Seford, Spiggot, and Jones: Voyage the First

Thursday February 05, 2004 @ 03:01 PM (UTC)

“Will you hurry UP?” said Bessa, her hands on her hips, and Gerald stepped briskly aboard, snapping a salute as he went. She was the captain, after all. Minta looked uneasily at the solid ground under her feet, but jumped when Bessa bellowed, “Crewman Jones! Are you a sailor or a sea anchor?” and fingered a coil of robe expressively. Seaman Jones made haste, and the three crawled down into the cramped hull to man their controls.

“Where are we going?” breathed Minta, when the hatch was closed and further discussion of sea anchors in vain.

“There is only one way,” said Bessa firmly, “to find out.”

“I hope it will be dry,” said Minta, stroking the blue-cast gunmetal with a nervous hand.

Bessa gave a corrosive stare. “Minta, you idiot! It’s a submarine! What did you go and say THAT for?”

Minta started to bubble forth an excuse, but Gerald cut them both off. “Captain Seford, we’re going under now!” The gauges danced in whirligig uncertainty, and the porthole showed a kaleidoscope of nothings.

Bessa spared one last glare at Minta, and turned her attention to the controls. "Wet, she said through clenched teeth, “wet!” But the rushing roar of their journey was already fading, and with a barely audible plink the three-man sub emerged inside a mosaic sea.

The light streamed in through the porthole, tinting Bessa’s green, Gerald’s hazel, and Minta’s brown eyes an identical, vibrant blue.

“Look!” cried Minta, and they all saw a violet eel making his labored way through the seascape. “but…” she faltered, “doesn’t he look…peculiar?”

“Of course he does,” Bessa barked, “we’re in another world!”

“Not himself,” Minta pressed on quietly, “but how we see him.”

They all looked out the portal, and saw how the light travelled mazedly through the blue, and peered at the outer surface of the porthole, where irregular crystals pushed and shoved with a faint grating they could hear through the glass.

“It’s a dry ocean,” Bessa said flatly.

“A tremendous discovery!” urged Gerald, as the crystal shapes outside shifted and blurred the slowly-moving fauna.

“All Minta’s fault!” Bessa countered with a jut of her chin. “We might as well look about, though. Engines forward.”

Gerald twisted at the controls, and the cabin shook slightly as the engine woke behind it. They shuddered forward with a sound of grinding teeth, and Bessa grabbed wildly at a nearby strap to avoid pitching over Gerald and into the porthole.

“What’s the matter, man!” she hollered, as Gerald’s pianist fingers played over the flashing, squawking console.

“It’s the solid water!” he yelled back, “the screws aren’t working!”

“Then turn them off before something blows!” said Bessa, her face frightened in the strobing red light of warnings and alarms.

Gerald twisted, switched, and pressed, and the engine subsided gratefully into silence. He looked up at his captain with concern in his face. “How will we get anywhere?” Bessa pressed her curly head against the cool skin of the boat and closed her eyes.

“We can use the claws,” Minta offered into the silence. The others looked at her. “Remember, I added manipulator arms? I thought we might need to dig, so I made them stronger…” she wormed between Gerald and Bessa and depressed an unassuming button. With a stentorian klang, the sub thrust viciously pointed spades into the teeming beads of the dry ocean, and with a sound like a vast godfather clock preparing to strike, it tunneled forward through the shimmering deeps.

“Bless you, Minta!” said Captain Seford, “I thought we’d die in this crazy place!” From Bessa’s fierce bear hug, Minta exchanged droll looks with Helmsman Spiggot.

“Onward, then!” cried Captain Seford, releasing Minta and leaning forward to examine the shifting world without with a keen eye. “Let us see what awaits us in this pelagic paradox!”

Onward they pressed, until the shifting view the crystals yielded through the glass was no more curious than a summer’s haze. The captain raised the periscope, and reported the sky was brightest azure, and marked by flocks of drifting yellow birds. “Land ahoy!” she cried at last, “claw speed to half, there may be rocks!”

It was not a rock that loomed ahead, however, but a shifting burgundy shape that proved to be a small child, swimming through the blue with wiry arms. In surprise, he stopped and stared at the slowing submarine, his face obscured by a clam-shell mask.

“That child will drown!” cried Captain Seford, “Gerald, man the manipulator arms! Minta, find a life vest!”

Minta blinked. “But he’s perfectly fine, Bessa sir. He can breathe the air between the water.”

Bessa looked at Minta, then at the child waving at them happily through the glass.

She looked again. “AHA!” she shouted, “but will he be fine in a moment?” She pointed, and Gerald gaped at the nightmare vision forcing its way up from the depths below the unseeing child. Minta shrieked, and Bessa sprang into action with a zeal that was almost smug.

Minta pointed, “Look! It has scoops instead of fins!”

“Indeed,” said Bessa without looking away from the controls, “and more teeth than a voracious darkwyrm.” The sub’s digging spades klanged into position like a rapier and main gauche. “Soon we will discover how many colors of blood it has!”

Gerald turned on the engine, heedless of the alarms now adding noise and color to the fight, and the sub darted and swirled in a deadly sigil beneath the shifting crystal waves. First a feint, then a thrust – the digging claws drove at the nameless thing, and its staring chartreuse eyes grew wide with pain and fear. At last in defeat it labored slowly away, trailing its brown ichor in a spiral on the grains of water. The frightened child clung to the outside of the submarine, and pointed it towards his home harbor.

The people of the world were as strange as its waters, burgundy, maroon, magenta people with freckles in canary yellow making curious patterns on their dark skin. They were grateful to the heroic crew of the little sub, and especially to Captain Seford. They had never seen hair before, let alone red curly hair, and they insisted that all three of the visitors from a land beyond their sea stay to a lavish feast thrown in their honor. “Of course,” Bessa accepted with a twinkling smile. “If it’s not too much trouble, though, could we have some water while we are waiting for dinner? It is thirsty work, exploring.”

“Of course!” smiled the matriarch, and the villagers soon brought ornate fluted glasses full to the brim of the rough cubes of water. Bessa looked at Gerald, and Gerald looked at Minta. “Maybe,” said Crewman Jones softly, “we could go somewhere where water is wet.”


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