the ground.

I stared at the thing and felt cold wind encompassing me. The whiteness of the bone pierced the eye; it looked just like the hump on the back of the White Whale that had destroyed Pequod. When I opened the Bible, my heart found the Book of Jonah and I solemnly read, whispering: “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple”. I took a candle, lit it and put it next to Capt. Ahab’s head. I prayed for him in the cold, dark, starless night. I prayed instead of him. The only light I had was of the dull fire behind me, and the good candle before me, and the word of the Lord in my hands. “Oh, the waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about; the weeds were wrapped about my head”. I saw the devil’s imagery, the intricate, unholy work of whiteness staring back at me. I prayed. “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple”. The wind tried to get the book of me. Capt. Ahab’s body moved before me, his clothes ripped by the wind, his fists clenching the air, his mouth voicelessly babbling.

But in the midst of my prayer, the White Whale opened its carved eyes and its foul mouth full of teeth and weed. I saw the unholy image under the candlelight, an image familiar and savage in its familiarity. Then I saw the souls of my friends trapped in the jaws of the Whale. I saw my reflection in its grin, as if it was trying to devour me, but the grin wasn’t entirely that of an animal, but also that of a man.

Suddenly, Capt. Ahab opened his eyes. The knife was in his right hand and the idol in his left. His eyes were that of a mad man and his grin was of no Christian man. O, they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy! But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord!

I grabbed the candle as if it were the Lord’s sword and burned the idolatrous grin. The sea monster that had entered my captain’s soul screamed. I screamed. It fought back. The great white tail swung back and forth at me, hitting me, but I lingered. The idol roared, biting into my flesh, but I endured. The face into which I pushed the holy candle was a mask; the sound that came out of its mouth was of the devil. I pushed the candle into the mouth of the monster until it stopped moving. When I stepped back from the body, I saw that the White Whale had finally marooned and withered. The immensity of relief struck me and I fell to my knees, thanking the Lord for having guided my hand. Salvation is of the Lord, salvation is of the Lord!, I exclaimed. Capt. Ahab had tried to use the candles and the holy light to awaken the unholy leviathan, but my faith was stronger and my dear captain can now rest in peace, free of the monster that had entered him.

#

I put this letter into the crate and the crate back to the sea, so that when it is found, people will know that the White Whale is gone. I have enough food and water for one final sail back home. The Lord helped me build a new ship and I will set sails with the morning tide. I have my friend Quequeq with me and the remnants of the Lord’s candles and his words to guide me on my journey through the valley of death. I won’t take the quills with me, for I have no more use of them.

I will, though, save some of this ink so that I can cross out the name of this ship, for it is wrong; her name is not Rachella, but Pequod; and I need to find the rest of the Capt. Ahab’s crew, for these men I found myself surrounded with I do not know, and they speak of me as if I were not amongst them. And it is obvious that I am amongst them, and that I am the only witness of the White Whale’s demise.

November 06, 2020 19:50

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1 comment

Mustang Patty
08:53 Nov 16, 2020

Hi there, Thank you for sharing this well-written story. I think you did a wonderful job with the prompt. I did notice some issues with style and syntax. A few suggestions for editing your short story before posting: Just a few techniques I think you could use to take your writing to the next level: READ the piece OUT LOUD. You will be amazed at the errors you will find as you read. You will be able to identify missing and overused words. It is also possible to catch grammatical mistakes – such as missing or extra commas if you ...

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