Collected Letters of Francis St. James, Letter 8
The Magnetic Sea
Today’s letter finds me in a disjointed, if exhilarated state; this expedition is ‘taking its toll’ on me, that is for certain. Days, even weeks, have passed without my leaving my berth - were it not for Anteas, who has been kind enough to bring me food when he is sober enough to remember (an infrequent occurrence, to be sure, but often enough), I would surely have perished. I wish that I could say that my days locked away have proved fruitful, but the vast majority of my time was spent a-huddled in my bunk, alternately dreaming of home and shaking with the strange fever that Glasikis has dubbed ‘chronological ague.’ I only emerged from my wretched state yesterday, to wobble my way to the galley, where Anteas informed me that neither he, nor anyone else on the ship, could give me any sort of estimate as to the amount of time that had passed while I lay in my bed of illness.
I was determined not to let this development impact my surprisingly high spirits, bolted down a hearty meal of ship’s biscuits and gravy (I do not wish to know the source of the ‘meat’ that flavors it, but the gravy is quite delicious), fortified myself with a bracing mug of coffee, and prepared to resume my lamentably interrupted projects.
You recall, of course, that I had embarked on a plan to build a second machine: intended to translate the universal ‘brane essences’ into an auditory format; my attempts to render a written output from said essences were stymied by both their incomprehensibility and the mysterious disappearance of the subject of my experiment (I suspect everyone is this theft, save Anteas and Glasikis). I had thought that perhaps a musical translation might prove itself to be more amenable to study. Frankly, I am unsure whether this latest machine is successful or no; the sounds it produces are quite alien, yet bear a haunting beauty. Even as I sit typing, strange melodies are filling my ears, emanating from the machine where it sits spinning; alas, while the sounds are beautiful, they are beyond my understanding - perhaps I was mistaken not to harvest music from but a single object, rather than our brane as a whole. Perhaps a different design might have produced sounds that, while less pleasing to the senses, would be more agreeable to scholarly review. But I cannot summon the energy required to offer up any real complaint: the music is wondrous and, by simple virtue of being music, it proves the existence of a structure lying ‘neath the branes - that alone seems to show that our Mechanistic Philosophy is looking in the proper direction. My next task will be to come up with some manner of translating the essences into something that you and I (or I, rather - I have little doubt that you would have readily comprehended the scribbles of my first machine and the music of the second) can understand.
I almost fear to mention that I have taken on a second endeavor - this quite unrelated to anything else; it serves naught save my own curiosity. I do not recall if I have mentioned to you the curiously repellent ‘pellets’ that I have been finding about the ship: much like owl pellets in nature, only expelled from the gullets of the crew after over-indulgence in the Norwegian Rot that is all the rage aboard this floating nightmare; suffice to say they look like owl pellets, and I have collected a good two-score of them. Last night, soothed by the gentle music of the branes, I finally ventured to dissect one, to ‘see what made it tick,’ if you will. I was astonished to find, not bones and the small sad remnants of living creatures (why I thought to find evidence of vermin consumption in the regurgitations of the crew is a question that I shall leave for another time) but torn bits of pictures (in one I thought to espie a younger, happier version of the poorly named Juniper Sunshine), a broken shell of a locket, a crushed fragment what I believe to be a rhinestone.
I do not know what this means and I remain, in puzzlement,
Francis St. James