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Mirror Back
Cain & Quartermaine 2-B
© 2022 James LaFond
Amtrak Coastal Starlight, Grant’s Pass
Changing room, Thursday 27th of October of a lumbering year
“When I beheld the poet, blind yet bold,
his slender book in vast design unfold,”
-Andrew Marvel, 1668, on John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Stage Set
The 6 bathrooms on the lower deck of the Pullman Passenger Liner are:
a handicapped toilet front right,
a half changing room first left,
a toilet back left,
2 toilets back right along the narrow aisle.
At the end of the aisle is a changing room, with a two pedestal seat vanity, before two sinks, behind which to left is a small padded bench. To the right is another door with a standard toilet.
There is usually a room open, even on a full train. On scenic stretches when the viewing car is full, most of the restrooms are open.
The view of the changing room is had from behind the one way mirror, refracted in dreamprism through the Silver Drake’s Onyx Eye and the Pewter Juju Eye, to select remote viewers of allied-minded kind. The clatter of the rails, wheels and linkage is here dull and distant, the descent down Grant’s Pass slow by long switch back ways. Silence reigns when those handful of short tunnels are threaded, the darkness of them converted to a muffling of mechanical noise when in the windowless bowels of a coach car.
The tall, grim-faced man, in coat and under hat, a backpack as long as his considerable torso strapped across shoulders, and by hip and chest to his too narrow back, considering his great girth of shoulder, opens the door too narrow. Unable to fit his shoulders in, he turns sideways and tries to squeeze in. But the backpack prevents this.
“Blasted stage coach of damnation,” grumbled the man harshly under his breath.
He then unhitched chest and hip straps and managed to slip off the left shoulder strap. He then limped in side ways, cane in his left hand, its onyx-eyed silver drake’s head shimmering as the canvas rucksack, which was gray rather than olive drab, hung down against his right leg.
A popping sound was heard, a pop with a metallic ping, and the man of gray yellowish eyes moted with onyx, under silver hair, over clean cleft of strong chin, bent that straight arrow of a long nose near in two, he grimaced so.
Securing the door behind him, the man dropped the rucksack with a plaintive groan, “Mister Quartermaine, fat ye ‘ave grown or I am no’ Longshank Cain!”
The rucksack spoke in a musical voice with the richness of Old African Hispaniola [1], “Not I, Master, but She, SHE, the Devil’s Wife, loved-up in Juju to set you pallor right.”
The man sat down and regarded the mirror, wincing at the image there, foremost at the eyes, jaundiced whites now yellow and yet bloodshot still, blue center gone to ashy gray, only the onyx black pupils not giving the appearance of the deathly fey.
He grinned, checking his teeth, seeing them yellowed but whole, “Alas, if hunger were mine I could eat of goodly fare er bad.”
“Mister Quartermaine, I adjudge this meaty sail, windblown and gust shorn down to bone, has mayhap billowed its last.”
“Master, My Mighty Master, good boy Juju beg permission to come aboard.”
“Granted, Mister Quartermaine,” and the man flagged on the stool as one who has been overcome by unbearable weariness.
The rucksack, which appeared to open via two broad, nickle buckled black canvas straps, instead opened from the inside along the back, the top flap being thrown down over its more apparent opening.
Out popped the head of a man, a head somewhat smaller than normal, gifted with a thick wool groomed in the likeness of a fez, to include the tassel. His features were mostly West African, except for his Scottish beak of a nose. His complexion was a deep pecan brown. Between his two, large green eyes, was embedded, by some means, a third eye, high between the brows in the lower forehead. This eye was made of pewter and was delicate small like a jewel, being half the size of each of the green meaty eyes, which were larger than normal for a man.
His teeth were pearly white and uniformly unpointed, the eye teeth top and bottom having been filed down. These four teeth were capped in gold. This man climbed out of the rucksack with the body of a small toddler, of perhaps two years, a well formed body with legs too short and arms too, too long.
