Friday, May 12, 2006

Captain Cook amongst the Haida


When last we looked... Captain Cook had been imprisoned for crimes of gross sodomy amongst the Haida slave-youths, who’d been assigned to help him "gather berries for his crew".

How had this come about?...

The Chief had grown increasingly suspicious about this claim, because he could clearly see the Captain’s underlings labouring down the coast (where the Chief had allowed them to harvest clams and fish) and the tribe had presented the ship with enough fruit and tea-leaves to alleviate their meat sickness. The Shaman said it was the worst mass-case of stupidity and illness he'd ever seen.

When a group of warriors were sent to inspect the situation protect the good Captain from bears and cougars, they found him skewering one of the slave-boys, over an ancient cedar log. Now that, in itself, wasn’t a great crime; but the good Captain hadn’t acquired the proper permissions to bugger the help. It was just damned impolite and a serious breach of Haidan protocol. Especially for such an honourable and morally-unimpeachable host.

The warrior crew dragged him back to the village, through the forest; so that the engorging louts on the beach and in the ship couldn't see. Of course, the Captain's entire crew assumed he was off buggering some of the locals. Indeed; the cabin boys and first mate were glad for the break.


The good Captain was not bound; he had been sequestered in a large house composed of thick, sturdy cedar planking that he could not break by sheer effort, or tunnel under. There were two vicious-looking guards at the open door, armed with large, mallet-head-like stone cudgels known as "slave-killers". The Captain’s normal modus operandi, in similar situations wouldn't work here: He could not pass himself off as a local woman; they hardly wore anything. He couldn't hide himself in a rubbish pile or crawl through the sewer; these people were far too clean in their habits.

One of the violated youths entered, carrying a bowl of cooked fish and a bag of water. The Captain started to salivate at the thought of a little slap and tickle.

"Eat." The boy dumped the steaming whitefish on the hardened dirt floor and tossed the bag along side of it; so that it began to spill and turn the dirt under the fish into a thin mud. He then turned and walked away.

"Wait boy!..."
The Captain straightened himself up and dusted himself off.
"You've got to help me escape."

The boy spoke and understood ten words of English, by now and the only one that he recognised was "boy". The learning of it him really pissed him off; his face didn't show it, though.

He did recognise desperation and the desire to leave. The time to put the Chief's plan into effect had come. He gestured for the Captain to be quiet and wait, conspiratorially, and then left.

Captain Cook was overjoyed. Obviously he had made a deep impression on the lad. Perhaps his luck was changing. His crew should be suspicious, shortly; when he had not returned to the ship in a timely manner.

Aboard the ship, much feasting and draining of the rum-stores (in the Captain's absence) had taken place; the officers had locked themselves in the Captain's quarters. The men were passed-out, scattered about the filthy deck; or gang-raping the cabin boys, below. Nobody was missing the Captain, or worried about him. The crew preferred their own company to that of the village, anyway.

The slave-boy quietly reentered the plank-house, through a loose plank that the Captain had not found. He was very quiet, but made a retching noise when he caught the Captain eating the whitefish. He was down on all fours, sticking his face in the muddy pile, swallowing gobs of hot, flaky fish meat and cold foot-gravy in equal measure. The Captain jumped at the sudden noise, smashing mud off his face with furious sweeps of his lacy sleeves. The slave-youth indicated the escape hole and gestured for the Captain to undress. A thrill-shiver went through the good Captain as he ditched his hat and loosed his tunic and britches. The boy made it absolutely clear through quiet gestures that there was to be no funny-business. After realising this, the Captain refused to surrender his codpiece, which had been a present from his mother.

In the spirit of haste and quiet, the slave-boy gave up trying to wrest the cod-piece off the Captain. He remembered very little of his childhood, far to the south, but even the hard life of servitude for the villagers had never revolted him in such a fashion as had the last three weeks of interaction with these filthy monsters. He pulled away in quick disgust and vowed to endure any punishment coming. The Captain had such a greasy sheen to him, anyway, that it was impossible to get a grip.

The boy slipped between the planks, first, then held it open for the good Captain to pass. Despite his excess bulk, he extruded himself through the hole quite easily. Again, the boy gestured for quiet, then pointed at a large, moldy bear-skin bag.

At first, the Captain could not fathom what was being asked of him. After a few moments, though, he figured it out. The slave wanted him; a Royally-commissioned officer of the world’s greatest military and economic power, to ensconce himself in a rotten old green-hide.
The stench of it, from ten feet away, was hardly bearable.

