Posted on: March 14th, 2009 Ye Pickl’d Miners

by Mike Norris

Captain’s Log: February 12, 1688

Trade Winds SSW.  Seas becalm’d o’er Middle Passage.

‘Tis a dreary morning our casks be broken, and ye pickl’d miners therein, be awaken’d.

At dawn, we hoist’d the gratings, and lo, not a wail nor cry from below; not a draught of that common stench so brutal upon a Guineaman. ‘Twas then I did realize how fortunate are we, to be employ’d on this most uncommon slaving vessel.  Aye, peaceful, she be.  No drumming of shackled Hands upon the timbers.  No champing for Yams and Palm Oyl. No dusky heads with a rage for insurrection beneath our feet.  Nay, none of this fain occur aboard The Redlowe.

One of a kind be our vast machine.  For not a slave be fetter’d to her empty ringlets, all a-swinging freely in her tenantless hold.  What queer freight be seven-hundred casks of salt for a slaver.  And aye, slavers in deed we be.  Like the wombs of as many maids, our seven-hundred casks be a-swollen with child.

But for the sluice of waves at waterline, the creak of bleach’d Timbers, The Redlowe‘s stillness be test’d only by the clatter of a Cooper’s Hammer upon those strange Casks, and the scooping of shards from the hold.  ‘Twas a merry Birth Day we celebrat’d for all ye stillborn creatures, whose desiccat’d forms weigh’d but as much fold’d sailcloth.  It makes a man thirst but to look upon their shrivel’d Husks, so caked in brine and a-wanting for water, they who be seal’d nigh eighty days ere their rebirth.

Employ great care in their usage, ye Hearties, as their limbs be brittle as soda crackers.  Gently, ye lift them, all a-swaddled in nets, up to the deck where they be shaved and bath’d for sale in the Spanish Mines.

Should Death take them again before landfall, then reviv’d again they’ll be, with another fine dram of Ye Corpse’s Vigour.  Snatch’d from Death’s embrace, see how their shrivell’d hides swell plump again in the scuttle tubs, yet that stricken aspect of the grave don’t much abate.  Their ghastly faces do appear as tho the bitter taste of my medicine, or perhaps the prospect of an eternity in the mines, don’t agree with them.

Swift then, the Reborn be taken below deck and fetter’d there until landfall, ere they awake to those chains they so abhorr’d in that life they depart’d when I poison’d the lot of them.

Tho cheap to transport these extraordinary labourers be, they are a sad freight in deed, for no scripture can promise salvation for a snatch’d soul, whilst an eternity of torment awaits their bodies.  But they shan’t suffer a glimpse of that Airthly Hell to which they’re destin’d, as no amount of Vigour can undo the salt’s damage to their eyes.  But methinks it not much matters what sights be depriv’d them, when that New World of theirs be a lightless one.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

--Brain Harvest