Sebastiano Spada: Episode 2

The tale of a solitary priest in the valley of death.

Read Episode 1

-oOo-

It is a peculiarity of human nature that one cannot despair for too long, even – perhaps especially – in the worst of situations. Somehow, sleep came to me in my treetop nest and, with sleep, consolation. I awoke feeling resolute. I was alone, yes – hungry, parched and alone – but I was alive. I would eat and drink and relieve myself (perhaps not in that order) and then I would set out to find my comrades.

I unfolded myself from my sitting position, wincing as my stiff limbs complained, and carefully began to swing myself down through the branches, the spear between my teeth. And then I heard – o God! – a sickening sound. The sound of my nightmares. A low, rasping growl, and teeth – teeth tearing at flesh!

With trembling hands I parted the branches and looked down. Yes, there he was, at the base of the tree: the very creature who killed my friend Father Olivero. Or, if not him, then one of his brethren. A foul beast all over feathers, with rangy hind legs and a long tail. He had pinned down some poor woodland animal of the kind I had become accustomed to hunt myself and he was pulling the entrails from its belly.

I did not think. I took the spear, and I clambered down and dropped, feet first. I landed on the thing with a fair thud, and I believe I broke his neck, for beyond a vile hiss he could offer no resistance. I am ashamed of it now, but such was my rage that I went to work with the spear and did not stop until my arms ached and the creature had long since hissed his last.

I do not know how long it took me to return to myself. I know only that I stood there for some little while, in the open, with the creature’s twisted and broken body at my feet. Looking back, I believe I heard sounds – rustling or crackling, as if something, or things, were moving nearby – but my heart was pounding and my blood was high, and I took no heed. But sense prevailed, or else the needs of the body did. I was aware of an intense nausea, and then a powerful hunger. I could not countenance plucking and eating the horrible thing, or partaking of its leftovers – I shoved it into the undergrowth as best I could, kicked the sad remains of its victim after it, and set out to hunt for my breakfast.

This took longer than usual, because I was in a dreadful state. It was as if all the terror of the past days descended upon me at once. I fancied the woods full of noises, and every noise one of those evil bird-lizards out to avenge its brother. My scalp tingled, my hand shook – I felt eerily like the prey and not the hunter. But eventually I did flush out one of those small brown curl-tailed mammals on which my diet depended, and even managed to kill it, if not as cleanly as I might.

I had wandered some way from my tree. This suited me well, for I did not want to stay near the bird-lizard’s corpse. To be frank, I had the greatest difficulty in deciding to stay still at all. The noises seemed to pursue me, and I felt as if I were being watched. But I could not eat if I did not stop and make a fire – I was not, and hope I never shall be, so far gone as to eat my catch raw. And so I squatted with my back to a tree and dressed the animal: a gruesome process, but one that was becoming second nature. I had hunted as a boy and accordingly the burden of skinning and eviscerating generally fell to me – or rather I assumed it, for I had little patience for the others, their hesitation and their squeamishness.

It struck me then with great force that I must find them, for they would surely starve without me. I hastened to gather wood, tinder and the sharpest stone I could find, and set about making my fire. A time-consuming business when four people are involved (or rather three: may God rest Olivero’s soul), but for one alone, almost impossible. It must have taken me an hour. My muscles ached unbearably and my temper rose; the stick wobbled and slipped and tore at my hands, and by the time the vital spark came forth, I was as bloody and bedraggled as the discarded pelt of my prey.

I could delay no longer. I cooked and ate my breakfast – trying not to think of teeth tearing at flesh –  marked an X on the bark of the tree with my spear, and struck out in the first direction that came to mind.

© Alix Montague 2015

Sebastiano Spada: Episode 3

Sebastiano Spada: Episode 1

The tale of a solitary priest in the valley of death.

Read the story so far

-oOo-

I meant to sacrifice myself – of course I did. When I ran out into the dusk and drew the terrible creature after me, I believed I would die. I wanted only to give my companions the best chance of survival. And I didn’t want to live – didn’t see how I could live, after the horrors I’d witnessed. But I kept running, with the monstrous thing gathering speed behind me. I ran while my lungs burned and my legs ached. I ran as if to save the life I no longer wanted.

And then, just as I knew I was lost – just as I prepared to stop and turn around and face the thing, to submit to the embrace of its foul jaws – I realised that I was still holding the spear.