"Ah, well... Here we go again."
It wasn't as bad as he remembered, but the maggots were just as ticklish. He knew they would become maddening if he had to spend more than a couple days in it.

The boy bound the top of the skin with a rare and valuable Basswood rope, then dragged it a little ways into the bush, before whispering something reassuring. Then he was gone. Sir Cook was nearly free... he could almost taste it.

Moments later, the boy (presumably) returned and began dragging the bag with renewed vigour. So much so that the Captain’s ribs and head began sustaining bruises from logs and rock outcrops in the trail. Then the surface he was being drawn over changed to a soft, mushy, earthy texture; the air in the bag suddenly had a background stink of shit. Then the trail changed again.

This new surface clattered with light, brittle ringing sounds. The bag was lifted entirely off the ground and flung down a slope of the same brittle surface. It came to rest, unopened, at the base of the hill. For a brief moment, the Captain wondered how that skinny, frail slave had lifted the bag, so easily.

The Captain heard the last, fading footsteps of the youth. Then... nothing but the dashing of waves on a pebble beach.

All he had to do was get outta that bag. At this point, what had been a background odour of human excrement began to pervade the skin bag. He was pretty sure that he hadn’t soiled himself, but it was fairly difficult to attain that for certain, since there were many textures in the bag to confuse his fingers.

He began to free himself from the bear-skin, struggling to rend it from inside; but the rope and the seams were strong. After a minute's contemplation, he began to chew on a particularly rancid patch of hide, green with decomposition. He knew it should be fairly weak at that point; besides, it almost tasted sweet.

Shortly, the captain had eaten through the hide and spat a wad of fur (matted with human excrement) out the hole and breathed deeply of the salt-stink of rotting bits of clam. He could see that he was at the base of a large shell midden, which he knew to be on the outskirts of the village, between the village and his ship. By prying his fingers through the hole, he gained enough leverage to tear the hide further; then forced his arms through.

Meanwhile, down the beach, the Chief sat in a large, ornate chair, surrounded by large copper plaques and shields. The entire village stood behind him, silently watching the obscene rebirth. The Chief's mum leaned over and whispered something into the Chief's ear... and he nodded. Then she stepped back to watch.

What she said, translates roughly as: "That's some nasty shit. I hope those fuckers don't come back."

Suddenly, the Captain exploded out of the bag in a nauseating, steamy pile; like someone cut open the gut of a rotten shark. He flopped on his back and laughed at the sky. He then stood up and flung some of the sweaty, moldy, putrid slime off his hands and wiped his face. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw the whole village arrayed in front of him, with the chief in the centre.

Shiny things surrounded the Chief and the Captain took a couple of stupefied steps towards them. Several well-armed men rushed forward and the Chief stood up from his chair, with a 550 year-old, jade Slave-Killer in hand.

The Captain wheeled about and began to stumble across the broken shells, barefoot. Clearly, invitations had been revoked. When he reached the beach opposite his ship, he piled into the lone rowboat and began to row out to the ship, abandoning three sleeping crewmembers on the beach.

One would escape the villagers and be mostly-eaten by sea lions within a month.

One would be killed, outright, by the Haida.

The last lived a long, laborious life; traded down the coast for mountain-goat wool. Eventually, he was allowed to marry and live free. He died fairly satisfied; fluent in Salish, living in Catholic sin, liked by his friends and respected by his enemies.

Once the Captain reached the ship, he moored the rowboat and climbed up the rope mesh (Which had been left hanging overboard, in clear violation of the rules.). He picked his way through the sleeping drunks and made his way to his cabin. He briefly scrubbed on his balcony with unwatered rum, and then dressed in his second uniform.

This stop in port had been less than fruitful, but it had one boon other than new provisions. The night before, he’d gotten drunk with the Chief and was told of a fabulous land of riches, to the West: "Way, way... to the West."
That would be his next goal.

Captain Cook left his cabin with a brace of loaded pistols and walked towards the stern. He shot the crewman nearest to the hanging rope mesh, to wake people up and to start making points of order.

The ship was under sail in less than five minutes and the Captain retired to his cabin, to recuperate with the reclaimed kegs of unwatered rum. The officers were kicked out; finally sober and newly armed. None of them had heard the tale of the Captain's "last night in port", but they knew the signs and none figured on being invited to dinner soon.

No one missed the three guys on shore until the only sights of land were mountaintops, hanging in the sky behind them. The men were forced to scrub the deck until the job was done; late into the night. Only then were they allowed to sew their friend into his hammock; but, there would be no funeral until the Captain was in a better mood. Obviously... the party was over.


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