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"Sometime in February. I don't know what the exact date is", Julian wrote in his log "God, am I pleased to be out of No-Name, and from what I can gather the others all feel the same. It's a long time since I've known such a stultifying place. At least it was useful for picking up fresh supplies though. We have been sailing up river for two days now. I was fully expecting Lady Red to come after us in a sea-faring chariot or some such nonsense, but presumably she's as glad to see the back of us as we are to see the back of her.
The landscape has been bleak and empty, and the weather overcast and thundery. Nonetheless things have been fairly lighthearted on the Indigo, and I think we're all grateful be out from under the gaze of the villagers and living our own lives again. Even if we are sailing into goodness knows what.
There was some small trouble yesterday afternoon, after we had anchored for the night, when Kieran noticed that Ketts was standing on that absurd raft, playing with a set of rosary beads. He immediately recognised them as his own and raised Cain about it, yelling accusations of thief all over the place. We allow the Holy Joes come aboard to use the heads when they need to, so Ketts must have gone into Kieran's cabin and stolen it then (Tinkerbell keeps it under his pillow, quite touching really), during one of his loo breaks. A lot of unpleasantness followed, but the beads were recovered with little fuss. Nonetheless "St Patrick" decided to go on about it at great length. Anyone would think he'd been physically assaulted the way he carried on.
He got so tiresome during the course of the evening that I called him in here and reprimanded him. The cheeky little spud told me that he didn't expect a heathen like me to understand the importance of the beads. I don't know how, but we then got into a long and very tedious discussion about transubstantiation. I couldn't help showing my surprise when he informed me that he genuinely does believe the communion wafer becomes the body of Christ during Holy Communion. I always thought it was simply part of the make-believe, like the priest putting his finery on. I said surely it was just a form of cannibalism in that case, and his sort were no better than some remote and primitive South Seas tribe, who believed eating their leader after his death helped to absorb his greatness. He got very emotional about this, and said that my argument had been used countless times before and I needn't think I was saying anything remotely original (touched a raw nerve there obviously). He went on to say that it was very hard for a sensitive, delicate soul like him (he didn't use those exact words, but I'm certain that was his implication), to live in such an era of dedicated heathenism, with no one around for him to take spiritual guidance from. I thought this was a bit of nerve considering that, thanks to him, we had two bloody priests following around behind us like a lingering fart! He stormed out of my cabin soon after, in a very excited state. I really do think he's off his head sometimes.
I asked Joby if Kieran suffered from religious mania. He wasn't terribly helpful, saying "I just ignore him when he's like that". I said that I felt he should show more concern, as there are times when Kieran most definitely Isn't Right. I pointed out the time just prior to the comet blast, when Kieran went really peculiar, as an example. Adam chipped in that "special people are often alien to the rest of us". I could've done without such ridiculous twaddle, and said so. As far as I'm concerned the mental hospitals are and always have been full of people who think they're special visionaries. Adam then said "perhaps they all are". One has to have loved Adam for a very long time to tolerate his daftness to the degree that I do!
I didn't sleep well last night. Something happened, and in the cold light of day I cannot be certain whether I dreamt it or not. I will note it down here just in case it happens again. I must admit that I had trouble settling, and could only put it down to that wretched Irishman and his flights of whimsy. I remember (even if Adam doesn't) how disturbing Kieran's turns had been during our stay at Wolf Castle, and the last thing I felt we needed was it happening here and now.
I don't know whether I slept at all prior to this incident, I really couldn't say, but I was disturbed by the voice-tube whistling above my bunk. This was very unusual in itself. I haven't appointed a nightwatch on deck at the moment. We're in the middle of nowhere for one thing, and I feel it's enough if we take precautions to barricade all three cabin doors at bedtime, and for no one to visit the heads alone during the night. Sometimes even these precautions feel absurd, but I don't want to take any chances at all.
As I was saying the voice-tube went and I answered it in an automatic fashion, fully expecting it to be Ransey complaining about something mind-blowingly trivial. Instead I heard what sounded like a young boy sobbing. At first I thought it was Toppy, but one quick glance across the cabin revealed to me that he was fast asleep in his bunk. Then I heard a voice saying, quite emotionally, "please come. I need you". I recognised the voice at once, even though I haven't heard it that many times. It was Tamaz.
I must confess that initially I was far more shocked to hear him weeping than on the end of my voice-tube. I didn't think the little swine was capable of such a human trait! I immediately ran up to the poop-deck, but it was horribly, eerily still and empty. I'm not an overly-imaginative man, I normally leave such indulgences to Adam, but I really felt as though the countryside was pressing on us, and the moon seemed almost green.
