Friday, 3 January 2014


Today's post is actually something I wrote a year ago, but hasn't been posted in full until now. Originally meant as the opening monologue/pilot episode of Danny Roberts' Heuristic Tales. 


Captain's Personal Log: Stardate 47552.1. By which I mean to say, hello. (groans). Captain Roberts here. Laid up and alone. Usually I'd write, but I've dislocated my shoulder. My good shoulder. Tried typing one handed, but it gets tiresome. But I've been watching old episodes of Deep Space 9 and that got me thinking about an audio log, until I can get out this sling. Besides, I've grown used to the sound of voices on board again after the days sailing Agatha and her people to safety.

These won't be long entries. I used to talk to myself a lot as a kid and these days talking out loud when there's no one there makes me uncomfortable. You'd think I'd be used to myself by now, I do it all the time anyway. And it's not like I'm really alone, there's Anna and Issy for company. Issy understands a lot of what I say, she's very smart for a jaguar. Must be from growing up on this ship. Anna understands things in her own special way. That's what I get for naming the computer and the ship after a character in an obscure book. Still, it's the power of the book that gets us around.

You find us out in the Azores. I've tried drifting down to the tropics to recuperate, but it was far too hot. I drifted further north, up into the North Atlantic, but that really is the worst, even at in the calmer seasons. So then I sailed south until I found the Goldilocks zone and dropped anchor. And this is where I ended up. On the holo-displays I can see islands to the north, north-west and east, but I just want to sit up on deck for a few weeks and catch up on some reading and do some physio and plan my next move.


So I bet you're wanting to know how I did my shoulder in. Well alright then. I haven't told it yet and I suppose this is as good an outlet as any. First, here are some things you might need to know.

My ship, the Anna Livia Plurabelle, is a magic ship. She travels through space, time, reality itself. I call myself Captain, but I am also her high priest, intoning words from a special book to jump from one place to another. The words are culled from dozens of different languages and almost always obscure. But they do lead to interesting places.

So what I've spent some years doing is sailing around, reading out parts of the book at random and mapping where the words lead me. Seeing what I can find. This time the words were:

Only the caul knows his thousandfirst name, Hocus Crocus, Esquilocus, Finnfinn the Faineant, how feel full foes in furrinarr!

Said it was gibberish. Unless you know. Generally the whole page has to be read up to the trigger words, so I am safe in reciting portions. And then there's anything from a pop to an explosion and the scenery vanishes and a fresh vista appears.

All I could see was sea at first. Then I turned around and saw the beanstalk. It reached up from an island in the sea. I was twenty miles off, the base covered in jungle, over which a thick fog hung. The beanstalk shot up from the centre of the island and into the clouds. The clouds were green.
As I came further I could see that what I thought was a beanstalk was more a ginormous tree. It tapered inwards towards the clouds, but spread out into a single bower above the clouds, turning the sky green with foliage. I could see something moving up there. A big something. I was hoping it hadn't seen me. I sent out a couple of remotes and fired up the engines.


So where did we get to yesterday? Oh yes. So I fired up the engines and soon I was just a little way off the shore. The fog got thicker the nearer we got, but it was no match for the sensors. You couldn't see as far as the bow, but through the honeycomb of displays encircling me, I saw like it was clear. The remotes had already mapped out most of the shoreline and were making their way inland. So I kitted up, lowered a boat down from the dock into the water and me and the cat went ashore.

The second we landed I felt like I was in a chose your own adventure novel. This happens a lot if I'm honest. I never really got into computer games, but reading adventures books always thrilled me. I got to use my imagination. This was the most I'd felt it though, what with the beam of light shining through trees in a halo of light. Issy growled beside me and the labile rippled from finger to elbow. I let it do its thing and it flowed into my hand and formed a broadsword. Then it jumped the gap to my other arm and gave me a shield for protection. I took a step forwards.

