The Mysterious Facts of Hugo Rammstein
1786 A. D. France
I was always fascinated by the ability of the human brain to produce atrocious stories; simple yet horrendous explanations gestured by one’s own mind and noted down on a paper by words moulded into phrases and sentences, leaving the reader aghast and paranoid. Out of these horror stories which I seldom had the opportunity of reading were the ones purely based upon human experiences, incidents that happened with the possibility of any interference of God and his tricks – the ones people blindly accepted and considered as some ‘divine’ intervention, while some provided the reference of scientific aspects so as to support the theory leading to the rise of various questioning looks upon the faces of those deprived of modern knowledge. But then I met a man who concentrated both the myth and the obvious into one hypnotic story and further had the courage to call it his human experience. He sat in front of a table with no candle to produce any shade of light on his dark face and was completely doped by the opium smoke his pipe had produced. Intoxication of drugs can either surpass one’s mental consciousness into a state of transcendence; a few believe in achieving the same as nirvana, or can trap one into an abyss of lifelong addiction leading to the deterioration of physical flesh and bones.
I called for my own drug and sat where the light of the bright afternoon sun barely touched my skin. The terrible and dingy appearance of the house where I went, whose roof was punctured and had grown so old that any moment would it fall upon its dwellers and end their poor lives surprised me no more than the people infecting the house themselves. Sitting upon a chair, the only chair away from the sunlight and, fortunately, closer to the man who was wearing a French hat, I prepared myself for my usual notion of comatose. Able to keep my hearing sense to my own, I heard a deep sigh from the man next to me which turned into a soft whimper. My eyes saw what they had expected to see – dim presence of a body in front of me, unclear and foggy, and hands that were blur upon which rested the head with that silly French hat. I sat there without resisting the drug and to my surprise did not notice when a conversation between the man and I was struck. Bits of dialogues I heard about the man and his regrets. “… memories trapped inside my mind … the stars in the sky falling… lost my soul to the sea…” The man left his hat on the table and leaned forward as if a word of secret was what he wanted to speak. “The beast of Nord See.”
Sensing my dire interest, for how he sensed it was a mystery I failed to solve; another mystery was my sense of hearing which captured almost every word the man spoke to me, he continued, “I once was a merchant, though now I am not, and had a trade in Germany. I sought this occupation not by my own will but had rather inherited it through my father. My name is Hugo Rammstein and before I claimed my prosperity in trading, I was a naturalist. Back in the days, when I was in my middle ages, no more than eight and twenty, my dire interest had always remained in the evolutionary study of species. A day came baring a letter from my colleague, a French naturalist, who claimed to have heard about the existence of a fossilized mammoth in the High Lands of Scotland. Of how he had received the news was of my no concern, just the approach of this news had made my body tingle with excitement and hence I interrogated him no further. This idea of exploration and voyage was considered quite absurd by my family and they had no intentions of letting me step into the foreign soil. But my ambitions forced them to reconsider. After much irks from my father, who finally surrendered to my wishes, I, along with my French colleague, Lois de Lamarck, prepared to set sail for Aberdeen. It happened that my French companion had made all the required arrangements and the ship we boarded had a Viking captain, with all muscle and quite a tinge of brain. A week went and we saw no atmospheric disturbance in the voyage. So I had sensed.
“One evening, a word came from the captain begging to come visit him above the deck. I rushed through the corridors fearing for any ill calamity, and searched for any once I reached the deck. The captain smiled and asked me to look over the western horizon. Under the merry atmosphere of a steady breeze, I witnessed a fine dusk with a beautiful orange hue. There was nothing for miles, save the dark shade of the sea that calmed us with its soft lashing waves under the hull of the ship.
“‘Look!’ exclaimed my companion pointing towards the setting sun. Yes, indeed it was an enchanting scene. But not as enchanting as the three bright dots that appeared above the drowning sun, shining like stars as bright as my eyes could ever glimpse upon. ‘We now sleep under the sheet of stars.’ Said one of the sailors. ‘But do the stars burn as bright as the ones in front of us?’ Lois asked. The sailor, not much of a learned man, shrugged his shoulders and walked away. ‘And do stars have tails?’ I asked, ignoring the sailor and directing my gaze towards the captain. Sensing my concern he took out his glass and stared through it at the three burning stars. ‘They move, as if they have a soul of their own.’ Murmured the captain, ‘But they are far away. We shall not be bothered by them. Wind ho! Hoist the sails.’ The last couple sentences were directed towards the sailors. Night arrived over our heads and it gave me a tickling itch in my stomach. I blamed the food for it; no doubt it gave one of the sailors a vomit. The sea was calm and the wind steady, though the image of the three bright stars took most of my attention. I took the bed in my arms and started to read a book based upon a comparison between a petrified and an ordinary wood, learning how to analyse years of difference between the modern and the ancient. It was dawn of the next day when the bells rang and the men shook their sleep.
