i am lost, lost, by the storm clouds am tossed
it was a long and a strong and a sweet year indeed to get lost in
(no one to hear me when i cry, no one to hold me when i sigh
no one to watch me when i die-- how will i live again?)
--"explorer," incredible string band
There was thunder brooding in the distance when he launched the Blackjack.
She might have told him not to, teasing and stern, with her hand twirling in his ponytail for emphasis. Or maybe he might have told her not to, holding her by one slim shoulder and admonishing her to cool her heels, let it be.
There was no one now to stop him as he flung himself into the sky.
Fastidious elegant man, he found himself cutting his own ropes in his impatience, hands too unsteady to work loose the well-tied knots. Even at the ground the air was electric with the coming storm; as he gained altitude his breath came hard and his hair whipped in his eyes.
Battered by the winds, the Blackjack struggled and lurched, her engine insufficient to hold her reckless course through that darkening sky. The man and his ship were soon blown far beyond Kohlingen, out over the restless ocean.
He might have killed a man, if there had been a man at fault. He might even have killed two.
But there was no one to blame but the sky.
Only the high vengeful vault of heaven, full of storm and derision, lightning-edged laughter in the coming rain.
And rain it did, lashing his face and his hands as he steered, cold and clear and sharp, as when a lover's touch intends to wound. Wet to the skin, his clothes and his hair clinging to him, he set his ship for the very heart of the thunderstorm.
The salt sting of the sea caught at his throat, that faraway cold smell. And he told himself, I have no chance of riding out this storm. The odds are far too long; I have lost count. With no thought for survival, he held fast to his ship only that they might go down together.
And so he saw with startling clarity as the Blackjack began to crumple, cowed by the sheer force of the storm-- bowsprit crashing into the wide bay-window of his cabin. (How she liked to sit there in the evenings, with the twilight luminous at her back, playing cards with him. How she'd teased him, just that once, that oughtn't he have curtains, for his private cabin window?)
Unable even to wince, he watched the scattering glass blow by him-- merely brighter shards of pain in the driving downpour, a hundred slicing wounds. He might have flung up a hand to save his face, but that his hands were clutched so tightly to the wheel.
(In the heady smoke of the tavern in Kohlingen, with his untouched fifth at his elbow, he'd been dealing himself a hand of solitaire: Jidoor-style with Zozo rules.
Stacking the odds as far against himself as he could manage.
Edgy where he should have been calm, coming storm singing impatience in his veins, he couldn't find himself surprised that the wind outside was picking up, that the sky was growing dark. The world seemed eager to match the tempest in his head.
Losing rather badly, he pulled a final card.
The king... of hearts.
The suicide king.
He spilled his drink on his way out the door.)