Chapter One: Jane
I knew they were coming. I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins waiting for Gandalf and the dwarfs.
Pat and Carron were two of my oldest friends. We went back a long way we did. Some how I knew that this wasn’t just a courtesy call. There was something afoot.
‘So… ‘I asked when the proprieties were over and they were seated in my living room with a mug of steaming tea before them. ‘What brings you to Moidart?’
‘Oh, just to see an old friend whom we havent seen for far too long.’
‘And the band played Believe it if you like.’ I said with a smile.
‘What are you up to these days?’ Pat asked.
‘Oh, I keep myself busy.’ I replied.
‘We were thinking, it’s a while since we’ve had an adventure.’
‘I don’t like the sound of that.’ I replied. ‘I don’t know about you two but I’ve had enough adventures to last a lifetime.’
‘You should write it up as a book.’ Carron said.
‘Nobody would believe it.’ I replied, deadpan.
‘Talking of books,’ Pat said. ‘What have you been reading lately?’
‘Is this a long distance book of the month club?’ I asked, cocking my head to the side. I still couldn’t see what they were getting at.
‘Why don’t you just cut to the chase?’ I said.
Carron opened her bag. She produced a pair of white gloves and something wrapped in a plastic carrier bag. She pushed them across the table towards me.
‘Not a rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Neck of Brass?’ I asked as I took the package. ‘Ah! I get it.’ I joked, holding up the white gloves. ‘You want me to referee a game of snooker.’ In silence, I put the gloves on and opened the bag. Inside was a stout cardboard box of slightly larger than A5 size. I opened the box and inside, wrapped in tissue, was a book. An OLD book. That was apparent by the smell alone.
‘Be careful.’ Carron cautioned. ‘Be VERY careful.’
‘Does it go bang?’ I asked as I carefully opened the tissue and gingerly removed the ancient tome from the box.
‘From whence cameth this?’ I asked.
‘Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.’ Carron said ‘But rest assured its not actually mine and has to go back from whence it came and PDQ!’
I opened the book. It was a notebook, hand bound in hide, very old and written in more than one hand. Some of the notes were long and detailed. Some were short and brief. Others made no sense at all. Some I recognised as map references. Others looked like some sort of ancient shorthand. Some were so badly spelled that they might have been encrypted by an ‘ENIGMA’ machine.
‘Very interesting.’ I said, carefully wrapping the old book in its tissue cocoon. ‘Now, what is it? the long lost manuscript of a hitherto unknown Shakespeare play?’
‘Here.’ Carron pushed a sheaf of printed paper towards me. ‘A transcript. See if you recognise it.’
When I had restored the book to its packaging, I returned it to Carron who slipped it back into her bag. I picked up the sheets and began to read.
‘Some of it does look familiar.’ I said. ‘Was that the draught plot for a now famous book?’
‘Getting warm.’ Pat smiled. Carron took another book from her bag a much newer book. She handed it to me.
‘Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson?’ I read. ‘And?’
‘The plot of treasure island begains with the finding of a notebook in the posessions of a deceased pirate. We believe that the book you have just examined is that book.’
‘You are spoofing me!’ I exclaimed. ‘And you will of course have proved the connection between this book and Stevenson?’
‘No. We haven’t.’
‘Have you had the book itself authenticated? How do we know its not a forgery?’
‘The book is genuine.’
‘And predates Stevenson’s book?’
‘By at LEAST a century?’
‘And what is the point in all of this? I take it that you didn’t come all this way just to show me a book?’
‘Treasure island is fiction.’
‘So the treasure is still there.’
‘WHAT treasure Carron? As you said. The book is fiction ergo the TREASURE is fiction. It doesn’t exist.’
‘We did a bit of research. Captain Flint never existed, but there was a pirate captain who plied his trade in the late seventeenth Century and whose treasure has never been found. A French Pirate called Louis Dakeyn He called himself Le Grande. but his enemies called him “The Exterminator”.’
‘And you think the treasure might be that of this ‘Louis Dakeyn.’
‘We’re pretty certain that theres a distinct possibility… ‘
‘Which translates as “Positively… maybe” by the sound of it.’
‘Well, there is a certain margin for error… ‘
‘We think we’ve found the island.’ Pat chipped in.
‘I see, and where might that be?’
Pat produced a map. I was disapointed to find it wasn’t ancient and drawn on parchment but a moden computer printout.
‘So, this is your desert island… ‘
‘Oh, its not deserted, not now anyway.’
‘How come?’ I asked.
‘Slave revolt, 1829. Some of the Marons escaped on a ship and landed here, the British found them and fought a big battle but eventually they let the survivors stay there as the end of slavery was only a few years away anyway.’
‘Interesting.’ I sighed. ‘It MAY complicate matters.’
‘We’ve found a ship.’ Carron said. She passed me a photo of a two masted schooner. We’ve got a volunteer crew,all female, we were hoping you could be her master.’
‘OK, I sighed. ‘As long as the ship’s cook doesn’t have one leg and a parrot called Cap’n Flint.’
Chapter Two: Heather
Gritting my teeth, I tried to ease the rocking in my stomach. I can’t stand long journeys. Why was I doing this? If I was struggling with the train how was I going to manage a ship’s voyage of un-bloody-known duration? To pass the time I took some of the transcripts out of my bag. There was a contents page – or rather pages – stapled to the front identifying the other pages chronologically, by location, by author, by language, and also by relation to Treasure-bloody-Island. Whoever transcribed the journal, they’re thorough, I’ll give them that.
There was one entry that intrigued me, partly because it was one of the few authors I
August 19th 1723
This is a historic date, for this is the date that this old journal came to my hands. To think of so many others who have searched now twisting with rage in hell, that it is a woman’s hands in which it rests. It is some small comfort when I consider how much this desperate quest has cost me. My dearest friends and crew lost to the noose or the sword. My worthless coward of a husband – worthless and cowardly he may have been, but I loved him still. And dearest Mary, loyal Mary who had survived the fiercest battles and the cruellest storms – stolen by a fever in the night. I hoped she might have made it, but when I heard the laboured breath cease through the wall, I knew she had departed. There shall be no funerals to attend nor graves to visit – governments care not for the burial of pirates.
Since my escape from Spanish Town, I have searched and sailed and plundered all to find this old record – under another name of course. I flatter myself that mine is well known; once it was an honour, now a foul hindrance. It was trying enough to build up one feared reputation; I have had to do so again. But now I have this journal, nothing is in vain. Dearest Jack and Mary – this is in your name and your memory – and when I touch the treasure that awaits, history will know it as belonging to the three of us. And until we meet again, in heaven or hell, though I do believe the latter more likely, you will always live in my wake and in my sword.
But if fortune sees that I do not reach my goal, I then implore that if another should take possession of this journal after my passing, they search further. Though the wishes of a ghost may count for little, I ask that what may be done is done for Jack, for Mary, and for the Revenge.
I shall sign this journal with my true name, it well may be the last time I do so. These pages shall be touched by any hands but mine until they are wrenched from my dead fingers – and woe upon any who try to take it from me before then.
— Anne Bonny
The train halted. Out of the window, a ship rested by a dock in the distance. Alright then, here we go.
Chapter 3 – Maura
Deep in the depths, fathoms under the water, there is a ship. It is remarkably unscathed, untouched by the ravages of time. It is a small ship, and even beached as it is in the stones and sand on the sea bed, it is clear that this was a fast ship, a ship meant for speed and built to be agile in the water.
But while the rot and decay does not seem have had any effect on the small craft, nevertheless it is battered. There are gaping holes in the wooden sides, huge tears most likely caused by cannons. The sails hang limp and ragged, and the deck is torn up and ruined. And a ripped flag hangs from a broken flagpole, and though the flag is barely noticeable in the gloom, the white skull and crossbones identify this ship as a pirate ship.
Looking at it, a watcher would imagine that some terrible battle had taken place on this ship, one day long ago. They would imagine cannons firing and pistols being cocked and swords shining. They would almost be able to hear the yells of the pirates and the clashing of the swords and the sounds of the guns and the screams of the wounded. They would almost be able smell the blood and smoke and gunpowder.
This watcher would wonder about the lack of seaweed, the lack of algae and mould on the wood. They would wonder why no sea creatures had taken this ship as their own. Wonder why it was so intact, why the rot and decay hadn’t eaten away at it, leaving it a rotten husk.
And they would wonder what had happened to all of the crew. There were no bodies on this ship, not even skeletons. It was as if no-one had ever worked there, no-one had ever lived there.
A watcher could imagine a lot of this, staring at this odd craft.
But there is no one watching, this deep down. No one can see this once proud, now destroyed ship. There is no-one here, and the ship is abandoned, and no-one will know this strange phenomenon, this peculiar preserved ship. There is no-one here.
There is movement in the darkness. A small creature, a dull crab, scuttles towards the ship, moving towards a hole in the side, searching for food or shelter, or maybe just curious.
It pauses as it reaches the shadow of the ship, and then moves closer… and then there’s a flurry of movement, a flash of silver, and a sword comes down, stabbing through the crab’s shell with a sickening crunch.
The sword remains there, vibrating slightly, and then an arm- a pale, slender arm, a delicate, small, but calloused hand, a female hand- reaches out of the bowels of the ship, grabbing the handle and pulling it out of sight, the crab still grotesquely skewered on the end.
Then there is silence once more, and stillness falls over the ship as it shifts slightly in the sand, revealing the name painted on the side, only just readable in the gloom. Revenge, it says, and nothing moves any more, but the silence is eerie. Who knows what’s waiting there, in this strange ghost ship.