That was not part of my plan. I had meant to leave it behind, but I had snatched it up to fight my way out – yes – and now…

Something sparked in me then: something shameful and hopeful all at once. The urge to live – or, if that were too unlikely, to die fighting. I skidded to a halt and turned to face my pursuer. To my amazement, he too stopped. He reared up and turned his coffin head hither and thither. It was as if, in ceasing to move, I had somehow vanished from his sight.

I stayed perfectly still. The creature let out a grunt of frustration and swung his tail, lashing at the trees and making them quiver. It really seemed that he couldn’t see me. He inclined his vast body – that scaly trunk of a torso, with strangely short and delicate arms – and pulled in air. His muzzle was just a few feet above my head, slanted nostrils flaring. Down and down it came, searching, searching…and then, driven by some impulse I can now scarcely recollect, I raised the spear and drove it with all my strength into his right nostril.

The creature started backwards, almost pulling the spear from my hands. He bayed like a thousand hell-hounds, and blood cascaded from his snout and poured into the mud at my feet. I wanted to flee, but I stood where I was and tried not to flinch as the blood spattered my legs. My would-be assassin bayed again, almost deafening me, and then – I could scarcely believe it – turned and ran, his great feet pounding the earth as if to punish it.

I would like to say that my first thought was for my fellow Jesuits, unarmed and stranded in that dreadful cave. No – I should be a liar if I denied it – my first instinct was to make myself safe. And to be high off the ground struck me as the safest possible thing. The trees in this forest, thank God, were of the kind any child might climb: they extended gnarled limbs in every direction. I ran to the nearest and hoisted myself into it, and I did not stop climbing until the branches above me grew too fine and pliant to hold my weight. I settled into a sturdy fork, with my back to the trunk and the spear resting between my knees, and took account of my situation.

I had no inkling where I was. I had run blindly, I knew not how far. The cave was by a watering hole, but the forest was full of those. From my vantage point I could see the gleam of moonlight on water in no less than three directions. Despair assailed me, and a stark cold fear. If I had survived this terrifying encounter only to die alone, why had I survived at all?

© Alix Montague 2015

Sebastiano Spada: Episode 2

The Diary: Finale

Concluding the diary of an anonymous nineteenth-century Jesuit, translated and annotated by Brigadier Sir George A.M.F. MacPhail (author of 1000 Uses for a Fruit Knife).

Read episode 4

-oOo-

30 –

I shall not live long. We are dying, Father Dalmasso and I, by degrees. If we are not killed, then we shall surely starve or go mad. This is the valley of our death, and we shall not escape it. But Father Spada has saved us for now. This heroic sacrifice, this senseless waste of life – call it what you will, it has spared us for another day.

The night after Father Olivero’s death was a dreadful one, the worst of my existence. Dalmasso and I kept vigil – we could not sleep. Spada slept deeply. He slumbered as if from a blow to the head, and we had the greatest difficulty in rousing him when dawn came.

It is well known that shock can alter a man’s personality, but I never believed until today that it could effect such a drastic change. Spada woke up, once he did wake, quite a different man. His bluster was gone. He was quiet and purposeful, and his voice and eyes were cold. We had not finished our breakfast before he was on his feet and commanding us to walk.

“We can strike out in any direction,” he said, rather sharply, as I began to ask where we should go. “We’ve seen these woods from above – we know they don’t go on forever. We shall reach the plains eventually. Besides, better to die on our feet than be caught loitering.” And he turned and strode off, the spear tucked under his arm. We could only follow.

We walked in silence until the trees began to thin out, and we could see shafts of sunlight ahead. My heart lifted, for I was sure we had found our way out, but my hopes were soon dashed. Ahead of us was a broad clearing scattered with large rocks, with a river through it – on the other side of the river, endless trees. We had but reached the heart of the woods, and the sun was already beginning to sink. The prospect of another day in this murderous place with its giant bloodthirsty birdlife struck me as appalling beyond measure, but Father Spada clapped his hands together and said that this place would serve very well, and we should settle in immediately.

Father Dalmasso must have felt much the same way I did, because he asked Spada what in the h– he meant by that.

“Look for yourself,” said Spada, and pointed with the spear towards a cluster of rocks on the bank of the river. At the base was a hole large enough to admit a man standing. “We can set up our camp in there and roll a few stones across the entrance. It will be quite a fortress.”

