Leaving Ogygia

Bounding the steep acclivities which seethed 
Upon the deep, some remnants of his raft— 
Spars and their fastenings—withheld the sea 
From closing upon the man its watery folds. 
Beyond the spiring waves, the heavens shook 
With thunder. A towering wave advanced 
Over the dreadful aspect of the ocean, 
Aspiring to conceal the heavens, 
And toppled upon him, dashing the man 
From what remained of his raft, spreading far 
The spars over the rush. Yet did he grasp 
And mount a final portion, as though to ride 
The un-stabled canter of the waves to shore. 
Then a livid light convulsed the air and water 
With ruin, and in his heart the man at last 
Relented. Doffing the garments 
Calypso had woven, he offered 
Himself to the mercy of the untamable 
And welling sea, and dove. 

Todesregel Isle (Part IIII)

Gunter’s wrathful howls briefly filled up the ambit of the creaking, frost-laden wood where the bodies of the dead lay like flowers from some other world of mescaline dream, swiftly swallowed by a snowstorms ceaseless churning as the survivors of the wael made for the cave, found it and huddled about in the middling-dark, scratching about for a fire. Villavic proved most proficient in the construction of a blaze and was consequently looked upon as a momentary savior as a light blossomed beneath his deft and dirtied hands, stiff-moving against the chill. The waif hunched beside him like a lost dog, her wide, coffee-grass eyes fixed upon the flames and her hands upon her knees. Even Gunter was momentarily bewitched by Villavic’s sorcerous generation and ceased his cursing and watched a while until Villavic asked Derrick to free the pugilist from his shackles. Derrick did so and Gunter thanked Villavic and asked why such solemnity afixed all faces and where to the rest of the party had gotten. Villavic suspected the boxer already knew but set himself down beside his small, smoldering fire and explained.

“They’re dead.”

“All?”

“All but those here.”

“Fuck.”

“Had you been successful in routing the women from the cave, they’d have died,” Villavic gestured to the waif, “She would have died. Do you understand, Mr. Gunter?”

“Aye. I think I might have gone a little mad.”

Villavic stifled a laugh, “Only a little?”

“Aye. I’m sorry.”

For a while, all were silent and contemplative as the wind ranged between the branches of the trees like the tortured souls of all those that had died there’neath. The barkeep, who sat opposite Villavic, finally broke the silence, his voice low and hushed and filled with the uneven trembling of fear.

“I can’t stop thinkin’ bout that skull. Out there. In the marsh.”

“What do ya think coulda done something like that?” Derrick asked to no one in particular, his eyes fastened to the fire. The barkeep shrugged. The crone spoke up then, emerging from the shadows at the far edge of the dancing light, “This place is cursed.”

“Ah, hell, woman, stop saying that.” The barkeep ejected with frustration. Villavic noticed a rising tension in the group, now but thirty in number, a paralyzing sense of uncertainty and terror. The old woman’s arcane pronouncements would only act as a stimulant. He thought it was prudent to intervene. No survival without general purpose and no general purpose without general knowledge.

“Alright, settle down, now. We’ve a bad enough spot of it without working ourselves up any further.”

The young woman, Ericka, turned towards Villavic where he sat in the middle of the cavern, beside the fire on an odd-shaped rock liken to a throne and there was venom in her eyes and tongue alike.

“My husband is dead.”

“He is. Losing your focus and letting your emotions overtake you will only increase the likelihood that you will join him. I have known many a couple and, given this knowledge, I can induce that he would, were he still with us, want you to survive. Don’t you?”

The woman feel into silent weeping as Villavic rose, stretched and took stock of the back of the cave, opposite the entrance, where the flour had been stashed. Then he removed from a hidden inner pocket in his jacket a small, leather-bound journal and a mechanical pen and set himself backdown upon his rock.

“Tell me your names.”

“Why?” Inquired the barkeep.

“Because, if we all die, it would be helpful for whoever finds us to know, all the better to circumvent a unmarked grave.”

