Diary Excerpt from Captain Canute Glasikis, July 10, 1855
July 10, 1855
Fuck the Crimean
The best that can be said for the past week is that there has been no more death. Desertion and drunkenness, sure, but no death. I guess I can take some pride in that, though lately, any responsibility for fortune, ill or not, does not seem to stick to me. I am adrift – a captain on dry land, a man marooned in a sea of dust and war. The chaplain is worried about me, I can tell. She tries to hide it, as though her forced conversation about the weather seems anything but just massively out of place. The weather is unchanging. The weather is not weather. I am utterly without weather.
Ah. Fuck it. Enough with the self pity Canute, old boy (that too, seems forced). What of the mechanics of this shitstorm? Probably need to say something about that, for history’s sake. What we’re doing is simple enough, if absurd. A half dozen or so are in front of the ship, strapped into harnesses, providing some small amount of propulsion and the pretense of steering. The ship itself floats (hah!) on rollers – logs that were originally stripped of bark, but which now, in our ennui, occasionally include branches, leaves, birds’ nests. As the DR lumbers onwards, teams remove the logs left behind, carry them to the front, place them beneath the keel. And the rest of us – a score plus a few – are at the stern, pushing, pushing, fucking pushing. Always pushing. It never ever ends.
The dust fills our lungs, coats our faces and throats. By the end of the day we are filthy ghosts, collapsing around a campfire that Preston kindles with the help of gasoline. The fumes do us good, I think. Variety in poisons is always a good thing, no? And we’re eating well, that counts for something. Cadmus has a gift for hunting and, not yet having all that much by way of physical strength, ranges about the land throughout the day, always returning with something dead, bloody and delicious. We eat a lot of stew and wash it down with Rot and vodka. I prefer vodka – the dreams are better or, if not better, at least blunted. The recruits toss it back like water, uttering incomprehensible toasts, and seldom seem drunk. The crew? They get drunk. We drink ourselves into uneasy sleep, lulled by songs sung round the fire. Jeremiath stays up late, and wakes in a foul mood. Thank gods we’ve already had a mutiny, or he’d make himself one hell of a ringleader.
And progress? What of our progress? Surely something could be said there old boy? (And why do I call myself “old boy?” That’s out of character, isn’t it?) Meh. Just thinking about it makes me tired. Put it this way. We started at A, our destination B, and are now at point C. Distances between any of these points are abstracted to the point of meaninglessness. Every day, C changes, but only on the hypothetical maps in our heads – from the look of things, we’ve moved not at all. The landscape is dust, dust and dirt and scrubby little trees that the chaplain sketches half-hearted pictures of. It’s a war zone, it is, and there are craters and mounds that probably have as defensive purpose and every few feet is another body, varying only in uniform and state of decomposition. It all looks the same, day after damn day, one damn thing after the next and all the things are the same damned thing.
We will, at some point, reach our B, Svestapol or whatever – progress is steady, if slow. But even if we remove our physical selves from this unending Haul, I wonder if we will ever truly leave it behind. Will our dreams be an unending slog through dust and war, eternally maneuvering the DR through an indefinite space? Will we drink and sleep and rise and push and rest and smoke forever? Seems like it.
This will never end, not even after it ends.