“Assuming it’s uninhabited,” said Dalmasso.

Spada did not answer, but simply walked over to the cave and vanished within. A moment later he returned, brushing a large cobweb from his shoulder. “All clear,” he said.

“And what about these?” asked Dalmasso, gesturing to the bank of the river. Sunk into the clay were a host of footprints, all of them three-toed, some as long as my arm.

Spada cast me a scornful look. “Giant cows,” he said, and turned away to go back to the cave.

I was much affected by this, for I was – I am – painfully aware that it was my own wish to descend into the valley. Father Olivero’s death was on my conscience, as Father Spada’s must now be.

The cave proved to be spacious, large enough to hold all of us and allow room for a fire. Father Dalmasso questioned the wisdom of lighting a fire at all, given that it must attract wild beasts, and we should be trapped in the cave. Father Spada maintained that we should die quicker without a fire, and that any beasts that might come near would surely be frightened away by it. As for me, I could not speak. And so a fire was lit, and the discussion began as to who should hunt for our dinner.

I could not stand to stay behind and send another man in my place to face the dangers of the woods, so I took up the spear and managed to say that I would go. I did not wait to hear their answer – I made to hurry out, and was stopped only by Father Dalmasso seizing hold of my arm.

“For heaven’s sake,” he said, “look where you are going!”

Directly before the mouth of the cave was a creature rather smaller than the lizards of the plain, but no less awe-inspiring. Its fat oval body was covered in thick horn, like a suit of armour – it had a flat bullish head, and a tail like a mace, with a great bulb of bone at the end. I let out a bellow of shock, and so did the animal – it turned and lumbered away into the trees, and I staggered backwards into the cave and very nearly stood in the flames.

“Well,” said Dalmasso, “it wasn’t scared of the fire, at any rate.”

“But it was scared of man,” said Spada. “Another plant-eater, I dare say. Don’t tremble so,” he barked at me. “You survived the encounter, didn’t you? Which is more than poor Olivero did, God rest his soul.”

Father Dalmasso put his hand on my shoulder – a simple gesture of friendship for which I shall forever be grateful. “I think we had better fortify the entrance,” he said. “You stay here for the moment. Keep the fire going.”

They went out, and a few moments later I heard the sound of rocks being rolled around, and their raised voices in discussion – I listened as a child in bed listens to the comforting murmur of his parents’ conversation. Before long we were barricaded in, with a gap big enough to see out, and to let the smoke escape. Spada produced another of those small brown forest rodents, which he had felled with a stone, and laid it in the fire to cook.

It was our undoing. Whether it was the firelight, or the smoke, or the smell I do not know – but that last meal brought death to our door. The meat had only begun to roast when we heard a colossal thud, and then another, and another – coming ever faster, and every closer, until the cave seemed to judder around us.

“The fire!” cried Dalmasso. “Put out the fire!” But we had no water, and no loose earth, for the soil of the cave floor was tightly packed. In the end I stripped off my cassock and threw it over the fire and, with a stink of singed cloth, it was out.

For a moment I almost believed us safe again. The footsteps – for such they were – had stopped. The cave was silent. Only the birds of the trees spoke, shrieking as if for help. And then the cave was abruptly plunged into darkness. The creature had wedged its snout into the gap – it drew in its breath, and then blew out a stream of hot, fetid air that made me retch. It rumbled in its throat, and withdrew – the light and the air flooded in, but there were no more footsteps. The thing had not moved away from our cave. It was waiting.

We did not speak for a long while, and then Father Dalmasso said, in a whisper: “What shall we do?”

“What can we do?” replied Spada, with monstrous composure. “We have not eaten today, and we’ve d–n little to eat now. It will starve us out.”

Dalmasso fell silent again. I think I began to pray out loud, though I cannot remember what I said. I know I prayed for Olivero’s soul and for my own, and that I begged God for a way out of this death trap – but if I believed that what happened next came by His intercession, then I should lose my faith altogether.

Father Spada rose to his feet. He snatched my cassock from the dead fire, and threw the half-cooked rodent onto the ground between Father Dalmasso and myself. “Eat it, and live,” he said. He went to the mouth of the cave and began to roll the rocks away, and I realised with horror what he intended. I cast myself after him and begged him to stop – I grabbed at him, and he threw me off – he pushed at the rocks, and I tried to pull them back again. But he would not be dissuaded and, snatching up the spear, he thrust it at me so that the point nearly pierced my chest.

