Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Far Flung Adventures 4

Elliott crouched down at the foot of a crumbling, sun baked wall and watched the daily market assemble itself around him. He rearranged his filthy rags, set out his battered wooden begging bowl and spat noisily into the dust.

Before him was a mad cramped jostling space, a brief release from the dark labyrinthine alleys whose complexity made the Souk virtually unnavigable. Traders, whose hovels opened onto the tiny square, opened their shutters and drew out wares from dark interiors. Others arrived carrying their goods on their heads. Each had an appointed place, and each wanted a little bit more, so the air was filled with imprecations and appeals to the Almighty.

Nobody paid attention to the scrawny beggar from the hill country, and Elliot prided himself on his disguise. His own mother wouldn’t have recognised him. He had an eye for detail, an instinctive appreciation of local colour and fifteen years with the Colonial Police had provided him with plenty of opportunity to study those he was spying upon.

If there were any truth in the rumours of unrest and insurrection, they would manifest themselves here, amongst the gossiping tongues of the marketplace. All he had to do was remain unnoticed and alert.

A fat man padded past, and then drew himself up before returning to Elliot and standing in front of him, looking down affably.

“Baksheesh,” croaked Elliot in perfect hill tones.

The fat man sat beside him, and mopped at the sweat running from beneath his turban. He fixed Elliot with an ingenuous smile, displaying an impressive array of gold teeth. Then he leaned in closer. Elliot’s nerves were taut. Was this to be the confidence that completed his mission?

“God be with you, Engleesh,” the fat man said warmly. “You want to buy some feelthy postcards?”

Monday, 21 December 2009

Far Flung Adventures 3

Half way through a vicious Klondike winter, Muscat discovered his companion in the tiny cabin was a full-grown grizzly bear. The fug of the stove, the pervading reek of unwashed clothing and a working still of virulent moonshine had served to delay this discovery by six weeks.

Muscat lay on his fetid bunk, paralysed with fear. Six feet across the splintered floor, the hulking brute sprawled across the bunk it had occupied since the avalanche had engulfed them.

Muscat tried to shake his head clear of grain alcohol and assess the situation. If he hadn’t noticed his companion was a bear, the bear had seemingly made the same mistake about him, or remained indifferent to the presence of man. But, bears were never indifferent where food was concerned. Soon it would feel the ravenings of hunger, and this unnatural truce would end in bloody attack.

As his vision cleared, Muscat made out the stock of his shotgun on the floor beside him, protruding from the dangling filthy blanket. He edged a hand down slowly toward his salvation. The bear grunted and shifted its huge bulk; but after one juddering snort, it returned to its deep snoring.

Muscat’s fingers closed on the stock and he drew the gun out from beneath the bunk, wincing as its steel scraped on the rough timber floor. He brought close it up to him, to see the two cartridges nestling in place. Then leaning across as far as he dared, he placed the barrels against the sleeping ursine mass and pulled both triggers.

The noise was deafening and the cabin filled with smoke and the reek of cordite. Snow on the roof, two meters deep, cracked. The bear sat up with a blood-curdling shriek and, in its death throes, transformed itself into Muscat’s brother Raymond.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Far Flung Adventures 1

Midshipman Dainty became separated from the water party through that most innocent of impulses, a love of nature. Despite orders to secure water inland and return to the bumboats without delay and despite sightings of cannibal war parties in the archipelago, Dainty succumbed to the beauty of an orchid overhanging the narrow pathway. Sending the party on under the temporary command of a burly bosun, he settled back with pad and pencil, to commit the marvellous bloom to paper.

The party had lumbered on, with water barrels on makeshift barrows. Cutlasses and muskets at the ready, they scanned the dense foliage for rapacious head hunters. While Dainty, a slim, golden-haired youth, smiled dreamily at the bromeliad and strove to capture its exquisite lines.

Half an hour later, on completing a satisfactory study, he registered the complete absence of brawny, naval ratings hauling heavy equipment back down the path. A furrow of doubt and vexation creased his perfect brow. Then he heard voices on the shore.

He dashed back to the shore line, in time to watch the bumboats making their way back, through the breakers, to HMS Vantage. He looked at the sketch of the orchid, still clasped in his hand, and shook his head as he reflected that he and it were two natural beauties lost amidst the leafy Polynesian shore. He sighed poetically.

At that moment a massive Polynesian war club, with multiple knobbles and ridges, flattened his golden curls. The second blow shattered the perfect symmetry of his handsome face. The muscled warrior desisted from a third, not wishing to ruin his trophy’s profile nor afflict his lunch with irritating bone fragments.

From the poop deck, Vantage’s captain captured the moment in his spyglass. Not much to Dainty, he reflected, beggars would be hungry again by tea-time.