Trick: Chapter 5

One of the crew stood beside the gangplank, waiting for Twist and Myra when they returned with Jonas.  He was a tall man with broad shoulders and dark, almost leathery olive skin.  His clothes were simple: a white shirt with billowing sleeves, a black vest and short black trousers with rope sandals, and a simple wide-rimmed round hat.  His dark eyes looked like they had been held in a permanent squint for his entire life, with deep wrinkles at the edges, but his face was filled with a wide smile—two teeth capped with gold to one side, under a long and sagging black mustache.  He waved to Jonas and said something on a booming, jolly sounding voice, but in a language Twist didn’t know.

Jonas responded instantly in what sounded like French to Twist.  The man nodded and glanced at Twist and Myra.  Then his dark eyes fixed on Myra and his smile disappeared into a blank mask.  Jonas said something else, and Myra giggled.  To Twist’s shock, she too said something happy-sounding in the bubbly language.

“What’s going on?” Twist asked.

“I only told him that one of us was ‘a little different’,” Jonas said to Twist.  He turned back to the sailor and said something else.

The sailor nodded again and his smile slipped slowly back into place as he spoke and finally turned to walk up the gangplank, beckoning them on.  As they stepped onto the open main deck, Twist saw that the rest of the crew—apparently nine men in total—were dressed similarly to the man with the gold teeth, and each had the same darkly tanned skin and weathered appearance though they ranged wildly in age.

The youngest looked barely older than a child, while the oldest looked far too old to be climbing through the rigging with such ease and agility.  Each sailor, however, paused to stare at Myra at least once before returning to his own business.  She smiled at each of them in a friendly way, but Twist found himself drifting closer to her unconsciously as his apprehensions grew.

It only took a few moments for the sailors to throw off the mooring lines and start up the steam engine, while some of the huge white sails were unfurled to hang limp in the light wind.  As the ship pulled away from the docks and slipped out into the harbor, Twist, Jonas, and Myra stood together on one side to watch the other ships glide past.  The shouts of orders and calls of observations swam over the ship as the sailors all readied her for the open water beyond the harbor, but Twist couldn’t understand a single word.

“Myra,” he asked her softly as she stared in wonder at the ships they passed, “what did you say to that sailor, earlier?  Was that French you were speaking?”

“Was it?” Myra asked him back curiously. “You mean, it wasn’t your language?”

Twist stared back at her as he struggled to figure out what she meant. “You spoke to the children in Bombay, as well.  What language was that?”

“I don’t know,” Myra said with a shrug. “I just talk to people.  I never had trouble speaking to anyone after I left my first body and got into this one.”

“You know, English is kind of modern, now that I think about it,” Jonas said, turning to them both. “You shouldn’t know it if you’ve been stuck alone in Nepal all that time.”

“How in the world did I never notice that?” Twist asked suddenly.

“It’s not important,” Myra said with a flippant wave of her clockwork hand. “The important thing is that we’re about to leave the harbor!”

As she spoke, the ship was beginning to slip gently out through the mouth of the harbor, and instantly began to pick up speed as it sliced its way into the rolling waves.  At first, the ship bobbed and swung wildly on the waves, but as the speed and the growl of the engine grew, the ship began to steady.  The sails were dropped and tightened one by one until the sky above the deck was filled with billowing white cloth.  Twist couldn’t believe how many sails there were, or how large each one was.  The ship looked more like an airship than anything terrestrial with its tiny hull hanging under those enormous wings.

Once they were ready, the ship turned into the sun and the engines shut off.  The sails caught the wind instantly, each one full to bursting, and the ship lurched forward into sudden speed.  The hull rose to the top of the waves and skipped along them with a smooth, gliding ease that felt as natural and free as the wind itself.  Twist clung to the railing to keep balance in the sudden rush and marveled as Bombay disappeared quickly into the distant mist, far behind them now.  Myra giggled and danced happily with her arms high in the air.

“This feel like flying!” she said on a ringing voice. “Even more than really flying on an airship,” she added with another laugh.

“I told you this ship was fast,” Jonas said to her as he smiled into the sun.

Twist felt the ship turn and sway with the wind; there was nothing sharp or incongruous about its movements now.  There was a reckless and intoxicating thrill to flying on nothing but the wind itself, and it ran deep and chilling to his bones.  This was a kind of force that could only be embraced.  To do anything else would only be more dangerous.  Twist found a smile on his own face even before Myra threw an arm around his shoulders from behind and clung to him on the rushing waves.

“I can’t wait to see Egypt,” she said to his ear, as if the words tasted sweet in her mouth.

Her abundant joy splashed over him in the warm sunlight and the chill grasp of the wind, and washed away every fear he had found in Bombay.  Right now, there was no one after them, and no threat on their horizon.  They had simply vanished from the streets of Bombay with no trail behind them, and their path was set.  Right now, they were free.

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