Author : Daniel M. Bensen
“Ta zemya.” The lookout cried from the crow’s-nest like a muezzin. “Ta zemya~a! Kapitane, eto ya~a.”
Hristo Galabov gripped the plastic gunwale of his ship and squinted over the heaving Atlantic. “Ta zemya,” the sailor said. Land. The last time, Hristo had leapt with joy at that cry. Now he only closed his eyes and gave a brief prayer to Ta Melarva Miriya. “Thank you. Thank you, Mother of God, for bringing us home. Some of us.”
Hristo stared out at the ocean until even he could see Africa bulking green and fertile on the horizon.
“Kapitane, you seem troubled.”
That was the voice of father Mehmet, with his beard and klobuk and crucifix.
“I am troubled, ebre,” said Hristo.
The priest stood beside him. “You are thinking about what to tell them in Gibraltar Palace.”
“I am thinking about what not to tell them.” Hristo rubbed his thumb against the place where his right pointer finger had been.
“Of course you must tell them the truth, ebane.”
“What truth? That we rediscovered Lost America? Or that it is more Lost than we ever guessed?”
“There are many ways to be Lost, and only one way to be Saved.”
Hristo snorted, “by which I take it you advocate going back to that blasted land and converting the heathen?” The Americans, Hristo meant, although they did not call themselves Americans.
“What else can I advocate?” Father Mahmet stroked his beard. “The truth is always best, ebane. But if we are to help those poor souls…perhaps the Glorious Princess does not need all the facts.”
“Such as the fact that Lost America was lost for a reason.” Hristo sighed, “and the old stories were lies.”
“They were stories, ebane, not lies.”
Hristo gestured at the sea, and his shoulder throbbed. “Streets of gold. Plains of fruit. Wise metal gods and maidens transformed into stars. I wish I could still believe.”
“Then believe, for we made those stories true by our faith and good work. The myth of Lost America was the rope we used to pull ourselves out of the darkness. And those still lost in that darkness…” Father Mehmet’s scarred hand went to the place where his left ear had been, “…Even they are children of God.”
So this was how the priest had made sense of the things they’d seen, convinced himself away from suicide. Hristo had wondered. “I am afraid the Princess has better ways to spend her money than to throw it at degenerate savages on the other side of the ocean.”
“So her advisors would surely say.”
And if they did, if the Princess withdrew her support, then Hristo could turn his thoughts to his own self-murder. Pain and broken promises, past sins and future redemption.
Hope, and in its absence, death.
“What was it the witch-doctor said?” Hristo asked, remembering the cannibal with his teeth filed and the lens-less glasses before his eyes.
“Go West,” said Father Mehmet.
“Go West,” the savage had said, blood on his lips, cold wind in his hair, “Lalaland, Kingdom of the Zombie God, the Gold Mountain.”
Hristo rapped his knuckles on the plastic hull of his ship and the ghosts of his eaten fingers ached. “I know what I will tell Her Majesty.”
“I will say: ‘Our mission is a success. I will ask: ‘please furnish us with ships, that we may take the benefit of our civilization, our Holy Church to the new-old shores.’ I will say that we have rediscovered America,” Hristo Galabov nodded to himself. “And it is indeed a land of opportunity.'”
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows