Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Pan Trilogy - Part 1

The following is an excerpt from The Trials of Jonathan Darling, by Fionnegan Justus Murphy and Michael Winkler. It's the first book from The Pan trilogy, a re-imagining of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Check back the next two Wednesdays for excerpts from the second and third books.

Excerpt from The Trials of Jonathan Darling
co-written by Fionnegan Justus Murphy and Michael Winkler

     No one heard the faint wisp of wind over the surface of the water so far below.  No one heard the short whispers hidden by the waves lapping against the side of the ship.  It was the crowing that jolted them out of their meditation.
    The deck was instantly filled with uncountable little boys.  Each one armed with one kind of metal or another.  In a flash of adrenaline and shock, the battle had begun.
    Captain Cooper sprung from his chair and buckled his scabbard around his waist.  He squared his shoulders and opened the door to his cabin, filling the doorway with his determination.  His experienced eyes examined the fray as his ears found the pulse underlying the battle: the boots, the swords, the rigging, and the screams of men falling overboard into the waiting throng of crocodiles.  It all made a pattern that he could read.  There was something in the sound that was out of place, but he could not put his finger on what it was.  Something did not belong.
    They attacked a prone target,
    but we will be victorious in the end.
    Where is he?  
    Peter Pan was sitting on top of a barrel next to the railing playing his pipes, not paying the battle any attention at all.  The sound of his instrument cut through the battle straight into Captain Cooper’s nerves.  Such arrogance and disrespect would be directly addressed.
    An officer follows certain protocol.
    If he allows his body to take over
    like a common soldier then
    chaos will rule the fight.
    A little chaos is refreshing to the soul,
 That’s what she told you on the dock.
    Self-control will keep order
    and ensure victory.  
    There’s something to be said
for a little disorder.  
A little piracy.
    Cooper controlled his arm that wanted so badly to unsheathe his sword and bury it into that unprotected chest there, or that exposed armpit there.  
    A little piracy.
    Control the squall.
    Keep it in check.

