Thursday, 4 September 2008

Juliana's bequest

I am writing this in abject fear of what awaits me. It is night, I am safe at home, I am tired, exhausted if I am completely honest, yet I dare not go to bed. The soft warmth there will envelop and welcome me and I will sink, unconscious into hell.

I will awaken, a rushing sound around my head, my senses screaming, the cold, bitter bitter cold, and I am wet, no not wet, immersed. I force my eyes open and it takes a moment to comprehend the situation. I am on the sea bed, my own home towers above me and, I am drowning.

I struggle in panicked fear, and make to dash to the surface many hundreds of feet above me but find that my feet and arms are bound, and three large iron quoits are tied at my feet. I scream, and as the bubbles leave my lungs and water forces itself in to my mouth, my throat contracts, I gag but there is nothing to eject, the water enters my stomach, my body struggling against all hope, rejecting the seas entry into my lungs and in so doing damning me to asphyxiation; and all the time I am fighting, fighting and struggling in futility, against the bonds that hold me, dislocating my arms, and snapping bones in my wrists as I fight.

And with that fight comes release, the exertion takes the very oxygen I seek to preserve, and dizziness takes me, a bright light envelops my vision and as I pass into death, my heart beats ever slower, I feel my throat relax and welcome the sea into my lungs.

A searing pain burns through my chest as my lungs inflate, forcing water and tissue up through my throat and into the sea around me. My body convulses and gags on the air as it escapes, the intense burning, pricking sense of pins and needles extends across my entire being as my still beating heart pumps oxygen anew. It takes time for my senses fully to return, I feel the cold, the wetness, I do not even need to open my eyes for I know where I am now and, I am drowning.

I am living her life and dying her death, with each revival I gain a few moments of tortured life.

In time I cease to thrash, I use my moments in considered effort to release my bonds. With each revival my broken bones and torn skin are renewed, not healed mind oh no, the bones fuse where they rest and my limbs become distorted like the twisted branches of an ancient tree, scar tissue tries in vain to hide the damage beneath and glows fresh and new.

On occasion I awake, and lay sweating in my bed, sobbing like a small child knowing that sleep must come and return me to the depths. And so this living hell goes on, Juliana's hell, a hell perpetuated for longer than I can possibly imagine. Eventually I will break the bonds that tie me; release my arms and after an eternity of picking and tearing at the heavy hemp rope I will unleash my feet, but all is in vain, I've been here before night after night, yet still I have to try.

The next rush of air arrives and beyond the pain I push toward the surface, the shrunken volume of air in my lungs expanding as I rise, this time will be different. The surface above comes ever closer beckoning to me as I rise, but the air is simply not enough, I cough helplessly, convulsing as I choke. The beckoning surface looks on, I never reach it, my body fails me, the sea triumphant and in my anguish I reach out toward the pale ripples of sun that taunt me from above; then as the life ebbs from me, I feel my body sinking slowly back down.

It is then that I enter my blackest time, I realise that I am the sea's plaything now and for ever, and I must end the cycle, my life must be forfeit once and for all. I reach to my throat and grasping the life sustaining necklace try to cast it away, but it will not leave me, some evil magic binds it to my fingers still. There is no end, no way out, an eternal life of pain stretches out before me and I settle to the sea bed awaiting my next death.

I look up and she is there, Juliana, smiling at me. The water seems not to hurt her, a cloud of tiny golden anthias shoal about her, the sun rays scatter in the water behind her, unnaturally bright in these gloomy depths. She bends toward me and with my final act I thrust my arm toward her, begging her to take the cursed jewelery, silently pleading for release. Then as I fade once more, one final time, the light enveloping my senses, I feel the necklace slip from my grasp, with a sigh I attain my release.

I have no idea how long I sleep at the end of this, but I know that it is not enough. I am at my wits end. By day, I am forcing myself to visit the sea, I cannot let this curse destroy my sanity but my very grasp on reality is fraying. I fight the fear of water, how crazy for a girl who lives under the ocean? As yet I have not told anyone of my plight, I fear the curse, the paranoia of the people of Babbage visiting upon me this fate for real. It is not a rational thought, these are my friends, my neighbours, not a crew of superstitious sailors but then fear so often lacks rationality.

It is late, so very late now, my eyes are weighing heavy with their burden of sleep, but I will not give in. I am going to seek out Mr Whitfield, perhaps he can help me take these cursed dreams away.

Fire! Fire!

One has to wonder at the excessively placid nature of our New Babbage community. I arrived this evening in the docks at the site of the former "vertically Challenged" shop to find a rgoup gathered to gawp and point as the flames licked the fine wallpaper from the walls and reached ever up and out towards nearby buildings.

Perhaps because my own loss at the hands of fire is still keen despite the intervening years, I simply could not look on and discuss collective retribution against a newcomer to our town while the building burnt around us. The newcomer is indeed a strange one, a Doctor Oblensky, who is, one must admit, in appearance rather "evil", the cape and hat, his very presence seeming almost to caricature villainy, and yet for some poor chance of nature and his presence the man was condemned and pilloried when it seems that his "evil deeds" amounted to alerting the crowd to the fire in the first place. Tali always said that I was able to see good in everyone, though Cem called this naivety. Who knows, but I judge a person by their apparent actions and I hope not by the reputation that rumour mongers lay before me.

As ever, I digress, I was able to bring a tub that I used last Christmas from my factory/warehouse in the canals and young Django Yifu and Mr Sieyes set about dousing the fires, and the townsfolk showed some signs of acting in unison but it soon became apparent that the fire had taken hold of the upper storeys too.

Mr Merryman had arrived and many of the crowd were appealing to him to assist and I must admit I was rather dismayed at the reluctance of Mr Merryman to assist with his wonderful fire boat. I am used to the fire brigades back on the old continent, the ones that would attend only when your fire insurance had been paid but who were strangely close at hand when ever a fire took hold. I make no such accusation of Mr Merryman, far from it, but I fear that that is a slippery path along which we should not tread. To his credit Mr Merryman did arrive and help douse the lower levels as I addressed the burning above.

I struck upon a possible solution, an idea that should have occurred to me when I had earlier rejected repairing the old bilge pump in the basement of Aegir's hall. The Hippocampus Janusi has a pump that is driven off of the main drive and forces the water from the top exhaust fin. Luck was with me and I was able to guide, or rather bump my poor horse through the canals and opening the lower sea valve flood the compartment in a controlled manner providing enough water to supply the pump by re-routing the drive belt over an alternate gear wheel I was further able to increase the pressure and more by luck than judgment deliver a cascade of water onto the fires.

I am however a minor heroine now and I fear the eyes that turn to me appealing for my help, applauding my ingenuity. I am not one to
stand by in a crisis but neither am I infallible, the fate of poor
Juliana still hangs heavy upon me to prove this. I hope to bury her
properly this weekend, perhaps I will rest easier then.