Chapter 4 – Maria
We moored up on the Thames, somewhere around 1999 it must’ve been, judging by the monstrous construction of that Millennium Dome and the newspaper headlines spouting hysterical claptrap about the Internet boom, Prefix investing and the dotcom bubble. There were three of us leftover from the journey, all ragged and bone-tired from the rickety French railways and crossing the English Channel. You’d think that would be the easiest part – hell, folk have been known to swim it – but with all the ferries passing it was like being stuck at a junction on the M1, the day before Christmas. Thank god for the smugglers’ caves at Dover, last remaining relics of the Golden Age of Piracy. We hid the night out there, feeling like gods. In the dark catacombs we drunk up the last of our rum, then made our way along the Thames in broad daylight, just this morning.
That’s the thing about a ghost ship: you can make it look like anything. The atoms unfold and reconstruct themselves, if only you know the magic words. For all anyone knew, we were just three strangers in a barge boat, pushing slowly up the river on a Sunday afternoon. Nobody could know that our destinies were sealed in a terrible book, wrapped up tight in crimson tissue paper.
What is it Conrad said about the Great River of London? The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. Aye, it felt like that, drifting along under bridge after bridge, passing huge metallic superstructures that reached into a milky sky of London fog, the vague promises of futurism etched into the architecture of every building.
We found ourselves pulling up at Camden Lock. Of course we did: it was the place to be, after hanging out in dreary old Moidart, with the prehistoric creatures, the mutant sheep, mouldy shacks and stinking tea. It was 1999, and Camden was cutting-edge, with the wee stalls along the river front, the food court and furniture shops; just the right amount of shabby chic. The three of us got out to stretch our legs, eagerly devouring the smells of sweet banana crepes and spiced paella that were wafting through the wintery air. It was so cold you could see your breath like smoke.
“I’m dying for a cup of tea,” Carron complained, clapping her freezing hands together. We left Pat behind in Moidart – I needed someone to look after my huskies – so it was just Carron, Louis and I that were travelling. Louis was French by birth, and ill-equipped for a British winter.
“Ooh la la,” he says, more or less constantly. We’d found him somewhere around the nineteenth-century, and he was still getting to grips with modernity; I’d tried to teach him how to use a telephone, but it ended badly, with mild electrocution. Ooh la la, he shrieked, his hand held high, vibrating in spasms. After that incident, I thought I’d keep him away from technology, though it was our biggest asset on this trip – the reason we’d shored up here in fin de siècle London.
The colourful frontier of Camden Town was a welcome relief after so many barren years at sea. We drunk in the stimuli like we were on acid: every colour, smell and sound seemed fresh and new to us. Only a small clump of tourists shuffled around; the rest of the people were local hipsters, sauntering down streets like they were flaunting themselves in a fashion parade. There were sinister-looking punks with neon mohicans, girls with spiky haircuts and black lipstick, teenagers with baby-faces and sailor tattoos all up their arm. Louis took it all in with a dazed, stoned expression. Carron and I kept laughing and cracking jokes, but I felt pretty bad because it all passed clear over Louis’ head; he couldn’t make sense of anything, bless him.
We were turning down meandering tunnels which harboured lots of wee stores, ranging from Italian leather emporiums to liquorice sellers and adult sex shops. Louis made us stop and buy three sticks of thick black liquorice, which we chewed greedily as we wandered along, our teeth slowly blackening with molasses.
The tinkling door closed behind us and the first thing we noticed was a silver sword, casually balanced against a rotten mahogany dresser.
“Deja vu,” I whispered. Carron nodded and Louis stared blankly ahead. The whole place was lit only with the dimmest of gas lamps, a glow which hardly cut through the smoky motes of dust. Slowly we made our way around the shop. With my thumb I rubbed off the grime coating a glass cabinet. Inside were several labelled exhibits: Rimmel lipstick, worn by Kate Moss at a famous Burberry show; authentic Keith Richards guitar pick; the journals of Kurt Cobain. Intrigued, I tried to prise open the door of the cabinet, but as I did so, I heard a ghostly murmur, the sound of someone dragging their feet. I turned around and came face to face with the proprietor. He had wide, haunted eyes and hollow cheeks; floppy wisps of hair and what looked like a crack pipe balanced in the fingers of his right hand. Somewhere behind me, I could hear Louis murmur Ooh la la. I steadied myself and extended my hand.
“You must be Pete,” I said, clutching his cold fist in mine.
“‘Ello!” he exclaimed. “The computer pirates! I’ve been expecting you. Can I offer you a good old cup of Rosie?”
“Rosie?” Louis asked, emphasising the ee sound.
“Tea,” Carron said quickly, embarrassed by Louis’ ignorance, “Rosie Lee, tea.” Turning to Pete, I nodded our acceptance, and with the hospitality of an old-fashioned Englishman he turned around instantly, disappearing back into the gloom. Soon we could hear the shrill whistle of the kettle, sounding like the distant siren call of a ship, lost out in vast realms of darkness.
Chapter 5- Emily
I remember the darkness… the wail of a siren. The waves washing over the starboard side, stronger than any I had ever seen before, and just as I was powerless to stop their fury on that day, I am once again no match for the crashing memories unfolding before my eyes….
I wasn’t always like this.
Cold, calculating…. Ruthless. And ready to cut down any man, woman or genderbending, status quo defying non binary identifying miscreant who dares stand in my way…
Once I was kind. I was soft and warm. I smelt of warm milk and nettle soap. My laugh rang out in gentle pulses. And more importantly I laughed often and was quick to smile. Mostly I just laughed at her…
Mia was my world. I can still feel her sticky cheeks as if she was leaning in to kiss me goodbye. I can smell her clean hair, always knotty, always flying behind her as she ran off to play. Her giddy laugh once filled me with such brimming emotion. Goosebumps would rise on my arms and tears would spring to my eyes because she was all mine. I had created her, this beautiful little creature, with her snotty nose and sticky cheeks. I loved her and we were happy….
It was a beautiful day, a calm sea. A perfect day to teach my baby how to sail. She was coming on 10 now, a splendid little thing, cheeky as all hell. But good. Kind to her core. Often I would find her out in the garden, talking to some creature or another. Perhaps her special friend Peggy. I was told it was harmless for children her age to imagine beings that weren’t there…
As we walked along the dock I remember my little girl pulling at my skirt.
“Mum! Can I please bring Peggy along aswell? She’s been telling me all about the seas, I know she would love to learn too! Oh can she Mum, please please please!?” she urged.
“Well, look kiddo, as long as she doesn’t take up too much space, what does an imaginary friend weigh anyhow? Surely our tiny skip will capsize with anyone else onboard”
“Eugh! Mum, for the last time, she IS NOT imaginary. She is RIGHT THERE” She motioned in front of me, growing flustered all at once.
“Alright” I called after her as she raced off hand in hand with thin air, her vest straps fluttering out behind her. “But she’ll have to scoop out double the water if we start to go down”…. How wrong I was to joke about that.
Soon after we left the shore, I let Mia take the rudder. She was a natural, and her quick thinking kept her astride the gentle waves. I began to relax and look towards the horizon. How often had I come out here with my own mother before her death. I was so happy to be making the same memories with my baby.
As I closed my eyes, leant back and cast my face to the sky. I told myself not to fall asleep.
I smelt the storm before I opened my eyes, the boat was lurching. FUCK, how long had I been asleep. Mia was holding on to the rudder for dear life. “MUM!!!” she screamed. The waves started growing about us. I scrambled over the seats and grabbed the rudder from Mia. “Listen to me, I need you tighten your life vest and get down low in front of me. I am going to steer us home.” White faced, she quickly obeyed. Sinking on to the floor. “I need you to grab the fog horn honey and press on to it. Don’t stop. The coast guard’s will be here any minute”. The wind was picking up, I wasn’t sure she heard me, but as I leant against the rudder and swung the sail about I saw her reach for the horn.
She screamed. And then the fog horn began to wail…….
I could see the coast to my left, I angled us towards it, the waves began lashing at the boat. coming well over the sides. we were going to sink if we couldn’t start shifting the water. “Mia”, I nudged her, “scoop out!!!” I wailed over the horn. The look of terror on her face drew me up short. She was screaming, screaming louder than I thought possible, louder than the horn even and pointing right behind me. I whipped my head about just in time to see a flash of white and suddenly a solid body had smashed into us and was scrambling over me. Clawing, scratching. Pushing me on top of Mia, Pushing me into the middle of the boat.
The horn had stopped, Mia had dropped it. “Peggy”, she screamed from underneath me, “Stop, Please make it stop!”, I held on to Mia, I fought with my life as this bitch clawed at me, she bit, she howled louder than the wind. And then without warning she grabbed my pony tail and slammed my head on to the side of the boat. Again and Again. I could feel Mia reach past me, trying to push her off….
I clung to my baby for dear life, but before I felt myself go limp, I felt Mia being pulled out from under me. And then the horn started again….
… ’Ere yuar love, your Rosie Lee’ chimed Pete, popping out from nowhere.
“Thanks”, I managed, startled. I cast an eye about remembering where I was. How long had I been standing here like the fool. Time to settle things quickly.
“You on something pet?, I ain’t seen anyone go off into the distance like that without a little something in the pocket if you know what I mean… ha ha ha”
“Enough”, I screamed, slamming down my mug of tea and grabbing this lackey by the lapels. “you are going to take this book of mine and decipher it. No fucking questions asked. Or you will regret the day you opened your weasly little door to me!” I spat.
