The Whole Shablog

The ideas, rants, rambles, reads and writings of a growing human.

Prometheus-a short story

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Jack sighed and turned on his side. His window was complete velvet blackness except for a light glow in the corner that he knew was the pier. It must have been at least midnight by the time felt as though he could sleep; his mind was buzzing, fluttering, and wouldn’t stop. Every time he got close to sleep his mind would jump. It refused to settle on any one subject.

But finally, sleep would come, despite the heat of midsummer and the tossing and turning and mind fluttering. Just as he was about to drift off, he looked out the window. He couldn’t see it, but he knew Angel Island was there, chalk-full of unusual people with odd, foreign dialect. They came from Asia, China usually and had spent months traveling to America on an overcrowded ship with little food and no privacy,but constantly dreaming of America, the promised land full of opportunity, jobs, and riches- something so different from the poverty-stricken, tired country they came from. The country that they had loved but that had not supported them and their families. In China, rumors spread that America, the new country, was full of golden opportunities and grandeur, that any man could get a job and be wealthy. They fantasized America so much that it was common for immigrants to walk the streets for the first time, disappointed that they were not paved in gold.

The lack of gold wasn’t the worst part for the immigrants, however. Even if they could afford the journey to America and could get off Angel Island as an American citizen, they had a very hard time starting a new life. People that already lived in America often believed that these people were an intrusion, forgetting the fact that they had all been immigrants once themselves.

Jack’s family never spoke ill of the new immigrants in public, but they didn’t see them as equals either. Jack always noticed the small twitches of his father’s eye, the harsh tenseness of his mother’s back whenever an immigrant tried to speak to them. He knew from the men that sat and talked over mugs of coffee with his father that hatred of the new citizens was spreading because they were willing to work much harder for less pay. It made it hard for the people that had already lived there to make a living. His father owned a small shop and made a point never to hire Chinese immigrants. Jack didn’t care much for them either. They were strange, alien. There was no reason to talk to them.

It was after this thought that he first heard the rapping on the window. It was a light, metallic sound that made him look up. The glass pinged again. It wasn’t the sound of a stone hitting the window, but rather the sound of a spoon hitting a champagne glass. He got up from his bed and went to look out the window. His bedroom was on the third floor of his house. He looked below and could see a man standing there. Strange, yet Jack had a feeling that it was alright.

“Are you coming, then?” the man asked. He didn’t yell, but Jack could hear him clearly. A part of his brain questioned it, yet Jack nodded and immediately felt the hardwood floor beneath him turn brick. He was standing beside the man now, who wore a jacket and hat not unlike the ones officers in the navy wore. He had a dark, trim beard and bright, blue eyes that seemed to be light. He was the type of man that looked both young and old. He had a learned, wise smile and exuded young energy. He carried a tarnished brass lantern that cast a warm glow on his face.

“Come quickly, we don’t have much time,” he said turning briskly and walking down the back alley. Jack hurried to follow.

“Who are you? And where are we going, exactly?” Jack questioned as they rounded a corner.

“I’m Prometheus. Captain Prometheus. Call me Captain,”he answered as they came to the end of the last street. He scanned the dark, star-freckled sky and foreboding black waters of the Fisherman’s Wharf. The sounds of the pier echoed over the water and the warm lights casted a glow against the sky. Jack didn’t see any people as he had expected to, only the absence of them. Shadows and figures danced against the light. The Captain continued to walk farther down the pier, away from the infectious glow. Finally, the Captain stopped. He swung his lantern three times and slowly the schooner appeared. At first, it was nothing  but a strange mist. Jack shook his head slightly. Slowly, the bow emerged from the fog. The mist began to take the shape of the schooner, shimmering slightly. A breeze played across the pier, carrying the familiar smell of sea salt and something completely different that Jack didn’t recognise.

He turned to the Captain, a question on his lips. The Captain simply turned to him, smiled, and looked at the water below. A small dingy appeared, moving quickly across the black water. Jack felt the cold stone beneath his feet turn to curved wood as he and the Captain appeared seated in the dingy. Behind him, a man rowed back to the ship. He was older than the Captain, with wrinkled skin and an unkempt, grey beard. He rowed silently to the schooner, leaving ripples in the black water. The ground changed beneath Jack once more, this time he was on the ship’s deck.