I felt we were being watched. Issy felt it too, the low rumble in her throat given as a warning. Only I heard the agitation in her growl. But we were left unmolested to approach the tree at the centre of the island. The path was well tramped, it took barely an hour.

The other reason it didn't take long was because of the sheer size of the trees trunk. The remotes had its circumference measured out as a mile and a half at the base. There were vines and all kinds of plant leaf growing on it and I quickly found that not only could I start to climb quite easily, but so could Issy. Her claws dug in where necessary, but for the most part she jumped from one floral shelf to the next. We made good time.

After climbing for an hour or so, we came to a road. Planks of wood were embedded into the trunk to form a surface. Like running the wrong way up a helter-skelter. And then there were gaps, where instead of road there were branches to climb up like great rungs in a ladder. Issy could still climb some sections, but I had to use the labile as a harness to winch her up some of it. The stifling heat of the jungle was long below us. It was freezing up there and getting colder. Good job I brought coats for both of us.

Up and up we went, the way now almost entirely paved with timber. And that's when we ran into two more adventures. They had the high ground and were keen to defend it, swords bared at us. Issy was ready to tear them apart, but I held her by my side with a raised hand. I had no doubt she could take both them out in an instant, but people always deserve a chance. I told them I mean them no harm and asked them who they were and I waited to see how they'd respond.


The taller of the two men spoke and when he did I knew instantly that he didn't understand my language. Luckily, I understood or something like it. It was Greek. Ancient Greek that is. A dialect of it at least. I've been learning the language for years and only recently got the hang it when I went to Greece for the first time. This sounded more Ionic than Attic to my ears and I blurted out what little I could remember. He spoke a little Attic too and through a mishmash of half uttered sentences and hand signals, we told each other our stories.

He said a giant lived at the top of the tree. The giant had stolen his wife and his son and daughter and his friend's family and many families from lands all over the area and brought them here. Most he ate. Some he kept as servants. They had come in from a cove to the west of the island, the opposite way I arrived. They said the cove was littered with the boats of the men who had come to rescue their families and never returned. I had seen the corpses in the undergrowth as I'd started to climb. Lot of bones around there too.

I offered my sword and my cat to them and they accepted and we climbed the last mile together. They were called Cyril and Cletus, I kid you not. I established that they were farmers by day but also served as soldiers when it was needed and knew how to use their sword. I quickly led them to believe that I was some kind of minor god. Unethical it may be but you have to speak to people in their own language and it's simply quicker than having to explain a piece of technology like the labile. Far better to let them believe in magic. Things get done quicker that way.

After a bit more of a climb and a bit of cat hoisting, we reach the top. It was like something out of a fairytale. The clouds at our ankles. I'd expected to see a castle or a palace, but instead what we found was a gigantic log cabin. It sat at the end of the space, surely only incredulity keeping it there. At the opposite end of this top tier was the rubbish dump. A graveyard of bones and half eaten corpses.

There was movement inside the cabin and the giant emerged. He stood maybe thirty foot tall. The three humans fanned out into an arc around us. Issy hung back like she was told. We tried to keep our distance, but I stepped in and got too close and he grabbed the tip of my sword and yanked me up and threw me backwards. And that's how I did my shoulder. So now you know. So I can stop now, right?

Oh ok then, So the two Aegeans went for him next and he carried Cleitus away he wasn't as lucky, 'cause the giant ripped him two and spilled his guts everywhere and threw the two halves of him over the ledge. And then I finally saw what danger we were in and I had to act quick. I commanded the labile to my will and I willed to fly at the giant. And as it did so, it flattened out into a sheet and blinded the giant. And as he struggled, it wrapped itself around his neck. And as it grew tighter, he stumbled closer and closer to the edge with a little gentle encouragement, the giant fell over the edge. The labile wrapped on to the bough as it passed and the giant's body hung there limp for a little while. Then the labile slowly released its grip. The giant's body fell to the heap that he had consigned so many too. The labile found its way back to nestle on my arm.