Bewildered, the weasel managed a grin.
“Alright, love, Alright.” He said gently “I’ll do what ya need. Keep it real simple like. I mean, Even life without drugs has gotta be better than this malarkey.” He said. Gesturing about.
Chapter 6- Lee
Pete flicked through the ancient pages of the journal, his gaunt pale face focussed as if he was looking for a detail beyond the writing on the page. “Ahh ah!” he exclaimed…. “This right here is why you came to Pete Doherty” he said pointing at a small squiggle drawn in the top corner of a page. Everyone huddled closer to see a tiny, tiny turtle.
Bemused Carron asked, “A turtle?…A turtle!? How does this help us?”
“No… well yes, a turtle. But what do you have when you have many turtles?” Pete teased.
The situation was slowly spiralling out the boundaries of what could be regarded as sane. Why the hell was I here!? Pat and Carron persuaded me to go on a quest to find the treasure, did either of them say I’d be popping randomly all over time – No, no they did not. Did they even slightly express a possibility of befriending a French man without any capability to communicate or articul—-
“A Turn!” Blurted Louis, miraculously obtaining the ability to speak English and express his apparent knowledge of marine biology.
“EXACTLY!” Pete Doherty exclaimed. “And you don’t want to take a wrong one!”
“Oh my god, the man is a fool” Carron said exasperatedly.
“Oi! I might be a fool, but I’m not a fucker and I wouldn’t fuck anybody over” Pete retorted. His gentle tea offering demeanour now turned foul and defensive, much like a petulant rock star craving constant gratification.
At that moment the door to the shop swung open! The little parrot chime squaked “Ahoy Ahoy, we got customers!” However these were no customers, we had seen them before. The same night we found Louis, running through the Parisian streets away from the so called “Bottes Noires”. Three tall men ran in, with long cloaks whipping in their wake. I grabbed Carron and pulled her behind the nearest shelve rack that I could find, at this moment I could hear the distinct sound of muskets crackle and pop as led projectiles were sent swirling around the shop of the future and past. The shop became a mist of small souvenir items, and “The Libertines” merchandise. I could only assume it was a band, thankfully not one I was familiar with if its fan base included the likes of this Pete man.
“Pete Doherrrty! Of course they came to you, you fuckerrrr. Where is the journal!?” One of the men shouted.
“Aww Boss. Look its right there, just on that counterr see” A second man squawked reaching his slim gangly fingers towards the book.
At that moment, in an act of unexpected and frankly uncharacteristic bravery Louis launched at the book, grasping it tightly as bullets began to litter the shop once more. Pete tried to make a quick escaping, evading the chaos he had been thrust into the day we stepped into his shop. As he span to leave he slipped on his tea, crashing to the floor.
Carron, her bravado slightly tempered by the volatile situation unfolding in this shop of temporal, misguided pop culture references, began to tug on my sleeve as if to suggest an escape route. We see the Parrot guarded door. It was surely possible to escape, but what of Louis and the Journal I thought? At that moment I glanced back at him, clutching the journal and dodging bullets behind trinkets and ornaments. We catch eyes, and despite only ever sharing one word with him I feel a sense of sorrow when his intentions set in. There is no way out for him, surrounded now by the three men, but there is a chance he can distract them enough for our escape.
Each breathe feels like an eternity, Carron is tugging and tugging, I hold firm until the right moment and just then, amongst the cries of anguish from the tea soaked Pete Doherty and shattering of china ornaments, a bullet ricochets off a metal statue of Johnny Depp, flies high towards the sealing fittings and strikes a single link of a chandelier chain. Louis notices just in time and takes this as his only opportunity. With a squelching thud, Pete Doherty’s insides are separated rather unceremoniously from his outsides. The blood splattering over the faces of our pursuers gives us reprieve from the musket fire. This is our chance!
“Now!” I shout to Carron, as she charges towards the door.
The men startled by our sudden presence, turn to us giving Louis the chance to jump up and throw the journal.
“Go mademoiselles! Find the treasure that you seek and battle the ghosts that haunt your dreams!” Louis shouts, his last statement to us a much more romantic one than his first.
I just catch the journal in my trembling fingers, and do not look back. I hear the cacophony of muskets raining down, I am certain that Louis has met his end but I have no time to look back.
Carron sprints onto the busy London streets. We run, left and right we turn with no sense of direction or purpose. We have to make it back to the Thames, to our ghost ship. With no control over were we end up it’s a gamble, but one we have to take now. We cannot stay in 1999, in London, our pursuers would surely find us.
I see the tall masts of our ship, myself and Carron run down the embankment diving onboard our vessel. Carron is panting, laying on the dark deck looking up into the clouds.
“What the hell was that!? Who were they?” she cried.
“No time Carron, we need to get out of here. Time to spin the wheel” I demanded.
“Don’t be stupid! We are at least 15 years away from our time, it’s better than 18th century France and who knows where we could end, when we could end up! I’m not spinning that wheel.” Carron said, now on her hands and knees almost begging.
“Carron we could be at least 15 minutes away from our deaths if we don’t do anything, I have to spin the wheel” I reasoned.
At that point we heard the laughter of what could have been 50 men in the distance…. We both peered over the brow of the boat. And there it stood, as black as night. A large ship, a frightening leviathan floating in the thick silky water of the Thames, a blood stained ship both literally and figuratively….a pirate ship.
“It’s them!” I exclaimed.
“Spin the wheel” Carron shouted “…SPIN THE WHEEL!”
A hail of Cannon balls began to rain down on our ship, through the splinters of wood both Carron and I charged towards the captains wheel. We dived down grasping the same spoke and using our body weight to slam into the deck and send the wheel spinning.
Time started to slow as it did on most jumps, I could feel the beating of my heart, I could see the slow approach of a cannon ball cutting through the air like a ship in the sea. Then I heard the bark of a dog.
“Pat….” Carron whimpered.
My eyes darted to the other ship, where I saw Pat and the huskies chained and bound. The pirates had taken our friend and here we were running away. I ran away from my ghost once, I let someone close to me be taken once and here I am running away again.
Time rapidly sped up, and the canon ball that we had observed floating through the air so gracefully now crashed into the captains wheel, the ship was wrapped in a blanket of colours and lighting and my vision was burned a blinding white.
The white vale faded, and my face was kissed with a sea breeze. A quick inspection of mine and Carron’s surrounding would offer us no hope. Back at sea, our friend captured, the captain’s wheel totally obliterated and with it our ability to jump through time and space. With only the wind as our engine I looked out for a sign. Then I saw it, a train of turtles stretching out at the front of the ship all swimming with common purpose…… a Turn. Let’s just hope its the right one.
Chapter 7 – Ailsa
I awoke like I did every other day. By the sound of the cockerel, by the light streaming in from my balcony window. Slowly I opened my eyes and stretched, pushing the cotton sheets aside. It is summer today, and the year by count of the newspaper on my bedside cabinet is 2001. A Saturday, sometime in July. I do not care for the day number, they barely matter to me anymore.
Slowly I stand, shifting my body weight onto my feet. My French doors to the balcony are open, meaning the maid opened them when she brought me my tea and paper. But I do not mind. Here at least I am looked after well.
Gently I take up the tea into my hands and walk towards the balcony, my eyes adjusting to the bright sunlight. There is a busy main road and the usual spew of white houses that cascade downwards towards the seemingly endless horizon. Beyond that the small city merges with Portmore, and beyond there is the sea. The churning Caribbean, the endless warm waters, and somewhere beyond them in the great Atlantic in a place I know not is the last remains of my mother and father’s ship, the Revenge.
As I sip my tea I consider my life now here, in Spanish Town. It is fair now, and despite nearly three hundred years I have grown used to it. I have full run of the cloisters and the library and twice a week I go out to spend the day in the town (although, I admit, it sometimes is not enough). Though I know I have to be careful to hide my face to those who might recognise me from day to day, or over fifty years ago, still looking the same as I did when I was 18, it still is satisfying to know I am somewhere where no-one hates me, or despises me for my cursed immortality.
I turned away from the whitewashed town, closing the doors behind me. As I did so the bells of the tower began to ring for morning prayer. I sighed, and pulled closed the curtains before going to lock my bedroom door. The nuns had been kind to me all these years, after the convent took me in as my mother lay dying in prison, but there was no way today that I was going to join them in their prayers. Instead I walked over to my dresser, and, getting down on my knees, I pulled out the bottom drawer. In it was a small chest, and in that was a folded piece of paper, my mother’s last testament to me.
The scratchy handwriting is due to the fact she was dying of fever in childbirth when she wrote it. In the testament she states that her name is Mary Read and mine is Marie-Angel, and she was cursed along with her dearest friend Anne Bonny and their joint lover-husband Jack Rackham, to endlessly and unhappily roam the earth. They had been looking for a particular pirate’s treasure called Le Grande, or the Exterminator. Something had happened at sea, someone had heard news of their searching and sent a ghastly sea-curse after them, in the form of a creature my mother simply calls ‘The Kelpie-Ghyst.’