He walked to the gunwale and held on the edge to catch his bearings. When he touched the wood, his hand leapt back. The wood didn’t feel like wood; it wasn’t solid and sturdy. It looked like normal wood, but felt like a wall of frigid air coursing with energy. His hand couldn’t pass through it, but it couldn’t rest on it either. He dropped his arm.

“You never answered my question,” he said, turning.

“Excuse me?” the Captain said from his position at the helm.

“Where are we going? Why am I here?” Jack asked, beginning to panic slightly for the first time that night.

“Jack, this is your mind to control. Your doing. So the better question is, where are you takeing us?” he answered, steering the ship north.

“That’s not a straight answer,” replied Jack, nettled.

“Then change it.” the Captain said, turning his head to the pale moon hanging in the velvet sky. Jack sighed. He realized that the boat was absolutely silent. There was no creaking of wood, no grunts or whispers from the sailors. The waves crashed and bullied the boat more and more the farther the schooner sailed. They had moved out of the San Francisco harbor and were sailing on an open sea. The night was cloudless and the moon was bright. Jack looked behind him, expecting to see a crew of sailors like the one that had rowed the dingy. There was nothing but shadows, silent and quick, tending to the masts and cables as the captain steered.

Jack was just starting to get used to the violent, rollicking waves when he began to see lights on the south horizon. It wasn’t very bright, but it was warm and sure. The Captain slowly steered the schooner towards the light.

“This’ll be it,”he said, finally. The dingy moved towards the city. It was looked unlike San Francisco in as many ways possible. Instead of the city being beside the ocean, it was on the ocean, in the water. And instead of the brick-paved roads he was so used to, there was canals of water between the grand, embellished buildings. The sky was the same elegant darkness with the silver moon and innumerable stars. The oddest thing was the people; they were dressed in lavish costumes. The women in enticing, large ball gowns laced with gold had cinched corsets and puffy sleeves. Gentlemen wore long dress-coats, polished,heeled boots, and ruffled collars. Some wore obnoxious hats, and all wore beautiful masks with falsely plump lips and dark eyes that seemed to peer into your mind, laugh at your thoughts, and consume your consciousness. It was foreboding and terrifying yet wonderous and Jack couldn’t look away.

As they neared the entrance to the city, two large, cloaked men in beaked, ivory masks stared at them through eyes on either side of the canal. The Captain looked at either one of them, nodded slightly, and continued through. Both men tilted their head slightly but made no objection.

As they rode through more of the canals, Jack noticed more people with peculiar masks and costumes, all in small boats and heading in the same direction. These boats were beautiful and elegant; the thick, navel dingy stuck out in the crowd like a wild turkey in an unkindness of ravens. No one seemed to notice them though, so it seemed alright. The people in the boats around them were speaking a language that was unfamiliar, fluid, and smooth compared to the sharp Chinese that he normally heard. The farther they traveled, the louder the music that had been echoing around the city halls became. Finally, the dingy came to the end of the canal.

“The Carnival of Venice, 1586,” the Captain breathed. The ground changed once again, this time to cool cobblestones as they arrived in the center of the city, the square. It was more marvelous than anything Jack had ever seen. They square was full of color and movement and light. The ladies moved elegantly in their wide gowns and courted with the dapper men, hidden under masks. In the masquerade, you never know who you are truly talking to. There was golden torched light throughout the square, illuminating surrounding buildings and delighted quests. There were bands playing lively music for the minstrels to sing to and all manner of street performers: Jugglers, magicians, and the best, fire twirlers. The acts were short, lasting only a minute or two before moving on to the next performer. The crowd would surround the best performer at that time, causing a constant ebb and flow in the festival and its guests.

Jack and the Captain easily got swept up in the crowd, which was, at the time, surrounding a young fire twirler. He couldn’t have been much older than Jack- thirteen or fourteen years old. He was dressed completely in black dress clothes with simple, black half-mask, which highlighted his pale skin. His art was captivating, impeccably quick. The flame was but an orange blur surrounding his body, occasionally licking his hands or his arms but never harming him. The excitement of the crowd was palpable, yet no one said a word. He moved swiftly, gracefully, and had a sort of concentration that showed he was completely, utterly devoted to his craft. The entire square seemed to be turned towards him, the boy that had a way with fire and that could show it with utmost respect and beauty. The crowd had given him a small clearing to perform but other than that seem to try and press as close as they could to him.