This morning I asked Finia if anything had disturbed him in the night. He said he hadn't woken up once. This is very odd in itself. Finia is normally such a light sleeper, and my slightest movement can disturb him, so I was markedly surprised that the screeching of the voice-tube and my thundering about the cabin hadn't! Still, all I can say is these are strange times, and likely to get much stranger before we are through!"
"You said you was gonna do a casserole, using some of the tinned stewing-steak", said Hillyard, as Adam set down a plate of cauliflower cheese in front of him "I've been looking forward to that all day, and now I gets this instead".
"I changed my mind", said Adam "Chef's privilege".
"How can I be expected to put in a day's grafting in the hold when you only feed me rabbit food?"
"For one thing cauliflower cheese isn't rabbit food, you wouldn't feed a rabbit on it, and for another I don't call sitting down there tossing a few sticks of wood on the fire hard-graft! It's not as if you're spent twelve hours at the coal-face. Now stop complaining and get it down you".
Hillyard ate in silence for a little while. He was the last to eat, now that anchor had been dropped for the night, as the others had all dined whilst the Indigo was still moving.
"Does it meet with sir's satisfaction?" said Adam, eventually.
"It's alright", said Hillyard, unenthusiastically "I'd have done it differently though".
"Yes I'm pretty sure you would have", said Adam, dryly.
"Mr Adam", Brother Monene appeared in the doorway "I know he probably won't like it, but I'd like a word with Captain Julian if I may".
"Go on in, he's in his cabin", said Adam.
"Thank you", said Monene.
"I bet Julian got stewing-steak", said Hillyard.
"No one got stewing-steak, Hillyard!" Adam exclaimed "You have my solemn oath on that, now shut up about it!"
Monene found Julian playing an improvised game of golf in his cabin, using his waste-bin, his umbrella, and a few scrunched-up balls of paper.
"I know that you won't like what I'm going to say", said Monene, nervously "But ..."
"You want to know if you can sleep on the Indigo tonight?" said Julian, much to Monene's surprise.
"Yes, that's right", said Monene "I-I know it's a bit of a cheek".
"No problem", said Julian, shortly "You and Ketts can have the saloon. I'm not such a heartless monster that I would expect you to sleep out on an open raft in this strange part of the land. You should've mentioned it before".
"T-thank you", Monene stammered, shaken.
"How is Ketts these days?"
"Preoccupied. Spends a lot of time at his prayers. I ask him if he's apprehensive about what lays ahead, but he just smiles in that rather strange way. I should've taken more notice of him when we were in No-Name, but ..."
"You had other distractions there", said Julian, successfully putting a ball of paper into the basket "But I'm counting on you to keep an eye on him whilst you're both on the Indigo. Ketts has been rather untrustworthy lately. Stealing from Kieran's cabin for one thing. I expect you to oversee him at all times".
"I'll try", said Monene, awkwardly.
"You'll damn well do more than try", said Julian "Surely you can keep an eye on one person? I have nine to oversee!"
"Yes, yes of course", said Monene, humbly "I won't let you down".
The priest left Julian's cabin in a daze and wondered along the gangway.
"Everything alright?" said Adam, standing in the doorway of the galley.
"He was reasonable", said Monene, in a shocked voice.
"Must be old age coming on", said Adam.
"Another day in February, one day after the last entry", Julian wrote in the log the following evening "I scarcely know how to summarise today's events. I've learnt a lot about being a leader of men since assuming the captaincy of the Indigo, and one thing one has to bear in mind is that human nature is never black and white, that all are grey areas. But nothing could have prepared me for today's events. At the time of writing I have a novice priest in the saloon who is going through the most extraordinary physical changes. I don't know what to make of it at all, but then I've had very little experience of religious mania, apart from Kieran's old spasms.
It all started late this afternoon when Ketts started screaming the place down, and when I say screaming these were the most agonised cries I've ever heard from anyone. I got to the saloon at the same time as Adam and Monene. By now Ketts was writhing about on the sofa as though he was having some kind of fit. He screamed that there were pains in his arms and legs, and that he had gone blind! This was true, so no wonder the poor little bastard was hysterical.
Adam was wonderful. He said the way Ketts was burning and hyperventilating, it was undoubtedly some hysterical spasm that had caused him to go blind, rather like Joby had undergone after seeing the Slime Man. Adam pulled the boy's cassock off him and then sponged him down with towels soaked in cold water, which Ransey had brought in from the galley.
I don't know how long this all took, but it was quite some time. Eventually Adam got him moderately calm and wrapped him in a blanket. It was then that he noticed Ketts's hands were bleeding. Ketts noticed them too and got hysterical again. Adam calmed him once more, and succeeded in getting himself covered in bloody handprints whilst doing so. One thing I never expected to see for myself was religious stigmata, but this uncannily looked exactly like it.