It cursed the three of them in different ways to roam forever, but separated. I know now of course, as I sit here on the wooden floor, reading my mother’s words, the only words I have from her, that my mother’s curse was passed on to me, to curse me to roam forever in her place. Imprisoned in my 18 year old body, able to heal supernaturally fast so no bullet can kill me, always watching others pass on. As to the others – according to the rumours that I have collected over the years I know that father Jack became something beyond death, a walking corpse after he was hung. Supernaturalists might call this a ‘zombie’ but I prefer to think of him as something sad and lonely, as much conscious and alive as the rest of us … As to the fate of Aunt Anne all I know is that she escaped heroically and took off again to the seas after their arrests in Spanish Town. I wonder, partly, if, like me, she is still alive and sailing for eternity. I wonder if she, like my mother, knew of the curse. Maybe she didn’t, maybe it just did not matter to her.
Shaking my head in exasperation I sighed again before putting the paper away and standing. I put on my plainest dress and walked back over to the balcony window. Opening the doors once more I went to the far edge of the balcony and found the first grasp of the ivy. Carefully I lowered myself onto the branch before descending rapidly, knowing that all of the sisters would be inside. With practised maneuvers I landed, softly, in the herb garden. The sweet scents of rosemary and thyme hit my nose in the most comforting, familiar way.
Once there I hitched up my skirt, tying in a sarong fashion around my waist before walking to the convent gate in the wall. I opened it, carefully without sound, and slipped out to the alleyway. From there I headed to the river, to a high hill from where I can see the port and the boats coming in. I like it there, I can imagine them as if they were long ago, because I was there long ago. I have seen wooden sloops become metal warships become aircraft carriers, I have seen arrows and muskets and machine guns on the horizon. I have seen pirate flags, the Dutch East India Company’s flag, the British Union flag, the Jamaican flag, all claim occupance here.
It’s been three hundred years almost now, and I am still waiting for the time when everything will change.
Chapter 8- Zahne
So I decide that it is about the time for me to return to my first home. At least for a short time, I will be in once familiar places. The streets and the people I knew, all gone, but such an adventure this shall be. I prepare myself happily. It’s not like I had ties this island. Not now anyway, not ever if I’m honest with myself and if I can’t be honest with myself who else can I be honest with. It’s not like I have other options of people to be honest with. I entertain the circular thoughts as I wander back to my residence. I pack what I have acquired over my years here. My books that I have accumulated, the paintings that I have crafted and the rest of my limited possessions are placed in the two carry bags I have. Some of this will have to be left here, there’s no way to carry this many years of life to the next stage. As I start to sift through some of the forgotten memories I realise I haven’t planned how I will get off this blasted island. I have been careful to limit interaction with the locals but now I don’t know how I’ll be able to get out of here. To take my next step. I stop my chaotic upheaval of my past and consider my options. I could get a boat to a smaller island saying that I’m a tourist escaping the recent gun violence in Jamaica. I doubt I have picked up a Caribbean accent recently enough to sound anything but foreign. I set about my sorting of what was to be left behind. What had been a warm morning had turned to a blistering afternoon. I lock up my home and return to the port, I am as prepared as I can be for this journey. The money I have is not enough to get me to where I want to go but I have my paintings and my books. I can do portraits and I can sing. I can make it home.
Now I’m in Greece, so far from home, I look over all the travelling I have done. I have bartered, hitch hiked and paid in full. I have accomplished so much but here I stand at the gates of this family and I don’t know who to say I am.
“Excuse me can I help you?” A voice asks easily from beside me.
“I’m Marie, I’m looking for the Prince family.” The person’s dark eyes go from friendly to guarded quickly.
“Then you had better come in.” He leads me into the large house and through a maze of corridors. “Diana my dear, this is Marie, she’s looking for the Prince family.” He sits in a chair opposite the large windows.
“Marie-Angel, I knew your family.” And with those words I’m filled with confusion and surprisingly peace. “I have been around for a very long time was just a child when your family met mine. The Gods blessed us in returning you to us. Even if it is only for a short time. Sit, Bruce will take your bags to your room. We have a lot to catch up on. You must have a lot of questions.” She smiles as she waves Bruce out of the room. He shakes his head but follows the directions given to him.
“How are you still here if you were around when our families met?” I ask listing all the other questions I have for her.
“I was blessed when I was born as is every female in my family. We are like keepers of a great secret. We can die but it takes a lot to manage it. We spread out so that we can respond quickly to problems we can solve. Has that answered your question?” I shake my head.
“If anything it has created more questions!” Diana smiles serenely, her blue eyes clear like the seas of the islands I have recently left.
“We have enough time for some of them but first I want to hear you tale. Or rather I want to hear what made you come here from wherever you were.” I look at the time and see that we have many hours left in the day.
“I came here from Jamaica.” I ignore that story that got me to Jamaica and focus on how I got to Greece. I tell her about the partying European teens. About Nevis. About London. I tell her everything. I barely notice time passing.
“You must be very tired now, I’ll show you to your room. I have to warn you that we have two children scampering around here somewhere, they are mostly harmless though.” She laughs. “Goodnight Marie-Angel.” She’s gone before I can respond.
I spend a month happily with the Prince family. The children teach me many things about the modern world, the internet and good games to play. Bruce teaches me the modern languages to update the tongues I already speak and politics so I can navigate the current climate if I so please. Diana and Bruce together teach me how to defend myself and others. Diana and I spend many evenings talking about people long gone or those who are lost to us in any way. I have sent letters to the friends I had made on my journey and have heard back from them. I have settled somewhere that I can stay. Then one life changing day in September it changes. The world is lit on fire. Soon after the search for old treasures are started. In the name of lost friends a group is put together to hunt down treasures. Treasures that are best left alone. I should know. Though I would be safe here with Diana and her family the mystery calls to me once more. I promise to write to them during my travels as I leave yet another home. Here I go again into the unknown, I hope this time it’s a more successful trip.
Chapter 9- Hayley
We had followed the train of turtles and moored up on in a bay containing four large galleons like our own. Carron and tentatively left the sanctity of our ship and made our way across the soft white sand. Carron had been reluctant to take to the shore but there was no doubt in my mind that the ghostly ship had followed us here and we’d be safer losing ourselves in the crowds than getting lost at she. The air was dry and the hot sun blazed down warming the nape of my neck. Along the sea front was a fish market made up of identical crooked wooden shack and greasy, moustached men flogging their wears. The smell of smoked fish beckoned to us with lip-smacking vapours. My stomach growled.
“I’m starving too,” Carron replied to my gurgling belly. “Do you think they’ll do fish and chips?”
“I doubt they’ll have chips,” I chuckled.
We approached the first stall and I attempted to negotiate with the burly, hairy-armed man who was pulling the guts out of each fish with the same hand he was using to wipe his sweaty brow before wiping his bloodied knife on his slimy apron. The man was speaking in some sort of Samoan dialect and understood me as much as I did him- which was not at all. To his credit he did wave the gritty knife wilding in my face and grinning with his toothless mouth in a vain attempt to explain something to me.
“What now?” Carron sighed.
I shrugged. “We’ve got no idea where we are, no currency and we can’t speak the language. Unless we find some sort of tour guide I think we’d best just hole up in a cave for the night and hide from those pirates, then we’ll get back to the ship tomorrow.”
Carron gazed around dreamily, not paying the blindest bit of attention to what I was saying.
“Carron!” I snapped. “Were you even listening or were you just thinking about food.”
“Kinda,” she muttered. I groaned at her. “No, no. I was just thinking, remember all those turtles that led us here. Look they’ve got every kind of fish draped about this market but no turtles.”
“The turtles here are sacred.” An unknown voice breathed from behind me.
“Sacred?” I turned swiftly to see a slender girl shrouded by her dark hair. Her face was eerily white and sullen. She conversed with the fishmonger in his native tongue before exchanging a few unusual gold coins for smoked fish.
“The locals believe that the turtles which surround this island guard a treasure bound to this place.” She extended her hand offering the fish to us. “Please.” The girl smiled. My stomach flipped. My eyes were fixated on this young girl she seemed almost ethereal but at the same time horribly familiar. I my hands remained frozen at my side. Carron snatched both fish from her and greedily started munching. I glowered at the girl with the most icy stare I could muster. Something in my gut swore to me this person had done me wrong. The smell of the salty air swirled around me threatening to drown me in a memory I couldn’t quite grasp.
“Who are you?” I hissed at her.
“My name is Marie-Angel.”
Pat writhed and struggled against her chains. The two huskies whimpered hoplessly. In her captivity Pat had learned that as brutish and fearsome as the pirates seemed they lived in perpetual fear of their captain. Pat rattled her chains even louder and began to screech wildly.
“I’ve told you before to cut that noise out,” One of the pirates brandished a cutlass to her neck.
“Fuck you, ya one-eyed baldly dick.” Pat eloquently retorted. “I’ve told yous before I want tae speak to yer fucking captain.”
“You’ll be in real trouble when the Captain gets here,” he grimaced, letting the cold metal scrape her flesh “If I don’t deal with you first.”
“Piss off you slimy cunt. If you wanted to kill me you’ve have done it already. You’re trying tae find my friends aren’t you? That’s why we’ve been following these bloody turtles fer the past two hours. Let me tell yous this, Katie and Carron won’t take any of yer shite. They’re gonna give you a right good arse kicking.”
The pirate raised the back of his meaty hand as if to strike her when suddenly he, and the rest of the pirates on the deck, jumped to line the bows of the ship as if at attention. Pat tossed her head back indignantly, she was finally going to get her wish. The footsteps of the captain resounded across the deck with authority in each measured thud of a boot. When the Captain’s face drew close to Pat’s, Pat let out an involuntary chuckle. The Captain, although endowed with dark, ferocious eyes, was a mere young girl. She could have been no older than eighteen, her soft blonde her was plaited behind her neck like a child and yet her dainty little hands clutched a cutlass. Pat couldn’t fathom why all these huge hulking pirates were so scared of such a young wee thing and yet her eyes were so black and merciless.
