Lament The NightKassandra Alvarado / Horror
Lament The Night
Lament The Night
Cover Art designed by the author whom gratefully acknowledges contribution from Dr. Elisha Kent Kane.
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Table of Contents
Lament the Night
Lament the Night
“Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night...”
- Psalm 91
A chill September wind whistled across the ice-choked bay, gathering fragmentary shards of crystallized droplets off the sheer peaks surmounting the dark hulk of the island. The ships lay at anchor in the natural curve of land, shelter afforded with the closing of a polar winter fast approaching. Preparations were being made aboard each vessel for their first taste of the long arctic nights prophesied by Parry, written of darkly by Ross and endured by many that had come before them.
Commander James Fitzjames could feel the palpable sense of excitement experienced by the crew, shared by many of his brother-officers. Most were first-entry men, having never known the hardships foretold in quiet parlors and in discreet corners by old polar hands. Fitzjames had felt particularly supercilious that day, having taken tea with Captain Crozier in the afternoon. The latter formed the other half of command, yet Fitzjames could only observe with certain liberties afforded him by the Admiralty, offices previously enjoyed by Crozier had been bestowed upon him.
There was no small disagreement between them, though he had oft noted Crozier was most pleased to make note of small errors that he - Fitzjames made, during the beginning of their magnetic observations. At face-value, Francis Crozier was polite and every bit as ingenious of spirit save for a few minor days of dispirits when their mastheads had bid farewell to England in late May. As third-in-command, Fitzjames felt none of his powers limited, perhaps enhanced by Crozier’s distance, therefore that afternoon when the latter had made some obscure observation on the signs of a harsh winter ahead; Fitzjames had been swift to deny the possibility of it. For a harsh winter now, only foretold of perilous ice conditions the next-year.
The man elder to them both, Sir John Franklin, had wavered between agreement and some disappointment of their sailing season being considerably shorter after winter’s end and Spring’s come. Passing cloud cover had obscured the brief sunlight filtering through the wide swath of windows situated on Erebus’s stern, the curtains had been drawn back to allow the fullest of natural light to illuminate the interior, yet with the turn in conversation, had darkened the mood invariably brought by Crozier’s dire assessment.
“No more talk of dark things, I can say with no small amount of anticipation, I’m looking forward to the coming winter. When sailing conditions materialize next-year, I’m sure we will all defer to your opinions, Mister Crozier.” Fitzjames had said; a small brown-furred body with the blackest little eyes, scampered up his trouser leg. He fed the ship’s monkey, Jacko, the last petit-four from the china plate as if that settled the matter.
Now, on the quarterdeck of Erebus, observing preparations, a slight satisfied smile curved his mouth, filling his pouchy cheeks. In one of his last letters to reach England’s shores, he had wished for just-this occurrence to come true; one overwintering in polar lands before the passage was theirs.
The single blight in his vision was the sickness of one of Crozier’s men. The lead stoker, Petty Officer, John Shaw Torrington. It was the chief surgeon of Terror, John Peddie, and assistant surgeon, Alexander M’Donald’s opinions respectively that Mister Torrington had a preexisting condition prior to sailing and had hidden it well from Admiralty inspectors. True, some parts of the symptoms suffered appeared to be consumptive in nature yet none save for Torrington showed the slightest bit of weakness during exertions. Deep in the recesses of Fitzjames’s mind, he knew this to be troubling, something forewarning of a different force at work than the evils recognized by man.