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What It Wasn't

Title What it wasn't

Author Eglantine_br

Rating PG

Word Count 400

What It Wasn't

He dreamed more often now than he had as a younger man. Well, he slept poorly.

Forty years back he had taken to a hammock. He had had golden curls. He had been pretty. Pretty was a danger, he had seen only dimly then. That long ago ship had been good to him. Men had been roughly tolerant, or, at worst, indifferent until he got in the way. He had been sorry at first, weeping for home. He not known his luck. He did now. Mr Kennedy, back on Justinian had been proof enough, though last in a sorry line of proof.

And this dream.

Some men, he knew, liked this sort of thing, sought it out. He had seen such. His own desires, and certainly dreams, lay elsewhere. This one had been a nightmare, right enough. A dream with enough wickedness to shock him awake, and leave him staring into the dark, sweating.

It had been like this.

He had been at his work, when he heard Mr Hornblower call for him.

“Matthews bring your rattan.”

Well. This was one of his tasks after all. Squeakers must be done so, sometimes. And orders were what they were. So he had.

Hornblower had been there, and Kennedy. And a Captain. Not Red Ned. This an old white haired man, his face all nose and wrinkles.

The boy over the cannon was a stranger too. Matthews knew that with the solid knowledge of dreams. Couldn't see his face anyway. He was visible as an averted head of dark hair and a set of buttocks. These, glowing white, trembling.

And it was wrong. Wrong ship, wrong boy, wrong beating. Matthews didn't want to do it. But he felt his dream arm go up, come down. Over and over and over.

Mr Hornblower had been stationed at the child's head. Mr Kennedy beside him. It was Mr Kennedy that Matthew's noticed. His face, which could be so bright and laughing, was utterly closed. More than closed-- it was uninhabited. And Mr Kennedy's left side was at perfect attention. His arm bent just so, holding his hat. His right hand however came up to rest on the child's shoulder, gently. The old strange skipper didn't see it. His face was lit with glee. He was waiting for blood.

And blood came, and the strange boy wailed.