Preview of THE TERROR-
Lat. 70°-05' N., Long. 98°-23' W.
Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack
by celestial ghosts. Above him – above Terror -- shimmering
folds of light lunge but then quickly withdraw like the colourful
arms of aggresssive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic
skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to
grasp, and pull back.
The temperature is –50 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping
fast. Because of the fog that came through earlier during
the single hour of weak twilight now passing for their day,
the foreshortened masts – the three topmasts, topgallants,
upper rigging, and highest spars have been removed and stored
to cut down on the danger of falling ice and to reduce the
chances of the ship capsizing due to the weight of ice on
them – stand now like ice-sheathed, rudely pruned and
topless trees reflecting the aurora that dances from one dimly
seen horizon to the other. As Crozier watches, the jagged
icefields around the ship turn blue, then bleed violet, then
glow as green as his childhood hills in northern Ireland.
Almost a mile off the starboard bow, the gigantic floating
ice mountain that hides their sister ship Erebus from view
seems for a brief, false moment to radiate colour from within,
glowing from its own cold, internal fires.
Pulling up his collar and tilting his head back out of forty
years’ habit of checking the status of masts and rigging,
Crozier notices that the stars overhead burn cold and steady
but those near the horizon not only flicker but shift when
stared at, moving in short spurts to the left, then to the
right, then jiggling up and down. Crozier has seen this before
– in the far South with Ross as well as in these waters
on earlier expeditions -- and a scientist on that south polar
trip, a man who spent the first winter in the ice there grinding
and polishing lenses for his own telescope, had told Crozier
that the pertubation of the stars was probably due to rapidly
shifting refraction in the cold air lying heavy but uneasy
over the ice-covered seas and unseen frozen land masses. In
other words, over new continents never before seen by the
eyes of man. Or at least, Crozier thinks, in this northern
arctic, by the eyes of white men.
Crozier and his friend and then-commander James Ross had
found just such a previously unDiscovered continent –
Antarctica – less than five years earlier. They’d
named the sea, inlets, and landmass after Ross. They’d
named mountains after their sponsors and friends. They named
the two volcanoes they could see on the horizon after their
two ships – these same two ships – calling the
smoking mountains Erebus and Terror. Crozier was surprised
they hadn’t named some major piece of geography after
the ship’s cat.
They’d named nothing after him. There is, on this October
winter’s dark-day evening in 1847, no arctic or antarctic
continent, island, bay, inlet, range of mountains, ice shelf,
volcano, or fucking floeberg which bears the name of Francis
Rawdon Moira Crozier.
Crozier doesn’t give the slightest God-damn about
this. Even as he thinks this, he realizes that he’s
a little bit drunk. Well, he thinks, automatically adjusting
his balance to the icy deck now canted twelve degrees to starboard
and down eight degrees by the bow, I’ve been drunk more
often than not now for three years, haven’t I? I’m
still a better sailor and captain drunk than that poor, unlucky
bastard Franklin ever was sober. Or his rosy-cheeked lisping
pet poodle Fitzjames, for that matter.
Drunk ever since Sophia had . . . .
Crozier shakes his head and walks down the icy deck forward
to the bow and toward the only man on watch he can make out
in the flickering light from the aurora.