Suddenly, the fire twirler came out of his furry of fire and shadow as quickly as he had begun. Complete silence. Then, slowly, the audience closest to him began to applaud; more and more of the square began clap until thunderous applause echoed throughout the canals. The boy flourished his torch, put it out, a small smile spread across his face, and bowed deeply. There was a violent shuffle of movement and before anyone realised what had happened; the boy’s scream pierced the air. The two cloaked figures with the ivory crow’s beaks had stepped out of their spot in the front of the crowd. They had grabbed each of his arms and wrestled the boy’s mask off, revealing terrified eyes, more pale skin, and a mess of dark brown hair. The crowd screamed at the men’s abrupt and violent actions towards the boy they had just fallen in love with. Havoc ensued within them. The beaked men slammed the boy to the ground, the crack of breaking bone resounding throughout the square. One of the men hurried to tie his hands together behind his back, while the other searched his neck, under the collar of his dress shirt. When he finally found what he was looking for, his partner helped him pull the boy to his feet.

His once-pale skin was sickly white and a stream of vivid, shining blood ran from his nose, down his face, and onto his clothes. There was a striking blotch of blood on the stone in front of him. His eyes were fairly open as the pain subdued him. There was a flash of sliver that reflected the flames in the torches as the man held what was around the boy’s neck so the crowd could see.

It was the Star of David.

Jack couldn’t look, couldn’t think. His face throbbed. He tried to open his eyes, only to see the disgusted crowd staring at him. “Dirty Jew” they hissed in Italian. Wait. Italian. Facing him. Throbbing face. Something clicked in him as he felt the two beaked men grabbing him by the arms, roughly enough he knew it would leave bruises. As the men dragged him away from the center of the square, with all the power he could summon within him, Jack turned to face the crowd one last time. His eyes focused in on one face; all others became blurry. The Captain. His face was still, expressionless, yet in his eyes, Jack saw something he didn’t understand. Jack’s vision became unbearably blurry, and he let himself slump forward, to be dragged.

This was a night terror, yet night terrors aren’t this real, Jack thought. In night terrors, you don’t physical feel as though the front of your skull is crushed.

But why, of all things, was being  Jewish treated as if you had committed murder? The boy wasn’t being contemptuous, he wasn’t hurting anyone. It wasn’t just. He was bringing more joy to the festival than any other performer. Why did it matter?

The men’s grip on Jack’s arms as they dragged him to a canal. They called up a gondola and shoved him into it. They got in after.

“I hope this’ll teach you to stay in the geti* where you belong, you Filthy Jew.” the closest man said in Italian, his voice gruff and full of hatred. Jack hunched his entire body. He ached. The blood was slick and sickening. The world wavered, blurred. Sound echoed in his head.

“I think that’s enough.”

 

He was on the ship. It took a second before he regained feeling, before he realised that he was no longer in the fire twirler’s body. The waves were more gentle than before and the moon shone extraordinarily bright; it brought solace. He turned to the helm, and the Captain was standing there, checking his compass and realigning the ship. he looked over to Jack.

“I see you’re back,” the Captain said quietly. Jack looked out to sea. There was no land forms in any direction. He got used to the comfortable rock of the schooner on the water.

“Why did you show me that?” he questioned. The Captain looked up from the helm, his eyes critical, then went back to navigating.

“It was so wrong. And I can’t do anything about it, it was the past,” Jack said.

“It was, indeed, the past,” the Captain said

“That was so wrong,” Jack said again, quietly.

“Then change it,” the Captain said, looking at him.

Suddenly, the festival flashed in front of his eyes again. The boy was performing, the fire blurring, creating sparks that light the scene. Prometheus brought fire to mankind. The crowd thundered, the beaked men came. They showed the crowd the necklace. This time, a man stepped forward, stood by the boy. He was outnumbered and silent but the message was clear: we stand together. The scene flashed. Fire burns. The immigrants come. Jack’s father’s eye twitches. A warm smile spreads across Jack’s face.

“Change it.”

 

The images stopped, something clicked inside him, like a gear. He felt right, as if pounds of unknown tension had slid off him. He breathed.

He saw a glimpse of a beautiful, still ocean, bright moon, and velvet sky, the Captain’s smile, reassuring, true.

And then he woke up.

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on June 13, 2016 by and tagged , , .
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