“You wanted to see me, Pat.” She spat. Her words stung Pat with the same fear she amused the pirates felt. All of a sudden Pat wasn’t so sure she wouldn’t get skewered today.
“Why me? Why my friends?” Pat trembled.
The Captain chuckled menacingly. Pat didn’t know how to talk to this gruesome pirate so she decided to appeal to the little girl.
“Were you always a pirate? I dinnae think you were always like this, huh?”
The Captain turned slowly. “Gag her.” She ordered one of the pirates. “I don’t want to hear her screeching again.”
“What made you like this?” Pat implored as a pirate approached her with a length of rope. “What would yer mother say?”
Pat ducked as the splinters of wood rained down in front of her face and the huskies barked wildly. At her words the Captain had spun round and launched her cutlass in to the mast behind Pat’s head.
“My mother?! I got taken from my fucking mother. She let me get pulled overboard by my imaginary friend. Something I thought only I could see. But after I got dragged down in to the depths of the ocean I realised ghosts are real.” She wrenched her cutlass from the wood. “So if you must know, Pat. I need you to help me settle a very old score. That’s why I’ve spent the last 8 years aboard this ship and why I convinced the crew to mutiny against the very ghost that imprisoned me here; the illegitimate bastard child of the two lesbians that used to run this boat. I have hunted her across the globe and across time and she will pay for the life she took me from. They don’t call this ship the Revenge for nothing.”
As the Captain turned and Pat splayed her bound hands to stroke and comfort the huskies. She felt her eyes well at the memory of the blackened eyes of the Captain which were once the vivacious brown eyes of a little girl she once knew. As the Captain faded from her sight, Pat uttered a single word;
Chapter 10 – Rachel
We were sitting in a tavern in the town, having polished off the fish that the mysterious and eerie girl had bought for us. We were now sipping lukewarm rum from leather tankards, and I was glad to discover that the syrupy black stuff had much the same calming qualities as the 21st century equivalent that I was more accustomed to. Carron was chatting away with the girl, who was explaining that she was an orphan who lived here in the convent, but often escaped for the day to walk along the beach or mingle with the smugglers and pirates in the taverns. I watched them surreptitiously, and looked away each time the baleful eyes of Marie-Angel (if that was her real name…) turned towards me. It wasn’t so much that she looked familiar, it was just a feeling that I got. I didn’t feel safe around her, she reminded me too much of…the past.
I swished the last of the rum around the bottom of the mug, and then swallowed it in one gulp. It was incredibly warm, and the alcohol was taking effect, leaving me in a haze of daydreams and memories. But I refused to return to the memory of my poor Mia, swept overboard…of her eyes, pleading with me as she fell, almost seeming to be dragged into the depths. I should have known it was too soon for her to sail with me. I should’ve brought a proper crew, not just Pat, Carron and me. How had I let them convince me to get back on a boat with them? It had ended in disaster the last time, and it was going that way once more. We were trapped in the past, Pat was trapped in the future, we were being chased by pirates, and we were still no closer to finding the treasure…
Or were we? Hadn’t the creepy girl mentioned something about the treasure?
“Wait.” I said. “What did you say?” I found that my words came out a lot more slurred than I’d expected.
“When?” Carron frowned.
“Not you – her.” I waved my hand numbly, my fingers were tingling. “You said something about the treasure. Turtles…sacred…”
Marie-Angel smiled slightly. “The locals believe that the turtles which surround this island guard a treasure bound to this place. If you harm one of them, the treasure, and all the good fortune that comes with it, will forever evade you.”
Carron sat up straighter. “Then, the treasure is here? But…we have a map…”
“Let me see it.” Marie-Angel held out her hand to me, and for a moment, I almost handed it over without a word. Then, I shoved it back into my bag and stuck out my chin.
“Not a chance. We were almost killed by pirates for this journal, it’s far too valuable to give away to just anyone. How can we trust…” I felt a very strange, dizzy sensation take hold of me. I knew the rum had been strong, but after just one cup, it shouldn’t have been having such an effect on me…and I was hardly a lightweight, not with friends like Pat and Carron who could drink for Scotland…
“Carron…” I murmured, clutching my temples to try to keep myself awake. “Don’t…don’t drink the…run!”
“Don’t you mean the rum?” She asked, puzzled.
“No…” I breathed, sliding the journal toward her, out of reach of Marie-Angel. “RUN!
The last thing I saw was comprehension dawn on Carron’s face as she grabbed the journal and sprinted out of the tavern, while Marie-Angel leaned over me, smiling all-knowingly like…well, an Angel.
Carron had been running through the streets of Spanish Town for what felt like an hour. Lucky she didn’t like rum…
The journal was safely tucked away under her shirt, and she had managed to swipe a wide-brimmed hat and a long jacket which were hanging on the back of a chair in the porch of the tavern, working as a disguise to draw attention away from her modern-day clothes. She hadn’t wanted to leave Katie behind, but she had seen the pirates lurking, hiding in plain sight, sitting at tables or loitering at the bar, and the way that they had all slowly turned in the direction of their table when they sensed the commotion. Clearly the whole meeting had been a trap – this Marie girl had lured them to the tavern, drugged them, and carried Katie away. Carron hoped she was alright, and poor Pat, too. This journal had to be genuine…maybe she could use it to barter with the pirates, in exchange for her friends. Either way, for the moment, she still had the upper hand. She would have to find a safe place to hide the book. Carron wound her way through the streets, gathering her thoughts. The pirates who had been chasing her had thankfully consumed more rum than she had, and she’d quickly outrun them. She now found herself in what seemed to be a quiet and well-to-do area, where well-dressed and elaborately wigged gentlemen strutted about with canes and tailcoats – probably plantation owners or wealthy traders. They eyed her with distaste. Suddenly, a sign caught her attention. There was a large painting of a turtle, and on its back rested a book, emblazoned with the words:
Dochertee’s Fine Booke Repositorie, purveyors of guydes, dictionnaryes, mappes, and othere usefull curioes, binding services, bookes bought and solde.
Hmm…Carron thought. It was risky, but if there was ever a place to hide a book…
She ducked into the shop, keeping the journal well out of sight, and let her eyes adjust to the sudden change from blinding sunlight to the dim glow of candelabras. The shop was fairly small and cramped, and yet every inch of available space seemed to be filled with books and strange trinkets, animal skulls, measuring equipment, tightly wrapped scrolls, compasses and clocks…
“Good morning, madame…” Came an incongruous cockney-accented voice. “I’m Mr Dochertee. I expect you’re hear about the wheel.”
The man – though he was dressed in 18th century garb, and had somewhat more colour in his cheeks than his 1990s counterpart – bore a striking resemblance to the irritating shop-owner who had offered to decipher the contents of the journal, before the pirate attack had interrupted him.
“Wheel? No…I…uh, I’m here about a journal. I was wondering if you might be able to keep it safe for me, since it’s a rare book…”
“Oh, yes, yes, there’s that matter.” He agreed. “But repairing your ship is far more important, don’t you think? I happen to have in my possession an original magical ship’s wheel with time-travelling capabilities. In fact, you might say it’s the original, since it’s the one that you’ll end up breaking in…oh…250 years or so? I’m positively awful with dates, I suppose they start to seem a bit useless when you stop viewing time as linear and all. But anyway, would you like to see it? It’s in the attic, where the priceless merchandise is kept. Don’t touch it, obviously, or you might end up transporting this whole building to some random point in time and space, and I think you’ve had enough of that for one day. Besides, you’ve got some unfinished business in this century before you start thinking of sailing off into the future. I’ll bet you still haven’t figured out about the curse of The Revenge, or the treasure, or what the turtles are guarding, have you?”
“Um…” Carron stared, mystified, at Mr Dochertee. “No?”
He sighed mischievously and dragged her up the stairs. There in front of her, quite unmistakably, was the wheel of the Pride of Moidart, the time-travelling sailing ship which Pat and Carron had acquired from a mysterious boat salesman only days after the journal had come into their hands. Now that she thought about it, that had seemed like a bit of a coincidence…
Chapter 11 – Holly
“What do you want for it?” Carron peered into Mr Dochertee’s mangy left eye, which, although significantly mangy, was not quite as mangy as his mangy right eye. This, she’d noticed, was an uncanny shade of violet and seemed be constantly twitching from left to right as if skimming over the invisible pages of time itself. Either that, or he was really high. Carron wasn’t sure and frankly didn’t want to know.
“What do I want?” He let out a bark of laughter, as if payment in exchange for objects was really quite a funny thing for a shopkeeper to want. “Well, being, as I am, the Grand Keeper of the Time Keys, and you being but a puny human whelp whose existence will flicker back into the dark oblivion of nothingness in mere minutes—“
Carron opened her mouth.
“—metaphorical minutes, my dear, metaphorical minutes,” he soothed, his mangy right eye darting more wildly than ever. “You’re fine. Anyway, being, as you are, a mortal, the most I can possibly ask from you in exchange for this particular time key is the same thing that I will, in a couple of centuries, be asking those friends of yours for when they first purchase it from me.” Mr Dochertee leaned in close, and closer, and closer, either peering into Carron’s soul or really, really high – she still wasn’t sure – and then he laughed. “Oh! So, they forgot to mention that, didn’t they? Aha, it seems your friends can’t be trusted, Carron.”
