From the diary of T.A. Strunk, seaman late of the HMS 2013, bound for the Arctic Circle.
March 10th: I have been blessed by providence to find work in this time of great need. As I have told you in previous pages, the last year has not gone well for me and mine, and we have fallen upon sickness and ill fortune, and we have suffered greatly for it. That those who would wish us ill have thrived has not made this tribulation any easier, and it has fallen to me to find recompense in the world through my occupation as a seaman. This very morning, I have come across one R. Amaro, Jr. who owns a ship set for points north and who requires some manpower upon his decks for the journey to succeed. Being strong enough and hale in general, I have volunteered and will depart shortly under the promise of his fortune. C. F. Manuel has given me some assurance of my probable fortunes, as he is a man who has sailed under many different weathers. He has told me that our journey will be during something called "hittin' season."
March 28th: Amaro, Jr. has assured me against my concerns, but I remain troubled by recent developments. Ne'er-do-wells, lack-a-days, and dessicated old men have been added to our ranks with an almost impossible abandon. There are some that I trust against all advice, and the first mate is healthy and ready to ship out with us, but I still am given pause. Having had occasion to take audience with Amaro, Jr, I asked about these additions. "Their experience," he said as he smiled and took a sip of his drink, "will be invaluable." I asked him what he meant, and he smiled over the brown liquor. "To be sure, we will see what they have to bring to the table."
I remain unconvinced and ultimately nervous of our success, but I am bound for port, and we leave tomorrow. I am in this for the ride ahead.
May 1: We are beset. The fools I have described above have all been hurt in a whaling incident, as Manuel pushed against all prudence to haul in more than the boat could even take. The mammoth beast staved in oh many a man's skull, and the lack-a-day is lost at sea -- released from the grip of the ship. The ne'er-do-well is hobbled mightily and curses the sons of Israel in his cups down below. The old man wanders the ship telling stories of grit and speed.
Manuel remains cheery, and true that we remain afloat. But as the ice begins to loom in my mind's eye, I begin to fear the unknown. Amaro did say "we will see," but he has been rare upon deck. He takes his ring and studies it for hours at a time. The crew fears that he has become distracted, but we fear open dissent.
June 13: We have shifted course, and things seem bright. My friends on the ship do swing heavily and race quickly, and their mirth makes the journey easy. I do watch for the ne'er-do-well, who remains low, his whaling incident lingering mightily and his mood souring further daily. His grimace gives us all pause when we cross him, and no one wishes to meet him under the influence of the demon rum. Yet we remain optimistic and generally on pace with our peers. We shall make it north...to what end, I still do not know.
July 30th: All is lost. My friend has been taken by another ship, though we have also taken a prisoner of our own. He is not the kind of man I would trust, though his tendency skews away from the sinister; I take solace with my speedy friend, but I feel he is also disheartened by the loss. We mill and hem against the cold.
Blocks of ice have begin to appear around us. Manuel pushes ahead; I think him mad or beset with sea blindness, but his cabinet does little to dissuade him from abusing or misusing the sundry crew. He does charm them all with his experience, but I worry he is over his depth. The first mate has lost his right leg cutting the rigging from a tangle. Had he not, we would all have been lost, but I fear we are just as lost without him now. Amaro, Jr. never emerges, though we hear troublesome rumblings from his cabin. Dark times. I miss my home.
August 21st: Our ship's doctor has fallen overboard, though he has long been ineffective and out of his own wits for the duration of the trip. The main engineer seems nonplussed, though his younger mate is rattled. I fear their contribution will not save us or doom us. They are the best engineers that money can buy, but they mean nothing as the ship is overrun by the drunk, the mad, and the damned. They are they very essence of bad drama; they have become irrelevant.
Amaro, Jr. has not been seen. His steward brings him meals daily, but there are not even the sounds of the deep emanating from his room any longer. I trust not his guarantee, and I doubt whether I will ever see the man again. Manuel remains the same.
September 29: I write this with the knowledge of my own mortality, though I hope the conveyance I have figured will allow this to come to land safely. We are utterly damned and I have been a fool not to see it from the beginning. The ne'er-do-well has long been jailed at a port along the way, and the old man still wanders, his wits as ragged as his filthy cloak. He has dropped the gaff, the sail, and any number of ephemera at so many points in the trip that I care no longer to count. We have made a game of it, as mirth otherwise is lost.
My speedy friend has been hobbled himself, his joy entirely exhausted. Our prisoner separates himself from the rest of our crew; intelligence has come in that his old crew and my powerful friend have reached the warmer climes of the Grecian Islands. To be among Classics in the Fall...I am glad at least that my friend has seen the promised land. I will have less luck.
Yesterday, we arrived in the Arctic Circle, but we did not arrive as planned. Our ship is utterly scuttled. We have lost all hope of survival. Manuel wanders along the ice, demanding continued effort from the broken husks of the crew. We are out of food. We will not make it, regardless of motivation.
I came across Amaro, Jr. yesterday, huddled in a bearskin and staring at the guttering fire made from the broken planks of the ship's hull. He stared into the fire, the twin lights echoing the emptiness behind his vacant pupils. He spoke nothing to me and my exhortations, my accusations. But as I turned to go, I heard a small flickering whisper, as if the fire itself spoke out to me. I turned, I came closer, and I saw his lips move. I leaned in...the whisper....
"I have seen what they can do. I have seen what they can do. I have seen what they can do...."