Cleitus was dead and there were tears in Cyril's eyes as he mourned his fallen friend. I felt terrible. If I only I'd been quicker, he might still be alive. Still, Cyril's tears were soon turned to joy when his family came running out. They had seen what had happened and hugged him and offered thanks to me. We ransacked the place for loot (them more than me, I don't have much need of gold these days), then began the descent.

We had with us twenty seven refugees. On the way down they told me of their problems. There were giants all over these parts. I guess I must have wandered into the mythical realms. Cyclops and all kinds around here. Most of our refugees were children and most of them were now orphans thanks to the giant. A few were mothers, but many of them were little more than children themselves. If they went back to their homelands they would only have fallen prey to some other giant eventually, so I decided on that long climb down to find them a new home.

As we descended I could feel all the things that had watched us on the way up were now racing ahead of us to the ground. A second confrontation was coming and I put Issy and Cyril on standby. As we reached the forest floor, I saw how right I was. A dark circle of beats encircled us. But the kids weren't afraid anymore, not with the giant's blue face sticking out the jungle at them, and they raced out at the mass, sending it scuttling.

We got everyone on board in five trips and were under sail by nightfall. If they had any doubt about my godlike status before, they soon melted away when I showed them around the ship. Well even people from my era are awestruck by the old girl (sorry Anna). And we got the kids set up in the barracks rooms on the bottom gundeck and set up some camp beds in the empty room up on deck and gave Cyril and his wife and family and some of the other adults use of the three state rooms.

Amongst the women was Agatha. She was in her late twenties, had lost her husband and two children, boy and girl, to the giant and had her one surviving seven year old with her. Gaiane. Her family had once been Athenians and she spoke the nearest to a Greek dialect that I recognised. She became the liaison for the Greeks. 

And liaison is the right word, because for most of the nine days we were at sea she lay with me in my quarters. She was my nurse as well as a lover, tending the arm. Her daughter slept in the hammock in my ready room, Issy curled up at her feet, content as a lamb. We were a little family for a while there, I even asked her to consider staying on board. But she quite sensibly wanted to start a new life somewhere else and found a new society. She asked me to beach my ship and turn the timbers into a home, but I said I could not. We lay in silence that last night together.

I found them a land that was fertile but not isolated and gave them the means to defend themselves. I gave them technology too. Some would be appalled at giving people in the past technology, but once a thing has been invented, who cares who has it? That's discrimination against the temporally challenged. I told them what they needed to know and what they were curious about and left them to it. I sailed away and moped for a while and watched DS9 episodes as I drifted back out the Mediterranean a meandered around the Atlantic. And then I started to speak and here we are.


Still bored. The arm's out of its sling at long last. Stiff, but the movements slowly returning. Should be fit in a few more days. Might weigh anchor and sail off in search of some adventure. Maybe read a passage out of the book. Or mooch over to one of the reality crossroads. Amsterdam or round the horn, up to Madagascar. There's Timbuktu, but there's nowt but desert out there. Need me some water to reach a place.

Weather's turned, can see a storm coming in on radar, so I guess the decision's already made. It occurs to me that I have never seen a fjord. Which is to say, I have yet to see a fjord. Think I'll sail up to Denmark and do some fjord spotting and then swing back down to Amsterdam when I'm done. I always enjoy Amsterdam. You always hear the best stories there. Second only to Tokyo for inter-dimensional rifts. Can always catch a new torrent in the surrounding areas. Remind me to tell you some time about the couple that crossed through one of the rifts to find a man in Montana who send them back to when they were kids. Remind me also to tell you of the fate which befell them.

So I'm ofsky. I might try some light typing tomorrow. Just a more efficient way to get out what's going on in my head. Although I can see myself retuning to this method again at times. It has its uses. Speak to you again some time.


Get it done.

No comments:

Post a Comment