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The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp – Chapter II Part 6 September 20, 2009

Posted by Yarnspnr in The Myth of Kyrrell Swamp - Chapter II.
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The course of life is unpredictable…
No one can write his autobiography in advance.

– Abraham Joshua Heschel


Chapter II.6:  OutSider

© D. Erick Emert

microcab-127

The microcab jolted to a stop, bringing Briggs’ thoughts back to the present. He exited in front of a line of tents.  A soldier, standing near, snapped to attention and saluted.  Briggs gave a curt thank you to the driver and turned to face the guard of the watch.

“Tell the corporal of the guard I want my horse saddled and brought to me immediately. Who’s on duty tonight?”

The man rattled off a list of fifteen names.

“Have Martin and James saddled up and ready to accompany me within fifteen minutes.”

*

Captain Briggs and his guards moved their spirited steeds through the city and its gates. Heading north on the Gutar Road, they appeared a throwback to a time that seemed long passed to the great city. Horseback riders amidst electric powered vehicles looked out of place. But upon reaching the North Gate of the city at One, the logic of horses became apparent.

The North Gate appeared hardly a gate at all.  It looked nothing more than a large door. Considering the non-existence of roads to the north, a wide gate became unnecessary. Briggs’ party reigned up and saluted the gate guard.

“Destination, sir?”

“Taylor’s Villa.”

“Fine, sir.  Give ‘em my regards.”

The guard opened the gate and Briggs and his horsemen ducked their heads as they rode through the thick wall. Halfway through, Briggs brought his horse to a halt and looked back at the gate guard.

“Call Taylor and tell him we’re coming.”

“Yes, sir.  Will do.”

The trail leading north looked well traveled. Briggs’ soldiers eyed the dense forest on either side uneasily. The nomadic Summanari ranged throughout central forests of Erde. It would not be good fortune to run into their warriors. No one spoke.  Briggs, feeling safe enough, allowed his thoughts to drift back once again to his first contact with the military of Uppsala.

*

…Charpone D’Angusio, a small man in stature with bushy black hair and eyebrows, a round face, thick-fingered hands and a ready smile, looked up at the man standing in front of him. Briggs knew his name, having noticed a copper strip on D’Angusio’s desk with the name etched on it in white lettering.

“Have you eaten, Briggs?”

“No, not since we left the ship.”

“I’ll have something made and sent up for you. Will gallus hen do?”

Briggs gave him an unknowing look.

“Oh, I’m sorry. You would know it as ‘chicken.’ I get in a dither between the words from time to time.”

“That would be fine, thank you.”

D’Angusio wrote something on a small piece of paper, pulled a cylinder from his desk drawer, stuffed it inside, latched it, opened one of the tubes and sent it on its way. Noticing Briggs’ perplexed look, he said, “You must have a million questions, my dear fellow. I’m quite aware of that. In some ways you will find our land slightly ahead of where you came from and in other ways, incredibly behind it. We will get into all those niceties I promise you. But while we’re waiting on your gallus, why don’t we cover some tedious ground as I have a ridiculous amount of paperwork that must be filled out on you before the end of the day.  Would you mind?”

For the first time since arriving in Uppsala, Briggs felt uneasy. The realization that he no longer existed in his own environment began to set in with a harshness he would have thought impossible. He started to feel unsure of himself.

“Not at all. However I can be of help.”

“Excellent attitude, my good fellow. Absolutely excellent! With that kind of sensibility you will assimilate yourself into this culture in a brief time. We shall uncover things you disagree with, I’m sure. There are things we all disagree with from time to time. But let us not allow slight disagreements to overshadow the collective ideals we have in common. Does that make sense?”

Briggs nodded his consent. Like Herkiens, he sensed something concerning D’Angusio that made him feel at ease.

“Let’s get started then. Your full name?”

“Benjamin Spooner Briggs.”

“Occupation?”

“Captain of the brigantine, Mary Celeste.”

“Ahh, wonderful, a sea captain. And where were you born?”

“Wareham, Massachusetts.”

“Date?”

“April 24,1835.”

“Mother and Father?”

“Nathan and Sophia Briggs.”

D’Angusio’s pen flew across his paper. “Married?”

“Yes, Sarah Elizabeth Briggs.”  His voice choked on saying her name. D’Angusio looked up momentarily then went back to his questions.

“Children?”

“Yes. Arthur Stanley and Sophia Matilda.”

“Is your family alive, Captain?”

“The boy is alive, as far as I know. He stayed in Massachusetts with my mother at our home. He was only seven and we felt it best that he attend school.”  Briggs could not help screwing up his face as he reported, “My wife and daughter traveled with me on the ship that sank. I have no idea if they survived.”

“I understand sir. Tell me of your upbringing, what schools you attended, for instance.”

Briggs went on to give D’Angusio all the particulars of his life.  He described his marriage to the daughter of the Reverend Leander Cobb, minister of the Congregational Church in Marion, Massachusetts and their life in their home, the Rose Cottage.

A knock at the door interrupted them.

A man dressed in a white uniform with green stripes down the outside of his trousers wheeled in a cart with a covered plate upon it. D’Angusio motioned towards Briggs and the man delivered the cart to the front of his chair. He turned and faced D’Angusio who motioned for him to leave them.

The succulent smell quickened Briggs’ pulse. He lifted the lid and found a half-roast chicken with stewed tomatoes and a baked potato. Aside the tray set a tall glass of iced tea. Briggs hadn’t seen food like this since Sarah and he had left the Rose Cottage. Famished, he looked up at D’Angusio.

“Go ahead and eat, Captain. I know you’re hungry.  If you have any questions, I’ll do the answering for a bit. What say to that?”

Briggs’ eyes darted up from his meal. “Am I a prisoner here?”

“That’s a good question, Briggs. Please, continue eating while I try to explain. In all honesty it rather depends on the outcome of our little chats this week. There is a delicate balance to life on Erde and we prime OutSiders, as we’re called, hold the key to that balance.”

“You’re a prime as well?”

“Yes I am. I served as a crewman aboard the U.S.S. Wildcat.”

“The ship that went down off Cuba in 1824?”

“Exactly. You know your nautical history. I’m impressed.”

“Nothing to it really, I had a friend who had an older brother aboard her is all. But that ship sank 48 years ago and you don’t look a day over 30.”

D’Angusio smiled. “One of the small advantages of being a prime OutSider, Briggs. For whatever the reason, we don’t age fast here. Some of us live to be over 800 years old. But if you marry and have offspring, even if it’s with another prime OutSider, that child will live only the usual sixty or so years. The other thing is, it’s only a matter of aging. You can still be killed or die of sickness or disease. It’s just that the body doesn’t wear out from it. Diseases caused by the aging process don’t kill here.”

“That’s incredible. The thought of having to bury any child I might help bring into this world is staggering.”

“Yes, but think of the implications. Imagine what good a man of worth could bring to his country, to civilization itself for that matter, with a life span of 800 years. THAT is what I find staggering. Why, a man could start any number of projects without the imposition of impending age to cut his work short. The bounty of accomplishments one could unveil in a lifetime would be formidable!”

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