Monday, May 11, 2009


Chapter Twenty-two: "Here There Be Monsters"

In the darkness, a voice.

“’allo? Is anybody here? ‘al-low-sie-wosie? I am calling, you … yoo-hoo! ‘allo?”

Another voice replies. This voice is deeper, a bit raspy, with just the hint of a Swedish accent.

“Go away or I will kill you.”

A pause. The first voice replies – losing much, but not all, of its baby-talk quality.


The raspy voice replied, “Do you mean, ‘two’ as in the number two? Or ‘too’ as in ‘also,’ meaning that I will kill you also, as I killed the jailor before you?”

“And how many killings would that make?”


Another pause. The raspy-voiced Swede continues. “So, whether you said, ‘Too?’ Or ‘Two?’ it would apply with equal accuracy to either the number of killings, once I finish you off, of course; or to the fact that I will kill you as well as I killed your predecessor.”

“But you killed him VERY WELL INDEED! Seldom have I seen a jailor as dead as he was! You big snuggly-wuggly silly pirate killing man, you!”

The baby-talk had gotten on Horatio Hamnquist’s last nerve. As he spoke, he could see and hear the striking and sparking of a match as his jailor tried to light a lantern in the darkness. “And as thoroughly as I killed him, I’m going to take my time with you and enjoy every single …”

The match struck true and in a flash, the cell was illuminated by a lantern held by what appeared to be the Colossus of ancient Rhodes. In his time as a pirate he’d heard stories of men who had muscles coming out of other muscles packed tightly in a container of spare muscles. Hell, he’d seen Cementhands McCormack naked in the sauna at Madame Luzatski’s House of Spankings. But he had never been as thunderstruck by the sight of a human physique as he now was. Atop this mountain of man-muscle rested a round, hairless head with the face of a baby. A very big baby, indeed, but an innocent-looking baby nonetheless.

The thing about darkness is that it lifts evenly. The unknown and the known – illumination puts them all on equal footing. As clearly as Hamnquist could see the big baby man, he could also be seen; a filthy shipwreck of a human being dashed and shackled against the stone wall of his cell. A three-day-old meal of rotting fish, moldy bread and a wormy potato sat on the table just six feet away. But with all of his limbs in shackles, this feast may as well have been in Stockholm for all the good it did Horatio Hamnquist. The sight of the man-mountain set aside his personal discomforts. In his amazement, he could only think to utter one thing;

“Yaagen Hoogen!”

“You watch that salty-talk, Mister sassy-pants!” The jailor scolded. “This is not a brothel or an English house of parliament!”

The big baby-man jailor scrunched up his face in a mimic of childlike annoyance. “Hims is just a grumpy-bumpy ‘cause hims is hungry!”

Still in shock, mouth agape, Hamnquist nodded in hypnotic agreement. He noticed a small basket sitting at the jailor’s feet. He must have set it down to light his match.

“That’s right! Mmmmmmm! Nummy-yummy-num-nums!”

When the basket was opened, Hamnquist could see bread and cheese and – even more importantly – a bottle of water.

“Hims is a thirsty pirate, no?”

Hamnquist nodded desperately.

“Sippy-sip. Just sippy-sip – no fast drinkies – just slow. Slooooow.”

The water was fresh and even cool. Not that it mattered. After three days without water in a hot, pitch black cell designed for isolation, Hamnquist would have been grateful for a rusty cup of tepid swamp water and urine full of maggots. His gulps of fresh water put out the fire in Hamnquist’s throat and he savored every swallow.

Kindnesses were rare in the Caribbean – even among friends. A part of the old pirate – a part that he had long thought dead – wanted to cry.

“Oooo … hims gotta save some water to wash down the num-nummy food!”

The gigantic jailor took a knife from the basket and sliced a chunk of cheese and placed it on a piece of bread he had torn from the loaf. He then proceeded to ball the cheese into the bread and made a game of feeding the Swede.

“BOOM! Here comes the cannonball!!!”

He pinched the ball of cheese and bread in his right hand and pretended it had been shot from the basket as he guided it gently into Hamnquist’s mouth.

“YAY! Hims took a direct hit! Oh, my! What’s hims gonna to do?!”

Whereas Hamnquist had seen better floor shows with better meals, he was relieved to at last have the taste of food in his mouth. He was a man of epicurean enjoyments – life had always been a smorgasbord of experiences – delightful and disgusting. The old pirate had soaked in both, but it was clear that had he always been given the choice, he would choose a soft, warm, sandy beach, a bottle of good rum, fine food and pretty wenches.

After seven or eight “cannonballs” and another long drink of water, the jailor pulled a sheet of paper, an inkwell and a sharpened quill from the basket and set them on the table.

“Master says, ‘Tell Mister Hamnquist that the food and company will improve exponentially when he draws me the map I thrice requested.’ But he says it very grumpy to me – I say it happier to you.”

The jailor’s impersonation of “Master’s” voice had a familiar ring in Hamnquist’s ears. He couldn’t place it exactly and God only knows what was lost in the translation, but he knew that he and “Master” had met before.