He wore denim overalls and nothing else, going barefoot. Those two little nut brown feet did find purchase on the right leg of the man facing the mirror, where he stood admiring the man’s pale visage as if he were an artist inspecting work that had suffered damage on display and needed to apply expert craft in order to effect a pleasing restoration. The black dwarf busied his little hands on this long arms inspecting the teeth with a frown, the nose with a worried glance, and the eyes with some sadness, “Master o’ mine, I have good Juju for you.”
The man winced and looked with amazed eyes on the tassled fez of an afro and said, “Mister Quartermaine, the dreadful nap of old was frightful, the fuzzy wuzzy ball of late, sprite-like, I might assay. This, sir, this affect of hither Araby, is the masterwork coif what marks ye he ye be.”
“Thank you, My Master, Captain Cain. Pray tell Doctor Quartermaine, you worst pain?”
The man’s voice had a deep tone with a metallic quality, “Larboard knee, ankle unto worrisome hip, there burns like lighted pitch.”
The black dwarf then stepped around with his left foot upon the oily canvas coat to find purchase on what most have been a belt, belt case or some kind of iron girdle, perhaps, shuffled his feet around until the little man seemed to disappear.
Hands appeared on coat of shoulder, unnatural round and wide shoulders. Then the small man, in total smaller than the big man’s torso, climbed that coated back, each of his four little steps causing the pale man to wince in agony as he scaled the big man’s back. What the little feet found purchase on was a mystery to the viewer, saved that it caused the man to offer a theory, “Blast o’ “ell, Sir, that rib be shiv ta near stove!”
The small man changed his foot placement and now had cherubic elbows of long arms on the shoulders of the big man, then even a knee. Quatermaine took off the black oiled canvas hat to reveal that the top of the silver-maned head was bald. Additionally it had a hatch, made of silver, chased in gold, and unlocked with a little nickle key that came out from the coif of fez-shaped hat hair, to unlock the tiny padlock there, to open what appeared to be the top of a metal sea chest.
The eyes of the seated man rolled back into his head showing nothing but their silvery back to the viewer. Juju then produced a set of small steel pliers from his overalls and called down into the ruck sack, “Rum.”
A brown, baby-sized hand pushed out a flask from the open rucksack, and the large pale hand of the now blind man groped for it with an accuracy that bespoke the addict. As the little brown man on his shoulders, probed and fussed with whatever governed the seated seafaring man, his giant client guzzled the entire flask. As he dropped the flask into the waiting brown hand within the rucksack, Captain Cain gasped in a lingering fury, “Dam the pain, get thy larboard right again.”
“Yaaz Master,” and the man pulled on something, drawing a bloody wire out of that silver-rimmed hatch of head. He drew forth with the bloody wire a moan, so like the abysmal deeps in hopelessness, that one viewer died of Sorrow Instantaneous. [2]
And a mothersome voice chimed up in soothing wiles from the bag, two tiny brown baby hands miming the opening of flowers and the flutter of wings:
“Long o’ shank,
Dauntless o’ the Spanish Maine,
Find, will he, what Ocean Drank—
Rise, oh rise, Captain Cain!”
And the monkey-sized man on the deathly harrowed giant’s back danced to the doggerel as he tuned the jerking body; a body that swayed and hummed along, as much a manly piano as a meaty marionette.
-1. The French side of that island, called San Domingo and thence Haiti in latter times.
-2. Sorrow Instantaneous is also known among the remote viewers and associate crypto imaginists of the extant Lemurian League as Nigh Dropsy, a terminal condition of empathy developed too quickly for the viewer to tolerate, ejecting the soul from the body before the body fails, which does occur once the motivating soul has been expelled.
Shadow Call
seeker cain
Shadow Fall
honor among men
by the wine dark sea
night city
on the overton railroad
logic of steel
son of a lesser god
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