“From the fog came a rising shadow of a vessel. It drifted with no sails on the mast. Had I not been distracted too much by the sight of the nearing ship, I would have been mesmerized by the early morning beauty that engulfed around us – the cool wind that shook the laces of my shirt and the calm water of the sea hiding behind soft clouds of mist. From the glass our captain looked and explained the details of what he saw. He stood his ground but a moment later, to my utter disbelief, fell on the floor with shock, and began to cry. The scene of utter depression showed by the captain himself, a man who people claimed was never troubled by pirate ships and its treacherous inhabitants, made me dumbstruck. So what made him cry like a babe, I asked myself? I forced the glass from his hands and took a look myself to understand the sudden change in the captain’s emotions. I saw the ship gently whisking the mist out of its path, a shiny gold figurehead of a ram with twisted horns perched below the bowsprit, the colour of the hull glistened with black; as if Satan himself had taken the efforts to cast the paint upon the ship, the mast had no sails, rather it had shreds of cloth tied here and there, perhaps torn by the heavy weather, I thought. On top of the main mast, high above where it nearly touched the sky, I saw a black flag.
“‘Not the kind of captain I had heard of.’ I said not looking at him, trying to coax him to answer for his absurd reaction that almost disintegrated the wits of the sailors. He sprung up suddenly and his hard face, moist with tears and sweat running down the wrinkled cuts and scars, made me stupendously hypnotized. ‘Do you think I am intimidated by a pirate ship?’ he spoke with deep breaths, as if frustrated with every word he spoke, ‘I had heard stories. But I never claimed them to be true.’ He said and walked towards the navigator, all the way repeating the words of retreat. ‘What is the meaning of this?’ yelled my companion as he followed the captain, ‘They are pirates. Mortal humans. We can kill them all. Hey! Do not show your back to me when I speak.’ The captain faced him and said, ‘Do not yell at me, boy. There are no pirates on that ship.’ To this Lois argued as to what, other than thieves, would bother the captain so much to make him mad. ‘Look at the hull.’ The captain yelled, ‘Do you not see the color? That is not paint.’
“As he talked the ghost ship floated towards us and we saw the side of the ship smeared with black oil which looked fresh. With the proximity of time, the ship began to sink in the sea water, revealing the misshapen floor of the deck. Nothing else in my life seemed to be as deserted as the ship I had witnessed. The ship demonstrated us as to what it looked like when attacked by something else, something much more enormous than itself. The foremast was smashed and splinters of wood piled on the main deck, it seemed that the ship gave away no survivors; the cockboats were tumbled around the floor. When it floated away from us, a loud gasp of shock passed through our mouths. The posterior portion of the ship, along with the stern and the rudder were gone and water seeped inside through the large opening, as if something chewed upon it and spat it in the water. That was the moment I learnt why men of courage and determination waned into madness when something beyond their imagination dawned upon their face. So much for the darned pirates.
“‘What do we do?’ I heard Lois. Nothing but the heavy breathing of the captain and the high waves that shook the ship was heard. ‘We return,’ he paused before continuing, ‘and pray that it does not catch us.’
“Too much, I thought as I stumbled around the deck for every step I took. Too much of wind; it swayed the ship which made creaking noises at various joints. Morning winds are just like that, I convinced myself. I looked up in the sky to relieve myself from the pressure I had acquired but my eyes glanced over the three bright stars, whose positions were now deflected from their early sighting. The sky being blue and cloudless as it could have been, they occurred nearer than during the night. Behind each star was a white trail of light that flickered with time. A wave appeared and slapped our ship, forcing it to sway wildly as it sailed. I ducked down and cleared away from the rails but another wave hit the ship, this time making me trip and fall on the floor. Since the dawn of mankind, humans have found evolution quite an interesting subject to ponder upon. From birds to trees, and animals to reptiles, man has slogged to classify these species into a chain, meeting the qualities and qualification of each species. But yet, there are some anomalous species that wander the earth without leaving a trace of their existence. And I had the opportunity to witness one such species. The unclassified beast of Nord See.