    The Captain marched up to his enemy a little more quickly than even he expected, and just before he could speak, noticed his mistake.  
    Pan had grabbed a rope and lassoed the Captain’s arms quick as a flash.  Cooper’s hands instinctively grabbed the new leash leading back to the monster.  He saw how this would play out in a fraction of a second.  He would step closer to Peter and just like before Pan would fly.  So he did.  And he did.  And with a flick of the Captain’s wrist the rope slithered and coiled and caught the boy’s foot.  
    He then heard his own voice call out “Take no prisoners!” and threw his body over the port side of the ship, still holding onto the tether tying the Captain to the Pan.
    As their bodies passed, each rich, red timber faded, peeled, swelled and shrank.  Boards cracked.  Green moss sprung from the cracks in the newly rotten and faded wood.  The wind changed direction and the Union Jack that proudly flew on the main mast billowed around on itself.  As it did the red crossed lines became white bones.  The royal blue field turned inky black, and when the flag completed its turn from west to east a skull faded out of the darkness and as it raised its head to look out onto the world it smiled.
    Peter Pan smiled, too.
    The sea supported them both for a second.  What rope was available was thrown and tangled around the two bodies by Captain Cooper’s nimble hands.  The waves threw them into the sidewall of the ship over and over again.  The Captain allowed his body to take over.  He would bite this and hit that, but as they sank his hands knew their most important job was to not let go of the rope.
    They rolled until there was no more up. The water pressed in on Peter Pan more forcefully than it ever dared before.  It smothered him with its relentless, dark coolness and no matter how much he commanded it to back away it insisted on pushing closer.  His bright, hot fire began paying the price and Peter felt, for the first time in a long time, disconnected from the world around him.  He needed to be out in the air again.
    This isn’t the end.  Up!
    Up! Up!
    But the Captain held firm to the tangling rope, and each attempt to rip free only expended more of Pan’s energy.  Soon, Peter was fighting with as much desperation as he felt, one of his few completely honest moments.  A fist much harder than any boy’s cracked the Captain’s ribs.  Nails much thicker and longer than any boy’s opened his skin.  Salt burned into his stomach.  Everything grew darker as they fell further down.  
     They hit something.  It was too soon to be hitting the bottom, and it was no rock.  Without warning the Captain knew nothing but pain.  Drowning never existed.  Peter never existed.  The Island never existed.  Pain was all there ever was and all there ever would be, and while one part of his brain screamed “Pain!” the rest of his brain confined that section, and set to work solving the problem.
     Where is the pain?
     Right arm.  There it is.  
     His left hand did its job while the Captain faded into the pain, deftly feeling along his arm to the source.  It felt along the hard and long snout and up to the eye.  Enough pressure and it compresses like a hard-boiled egg; even more pressure and it breaks open.
     The crock rolled in pain, tearing flesh and bone.  Splashes broke the surface that suddenly came back into view.  A pair of grown adult hands grabbed the Captain and pulled him up to the surface.  They broke and before the Captain could gather a breath to shout, Pan was in the air and gone, flying off to the horizon.  His laughter skipped off the water and bounced over the surface of the newly formed Jolly Roger.
     Cooper drifted off into a place without nerves.  The other sailors hoisted him back onboard and carried him to his room where they tied a leather strap around his bicep.  They laid him down in his bed and let him sleep as an iron skillet was taken off its shelf and placed in the oven in the kitchen far below his room.
     Four hands stoked and fueled the fire endlessly throughout the night.  Drake, the master carpenter onboard, worked tirelessly to build the Captain’s new namesake.  His eyes dried and he continuously wiped oil and sweat from his face.  The skillet glowed red and was shaped, glowed red and was shaped.  Two men kept the fire raging while ringing pierced their ears with each hammer strike and the sound of saw teeth becoming dull grated on their nerves.
    The Sun rose and the Sea was calm.  It had taken its tariff and seemed pleased for the moment.  The fire-stoking duo was sent to their hammocks and a fresh pair of bodies took over while Drake showed no sign of fatigue.
    The Captain awoke in severe pain.  What rum was left in storage was poured over tattered sinews, rent flesh and splintered bone.  There were no signs of infection aside from the fever and incoherent speech.  Like a loyal pet, Smee never left Jimmy’s side.  At times they would speak to one another, but about what no one could follow.
    As the Sun set Drake had the Captain carried to the kitchen where the head of the hook hung out of the doorway of the glowing hot oven while the handle of it sat in the embers.  A blade sliced away useless skin and muscle.  A fresh saw evened out the radius and ulna.  Finally, Drake put on a thick leather glove and removed the black hook that was once a skillet from the fire, revealing a forked end that glowed red.  The captain’s breathing grew quick and shallow as he watched the glowing terror approach him.  His teeth clenched on a leather wrapped stick and sweat poured down his brow past frantic eyes.
    Smee could not watch the rest.  He turned his head away when Drake’s leather gloved hand held the hook in place while the other recoiled a hammer, ready to drive the glowing points into the evened out bones.  But something inside Smee forced him to keep his eyes open.  If Jimmy would have to endure the procedure, then Smee would at least watch the shadows on the wall.  He saw the warbling shadows play out the scene through his tears.  The hammer swung, almost impossibly fast, and clanged against the curved edge of the hook.
     Drake’s apology as he wound up for the second strike was drowned out by the Captain. Pain rocketed out of his throat and filled the room, sending shivers through everyone in the room the same way the hammer sent spasms through the Captain’s body as he fought against the men restraining him.  Every head on the ship turned from bow to stern.  Signs of the cross were made and prayers were said.  Each strike of the hammer flung a louder scream from his shaking body.  It took every bit of strength in four of his men to hold him down.  Every curse in the Captain’s vocabulary was slung at them, the screams darting over the water and through the woods.  Fairies lowered their heads and stopped glowing.  The Indians woke in wonder at what new god had finally come to the Island.  Pan smiled and continued dancing while playing his pipes.

©Fionnegan Justus Murphy

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