“Get back, will you,” he cried. “Let me draw it off!” And with a great heave he rolled the last stone away and ran out into the failing light. I saw him wave his arms as he ran, slipping as he went, along the muddy bank – I saw an immense dark shape emerge from the shadows and follow him, bounding along on powerful hind legs – and then the trees swallowed them up, and the birds ceased their calls.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei: requiescat in pace. Amen.

[The manuscript ends here. — G.M.]

© Alix Montague 2015

-oOo-

Read the next story

The Diary: Episode 4

Continuing the diary of an anonymous nineteenth-century Jesuit, translated and annotated by Brigadier Sir George A.M.F MacPhail (author of Through Borneo with Blunderbuss).

Read Episode 3

-oOo-

25 –

A tragedy has befallen us: Father Olivero is dead. Requiem æternam [etc. – G.M.]

I can barely comprehend it, but I shall try to set down today’s events as they occurred, without sparing my own part in the dreadful affair.

I rose at dawn. I was so excited at the prospect of making a closer acquaintance of this valley and its creatures that I had barely slept. How I rue it now! In my exhaustion-befuddled state I was half convinced that the mysterious giants would have melted away, and I did not wait for the others to wake – I left our camp at the foot of the hill and ran out into the plain, casting about me for a sight of them.

The family – for so I believe them to be – were gathered around a watering-hole. I could not stay where I was. I held my breath and crept closer and, as I approached, one of the animals stretched out its neck and began to drink. I could see the water coursing up its throat in great boles. To see this monstrous thing behaving like any living creature in need of water was almost more than my poor mind could absorb. I fell to my knees in the long grass and prayed with a fervour I had not felt in years, praising God for the splendour of His creation – a creation which, I am convinced, we shall never fully understand.

Then there was a cry at my back, and I turned to see Father Dalmasso running towards me. He stopped as he caught sight of the creatures, and crossed himself and spoke a prayer against evil – but still he watched them for a long moment before he approached me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Come away, lad,” he said. “My God, we thought you were lost.”

The scene that awaited me back at our encampment I shall not trouble to describe. It did not last long, at any rate. Huddled as we were against the foot of the incline, we had no source of food or water and would have to find both as a matter of urgency. To share the watering place of the beasts was not to be contemplated, and so we set off for the woods, which we believed would offer us protection and shelter. Father Spada took the lead, Dalmasso and I close upon his heels, and Father Olivero followed at a little distance.

Father Olivero was much given to this behaviour, trailing behind and alternating fretful complaint with sullen silence. We were never able to persuade him to keep up with us and so I am afraid we neglected to try. He grumbled for a few minutes or so and then fell silent, and I am ashamed to say that we were a little way into the woods before we realised that he was no longer with us. I was the last in our party, and had it only occurred to me to look back, he might still be alive as I write this. May God forgive me, for I shall never forgive myself.

For a few seconds we could only stand and look around us. The cool shade of the woods suddenly seemed horribly dark, and I felt as if plunged into icy water. Then Father Spada hefted the spear and said “Stay!”, and ran back along the path we had taken, calling for Father Olivero.

I will never forget what followed. He fell silent mid-cry, and stopped – he looked intently into the woods for a moment and then, raising the spear, began to walk slowly backwards until he reached the place where we stood.

“Start walking,” he whispered, without turning around. “Silently.

For some time we crept on in that way, Father Dalmasso and I walking gingerly ahead and Spada with his back to us, brandishing the spear. After some time he seemed to breathe again, and said that he believed we were at a safe distance now, and then he thrust the spear into Father Dalmasso’s hands, and was sick behind a tree. Father Dalmasso began to ask what had happened, but Spada could only shake his head and say: “Pray for him. Pray for his soul.”

We were by then deep in the woods, and now felt that we would, after all, be much safer in the open plains. But there was no question of retracing our tracks, and no clear path to the outside. We were weak with hunger and thirst, sunburnt and footsore – Father Spada was close to collapse. And so, for lack of any better choice, we walked a little further until we found a stream, and made our encampment there.

Here we sit, with our backs to the fire and our eyes on the forest. Dalmasso has caught a few small mammals, but the smell of the roasting meat turns my stomach. I must eat, but I cannot. Father Spada has begun to talk, and I cannot imagine that I will eat again.

