I used to differentiate my ongoing stories with two or three letter abbreviations in brackets. Black Dogs and Errant Eagles, which is about to start, has such a code, too, and it is simply (Eagle).
And now, without further ado, enjoy!
Black Dogs and Errant Eagles – Prologue
To a little shark the ocean seemed infinite, with neither beginning nor end. Never would it be able to cross the vast sea from one shore to the other.
What sounded almost philosophical as a novel´s beginning was, in truth, a literal description of the small predator fish´s environment. Doctor Cody Cesar Corner, a well known pharmacist of english heritage in St. Kitts, bred sharks for research purposes. The doctor´s subjects spent their life in a prison specifically tailored to their needs, a ring of natural rock, masonry and wood, an artificial living space stolen away from the ocean. Within the tunnel the sharks could swim on endlessly, withour ever needing to pause or turn back.
The ring wasn´t exactly circular. “Threesee” Corner and his friends had done their best to build a barrier that allowed the free exchange of water, all the while hindering the sharks from making their escape. There was always much to repair, to correct or improve.
Since Doc Corner funded his studies by selling the leather of his less interesting specimens, the average shark´s life wasn´t especially long, but perhaps more fullfilling than that of the humanbodied sharks, who followed the spanish treasure fleets in the hope of catching a few stragglers.
Captain Clark was one of those human „sharks“ called pirates and he was a reguar customer of the doctor´s, willing and able to pay handsomely for the fine leather and the medicine “Doc Threesee” provided. The englishman Clark called the sea his true home, the body of water from which the doctor had severed and encircled a small part for his fishes. Of course he would never bear such treatment – be it imprisonment or living in an illusion. Or so the captain thought…
Clark was taking a stroll along the coast that led him almost by coincidence to Doc Threesee´s residence. The house was nestled between the cliffs outside the town walls. An old indio kept it in one piece while the doctor was in town, where he ran his chemist shop. By the gouvernor´s decree the doctor was not only tolerated in St. Kitts, but had only recently made a proper citizen with all due rights and duties. Nevertheless his dangerous, probably blasphemical, experiments Doc Threesee was to conduct outside town – true to the biblical words about the wizards and fortunetellers forbidden to enter the New Jerusalem.
Captain Clark was rather fond of the Doctor´s residence. He loved to balance over the planks bridging the several individually roofed rooms that made up the whole structure. One of those narrow bridges had lost it´s railing during the last storm. It was the one leading to the shark ring. Clark tiptoed over the wet wooden plank with long practiced ease. He was of slender build, this two-legged sharkling, but even moreso posessed of a grace that came with years upon years of experience as a seaman.
Reaching the bassin, Clark raised his head. The captain beheld the saint statue that rose from a central island around which the shark ring revolved. Which saint exactly was protrayed in the statue Clark had no clue. Nevertheless he made the sign of the cross, not in the halfhearted manner usually employed by land dwelling people, but in the way of a seaman knowing his life to be in the hand of the good lord on every journey.
The man sat down on the bassin´s rim, lowering his feet into the shark-infested water. A few seconds later a net holding several bottles of good beer followed.
Perhaps the sound of the bottles clanging against each other lured Threesee´s servant, Manuel, to the spot even more than the arrival.
“Ah, Mister Clark”, the indio greeted his master´s friend. “Master is fishing.”
“I thought he was working in town at this time of day”, Clark replied without even looking at the servant. “But it´s all the same to me. Threesee isn´t here and that allows me to enjoy all of this on my own.”
Cracking a smile the indio hustled towards Clark. “And then I came along”, he said. “And spoiled the fun of being all alone for you. Tell you what: Even you do not like being lonely. You keep people at a distance, but close enough to see them and revel in how far removed they are from you…”
What was it with the natives, Clark wondered, that they always seemed to get the annoyingly wisest lines in the sceneplay of life? His best friend, a carib indian taken for Clark´s slave by most of his crew even though they should haven known better by now, displayed this quirk, too. But unlike Jarundo, Manuel had never ritually eaten a christian missionary. He should behave like a normal person, the captain thought!
Cölark fetched two of the beer bottles from the water, offering the old indio one.
“Here! Cooled down only so slightly, but serviceable.“
Manuel shook his head, not to decline the offer, but at the englishman´s demeanor. In a world where everybody considered the tap between himself and a barrel´s contents an utter nuisance, Clark drank from fancy bottles…
“Snob!” Manuel scorned the captain. Clark gave no reply, implying he had either overheard the comment or decided to take it as a compliment.
Manuel sat down next to the visitor now.
“So you returned to St. Kitts to flapp your Aquila´s wings once again?” he inquired. “Still biggest fish in pool? Be full of care, Captain Clark!”
“Why? My enemies are busyly fighting each other. When I set out again it will feel pretty much like a health trip into the mountainside! The perfect opportunity to train new blood.”
“That´s not what I meant.”
“So? What should I be afraid of in your opinion? Getting ripped apart by sharks? Threesee´s pets don´t bite as long as they scent no blood. I could take a bloody – pardon the pun, a perfectly un-bloody, of course – bath right now and climb out again unscathed! Only my respect for your master keeps me from doing so.”
Manuel started gesticulating. Laboring to get his point across in a foreign language, Manuel spoke exitedly and fast, but with long pauses in between. “That´s not the point, either”, he explained. “I have seen it before… When fish gets too large for bassin! Fish is a-struggling, going all wild. And then – one careless twist and – puff! – fish hits dry ground. Dies there, horribly.”
“This can happen to a fish only”, Clark said. “An animal doesn´t know the world around it.”
“So says you…”
The old man looked Clark right into his blue-grey eyes.
“How quickly can you learn to breath air, sharkling?”
The “sharkling” jumped to his feet. He had earned the name “Clark the Shark” early into his career. Nowadays he didn´t need the title anymore. Sharks would compare themselves to Clark, to stress how tough and successfull they were, not the other way around!
“Stopp it right now, Manuel!” Clark yelled. “I do not need water! I don´t even need air! I´m not a shark, but an eagle. Jarundo says, the air becomes thin up where I´m flying! And I´m still here alive and kicking!”
“An eagle, soso. Speaking of which… when does the Aquila leave port?”
The englishman stretched his body. He drew in the salty air, stiffling a yawn. Truth be told, Clark wasn´t looking forward much to the upcoming raids. They served no other purpose than yielding him the funds to finally set in motion a larger plan he was working on for some time now.
“Soon as Threesee has fitted on my new shark leather boots”, Clark gave Manueal his answer. He paused, as if he had to overthink his next words. “And I hope for your master, that this pair has breathed fresh air a good while already! The last one stank of tanning fluid that much, that I was under the impression of harbouring a spaniard under my bed for weeks!”