3. A New Life
The adventures of William Lambie. A Phileas Fogg origin story.
William panicked. He did not want to be spotted but equally knew he was in danger if he got found too far out to sea he resolved to try and get a view of the deck so he could find the right moment to make a dash for the side and try to swim to shore.
Carefully he shuffled up onto his knees and peered over the ropes. There were three men at the fore end of the boat looking out to sea, he was far closer to the side than they were to him and from his position he could still see the houses along the seafront. This was his chance. He tightened his muscles, took a deep breath and shot towards the side. He was about two steps from safety when felt a jolt in his left side and he tumbled into a heap less than a yard from where he had seen his one opportunity to survive.
William lay dazed on the floor. He looked towards where the jolt had come from and saw towering over him a huge bearded man laughing.
“What have we here? It seems we have gotten ourselves a stowaway boys” he boomed across the deck laughing.
“Anyone recognise him?”
William was relieved to hear a resounding no.
“Well we can’t afford any extra guts on this ship so I’m afraid you’re going to have to swim.”
The man picked William up by the front of his shift and hoisted him over his shoulder.
Even though he had planned to make a swim for the shore, now it wasn’t his choice he was fearful and began begging the man to stop. By the time he could feel the spray of the sea on his face William had all but given up and was preparing himself for the difficult swim to the shore.
“Mind you, we are down a man now the bastards shot Tam. Perhaps if this is the life you want we may have a vacancy. What’s your name lad?”
William hit the deck with a thud. He was startled, but aware enough to realise he shouldn’t use his own name. He rattled through every possible name and realised it would have to be close enough to his own that he wouldn’t be caught out by not responding. Then it hit him.
“Phillip, Phil yes.” He spluttered.
“Boys, we have a new mate here. This is Phileas and we are going to make a seaman and smuggler out of him.
After a few hours he began to wish he had taken the option to swim. After scrubbing the blood and shattered flesh covered bone from the deck he was given the job of washing the ropes. He wasn’t certain this was a real job, it was hard, cut his hands and seemed utterly pointless. The sniggers of the crew as they passed him seemed to support his view.
By the time the boat was pulling towards a quiet cove the sun was coming up. William had no idea where he was, what time it was or if he was safe or not. All he knew was that he was shattered.
The bearded man came over to him.
“Time to sleep Phileas lad. I’ll have more jobs for you tomorrow.”
Tomorrow seemed to come about too quickly. As soon as he shut his eyes he was dragged to his feet by another large laughing sailor.
“Can you cook lad? You’ll need to learn yourself cooking.”
William followed every instruction he was given throughout the long hard day, and as dusk began to cut into the warm day the smugglers began making their way to the shore. The large bearded man, who William had established was their leader, and that his name was Cutter, grabbed him by the shoulder.
“You’re a good lad, I’m impressed by you. You can stay if it’s what you want. It’s not easy and there’s no free rides. But I like you. Mind you, we need someone to mind the ship while we go ashore and there’s too much that could lead a young lad like you astray. Any problems have these, they are both loaded. One for the troublemaker, one for the air.”
Cutter handed two pistols to him, scrubbed his head with his massive hands and jumped down onto the rickety jetty.
As the sky became darker William prowled round the deck of the ship. He was lonely, his heart broke every time he thought of his mother, he was filled with anger and hate towards the men who’d killed her and he was scared that they might find out who he was. But being on the ship, being part of the crew, maybe this was the life Phileas would lead, and perhaps he could be Phileas.