As a special treat this week, I received permission to post the final two stories from the Columbus experiment. The final piece will be posted next Sunday. It’s interesting to see the writing style and story differences even though we were writing about the same topics. I hope you enjoy these next two stories, and we’d love to hear what you think!
Report of Ship’s Scribe Juan Valdez
With today’s log I have the regrettable duty of reporting what may be our expedition’s first loss of life. Upon appearing for duty at first light to relive Ensign Prichard of the high post’s watch, Ensign Angelito ascended the mast to discover ensign Prichard missing from his post. Ensign Angelito immediately conveyed word of Prichard’s absence to Officer Valenz, the acting junior petty officer on deck at the time. Officer Valenz called for the Sargent at Arms to initiate a search of the vessel and punishment proceedings for the charge of abandoning his post. A thorough search of the ship failed to produce any sign of Ensign Prichard. The Sargent at Arms has subsequently questioned every crew member, but none report having any knowledge of the Ensign’s present whereabouts. However, two crewmen who happened to be about last evening have come forward with information that may relate to Ensign Prichard’s disappearance. The reports of those crewmen are included below.
Report of Property Master Juan Bermudez
I would like to preface my statements by pointing out that I have been a faithful and diligent servant of the crown for more than thirteen years. It is my hope that my service record and personal recommendations from four respected captains serves to add credibility to my admittedly peculiar report. Last evening, just past sunset, I reviewed the week’s provisions inventory four times over. While I know the standard procedure for this task calls for the cargo to be inventoried twice over once per week, my custom has always been to review the inventory three times to ensure that petty greed does not sabotage the voyage.
However, I counted the inventory four times over last evening because I have received word from a crewman that a person has made it practice to regularly steal rations of liquor beyond that which he is entitled and without permission of his superiors. The week’s inventory turned out to be accurate, but the task left me stiff and awake later than usual. To stretch my legs before retreating to slumber I climbed to the deck and approached the ship’s bow. The night was dark black by that time as the evening’s twilight hours and rough storms had long since passed. At this hour there was scant illumination provided faintly by the moon through the heavy cloud cover overhead and the four dim evening lanterns at the corners of the ship.
I paced about for a brief time below the stern’s sail until my legs began to limber up. Although I was quite sleepy by this time, due to both the increasingly late hour and exhaustion from the day’s work, I did not retire to sleep. I do not know how to accurately describe the feeling I experienced, and in truth I feel some embarrassment at attempting to do so, but I felt in the most peculiar way an overriding sense that I could not leave the deck for fear of missing some event that would alter both myself and the divine machinery through which the world operates.
It goes without saying, of course, that only the one true Lord controls the universe and the fates of his children within it. I do not intend for my statements to suggest a doubt as to that fundamental and clear precept. I am simply trying to describe an unusual, fleeting feeling that happened to overcome me last evening. It reminded me of the feeling one gets when, as a child, a person passes through a cemetery and, for a moment, secretly wishes to see the remnant of one passed return to life or when a person approaches a high, steep decline and for the briefest of periods gives thought to taking the plunge to experience the sharp change in perspective that such an event would surely command.
(What happened next?)
Well, nothing happened next really. I remained on the deck for what seemed like forever after the long day. I kept waiting for something, anything to happen but nothing ever did.
(I asked Mr. Bermudez if his odd feelings were the only information he had to contribute)
No sir, that is not all I wish to report. I find myself torn between fearing that I will be ridiculed or denigrated in my service and feeling compelled to report what I truly witnessed. I wish you could give me some assurance that what I convey to you will not impair my station.
(I explained to Mr. Bermudez that I am simply responsible for recording the voyage’s transactions and have no control over the way the information is used. Mr. Bermudez became instantly willing to discuss his experience after I pointed out that I am reporting the remainder of his statements and that it would be suspect to leave the report at such a precarious position).
You are correct, sir. I did not mean to suggest that I would not fully cooperate with the search for Ensign Prichard by conveying what I saw. It’s just that the thing I believe I witnessed was rather extraordinary. I do not wish to give anyone reading my report the wrong impression of myself. My service record and recommendations show that I am a competent steward and do not easily lend to flights of fancy. I also do not partake of heavy drink or narcotics that would alter my senses.
(I interrupted to advance Mr. Bermudez’s report. I pointed out he already described the reasons for which he is trustworthy. I then asked him directly what he experienced.)
I think I saw what appeared to be a bird. As ridiculous as it sounds I saw what looked like a large bird-shaped creature. As I have said, it was dark and I was exhausted, but from what I believe I saw, it was a massive being that had a wingspan at least twice that of a grown man. I was on the deck, about to go below for rest, when I heard a noise above like a whoosh of air, the same way a sudden breeze sometimes blows through a meadow during the end of autumn. I instinctively darted my attention upward and saw what took minutes to comprehend. I witnessed a massive hawk-like entity with a wingspan at least 20 feet rapidly dart over the very top of the ship and cut toward starboard, quickly escaping the light of the deck’s lamps and slicing through the fog that engulfed the ship after the storm. I only saw this being in that one instance and never heard a cry for help or witnessed any sign of a disturbance. In truth, I thought I imagined the encounter until I awoke this morning to learn the young Ensign went missing. Sadly, this is all the information I have to report.
(Author chooses to remain anonymous)