“It came like a silent assassin with squinting eyes directed towards our ship. With the hush of the sea it erupted from the water and seized our vessel in its hard calciferous claws, giving us no attempt to escape. When I washed out the curtain of water that splashed over my face, I saw its face and it was unlike any other amphibian I had ever seen. Its head resembled much like a lizard, though huge and monstrous. My study in palaeontology, however vivid and known, did not allow me to identify the creature. The scales manifested an exuberant deep blue colour with green shades along its gills, yet it appeared as vile and hideous as a monster when it pranced over our ship. It was the eyes that did not let me escape from its clutches. When it looked at me I felt as if my body was strapped with an invisible force that did not allow me to recuperate quickly. They seemed as if some demonic souls swam inside those spheres. Deep yellow with streams of red that showed no repentance and those long pupils that slashed the irises into half carved inside me a draft of fright so horrible that, till date, not a moment goes when I close my eyes and in front of me sits the beast with those spheres that haunts me to death.
“Guns and swords did no good as it only scratched the surface of its skin. From there I learnt that the blood of the creature was not red but black, just like the oil we had seen smeared on the ship. The claws got hold of two of the sailors and the beast did not take a flicker of a moment to rip them apart in two. The claws worked its way towards the main mast and clamped the log of hard wood with an impressive craft. The creature caught the ship in its monstrous mouth, piercing sharp nooks of teeth into the wood and tore down the entire vessel. The men swam away from the creature taking as much distance in one stroke. At that moment, I achieved something far clever; perhaps foolish, but effective than the others but was unfortunate to share my improvisation with them. Under the bed of water and through the submerged chambers of the ship, I swam until I somehow reached the back of the creature. But there, even after the years of study on reptiles, I forgot about the tail that whipped the water to foam. I dived out to seek air for my lungs and it struck me unknowingly, causing me to float unconsciously.
“Perhaps it was the divine plan that kept me alive, or perhaps the creature was done with the day’s tormenting. Or perhaps it was just a moment given to me before the final act. I regained my consciousness to the setting sun and noticed that I had drifted away from the others. At that moment neither grief nor anger poured within me, I was to live and survive and so had to maintain peace. Curious is the mind of a naturalist as I still noticed the stars above me, now bright and dreadful, with streaks of fire flowing behind them, and was finally able to guess them right. They were moving in a certain inclination, only a few hundred miles apart from me. I swam with great effort and noticed the waves becoming more mischievous than ever. I believe what I felt at that moment finally made me understand humans a little bit more. Animals die, they are meant to. Death arrives in various forms and species other than humans may find it sudden and enigmatic. Only a human, when forced under condition such as mine, knows that death is not sudden, but amiable. The smile I found during my last moments floating above the water was the best representation on my life in this mortal world. I laughed staring at the sky unaware of the tragedy. The waves began to tremble around me and I was pulled down inside the sea by a huge force.
“Though I consider my journey as one of the most horrifying of all, the naturalist inside me cheers every time I recall these moments. In the history of mankind no one has witnessed the treasure I had found inside the sea, and was irritated for not having a proper diving bell to explore much deeper inside the sea. As my leg was strapped with a coral weed that was dragged by the beast, I came across a scene that took my breath away, not that I had much. Tall floating trees submerged inside the sea. Green lush, not only by the algae forming around the barks, but actual aquatic leaves grew upon the trees that were rooted deep inside the sea. Fishes swam in schools and avoided the presence of the creature. The beast toured me through the magnificent appearance of the green blotted with the blue singing in perfect harmony which suffused the pain I received.
“The creature finally neared me and in one smack it tore my leg apart, spraying streaks of red blood with the two bands of colours present. But I was not bothered. Like a mad lover, I had found the divine romance that none other had the opportunity to witness. With that I yearned for air and frantically swam up, equally saddened to leave the scenic presence of an underground forest untouched by humans. The surface of the water was far away from where I began to feel unconscious, but the desire of a naturalist to publish a paper about what I had witnessed made me determined. I clenched my breath once I reached the surface, afraid to die again. Not satisfied with the meat my leg provided the monster hovered above the surface of the water a couple of miles away retracting towards me. I swam with one leg and felt a strong wave of heat engulf around me. The three comets the size of cannon balls had hit the surface of the water at various distances. The fire and water steamed up releasing dark black oil onto the surface, the same sort of oil I saw on the ghost ship.”
A very contemplative story, I thought, and the less I believed it to be true. Nevertheless, I smiled and congratulated him for his survival. He said he survived because of the flying comets. Had they not been there, the British fleet would not have sailed the Nord See. Only the dire reason to speculate and learn more about these falling stars led them towards the survivor. The adventure kept swirling in my mind as I tried to accept this story as a fact. But then the old man turned aside that allowed me to glimpse upon his legs. I lost the strong power of opium that had affected me when I saw only one.
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