I got hold of Finia and ordered him to bind Ketts's hands with bandages, to try and staunch the flow. If we hadn't Ketts would've suffered enormous loss of blood. Ketts was calmer by now, but he had started whimpering that he wanted to talk to Kieran alone. I wasn't sure about this at all. I thought that in a situation like this Kieran could possibly make things worse, but Ketts began to scream that he was dying and I had no right to refuse a dying man a chance to unburden his soul. I didn't believe Ketts was dying, but he was undoubtedly suffering greatly and I had no wish to make matters worse, so we left the two alone together ..."
"Father Dalman told me I was special", said Ketts, lying rigidly on the sofa, his sightless eyes turned towards the ceiling "He warned me that things like this might happen. All saints and prophet suffer, he said. And special people are never understood in their own time or place".
"Ketts", said Kieran, softly. He was kneeling by the sofa "I want you to tell me everything about your relationship with Father Dalman. Did he, for instance, tell you that you were a saint?"
"He said I was a mystic, a prophet. Special", said Ketts "He said I should relish it when great suffering came upon me, that God never gives us what we can't deal with, and so great suffering is a gift that is only given to the truly great. I've tried to relish this, but I'm afraid".
"I know, but it'll help if you tell me all", said Kieran.
"Father Dalman said people like myself only come along very rarely, but we had to prove ourselves or no one would believe our true worth. He said to prove the triumph of the good spirit, our flesh must be mortified".
"Exactly how was it mortified, Ketts?"
"Did Father Dalman force himself on you? Did he abuse you?"
"It was to purify my soul".
"And the beatings too?"
"By giving my body pain I was forced to set my mind free", said Ketts "But I'm afraid. I don't want to be blind".
"Is there anything else that Father Dalman did?"
"He said I must become accustomed to living like a saint. I fasted for days on end. Father Dalman said eventually that I would have no need of sustenance at all, and that I wouldn't even need to defecate. That would all be a miracle on its own, he said. People would come from miles around to see me. I would become a living symbol, a direct link between Man and God. He said it would only be a matter of time before the bleeding started, and it has! But I'm afraid. I'm going to die, and I don't want to die. I want to be a living sinner, not a dead saint. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. You must be so disappointed in me. I keep letting everyone down. My fear gets to me. It did at the Governor's House. In the Village of Stairs. I was afraid".
"Yes", Ketts wept, miserably "And when I realised how afraid I was I became ashamed, because it's wrong to be afraid of one's destiny".
"No it's not", Kieran picked up one of Ketts's bandaged hands and held it "Fear is nothing to be ashamed of".
"I'm weak. When Lonts pushed me in the water I wanted to hit him, and that's wrong. Isn't that wrong?"
"It's a perfectly human reaction. If the little scrote had done it to me I'd have wanted to wring his neck!"
Ketts laughed, uncertainly. Kieran realised it was the very first time he'd ever heard Ketts give off any positive kind of emotion.
"Father Dalman won't ever hurt you again", said Kieran "I promise you. Suffering can make us better human beings, it's true. If we learn from it of course. But we can't choose to become saints, Ketts. That kind of destiny isn't chosen, it's given".
"I'm a wicked failure".
"No", Kieran held him close "You've got the makings of an excellent priest. But you're still very young. You need to relish the fun of life as well as the pain. We'll get you better again. Give yourself a chance to be a human being, and stop punishing yourself so severely for every smallest mistake you make".
"Do you forgive me, Your Grace?" Ketts wept into Kieran's shoulder.
"There is nothing to forgive", said Kieran "You're just a person like the rest of us. We'll get you well again, and then all will be fine. Just fine".
"It's very early, or very late, whichever way one wants to look at it", Julian wrote in his log "Ketts died an hour ago at twenty-to-four a.m. He never regained his sight. Kieran and Monene are praying beside his body in the saloon. I will have to record his death here as heart-failure due to severe shock, although I keep running up against the conclusion that Tamaz is behind it somehow.
Monene was in danger of going to pieces over it. Threatened to tear up his cassock and refuse to put it on ever again. Joby advised him not to, as we're running out of clothes to donate to stray people we take on-board!
We'll bury the poor little blighter as soon as the sun comes up. Put him over the side. We're getting quite good at burials at sea, perhaps we should start it as a business enterprise when Tamaz and Dalman are put out of the running!
From what I can gather Dalman was hoping to become Ketts's business manager, his agent. I don't know what he hoped to achieve by turning Ketts into the fifth millennium's answer to Teresa Neumann, apart from financial benefits of course. But doubtless when we finally catch up with him he can tell us.
Once the funeral is out of the way I have the difficult task of trying to keep everyone's spirits up. It's never easy when someone as young as Ketts dies, as nothing makes sense then. Thank God for Adam though. If he's on form today we should get through it in one piece".
Kieran walked into his cabin and shut the door firmly. The funeral had passed off smoothly, with Ketts being pushed overboard under a leaden grey sky. They had all stood silently on deck whilst Monene recited a few words.