Todesregel Isle (Part II)

The scavenger watched the newcomers from a tor-borne perch above the marsh. They had found the body. It was only a matter of time until those that had put it there found them. He did not envy them their predicament.

*

Villavic and the hundred and nineteen cast-aways trudged up out of the marsh to the north, shuddering with the cold and all the while not a single soul spoke. Villavic’s mind churned relentlessly, with thoughts of the terror in the swamp and what could possibly have done it. It was no native island animal, of that he was certain. He had seen nothing but crows and gulls and lizards and insects since he had been interred on the worthless strip of land and all such creatures proved unaccustomed to Man and his ceaseless intrusion and darted for the shadows or the sky upon his approach. It had been a man. Or a woman. Or a band thereof. Who were they? Why had they committed such an atrocity? Perhaps there was no accounting for it, he thought dejectedly. Why did cats torture their prey, sometimes without eating it? He could find no answer. There seemed to be no evolutionary advantage to the action, no increase in survivability, if anything, the feline’s decadence both wasted energy and put it in danger of becoming prey itself.

The pangs of hunger there overtook him and broke the man from dark reverie. He paused and unshouldered the sacks of flour and rolled his shoulder with a grunt of pain and looked to the hideous swamp, now behind him. The scent of moldering fungus and decaying vegetal matter seethed about the forest which rose up around the wayward prison-band. The temperature dropped in tandem with the rise of the moon, which shone like the eye of some ghastly and eldritch being and snow began to flutter from the sky.

“What kind of place is this?” Derrick exclaimed.

“Cursed.” The old crone declared with some difficulty, “Cursed.” Shortly, the old crone swayed and slumped against a young fir, too tired to continued on as the mangy congregation surrounding let up a cry of dismay at their ill fortune. Murmurs of discontent rebounded throughout the forest.

“Where are we going? We’re on an island, there is no where to go.” A burly ex-boxer grunted.

“Better in the forest than on the shoreline. ‘specially with a storm coming in. Look at the clouds.” A middle-aged and mustached barkeep replied.

The waif braced the old woman and struggled to move her from the fir to a mossy, low cave some fifty feet off in the distance as the wind kicked up and tore at cloth and skin. Villavic gave a shout for all to press for the cave at which point the murmuring ceased and all looked with hungry hope towards the dark crevace. A disputation erupted when it was discovered that only half of their number could fit within the cavern. A fist fight broke out and shortly Villavic’s voice thundered across the portal to the abyss as the snow began to stream in thick whorls.

“Enough. Fighting will gain us nothing. All the elderly, young, womenfolk and sickly should be allowed harbourage therein, all else, who’er of sturdier stock, can find other safety elsewhere and, at daybreak, we can meet once more.”

“Are you mad, man?” The ex-boxer growled, stalking towards Villavic threateningly, “If we stay out here throughout the night, there won’t be a morning. We wouldn’t live to see daybreak.”

“Only if we stay out in the open. Your name?”

“Gunter.”

“Help me, a moment,” Villavic gestured to the big man with his left arm and girded the snow from his face with his right and moved to a fallen tree branch, thick and gnarled, like a withered hand.

“Help your bloody self, you fool.” The pugilist turned his back on Villavic and strode imperiously towards the cave, when a few of the men tried to stop him and talk he struck he shunted them aside. A brawl erupted once more. The women and children ran from the broil and hid in the cave as the men grappled neath the auspices of the wind’s savage increase.

“Imbeciles,” Villavic muttered before flinging himself into the fray, heading straight for the prime instigator.

“Gunter, there is no time for this idiocy.” Villavic’s voice, despite its strength, was barely audible above the skyhowl. The men around the fringes of the contest paused and watched like famished wolves as Gunter turned to his challenger. Villavic stood tall. Their gaze met like rending steel. Muscles tensed. Seconds later there came a dull thud and the big man crumpled to the snowy ground. Behind him stood the waif with a long, thick tree branch in her scarred and shaking hands.