“Mention what? What was the bargain?” Her eyes narrowed.
He laid his hand proudly on the wheel. “Well, Miss, see this here extremely rare, one-of-a-kind wheel—“ with a flourish of his marvellously frilly 18th century sleeve, Mr Dochertee span the wheel, accidentally transporting the whole shop 5 years into the future and to Mars. He grabbed hold of the thing to still it, looked out of the window and proclaimed, “Oh, fuck.”
After being knocked down by the force of the time jump, Carron got to her feet, shaking. “Mr Dochertee,” she said calmly, “did you just transport us to some random point in time and space?”
“No! I mean. Well. Technically, maybe. But it’s only five years away. And… uh… Mars.” He looked out of the window again, sighed, and seemed to visibly shrink. “Sorry. I got carried away with the whole ‘charismatic sales pitch’ thing.”
Now Carron was shaking with irritation. “You, Mr Dochertee—“ she pointed at him, and he flinched “—you are the most useless, annoying Mysterious Guide I have ever come across in any quest story, ever! You’re even worse than that other Doherty fellow, and all he did was give us tea and talk about blooming turtles! You don’t make any sense, you’re clumsy, probably high, and also, your lyrics are whiny and clichéd!”
“Well, look here, Carron, that’s a little unfair…”
“It’s utterly fair, Mr Dochertee.”
“Well, it’s fair, but hey, at least out here in space we can talk in private. And, being the Grand Keeper of the Time Keys and all, I can probably maybe get us back roundabouts where you want to be – it just might take a little tinkering. And hey—“ he threw his arms out “—look on the bright side! At least this shop is in a permanently fixed state, otherwise you wouldn’t even have any oxygen, and then you’d be dead dead dead, wouldn’t you? So, in fact, you should be thanking me. And I don’t even need oxygen. I am the most generous and considerate Mysterious Guide there ever were.”
Carron said nothing, but simply glared. She listened to the sounds of the space winds hurtling by outside. “Just tell me,” she said with a deep breath, “the bargain you made with Katie and Pat. We’ll deal with the whole ‘stuck on Mars’ thing later.”
“Phew! Okay, miss. As you say. So, the bargain… hmm… what was it, now?” He hummed a snatch of The Libertines’ hit single ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ as he tried to remember. “The bargain, the bargain, Katie and Pat, Katie… and… Pat… Oh, yes! Of course. In exchange for this wonderful wheel and all the time-continuum-bending benefits it confers, Katie and Pat signed a contract with me that declares them my honorary hit-women for life! You see, somebody has stolen a time key, and has used it to curse several people with immortality, which causes an awful lot of problems for me as Keeper, and for physics in general. As per our agreement, Pat and Katie will now spend the remainder of their little lives hunting down the culprit, so that the time key can be returned to moi, and order restored to the world.”
Carron stood stunned. Katie and Pat? Honorary hit-women to Pete Doherty? How in the name of pillage and plunder had they failed to mention that?
Dochertee added, after a moment’s thought, “Oh, and Carron, you are also included in the bargain. They said you wouldn’t mind. So, in short, you three girls (and the huskies) belong to me until you either complete my task, or die! So, you’d better learn to like me and my lyrics, because we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other. Now, isn’t that just the best?”
He leaned in again, grinning, mangy eye darting. Carron wished that the building had not retained its oxygen and that she could flicker back into the dark oblivion of nothingness right now.
Chapter 12 – Maria
“Your boyfriend’s name was Dave / But I was bold and brave / And now you’re mine…” Pete Doherty crooned from the antique chaise longue upon which he was draped like a dandy straight out the Victorian fin de siècle.
“Oh shut up,” Carron groaned, still pacing around the cramped shop as she had been doing for hours now. At least, for what felt like hours — time was behaving very strangely. The single window in this dingy cellar of a store was still cloaked up with dust, so she had no way of telling whether they really were on the moon. It wasn’t as if she could just swing open the door and breathe in that cool space air; it was a case of stay calm or face death.
“But it’s one of my best songs darling,” Pete protested, sitting up to light his fifth cigarette of the hour. He had started with a wooden pipe, then a fat cigar, and was now moving on to a tattered pack of Benson & Hedges, one of his ‘modern day relics’ which had survived the shop’s upheavals through time and space.
Carron had tried everything.
She had surprised the fragile warbler with a stronghold taught to her by the turtle girl, Marie-Angel. She had quizzed him, ceaselessly, on the breakup of The Libertines. She had taunted him with effulgent sonnets on the beauty of his bandmate, Carl Barat. She had popped a packet of out-of-date-into-the-future Golden Wonder crisps loud enough to distract him, but only momentarily. Try as she might, Carron could not get what she needed from this cadaverous man; the thing that would help her escape was hanging round his neck, rattling against that prominent bone in the centre of his chest. The Time Keys: six of them on a metal ring. What was it that Marie-Angel had said?
The Keeper of the Time Keys is the spirit guardian between worlds and dimensions, of which there are seven. It is the Keeper’s task to control the flow and flux of time, to preserve its illusion of linearity, to stop interference in the order of things. If this line of time is disrupted, the whole notion of the human, of identity, dissolves – and in that dissolution, the chaos of the world unfolds.
She had a funny voice, sweet and resonant, as if she were reciting her words from inside a prism of glass.
Remembering those words, Carron felt a strange sensation tickle the glands of her stomach. It spread upwards, flowering out inside her chest, delivering its sweet realisation as the honeybee delivers its precious pollen. This was her deepest desire, suddenly coming to life. The chaos of the world unfolds. In that moment, all she wanted to do was witness that chaos. Was it the alcohol, the time travel or the crack pipe that brought upon her this reverie? Out of the dense atmosphere of Pete Doherty’s Shop of Horrors, she saw the boundaries and structures, the scaffolding of the world collapse like a flimsy stage-set. She saw a distant earth, falling away like a rubber ball dropped from the top of a skyscraper. She saw London and New York City sink together into the sea. She saw the best minds of her generation, ripping their own throats apart as they lost their souls to substandard electronica, Twitter bickering and video games. She saw the pages of the magical journal, licked by flames and falling away like leaves in autumn. She saw Pat’s huskies bounding over mountains, devouring children and dripping blood in a Hansel and Gretel trail to the end of the world. This was the thing: now she had seen the end of the world. Each universe had its edges, its fault-lines. With the proper technology, you could be on Mars in minutes; you could be floating up the Thames, straight into the Middle Ages; you could be hacking your way through the code of the Internet, seeking that darkest secret…
Before, it had all seemed like a great big carnivalesque joke, but now…now, Carron realised, things were serious. The fun was only just beginning.
“Oh Mr Doherty,” she said coquettishly, “I think what I must do is try to seduce you…”
“Ooh er, Miss Carron, I fink I shall like a bit of that…”
And so, fuelled up on pork scratchings, crack and Camden moonshine, the two wastrels fell together upon the filthy Persian rug, string vests flying everywhere as they looked deep inside each other for that one thing they needed to free themselves from this world. In his climax, Doherty exclaimed, “Oh Albion! The pure and truest England!”, while Carron lay back and thought of Jamaica.
“I know what it is we must do.” The voice came from a bead of light, floating above my mind. The light dragged me out of sleep, like the light of the moon, magnetising a fleet of ships, drifting out on a still, midnight sea.
“Katie, Katie wake up.” The cool hand fell upon my forehead and I was human again. I could feel the nerves of my body returning, and so I sat up, groggily returning to consciousness.
“How long have I been sleeping?” I asked, trying to gather a sense of my surroundings. I was in some kind of church, a chamber of sorts. There was a grand, copper-coloured organ mounted on the wall. A cold draft blew in through the stained-glass windows.
“Oh, a few days.”
“Shit. Where’s Carron?”
“She left you. She took the journal and ran and we lost her.”
“How have I slept for so long?”
“I fed you a potion. You needed to rest.” The girl’s voice had this uncanny quality; there was too much weight in it, too much knowing – it was the voice of an elder, not a young girl, barely a woman.
“Who are you?”
“I am Marie-Angel, remember?”
“There is no time for identities. Much of that will become even more complicated, by the time this is over. You have been bound to the Grand Keeper; he has enlisted you to pursue the key thief, along with Pat and Carron. Katie, there is very little you can do. Your destiny lies, quite literally, in the hands of Pete Doherty.” Her words enacted a strange kind of spell on me. I was reminded of being a teenager again, the soft, condescension of my mother’s voice: Katie, your dinner’s ready. Katie, do your homework. Katie, I don’t want you going out with that boy.
“I want you to call me Kate,” I said suddenly, forcefully. “That’s my proper name.”
“Well whatever. Look, I must show you something.” She huddled against me and we turned around just as a crowd of nuns entered the room. They drifted silently in their dark habits and formed a wide circle. They began to hum an eerie, primitive plainsong. It made me wonder again what century I was currently in; there was something distinctly medieval about the music, a wistful stir of a history bloodied and forlorn. Kings, queens, knights and maids, enchanted beasts and captured slaves.
Then the turtles entered. They moved at an ungodly, slow pace, forming an elaborate spiral of sluggish bodies in the centre of the circle, moving outwards like some surreal optical illusion. Through the silhouetted figures of the nuns, standing immaculate like a grove of swaying trees, I followed the progression of the turtles. I could not look away; I was mesmerised by the churning movement of their chain.
