The Captain doesn’t show any signs of softening up. He ordered us all to move into one of the ships and turned the others to flames. He himself set them alight. And, since he was further away, the Captain swam to the Manhattan set it on fire and crashed it against the Cobain turning the two vessels in a huge hellish burst of fire.
Day 1 – Big mouth striking
We finally sighted land, in the distance, following days and days adrift in these oppressive seas. It is dry land, and grand. A tip of darkness that covers the movable horizon of waves from side to side, ripping ground on the wet eye drenched in water. The Lord be praised that I decided to tell the events on board this rotten vessel with the sails torn in the wind. The Captain was in a rage during the whole voyage. By command of the Lord, in terror of him and clinging to the idea that I wouldn’t last another day, I thought it would be miserable not leave any testimony. Poor of us who have so much to tell but can’t line two words together. Tomás Varela is more gifted in his imagination than I am, but divine injustice didn’t provide him with the knowledge of calligraphy. So, I shall take the burden of writing upon myself.
Yesterday, the Captain had two men thrown overboard just to set an example. To show how mean he can be. He claimed they were giving themselves to thought and creating a bad atmosphere by having ideas. They talked too much, the two moors that had joined the company near the Gormiz Straits, on the far walls of Africa. All the men sheepishly accepted that tenacious and vindictive shown of strength. A fascist despot. The men refer to him as The Kid. “The Kid woke up in a dark mood”. “The Kid will eat you alive”. “The Kid knows you’ve been cheating on him”. “Today we will do the Kid in”.
The Kid is the most bloodthirsty demon on both sides of the Mallaca passage. I’m old enough to be his father, but I’m not, because if I was I’d take my own life after taking his. Mastered by shame. The Captain is Spanish, his name is Fernando Cortez and he’s nineteen years old.
Day 2 – Lost in the sea of the Chins, a day of August 1514
The land moved closer. The Captain doesn’t show any signs of softening up. I’d only ask some soberness from his part. He ordered us all to move into one of the ships and turn the others to flames. He himself set them alight. And, since he was further away, the Captain swam to the Manhattan set it on fire and crashed it against the Cobain turning the two vessels in a huge hellish burst of flame. He didn’t even wait for the men sleeping over their previous night of wine to get up from their cots. We saw Penedo with his arse on fire go plunging into a sea angry with its own scalding temperature. Huddled inside the Ballantines we saw all that misery sink drowning with cries for mercy. The Captain, clever as a fox, climbed the main mast and howling like a man who doesn’t have the full command of his voice said that this was to make sure no one would even dream about deserting, about leaving, about packing and vanishing. This is not a place for mammy’s boys he growled from aloft. On deck, silently, the men mumbled that the Kid’s day had come.
When the land turned into woods, at the edge of the sea a river seemed to open up where legend had it pearls in infinite quantity could be found. All of a sudden, the men ventured into the mass of tiny spheres but they where nothing but foam. A sea of hallucinations. Amidst the disorder, Piçarro was gone with a piece of wood embedded in his forehead. Long peace to his soul.
As the night fell quickly we decided to anchor in the curve of the bay that distractedly, slowly we’d happened upon. We slept standing. Dozens of men with reptile features, others with blunt animal faces, and the ten horses offered by the kingdom of Queda who didn’t stop kicking for finding themselves in such tight quarters. These dogs prayed the rosary till the gloom of sleep milked their souls.
Day 3 – the day after the day before, which is long gone
As soon as dawn broke in all its glory, we noticed a great deal of movement on the beach to port side. The Captain gave orders for the ship, a crude cross of a brave junk and a Venezuelan galleon, to hoist sails and head full speed into the crowd, which upon spotting us begun painting themselves for the welcoming. We landed upon two savages who, in a strange cawing, were trying to make sense of the sight before them. The horses immediately started to stir and jump with such power that the bow of the ship plunged into the soft sands. The Ballantines came to a violent stop and the men still all locked into each other started to fill their muskets with lead and the gunpowder they could muster from the bottom of their pants. In his impeccable suit of armour, the Captain stood straight ridding an impressive horse, and shouting madly, and fearlessly fell upon the unknown shore galloping the full wideness of the beach.
Sailors turned soldiers, a band that I hastily joined, ran into the jungle of people who didn’t budge astonished as they were with those bearded devils. Since they had seen us they’d somehow had found time to dress up in their best. Fearless, in rags, we grouped before them holding fast to our weapons waiting for the Captain’s orders. They seemed so harmless in their colourful silks. Their eyes were slanted and their yellowish skins showed signs of tiny melanomas, and the wrinkles of fisher-folk. Pearl fishermen, I dreamed. We’d seen those faces everywhere on our journey even back at the kingdom. They were called the Chin and were said to be in this world well before us.
Far, inside huts, feminine looks came to the windows. Perhaps excited by his own elegance, the Captain paced back and forth. He swaggered among the kids looking askance at that whole indifference.
As no orders came some one shot a few words. It was Camolém Sigar, a brave Andalucian boy who in gestures of good will did his best to ask if it wasn’t time yet to get some sustenance. He used the word ‘nosh’ as he half stuck a hand in his mouth in a prolonged ritual certainly imported from his village. He was starving. Spotting the despair from afar, the Captain joined the supposed dialogue, and climbing down from his horse he hit poor Camolém with his head stretching him on the ground. Then he inquired about the name of the land and about its inhabitants. He wanted to know where the riches to pillage were. Finally he wanted to know how come he still wasn’t in the presence and company of the most beautiful female in the village. This he tried to explain to the man of tongues and the man of tongues turned himself to sounds and whispers that I had never heard. Of a sudden, the Kid ordered the Cross of Our Lord to be erected on that forsaken land.
Then someone from the crowd crossed over to us. It was a girl who, getting herself naked, displayed a cross hanging from her neck. That show got the Captain into ecstasy and he fell to his knees before the blessed woman. In these skirtless matters the sanguinary beast always becomes an easy prey. The men felt ashamed upon seeing him like that and started to disband. Amidst great confusion gaggles of women began showing their crosses to the sailors who, without exception, jumped gleefully at the sight of the divine work. That apparently it had already penetrated there.
Day 6 – lost in the jungle
We cannot recall such a feast since we left our beloved kingdom. I believe, if I’m right, that one hundred and eighty three days went by since His Lordship ordered us to sail away from the beautiful vistas of our capital, Lisbon. In these last days no one slept on this land. The Captain’s face is swollen. He spent the night frolicking with poisonous snakes. He claims to be the new emperor and demands, left and right, to be taken to the capital to establish his Empire. Little does he know that paradise is coming to an end.
Day 10 – Torrential rain
The fishermen took out to sea two days ago with all the boats, including half the pantry from our Ballantines. We were left without supplies. No one knows where the Captain his. The feminine faces are gone. We were told they belong to a people who came from far away a long time ago. Loaded with swords and fire muskets they robbed the land and planted their seed here. They say the place is called Magao and that there is no way out of here. Nor by land neither by sea. Only flying. As I haven’t grown feathers on my arms yet I think this was just a delightful dream that is almost coming to an end. Like a heaven that opens up and another that closes down – one plentiful and the other scarce. From the distance I see the Kid’s horse galloping alone. My salvation is here.