It was a bird that killed Father Olivero. An enormous misshapen bird with a snout for a beak, and teeth, and a terrible curving claw on each foot. It mantled over his body like a hawk with its prey, and Spada swears that Olivero cried out when it began to tear at him.

[The rest of this entry is short but unreadable. I fancy the poor man’s hand was shaking so badly that he could not write legibly, and finally gave up the effort altogether. –  G.M.]

© Alix Montague 2015

The Diary: Finale

The Diary: Episode 3

Continuing the diary of an anonymous nineteenth-century Jesuit, translated and annotated by Brigadier Sir George A.M.F. MacPhail (author of To the Equator with Elephant Gun).

Read Episode 2

-oOo-

24 –

Today we attained the top of the rise. It came suddenly, like a miracle. The trees parted, the river vanished and we found ourselves standing on the edge of another world. At our feet, the ground fell away in a tumble of rocks and greenery – straight ahead, a faint line of reddish rock showed us the far edge of the valley – below, vast green plains, patches of woodland, and everywhere the welcome gleam of water. A greater contrast to the dim, damp forest from which we came could not be imagined. I could feel no wind, and yet some, I believed, there must have been, for in the woods nearest to us the trees rustled and swayed as if moved by a strong force.

And then Father Spada cursed, and clutched at my sleeve – I went to shake his hand off, for he had worn sorely on my nerves in the last days, but a cry from Father Dalmasso stopped me.

“Look,” he exclaimed, “only look! What on earth is that?”

Here my commitment to the truth compels me to set down something that must cast my sanity into doubt, should anyone ever read it – which I very much doubt anyone will.

Something was emerging from the trees: something vast and long, like the trunk of an immense elephant. As we watched, this unholy trunk was followed by a massive rounded body – it was no trunk at all, then, but a neck, with a small dog-like head – and then a long, low, thick tail that tapered to a vicious point. The monstrous creature was soon followed by another of equally dizzying size, and then two more, rather smaller but of the same form. They lumbered slowly across the plain, and I fancied that I could feel the tremors caused by the impact of their titanic feet.

“Do you see?” whispered Father Olivero, and Father Spada said, uncharacteristically sotto voce, that he did see.

Father Dalmasso was praying the Rosary. I could only stare, for I was seized by a thought I dared not communicate to the others. I had read much, in the popular press, about the work of the Englishman Richard Owen, and the lizard-monsters he supposes once to have walked the earth. Sensational, fantastical stuff, yet it exerted a boyish fascination over me. And the creatures in the valley reminded me of nothing so much as Owen’s terrible lizards. I was possessed by two urges at once: to flee for my life, and to scramble down the hill and get a closer look.

We stood there for some time in silence, until Father Olivero said in a trembling voice that we really ought to start walking.

“Yes,” said Father Spada, “but whither?”

“Back, for the Lord’s sake!” cried Father Olivero. “Let us go back and find a new path. Away from here, at all costs.”

“Go back into that d–n deserted forest?” retorted Father Spada. “Why, we shall starve to death. I should rather take my chance in the valley, with the behemoths.”

A controversy began. Spada was in favour of forging on – Olivero clung to the idea of going back. Father Dalmasso suggested we follow the line of the valley for a while, to see if it brought us to new ground. And I, for the first time in our long journey together, broke out with an impassioned plea. The idea of turning away from that valley and seeing no more of its curious inhabitants was suddenly unbearable to me. Look at us, I protested, we are skin and bones – there is nothing for us, if we turn back, but to wander alone until we die – here before us we have a new and promising landscape, one with air and sunlight and plentiful water – let us at least explore it. We need not fear the beasts – they are too large to see us as a threat, and we can very easily avoid them.

At this point, one of the creatures helped me in my argument by stopping to tear up and consume a small tree that lay in its path. “You see,” I said, “they are plant-eaters! They are really nothing more than giant cows.”

“I loathe cows,” said Father Olivero.

But the other two were at last convinced. Perhaps they felt something of my fascination for this otherworldly place. At any rate, they agreed to my plan and we began our descent into the valley, with Olivero reluctantly following.

The hill was terribly steep, in places almost vertical. We clambered and fell and rolled, and in due course found ourselves bruised and exhausted at its foot. The sun was already setting, and so we have set up our camp by a fast-flowing stream, and will begin our explorations at first light.