“And does ‘Master’ say what he wants me to draw a map of? Perhaps ‘Master’ would like a map of my uncle’s farm near Borgholm.”

The jailor scrunched up his face in disappointment. “I don’t think Master would like a map of your uncle’s farm near Borgholm. Master says, ‘He knows perfectly well what map I want therefore convey to Mister Hamnquist in the most serious of tones that I will brook no further shenanigans.’ But if you’d like to draw a map of your uncle’s farm to get started, I’ll color it while you make the map for Master.”

Hamnquist thought for a moment.

“What’s in it for me?”

“Master says, “Tell Hamnquist that if he draws me the map I want – and if it’s real – I’ll make sure the hangman does a good job and he gets a clean snap! If he trifles with me, I’ll make sure the hanging goes …” here, Master wanted me to make a dramatic pause and then use my big, quiet, scary voice before saying, ‘POORLY.’”

“Just who is this, ‘Master’ fellow?”

“Master says, ‘Never you mind who I am! Suffice it to say that I am a man of no small ability and in a position to make your final days on this earth pleasant or unpleasant based on your cooperation!’ and then he gives you one of these.”

With that, the huge jailor gave what appeared to be a wink – but looked more like a facial tick.

Hamnquist raised an eyebrow. “Was that a wink?”

More facial ticking. Hamnquist continued.

“I’ll take that as a wink. Did ‘Master’ give you answers to all of my potential questions?”

“Master says, ‘Do not doubt my thoroughness or the ability of this simple gargantuan monster to parrot back my answers to any conceivable question of importance to me. Ah, yes. Being a pirate, you must understand the relationship one has with his parrot.’”

“But,” Hamnquist retorted “parrots responses are random mimicry because the birds lack the understanding for interactive discourse! HA! I’ve got you now, haven’t I?!?”

“Master says, ‘Are parrots as random as you assert? Or are they simply stubbornly oppositional to the very concept of inter-species communication? Be that as it may, I believe this response, planned long in advance, supports my assertion of thoroughness and the seriousness of my request.’”

Realizing that trying to outwit this enormous man-puppet was a pointless game, Hamnquist surrendered, “Well, I can’t very well make a map if I’m shackled to this wall, now, can I?”

The big jailor smiled. “Hims is a good pirate! Let’s unlock thems nasty shackles, shall we?”

As the jailor was bent over, working on unleashing the pirate from his chains, Hamnquist noticed the open cell door and the knife, carelessly stuck into the wheel of cheese in the basket. He relaxed his body while each limb was freed from its confines. He wanted to give no hint about the violence he was planning. The old pirate felt a tinge of guilt for planning to kill the one person who had been kind, albeit obnoxiously babyish with him, but self-preservation is strong motivation to perform harsh and deadly tasks.

The moment the last shackle was unlocked; Hamnquist leaped toward the knife and plucked it from the cheese. He then lunged at the huge jailor with a violent fury.

But Hamnquist hadn’t counted on two things; the weakness of his body after being chained to a wall without food or drink for three days and the quick reflexes of his super-sized opponent. As if catching a thrown snake out of the air, the jailor gripped Hamnquist’s forearm and giving it a twist wrapped the offending appendage behind the pirate’s back as if they were dancing a promenade.

Holding Hamnquist’s body in place, the jailor tugged the arm upward to the point of breaking. “Hims should drop the nasty knife so hims doesn’t get hims arm snapped like a dried twig.” The jailor’s baby talk was as calm as it had been from the moment he entered the cell. "Hims will dangle from the noose just as prettily with a broken arm as a whole one."

Hamnquist dropped the knife to the floor and the pressure on his arm was released.

The jailor gently guided Hamnquist to the table, sat him down and dipped the quill into the inkwell before handing it to the defeated pirate. He then moved around to sit at the other side of the table and watch the prisoner work on his map.

Hamnquist sighed and began to draw what appeared to be a chain of islands in a sea. He occasionally glanced up at his smiling captor across the table. The flickering fire in the lantern made his face look like a child on Christmas Eve – full of wonder and magic.

“Is hims drawing water?” asked the jailor.

“Yes. ‘Hims’ is drawing water.” Hamnquist replied.

The jailor folded his arms on the table and rested his chin on his thick forearms as he watched the drawing progress.

“Here there be monsters.” The jailor said softly.

“Pardon?” Hamnquist looked up from his work.

The jailor sat up and waved his hand over the paper – as if looking for something that really should be there, but wasn’t.

“Where will hims put ‘Here there be monsters’ so we know where the scary monsters be?” His baby face showed deep concern about this point.

Hamnquist smiled. It was the first time in months that anything had genuinely amused him. He carefully found a spot on the map to draw a sea serpent undulating in the waves and encircled the image with the words, “Here there be monsters.”

The jailor gave a satisfied smile. “Now we know.”

Hamnquist nodded and returned to his drawing. But after only a couple of strokes and squiggles he looked up at the jailor again.

“You know what the truth is, lad?”

The jailor shook his head.

“There be monsters everywhere.”

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