THE RED PILL - a novel ( Chapter One )
THE RED PILL.
I have been the captain on many a ship and ferry, and I have enjoyed it nearly always. But it was not so when my shipping company had me take on “Sunland” on a cargo trip to Java. The ship was all painted black. Not just the hull but all the buildings on deck too, as well as the masts. She was not particularly significant, about 11000 deadweight tons, as far as I remember.
On this trip I brought my wife, Gwendoline with me, because she has always wanted to experience the Indian Ocean. She said she would be so kind to me if I took her with me, and she would not present any problem of any sort. It was in September, and “Sunland” had in the afternoon just haply gotten underway from Amsterdam, varying lots of wheat, a couple of cars and some horses, when I felt it was something strange with the ship. Or me.
For a change this ship also carried a few passengers: three painters and one man, who claimed he was a banker. Initially I had told them that they would have to reside by themselves, since I was busy with taking command of a ship that was completely new to me. The painters were Mr and Mrs. Williamsen and a very small, slender boy, named Paul Contour.
I was standing in the night on poop deck – only hours after we departed from the Hafen, watching the many-colored clouds in the sky as well as the lights of the small cities ashore gliding by as we sailed southwards towards the English Channel. I had earlier been introduced to my crew, which I found to be of the average kind, but sufficiently good, and I had learned the names and faces of my three officers: Sully, Petersen, and Ruiz. The 1st officer, Midas Sully, was a strange character. Midas was a tall guy, fifteen years my senior; grey hair, whiskers, and light grey eyes. He spoke in a hollow voice. He said he had seen my credentials and said that he also had attended Colombia College.
Ruiz, a fellow from Paraguay, stood at the steering wheel, and I had put out a whole bunch of men on the lookout. These waters by the Belgian coast are highly trafficked by everything from fishing vessels to tankers. I wanted at least to come through the Channel before I went to bed that night.
Petersen and Sully stood aloft in the back talking, as well as puffing cigars.
I ransacked my memory. I thought I had met Sully on some occasions. But I did not know where or when. He was significantly older than me, so I don´t think we had been in the same classes in high school or at the same parties. I often let my thoughts go back to my year at Colombia College, because it had only been one year, due to a catastrophy regarding my family.
Midship one of the sailors shouted out that one of the horses had become sick. Some horses were located right on deck in large boxes, and in one of the boxes one of those black beautiful creatures was lying down on the floor. If you know about horses, you know that they very rarely prefer to lie down. If a horse is on the ground, it is either sick or dead.
When I got aboard I had laid out the course on our main chart and put up our destinations into our log book. I had told our telegraph operator, Trevor Swanson to cable to our destinations. Later this day I could not find my chart. I summoned everybody to my quarters: Sully, Ruiz, Neville ( the 3rd officer ) the chief Engenier Mr. Griffin as well as the Chief Cook, Schoenberg, and Mr. Weichsel, an unusually handsome man with a big torso and a big black moustasche, who was a clerk representing the company, as well as my wife Gwen, and I told them that I could not find the chart, the map, on which I had laid out the course to Durban. Nobody had the lightest clue where to find the map. So I had to draw up the route again, making another chart. Just hours into this journey, this bode no good.
After dinner, which was a steak we all ate under silent conditions, I withdrew with my wife to the captains departments, which was a small suite consisting of three rooms on the starboard side of the black ship.
“Well, we are at least on our way,” Gwen told me. She had let out her red hair over her white dress and she smiled, and her freckled shone in the light from the small roof lamps.
“Sure,” I said. “It will be a gas.”
Before me and my wife went to bed I took a stroll on the deck again and met with the three painters, who all of them highly was taken aback with the sight of the Nord Sea. They flung bits of bread towards the seagulls, but the birds just looked perplex.
In the corner of my eye I caught a glimp,se of Sully, however, and I thought I could discover a wry smile on his lips.