“A turn of turtles,” I murmured.
“Yes,” Marie-Angel said.
“What does it mean?”
“Ah, well, the thing is: the turtles are not what they seem.” Her voice sounded even more haunted, a melodic sound gracing her every vowel.
She stood up, moved forward through the ranks of nuns. She reached out and plucked a single turtle from the churning spiral. It dangled its little feet uselessly as she carried it over to me.
“Watch.” Carefully, she lifted back the shell of the turtle. It came away with a great crack and a squeal. I was expecting something gory or gooey, but instead the insides of the turtle comprised of a complex circuitboard of bleeping lights and humming wires.
“What the hell?”
“You see, these are cybernetic turtles.”
“I don’t understand—”
“The children of the great Prince family taught me much about the modern age. About technology and the Internet, about social media and video games. All these things seemed strange to me, just made-up fables from another age. But soon I started to piece the clues together; I realised why I was being blessed with this knowledge of the future. You see, the turtles are not what they seem. They are from the future, sent to infiltrate the complex network of cause and effect that constructs temporality, that governs the flow between past and future, memory and present. Each one is a tiny little hacker, worming its way into the burrow of history and seriously fucking things up,” she grimaced, “and you see, by following the turtles, we too can bury into the tunnels of time, enter portals which may take us to other dimensions. Your only hope of escape, my dear Kate, of tracking down good old Doherty and the villains who stole the missing Time Key, is to follow those damned turtles…”
It was then that the knowledge returned to me. How long had I known and forgotten my true identity? The names, spoken from her frosted lips, hung in the air like the substance of magic and prompted my memory. It all made sense, the connections, the fact that I had been chosen, of all the pirate women, all the rebels and daughters, models and lovers…
For I am Kate Moss, you see, ex-girlfriend of Pete Doherty!
My wicked, kittenish laughter sent the nuns scattering, and I found myself moving forward, joining the spiralling march of turtles…
Chapter 13- Maura
Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back, to get some perspective. Sometimes so much happens in your life that you can’t keep track of it all, and too many things fly past you and you can’t keep track of where everyone is. So that’s what I’m going to do now, that’s what this is. Call it an interlude, a summary, the tiny clip before a new episode of a TV show reminding you of what’s happened, as if you haven’t watched three seasons in a row. I’m going to take a step back, take a break from the stress and the intensity and just recap and rewind and process, and just take a look at how far I’ve come and how much I’ve achieved. Because I have achieved a lot, and yet there’s still so far to go… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So where is everyone now? Katie first of all, free but still trapped, bound in a contract with a despicable man, with no idea how to complete the task she has been charged with, looking for answers and only finding more questions. And Marie-Angel, her elusive companion, who may have some answers but is cursed herself, doomed to roam forever with no hope of death, looking for loopholes wherever she can. And there’s the turtles, of course, flesh and circuit boards and tantalising hints of a future and ways to destroy or save it.
And then there’s Carron, stuck on Mars of all places, mind filled with terrible and terrific plots and ideas of destruction and power and control, the remaining Time Keys all too big a temptation. The fate of the universe resting in your hands sobers some people, lends them a serious air, makes them realise the gravity of the situation. But for some, it rather goes to their heads, contorts their morals and their sense of right and wrong, pulls them towards the dark. And as for Pete Doherty… There’s not a person less suited to the responsibility of the Time Keys. Is he immortal? No one knows, truly, and the amount of times he has appeared to die and yet reappeared like a bad penny is remarkable. I would suspect another force at work, but surely he is using the Keys for his own good, and that in itself is not something one looks for in a bearer and protector of such powerful objects. He has lost one already, after all, and has fixed the universe to allow three other immortals, chained to him and tasked to carry out his dirty work- as if losing the Key in the first place didn’t wreck enough havoc on time and space.
And that brings us on to the third member of the unlikely trio that had started out with such a basic goal- finding the treasure, it seems so mundane in comparison to the situations they find themselves in now. Pat is also a prisoner, and yet her imprisonment is physical and very much not metaphorical. She is being held captive by the vicious captain of a pirate ship, and, in arguably the biggest plot twist (even I couldn’t have seen this coming), the captain is none other than Katie’s long lost daughter, believed to be dead. I know, right. Talk about convoluted. Mia, her name is, and she is burning with rage and anger and a thirst for revenge- against whom, even she doesn’t seem to know. She isn’t immortal, as far as I’m aware, but Pete Doherty and his adventures have screwed enough things up that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility just yet.
So there we have it. The three intrepid mortals-turned-immortals are separated and in danger, with a binding quest they seem incapable of carrying out. The immortal daughter of an infamous pirate is trying to break a curse, and may well have other, unknown, sinister goals. The mortal-until-proven-otherwise daughter of one of said mortals-turned-immortals is a bloodthirsty, revenge-seeking pirate captain with a crew at her command and an uncertain grasp of her temper and her self-control. And the shady, untrustworthy protector of the Keys, the most important time-wielding objects thus far, has accidentally transported himself to another planet.
And there’s something else (I know, what else can there be, right?). The book. The journal. The thing that started it all, in the eyes of our protagonists anyway. They’ve been protecting it, looking after it, but even they don’t know what it really is. And what is it, you ask? Well. It just so happens that this book is another of the Time Keys. Yes, another Key. Everyone thus far neglected to mention this, but the Keys are not all key-shaped, and there’s much more than the seven in that scoundrel’s possession. Even I don’t know how many. But this ancient journal, as well as holding the secrets to the treasure behind anyone’s wildest dreams, is also a Time Key, which makes it doubly valuable.
I’m confident that only I’m aware of its true nature and location, however. Many seek it, but no-one has yet succeeded in tracking it down. The irony of these three humans being the ones to discover it is delightful, even more so considering they have no idea of its true value.
Confused? I wouldn’t be surprised. This is the most convoluted plot ever. Carron wants ultimate power. Pete wants his lost key back. Mia wants revenge. Pat wants to escape, presumably. Katie wants answers. And Marie-Angel wants an end to her curse.
And what about me? Well. I want the journal. And I want them all dead. I’m in no hurry for that, however. Once I have the journal, they’ll all be mortal again, and mortals die. I won’t have to wait long.
And who am I? You don’t know me. I’m everywhere in this tale, but I’m barely mentioned, barely noticed, barely acknowledged. And that’s good. Soon enough, they will all be aware of me, and then all of this nonsense won’t matter at all.
It was I who cursed the three pirates, way back in the past. Of course, at that point I hardly thought what would spin from it, and often I regret my decision, but it matters not.
You could say that I orchestrated this whole thing, and you wouldn’t be too far wrong. Humans have free will, of course, but they’re so predictable and it’s so easy to manipulate events.
I am more powerful than them. I have no name, and only the body which I choose. I am older than time, I have seen everything that has happened and I will see everything when it does. And can I die? Well. I’d quite like to find out.
Chapter 14- Hayley
Shaken from her encounter with her best friend’s supposedly-dead-daughter-now turned-evil pirate-Captain-of-a-terrifying-time-travelling-ghost-ship-formerly-owned-by-the-legendary-Ann Bonny, Pat had failed to notice at first that the blow which Mia had landed in to the mast behind her had sliced the rope which bound her. After Mia had descended back in to her captain’s quarters the huskies no longer whimpered instead they were riled and began to bark and tug, gnashing their teeth at the burly pirates who were clearly as equally perturbed by Mia’s presence as Pat was. The lumbering sea-dogs began to busy themselves with meaningless tasks which drew them to the other side of the ship, away from Pat and the haunting presence Mia had left in her wake. As the pirates dissipated and the dogs wriggled Pat felt it, the rope holding her wrists beginning to give. The frayed rope began loosen as the huskies tugged harder. Pat knew she would only have moments. She swallowed a slow breath. The huskies broke free first, spilling over the deck of the ship in their frenzied furry fury. Spike (the larger of the two dogs) growled ferociously forcing back the few pirates who thought to advance. Whilst Spike took the line of defence, Ike (the more swift and spritely of the two) was much more contented in the role of offence and promptly made a bee-line for Baldy who had been taunting Pat and them earlier. Baldy made a move to turn and run and as he did so Ike launched his gnashers firmly in to Baldy’s buttocks. And yes-it was exactly as hilarious as you’d imagine. Baldly yelped like a small girl and leapt in to the air, as Ike tore away it was revealed that he was wearing a pair of pink polka-dotted bloomers. All this commotion gave Pat the time to untie her feet and run to the bough of the ship. Before the pirates could reached her she had plunged over the edge and in to the dark and stormy waters. Pat struggled to keep her head above water as the sea tossed her about. She spluttered as the vicious salt spray stung her eyes and nostrils. She could hear Spike and Ike somewhere near her both barking and paddling frantically. Pat outstretched her meaty arms and plunged them defiantly in to the sea as she began to pull herself away from the ship. She dragged herself on and on not daring to look back to see if anyone might be in pursuit. After a few languorous minutes of swimming that honestly felt more like having the shit kicked out of you by the men’s rugby team, Pat launched her head as far above the water as she could pulling in a mighty swell of oxygen. As she did she saw directly before her lay a small cave with what seemed an infinite amount of turtles heading for it. She had only glimpsed them for a moment but the sheer multitude of turtles must have flanked her on every side and Pat could have sworn that they’d been flashing. With the sea cave lain directly before her Pat plunged herself beneath the waves and with that single breath swam straight for it. Pat resurfaced in to a swarm of turtles all fighting to get in to the mouth of the cave. “Well fuck me, the turtles are bloody flashing!” Pat exclaimed dragging herself upon to the lip of the cave and solid ground. Spike and Ike bark excitedly in agreement. Ike even had a little nibble on one of the turtles as it toddled past, only to find that it was particularly sparky and made his ears prickled and his fur stand on end. Pat heard Spike barking towards Ike, really he was laughing at how stupid his brother’s face looked as he forcibly relinquished the crackling turtle from his drooling gums. Despite Ike’s intervention (and the bite marks) the turtle did not stop on its course, it and the hundreds of other turtles all filtered uniformly deep in to the cave. “Well are yous coming?” Pat motioned to the huskies. Both dogs gazed in to the black expanse that greeted them before fimly planting their behinds at the mouth of the cave.
