Virgulle’s Vestral 1

Wednesday 4th May 2011

In which the author gives some account of the inducements
and circumstances leading up to the commencement of the Vestral

BOTH my parents were engineers, content to tinker with mechanisms and watch ratchets engage. They had no time for friction.

I grew from child to adult seeking other causations, studying anatomy and pathology. To satisfy an impulse for encounters with rare diseases in unfamiliar environments, I secured a position as the ship’s surgeon aboard a stout vessel with a diligent captain and crew, bound for the colonies.

A month out and violent storms struck us. I was cast into the void, alone in a lifeboat. My small craft bobbed across the days following like a twig adrift in the swirl of a wide river. Much of the time, unable to exercise, I rested on a bunk, staring at the stars and imagining their attendant planets, ice-frozen, crater-pocked or emblazoned with dancing colours and luxuriant fertility, as our own.

With my rations all consumed, I fell into a fitful sleep, only to dream of spiralling downwards, a fierce beam stinging my eyes, tear-drops of sweat sliding over cheeks and neck, the stench of burning…

I sat up.

The lifeboat was descending, in clear daylight, at considerable speed, towards an expanse of grey swamp. And it was on fire.

We crashed with a splash into what must be water. Forgetting completely that I had been expecting to die quite soon, I forced open the hatch and, as the waves poured in, pushed up and out, determined now to stay alive.

I saw at once that I had been deposited in a sea, which was calm, if chilly, under a blue sky flecked with wisps of cloud. To my right were cliffs, curving into a narrow bay. Though not a strong swimmer, I progressed at a steady pace towards the coastline, before eventually collapsing, exhausted, on the bare sand.

I came ashore, I was told later, at ‘about half past five’ on a Thursday evening in September.

By my reckoning, it was the Height of Lirpa in the year 773, 4th Epoch, back on my own world.

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