Soon afterwards Lonts had had a bad turn. He had got it into his head, in the way that only Lonts could, that he was to blame for Ketts's death. That he should have taken Ketts under his care as soon as he had seen the strap-marks on his body way back in Magnolia Cove. Kieran had tried to reassure him, but in the end Adam had said that words weren't much use on Lonts at a time like this. Instead he lay him on his stomach and stroked his back until he was calm.
After Kieran had left the saloon Monene had cornered him and said that he wanted to go back to No-Name. He could take the raft, which they had been towing for a couple of days now. He knew what Monene was going to launch into next, how he was doubting his faith and his ability to serve the Church, how he didn't feel he had the courage to continue with them on their quest for Tamaz. Kieran had had quite enough for one day though and said abruptly that he understood, and instructed Monene to take any problems up with the Church Council on his return to the City.
Now he sat on the edge of his bunk, and not for the first time wondered why he had ever bothered to re-instate religion. How long would it be before he had another Kiskev-style mass suicide on his hands? With the likes of Dalman being made bishop, it could only be a matter of time.
He sat like that for a while. When Joby walked in he took one look at Kieran, and suddenly got a good idea of how his friend would look when he was old. The blue eyes might fade to opaque, and his cheeks would become sunken, but he would still be striking, if perhaps careworn. He would turn heads as much as he did now. For the first time Kieran's power hit him, and he knew that he was with someone who would become one of the immortals, whom people would discuss for centuries to come. It was a daunting thought. To Joby, Kieran had always been simply his skinny little friend from across the Irish Sea. Even when he was President and men had bowed their heads to him, Kieran had still, as far as Joby was concerned, been the giggly little scruff.
"Joby", Kieran looked startled "What are you gawping at me like that for?"
"I don't know you", said Joby, in a dazed voice "Not really".
"Don't be daft", said Kieran "You know me better than anyone else".
"I don't though. You're a messiah", said Joby "I wonder if you always were. If it was always pre-destined that we'd cross over and you'd be this person, whoever it is".
"I don't know", said Kieran, impatiently "All I know is that you're talking cobblers, but that's hardly anything new".
"I wonder if Christ's friends had the same problem?"
"Now you're being blasphemous!" Kieran thundered "I don't want another word like that or I'll punch you in the gob. Come and sit here next to me".
Joby sat down on the bunk next to him.
"What does it feel like, Kiel?" he asked "To be special like that?"
"Joby! What the blazes has got into you? You've never been like this before. I count on you to be the sane voice in this crazy world. I have never felt special. In fact I 've always felt that the real Vanquisher of Evil was gonna turn up at some point and accuse me of being an imposter! Sometimes it all feels like a nightmare", he went on, more quietly "Sometimes I want to wake up in me Mam's house and realise I'd just had some weird dream brought on by looking at too many photo's of me Mam in her confirmation dress! Except if it had been a dream I'd have missed so much, and I DON'T mean being President. I mean you, and Adam, and all the others".
"We all feel like that", Joby mumbled, as Adam walked in.
"Hope I'm not intruding", he said, anxiously "But we're turning in now. Lonts is just going to the heads".
"You don't crossing do you, Ad?" said Joby.
"Good heavens, no!" said Adam "If we hadn't I would never have known Lo-Lo and that would be just too awful. Let alone what I have with the rest of you".
"I think Rosaleen was right", said Joby "It was all pre-destined".
"Are you o.k, Joby?" said Adam "You look dreadfully pale, old love".
"Kieran's the Vanquisher of Evil", said Joby.
"Ye-e-s", said Adam "Has that only just occurred to him, Patsy?"
"Don't ask me", Kieran sighed "Joby's brain's located in a distant galaxy!"
"Doesn't it bother you, Adam?" Joby exclaimed "That we've been with this person all these years?"
"I'm getting seriously worried about him now", said Kieran "I think it's time he got some rest".
He began to undress Joby, who sat in a shocked pose, not unlike a puppet that had had its strings cut.
"Patsy hasn't changed you know", said Adam "He's still the same person he always was".
"I can't take it in", Joby put his face in his hands and began to cry.
"Joby, this is crazy", said Kieran sternly, also feeling considerably afraid "There's nothing to take in. You've lived with me for the past seventeen years for God's sake. You never carried on like this when I was President. I'm Kieran for fock's sake, and now here you are referring to me as This Person, as though I'm some complete stranger!"
"Don't try and sort this out tonight, Pats", said Adam, soothingly "It's been a traumatic couple of days. We'll all get some sleep now. Don't you think so, Joby?"
Joby nodded and lay back on the bunk.
"Well", Kieran sighed "I'm glad to see I'm not so godlike he won't still bed down with me!"
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