Collected Letters of Francis St. James, Letter 7 |



Collected Letters of Francis St. James, Letter 7

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21st? day after the island

Dear Edmund,

You will require, no doubt, an explanation of the misplaced interrogatives that so glaringly mar the dating of this missive. I confess that I have no ready explanation, save that my sense of the passage of time, as we drift ‘pon this magnetic sea, is becoming curiously attenuated; one day blurs into another, the sky is an eternal black and eddies of rust swirl ‘bout the bow - nothing changes under the sun and, here, where the sun is conspicuously absent, we are in the very state of ‘anti-flux.’ All of which is preface to saying that I haven’t the faintest idea as to the actual date - I estimate that three weeks have past since leaving our first ‘port of call,’ but that estimate is based on nothing at all.

But that is of little import - I have little doubt that, when we recross the Boundary, and return to ‘civilized’ seas, my sense of time will come a-roaring back.

Never mind that - how have you been, brother of mine? Of late, I find myself missing the oddest things about our family: the way our mother would boil radishes to a dull paste before spooning them onto our plate; father’s early morning ablutions in ice water drawn from the Thames (why that filthy liquid was thought to cleanse him I never understood); your odd habit of humming hymns whilst studying mathematics - I miss these things sorely, even though it has been years since we were all together as a family, something about this voyage has caused these feelings to emerge and provoke a singular melancholy within me.

Thanks the gods then, for my work and my studies - without them, I fear I would sink deep into a terminal ennui. My work, or at least the ‘official’ version of it, has taken a turn for the intriguing, though I must apologetically confess to being something of a ‘tease’ in this area: until I attain a full synthesis of my ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ projects (something that recent discoveries have made me believe to be a very real possibility), I do not wish to ‘jinx’ my project by speaking on it overly long. There is also (though I intend no aspersions cast your way) the risk of anything that I commit to paper falling into the ‘wrong hands.’ How those vile doubters of Zakharov would slaver and whine to get their grubby paws ‘pon an incomplete version of my latest work - ‘twould be ammunition ‘gainst him and fodder for the most sordid feats of plagiarism; and should the university catch wind of any of it, I would surely be expelled. No, the details of this particular project will have to wait; never fear, I am making rapid progress and I will soon have a most exciting tale to tell - all full of science and philosophic wonder.

In the meantime, I have a most curious postscript to add to my last letter: recall, my brother, that I had been finding some rather repulsive objects lurking in the dark and ill-swept corridors of the ship. They reminded me of nothing so much as owl pellets: globs of hair and bone and spittle; the great mystery was their origin - the ship is quite lacking in owls of any sort, not even of the taxidermied variety. I had dismissed the phenomena as merely another one of the mysterious hardships of ship-bound life (you will thank me for not revealing further details of what alleges to be a washroom aboard this floating cesspool) until I made a most unusual discovery. I had been up late, compiling notes and sketches, and had begun to feel puckish; when making my way to the galley, to see about the possibility about obtaining a rind of cheese from Anteas (he has been known to, on occasion, take on the role of ship’s cook), when I caught the distinctive footstep of Jeremiath Reingold (he would appear to fancy himself mythological, for he leaves one foot bare at all times) and, not wanting to subject myself to his unique brand of torment (he calls me ‘Frank,’ which I cannot bear), I did my best to hide in a shadowed alcove. I was then witness to a curious and repellant display: Reingold was clearly drunk on the Norwegian Rot that so many of the crew see fit to indulge in, and he was much the worse for wear for doing so. He stumbled and staggered and, at one point, looked directly at me, but he was too far gone to either recognize me or, having done so, act out his usual games. He paused, clutched at his stomach and began to retch most piteously; I braced myself for the stench of sick until seeing that he expelled, not the copious amounts of vomit that expected, but yet another of those curious pellets of hair that I had been finding.

This was a revelation, and I have devoted myself to further collection and study of these pellets. I have found Jeremiath to not be their sole source - on one occasion or another, each and every crew member, with the notable exception of Glasikis, has produced one, always under the influence of Norwegian Rot (sadly, even young Dahlia is not the exception to this rule - I have noted her sneaking into the ‘Rot’ supplies and taking surreptitious nips when she thinks herself unwatched). I have now amassed upwards of thirty of these odd things, and am planning on a thorough dissection of them all, when I can spare the time. In the meanwhile, I lurk the corridors at night, hoping to espie yet another moist pellet to add to my collection.

That lurking itself leads to an interesting side note, with which I will conclude this epistle. Just last night, I was creeping through the corridors, ‘twixt greenhouse and that one door whose purpose none will tell me, and was bending to retrieve a fresh pellet when I sensed a distinct presence. I whirled around to see Glasikis fixing me with his gaze; I felt pinned, trapped, judged and made haste to mutter some glib excuse for my activities (though I had done nothing wrong) when I realized that he was silent and that his face bore an expression of awe and sadness as he gazed ‘pon mine. I know not what it is about me that fixates him so (and indeed, I am grateful that this fixation has led him to moments of charity), but he sees something aweful when he looks at me.

Ah, yet another mystery on this ship of mysteries. I shall endeavor to solve them all and, until then, I remain,

Your brother,
Francis St. James