© Alix Montague 2015

The Diary: Episode 4

The Diary: Episode 2

Continuing the diary of an anonymous nineteenth-century Jesuit, translated and annotated by Brigadier Sir George A.M.F. MacPhail (author of Up the Congo with Crossbow).

Read Episode 1

-oOo-

18 –

The effects of drinking a copious amount of foreign water when in a state of mental and physical upset need not be documented here. Suffice it to say that none of us slept, and that I feel sorry for any traveller who may stumble on the remains of our encampment.

By sunrise, the pangs of hunger were unbearable. We did not have to go far to quench them. The forest floor was littered with all kinds of exotic fruit, which presumably had fallen from the vast canopy above our heads. I breakfasted on a mild fruit with pinkish-orange flesh and a tough green skin. The effect does not seem to be noxious – or, if so, it is difficult to tell.

None of us had the heart to resume our discussion of the day before. It was agreed by all that we should walk a little further and see if we could find any further habitation, or at least a clear point where we might light a beacon. Our path along the river had a definite upward incline which, said Father Spada, was a very hopeful sign indeed – although what he should know about it I am not certain. Father Dalmasso said rather curtly that perhaps we ought not to think quite so much about being rescued after all. Who knew but we might have some useful ministry to perform here? We had come to the New World to continue our work, and here we were, and since we had come this far we might as well get on with it.

I agreed with him – agree with him, of course, wholeheartedly, but must confess to a definite tendency to think wistfully of Turin, and my mother.

We took the can, and the spear, and I tucked my paper and pencil into the breast of my cassock, and we set off to walk.

In this dim forest, it is hard to chart the passage of time. The day seemed endless, and after a while the gentle incline of our path seemed the purest form of torture. I soon came to regret my cassock, which was heavy and stiff with dried salt-water – but to take it off, as Father Spada had done, and walk around in my shirt and drawers was unthinkable. The cassock was all that remained to me of my priestly dignity – the sea had stripped me of the rest.

(Besides, Father Spada’s legs have since come up in evil-looking red welts – I do not think his decision wise.)

The long walk meant that I had ample opportunity to observe the life of this strange forest. I was happy to see that the beasts who inhabit this place kept well away from us – happy, because it surely means that they are accustomed to human company and therefore shy of it. We heard their noise and their chatter, but saw nothing of them beyond some movement in the trees above our heads. The birds were bolder: one only had to be still for a moment, and they would swoop down to fish or forage. We sat down by the water at what we judged to be midday for a poor lunch of fruit, and in that time the stream was visited by birds of the most extraordinary form and colour, from bright scarlet to emerald and sapphire blue – a wondrous sight, spoiled only by Father Olivero muttering that what we really need is a bow and arrow.

As for the fearsome river predators for which the New World is famous, we have as yet met none – I think this little stream is thankfully too narrow to admit them.

We were still walking as night fell, with no sight of reaching the top of the rise, but there was no further discussion to be had. All four of us were now possessed of the conviction that we were here for some definite reason, and that it would be cowardly to turn back now when we might so easily come across some impoverished community of savages where our charism could be usefully employed. This strength of purpose was perhaps aided by our having caught and killed some sort of local animal: a fat brown creature with a sad-comic face, immense front teeth and a barrel body borne on short, thin legs. The one we found was almost certainly half-way to death already – it seemed tired, and it greeted Father Spada’s spear-blow with something like resignation. We made our fire and ate the first fresh red meat we had consumed since leaving home. I feel that sleep will come rather more easily tonight.

[The usual pieties follow. – G.M.]

22 –

We have been walking in the same way now for several days, following the river. Even if I had plenty of paper (and I do not, nor is there any sign of finding more), there has been little to record. The gruelling monotony of it all has been broken only by discussions so petty, so unworthy, that I would blush to recall them, much less write them down.

Dear God, give me the strength and the wisdom to survive this ordeal – grant me patience and generosity of spirit – fortify me in body and mind. Thy will be done. Amen.

Even the birds are quiet, and yet there is still no sign of human life. My spirits are oppressed – my imagination turns morbid. It is the hunger, I am certain. I have eaten nothing in the last days but fruit and my share of the occasional rat – they, at least, are not afraid – my brain is surely weakened, maddened, and still I cannot shake off the idea that

[The rest of this entry has been torn out, I suspect by the author’s own hand. – G.M.]

© Alix Montague 2015

The Diary: Episode 3