Taken from the bloodied journal of William Elbridge
It must be dawn; I can see no other reason for the sky suddenly alighting blood red. I waited, patiently for Captain Archdale to tell me that we would dock. I had not slept, in anticipation of our arrival for my mind a light with a million possibilities.
I had made acquaintances with the ships first mate Thomas Slattery, as I stood against the bow of the ship, smoking the very last of my tobacco, Thomas approached.
“I’ve never asked before, but what are you looking for here?” Thomas was no older than twenty; his scruffy maritime clothes and long unkempt hair all suggested he had spent the majority of his life, if not all of it, at sea. As much as I respected the poor boy, I did not feel that Captain Archdale, a characteristically superstitious seafarer, would welcome the nature of my pursuit.
“Well…I’m very interested in Armenian culture, and ancient architecture. I’m writing a book for the…British foreign office.” My tone was uneasy.
“Oh, I see.” The boy didn’t think twice. “Sounds like an interesting job, do you get paid much?”
“No, it is its own reward, I do it on my own merit.” I smiled.
“Explains your clothes, you don’t look like a fancy scholar.” The boy chuckled before returning to his duties.
Yes, incase you are wondering, I did take a slight offence to the boy’s comment, though I smiled and continued to stare at the Turkish coast ahead of me. Having never left London, I found the distant seas and unusual fish that we had dined upon, delightfully refreshing. I had waited far too long to behold the wonders of the planet, and yet, a shadow looming over me, I wonder finally to the world’s extraterritorial embrace. I held the moment dear, foreign lands for me to tread foot. The stringent calls of my father echoing about my skull you’re a fool son followed by that pious laugh that I despised so. Damn that man, his judgmental gaze and the blasted pipe that he’d puff into my face, I had beheld the creature’s image, with only the face of my father to hate, loath and destroy. I had wanted, all my life to live a life free from the demented wills of my family, their hateful presumptuous glows driving me to isolation, to darkness and despair, and now in the shade of an unspeakable monster I still embrace dear that my family augur a more violent end.
Awake, my mortal mind; return to the matter at hand, Armenia waits. Within the hour we had docked just west of Dörtyol, on Turkish sands.
“Mr. Elbridge, I welcome you to the most blasphemous land I have ever had the misfortune to set foot on.” Captain Archdale boasted, his lips cracked and dusted with salt.
“You’ve clearly not stayed in London long.” I chuckled.
“What are you talking about?” Archdale grunted. “This place is full of Islamic heathens and a false god!”
Holding my tongue, I nodded. Such an oafish mouth-breather, the charms of a distant land appear to be all but lost on dear Captain Archdale.
And so I beheld, the sights and sounds of Turkey, gracing the winding markets and busting streets I felt, as a child might, ecstatic; an excitable mess attempting to take in far more than one could. Though, as I gathered my possessions from the boat and bid the crew farewell, I was gravely reminded of the true purpose of my visit. Darkness was never far behind, never.
It took me exactly a week to arrive, by train, in Erzurum. By god, if such a heat were to kill a man, it would be me; the pouring of sweat and the singeing of skin had changed me. I now bare a thin sack shirt, and a cloth upon my brow, of which I blend in. Having not spoken the Turkish language, I now wander through these desert villages and cities with little more than vague hand gestures and the bags upon my back.
And so I sit, awaiting the next train to take me into the land I seek, the Armenian soil my mecca, my promised land, whereby I hope to find a glimmer of hope for the creature that has stalked me so relentlessly. The station is filled with prying eyes; they all ponder my intention; a white man, a pale while man, standing alone in an alien land, I too would be suspicious. In part my linguistic ignorance had graced me with the gift of silence, should one of the locals ask me my business in their native tongue, I would not be able to answer; just as well. My business would be marked as that of the devil, in any country or religion; I sought the heart of darkness in a land where the beast seemed to have emerged.
I am the savior of myself, nothing more; a selfish man. I would want to tell you that I sought the destruction of this monster to save those who have also felt the ominous fingers of that beast, but I cannot, I seek my own salvation, and though it pains me to say so; I would throw any life I could in my stead, so long as I befell, a freeman.
I present to you, the wonders of this desolate place, this plane of non-existence. Traversing such immeasurable breadth of the earth, put into perspective how small a man I really was; I had seen little more than the southern regions of England, and now I, a glorified fool, ramble across the desert in a steam locomotive. To which I saw very little of the Turkish city of Erzurum, and instead immediately boarded the train to Garni, this is where the desert exhibited its true supremacy; the power to withhold life from the very flora and fauna that God himself decreed. Such power, such appreciation, yet I wondered; why does the desert elect to destroy? What could the desert gain from draining the very water from everything that dare enter it? Perhaps it had been created with the desire to destroy? Perhaps the desert wishes it could bequeath the very Eden from which man was born, just to see the people smile? I doubted, to the point of certitude, that I would surely not discover the answer.
“No, how could such a fool decrypt the meaning of our existence?” Rebuke chuckled. “A man such as yourself deserves nothing more than a long drop with a short stop.”
“Won’t you keep your vile tongue at bay?” Unexpectedly I blurted this qualm audibly.
The few Turkish men that accompanied me in the carriage immediately gazed in my direction. Quickly I buried myself into my books and journals, dispelling their piercing gaze. Though, without my knowing, the gazing of a few exhausted Turks would be the least of my concerns.
An hour passed, the Turkish sun loomed over, the seemingly intensified rays of light caught the corners of my elbows coercing me to sit gauchely amid the carriage members who were, discernibly, used to such heat. Having exhausted my reading materials for the day I decided to stand and engage in a conversation. My momentary skims of the ranks did not convalesce my confidence, several of the passengers wielding curved blades and ornate pistols, swallowing hard and keeping my eyes down I proceeded to the next carriage. Ah, the variety of fearful men, adorned in typical desert apparel all harboring a distaste to the, still pale, white man that had dressed in little more than abraded cloths collected from the various tailors of London. I was an odd fit, as I had been all my life, this was not as frightening to me as one might seem, the true fear was in which of these weathered men would draw weapon and strike. Laugh as I may, the trepidation was of paramount significance, the angry stares pushing me further and further down the carriage, until, one man stared toward me, his smile and well pressed suit a affable sight for drowsy eyes.
“Excuse me sir, by chance do you speak English?” I chuckled nervously.
Removing his newspaper, the face of a white man, stared back at me.
“My dear boy, I do indeed.” The overtly British man chaffed. “Looking for a familiar face”
Smiling disconnectedly. “No, I’m on route to Garni, and I’m afraid that I do not speak any of the required languages.”
“Then you and I share a common witlessness.” Puffing the last of his pipe. “Have a seat, we’ve got a while yet.”
I sat with the slightly older gentleman, as he continued skimming through his old newspaper, noticing it, I chose to refrain from enquiring.
“What business, if you don’t mind my asking, brings you to this part of the world?”
“Business, my dear boy, is business.” His form was stern. “And that is all.”