Of The Beast
Gray clouds roiled over the darkened Brooklyn shoreline. Every few seconds sunburst colors flashed out through the clouds toward our sloop on the choppy Narrows. I couldn’t hear properly, but each colorful burst produced a thud in my chest. I knew it was cannon fire. The balls were surely raining down over Brooklyn.
Aided by generous starlight, the view toward Staten Island was much clearer. We were a half-mile away from its sandy shore, but could see the hilly outline of the island weave along the horizon. A few miles away on its southern shore, it seemed like massive bugs had begun to skitter across the bay toward Brooklyn.
I stared for a long time in that direction, trying to piece together what I saw. My effort was disrupted by a nearby explosion in the water. It rang out loud and clear, sending up a plume and spraying us, as it shook the sloop. I fell headlong toward the black waters. My chest slammed into the rough-hewn side of the boat. I settled on my knees, took a deep breath which tasted like gunpowder and knew I was finally awake.
Old Dan Tucker sprung up like a marionette. He frowned at me, then darted to the stern where Benny, “the cigar store Indian” was sitting. Old Dan threw up his hands. “The heart is beating!” he whined with a mouth full of spittle. “Can’t you feel it?”
“Sit down, Dan,” Benny said. “We don’t want to attract attention.”
“It’s a raging tempest of divine origin.”
“You’ve only been reborn moments ago. It’s your own lifeblood you feel. But give it some time. In a short while you’ll feel better.”
“We are in the belly of the beast.”
“Sit down. Be still.”
“Then you’ll be shot dead. Or hung.” Benny grabbed old Dan’s arm, who then tried to squirm away. “We all will.” He yanked old Dan down beside him.
They both wore British uniforms. I fingered the lapels of my similar, woolen redcoat, which had me sweating from head to toe. A series of explosions in the water proceeded to jounce our sloop. It was impossible not to be awake–to be alive.
We had arrived…
Our mystical journey back to the past was complete. We had made it. A few short hours ago I was at a Memorial Day BBQ with friends in Staten Island. Now, I was living and breathing, having journeyed *somehow back in time to August, 1776.
I took in the two lunatics in the stern of the sloop, whom I had to place a modicum of trust in for survival. Plain and simple: I was an *empty bottle. I was dressed as a British soldier, sailing through the cauldron of the brewing Revolutionary War. Why? We were there to kill a vicious and deadly demon. We were the ones who were going to get killed.
Each moment was unreal and impossible. None of this could be true.
The summer breeze was filled with the smells of saltwater, gunpowder, and fire. My eyes opened wide as I looked toward Brooklyn. At first, I thought the smoky clouds were rising, but then saw raging fires were consuming the hilly landscape. The tall trees flung flames high into the night. About thirty homes and shops were flaming skeletons. From what I saw, every last inch of Brooklyn seemed to be burning. It made me think, Hell had sprung up upon Earth.
The next sight nearly knocked me off my feet. Almost right before our eyes was a massive armada. Corvettes, destroyers, and an endless line of man-o-wars seemed to stretch all the way to Manhattan. Their broadsides faced Brooklyn, and their cannon fire lit up the night as powerfully as the conflagration.
Of all the thoughts stirring in me, one seemed to pop into my skull without warning. Perhaps, the impetus was a serene madness, which had gripped my very bones, as I was *off the hooks. I caressed the large spike, which stuck out from the side pocket of my coat, and thought about killing Benny and old Dan. Maybe without them around, I’d have a better chance to find my way back to the present.
But my own death was imminent, I believed. We were never going to touch land again. I was certain of that, because my surroundings were impossibly true and I was not. I did not belong, here or anywhere. And even though I was breathing, I was a dead thing. A man without a soul, if such a thing was possible.
So this was it. The end. The dark and lonely end of my days was an all-consuming shadow, sucking the life from me.
Sweat dripped into my eyes. I wiped my face with my coat sleeve, then lifted the spike from my pocket. It had the weight of a bayonet. I could feel the reflection on my brow from the Brooklyn Hell fire. It was raging.
“Do it, do it,” someone whispered, as the morbid anxiety only ballooned in my gut. I had to act.
As if reading my thoughts, my companions focused upon me.
“Death is calling for him,” old Dan said weakly. “She knows we’re here to slaughter one of her cherished minions.”
Benny met my gaze with a steely determination in his eyes. “Know yourself,” he said. “Trust only yourself.”
*At some point, if I don’t kill him, I will ask Benny about what made the journey back to the past possible and fill you guys in. Remind me.
Off the hooks – crazy; or dead (Ibid)