“Suit yerselves,” Pat sighed “You can keep guard for me then. Bark if you see the pirates.” And with that Spike and Ike watched their beloved Pat heroically descended in to the domain of the turtles.
Pat had been walking for nearly ten minutes in the pitch black having only the blinking lights of the turtle at her feet to guide her. Pat realised that it was probably a bad idea having just escaped some evil ghost pirates to now be walking in to the worlds creepiest fucking cave following robotic turtles which were no doubt up to something diabolical, but she thought to herself- Fuck it. If I’m getting to the bottom of this. Shortly after this crossed her mind she heard it.
“Halt!” boomed a loud voice. Through the darkness Pat could not see the speaker.
“So you want to get to the bottom of this, do you Pat?” It chuckled derisively.
“How in the bloody hell…”
“Don’t worry, Pat. I’m not going to hurt you. In fact I quite like you. You see Pat, you’re like me you were only supposed to be a minor character, to be forgotten about. Who would have thought our narratives would have crossed like this and yet here we both are… stars of the show don’t you think?”
“No offence, pal but I don’t have a bloody clue whit your banging on about.”
“It’s complicated Pat…”
“Complicated. You mean more complicated than bloody ghosts and time travel. If it’s more complicated than that then I’m all ears.”
“Ah yes your friends are looking for the time keys.”
“Time keys? I take it the time travelling ship was one?”
“Well the ships wheel. The time keys can be anything Pat. A ship’s wheel, an old journal…a watch.”
“A watch? Yeah well that’d sure help us keep track of all these blooming time jumps.”
“You’re not just jumping across time. You’re travelling through space, through the barrier between life and death, through different realities, different stories even.”
“Aye and I suppose your behind all this? Mind telling me why?”
“You see Pat, the correct order of things was fractured. The order of time, the nature of life and death was broken up in greed. And then everyone forgot about me. A time key was destroyed, wrongs were righted and everyone assumed that the natural order of things told hold again.”
“But your messing about with that right? Why? What have you got to gain? Is this all just a big joke to you?”
“For freedom. I am creature of not of this world. I do not exist in any reality, in any point in time or space. I must fracture the course of life and death. That’s why I’ve stolen the time keys, that’s why I’ve altered the past; so I can be noticed, gain form in this world, so I can be truly alive Pat.” The creature paused pensively. All at once the turtles at Pat’s feet glowed, their emanating light illuminating the dark figure who all this time had been standing only inches away from her.
“I did it to escape Elysium.”
“Whh…wwhhatt are you?” Pat trembled, gazing upon the gelatinous green mass before her.
“My name is Gloodge.”
Chapter 15- Ailsa
Is there life on Mars?
Well right now, there was. Two idiots, well one idiot and a girl turned slave to the other’s will (or was it him to her will?) trapped in some semi-time bubble on the rocky red surface, clinging to dear life to the building they were with. A man who was supposedly the keeper of time, the protector of the flux and reverse of the most precious commodity, and one of the three women he had bound to himself. The only who was beginning to realise that immortality sucks.
“Ah I have always thought that,” Pete Docherty said, flinging back his stylish hair. He smiled at his naked companion lying next to him.
Carron eyed him with an arched brow. “Sorry?”
“Immortality does suck,” he stroked her pale body tenderly.
She sat up slightly, leaning on her elbow. “I never said anything …” her eyes narrowed. “You read minds now?”
The drug-addict laughed, the blackness of his broken teeth, then, showing in the dim light of the Martian sun. “Close but more like … I get your feeling. I understand, girl.”
Carron groaned, lying back and throwing an arm over her eyes. Gods, the sex had been good, but the conversation … it was definitely beginning to lag. Especially when he was faking, or not faking, reading her mind or body language.
The creature watching their conversation smiled a little. His red eyes peered straight through the wall, perceiving all as if there was no wall, and his pointed sensitive ears picked up the minutest of sounds. He had watched the whole thing – the landing of the ramshackle shop, the seduction, the random conversations as two became one tangled body. He stayed where he was, watching the two, keeping back laughter.
“Foolish newbie immortals,” he said quietly. “Foolish people who barely start and then want to give up.”
The man stepped from his invisible seat, created from and consisting of nothing but thin air. He frowned as his arm promptly slipped out of its place near his shoulder, arching from robes to floor. It spun down in a tight spiral beyond him, and though he could have darted to run to get it, he did not. Instead he sighed, and lowered himself at a leisurely place, literally descending from the heavens like some primordial god.
Apparently the noise, the thumping of a loose arm on the red earth, caught the attention of the screwed time keepers. Crashes could be, heard, loud commotion, and from the building a door was thrown open, revealing a naked Pete Docherty, complete with cigarette held artistically in hand. The true view of a discarded musician. He stared at the figure coming down from the sky, and apparently not suffering as he breathed the air that was else poisonous. It was why he dared not step from the house.
The floating man grumbled as he landed, picking up his arm and stuffing it back in robed sleeve. “Look at what you made me do,” he shouted at Pete.
Pete was shortly joined by Carron, wrapped in what remained of her jacket. Her mouth hung open at the side of the positively adonic individual fixing his arm into place and suddenly her antics of the previous night had seemed far too premature.
“Hello there…” she murmured.
“You are in trouble too,” roared the man, his face now a mask of fury. “Here I was just watching you two make love and then… this happens again,” he pointed to his arm.
Pete crushed his brows together. “How in any way is that our fault?” He asked. “We were just sexing on Mars.”
“Yes, and not doing your task, your sacred task,” the man swung his arm a few times, watching it until he was satisfied that it worked once more. Apparently he could reattach his own limbs.
“Yes, and flinging your responsibilities on someone else,” the stranger gestured to Carron. “Or some persons else, I should say,” He finally folded his arm, at which point a chunk of his hair swayed to the ground. He rolled his eyes to the distant sun.
“Excuse me, just who are you?” Carron suddenly asked, tugging the coat around her more securely. She looked just as confused as Docherty. “I thought we… I thought there was no aliens on Mars.”
The man grabbed his hair madly, fire in his eyes, all of the joy gone. He shoved the locks onto his hair and if one looked closely enough they would have seen the very cells begin to knit back together, tendrils extending, reaching for their broken partners.
Carron was taken aback by the madness. She hid partly behind Docherty who tilted his head to the side.
“Who are you, seriously?” He asked.
The man folded his arms again, taking up a strong, determined stance. Emboldening himself, he took a pace forwards. “I was just going to wait until you were ready, but I guess now you have seen me, then…” He looked from the girl to the man.
“How much do you know about the preservation of time?”
Pete shrugged. “Something about if it falls apart we all die. And we need the keys to keep it in check?”
“Yeah, which you lost,” Carron slapped his arm. Pete pouted.
The man growled. “Some keeper of time you make,” he said harshly. “You damn fool. And taking this bitch with you who only wants to seduce you to use the keys for herself.”
Pete looked at Carron with wide eyes. She raised her hands with innocence.
“In any case,” the man interrupted them before they could have a romantic spattle, “What is serious here is the extent to which you have allowed things to degrade. What you have lost you must regain, for there are larger forces at work now, more dangerous things to contend with.” He looked from one to the other, pure warning in his voice. They looked back, the ages between them and experience nothing as they seemed both naive as the other.
“The keys must be found” the man said. “Or all will fall apart. The world will become destroyed, or not just the world, but all realities themselves. Elysium will fall, the Kingdom of Ish … Narnia, they will all come to nothing if we do not fix this. We must defeat the bastard who begun all of this.”
The timeless couple gazed up at him, naked bodies quaking in the doorway to the room on Mars.
“But how do you know this?” Docherty asked. “Who is this bastard, what is…?”
“You must get the time keys back,” the man explained, “And not be tempted by their power,” he stared at Carron warningly. “Because you see me, you see this,” he lifted a foot and it literally fell away, leaving a protruding bone and flesh. “This will happen to all, and the bastard will take over, and there will be nothing left.”
He bent over and picked up his foot to reattach it, the muscle running together. “And for realities this cannot happen. It will remain apart, it is only because I am who I am.”
“And just who the fuck are you?” Docherty roared, almost at his wit’s end. “Who the hell is this bastard?”
“Oh the bastard is the bastard, the hell-kind, the huge blob of slime called Gloodge – the demon bringing about the end of the world, or worlds,” the man said, hopping around one legged as he massaged his fixing ankle. “And I am his … I guess you would say ‘brother,’” he grinned. He lowered his foot, trying it for strength. Once satisfied he stretched out his hand, pale white skin that matched his red eyes and blonde hair brilliantly.
“I am Chronos, I have been around since the beginning of creation, all creations. But you might know me as … well … somewhat quite literally, the personification of Time.”