The Darkness by Edward Armstrong

How could I continue to dupe those around me? These fellows of esteem – and of course Marlow, sitting peacefully as the blaring light from The Chapman (1) lit his quietly miserable outline. We were alone, so it seemed, no souls in sight nor sound could see the grief-swept anguish to which my features alluded.

Even the solemn lawyer, lying with the kind of calm watchfulness that only a lawyer can exhibit, would not at once recognize the destruction of self which had befallen me. A wave shook the yawl; The Chapman’s light penetrated the thin sails and blasted my unsuspecting pupils like the Arabian sun against an Englishman’s fair skin, and my mind shifted to the red warning lights of pain. I gasped for the cool ocean air, not that I had been suffocating – I simply needed relief from the ill-welcomed warmth of unbearable light, and what better way but through a chilled rush of opposing pain in my chest? We settled slowly; our breathing first, then the tense readiness of our usually placid limbs faded– allowing us to settle. At least the stars readily forgave our rude intrusion of the newly formed tranquillity of night. The reality faded but the inner truth was hidden, or so I thought.

The Accountant was a calculating man in both senses of the description; he seemed to delight in seeing me shift in discomfort. His piercing gaze playfully toyed with me as he sat innocently against the hard-backed security of the centre mast. As if he was reading my thoughts like a half yearly statement, he jumped up and with one unexpectedly swift movement swiped the ornamental trinket from around my collar, tearing the leather band and reddening my neck. Each fellow pilgrim gasped in turn. Marlow began hoarsely; “Sir, what is the meaning of this?” “There wasn’t the time for appropriate measures to be taken, nor are there legal or binding measures of the sort which are needed,” came the esoteric reply. Seeing that it was in his field now, the lawyer jerked suddenly to life and erratically blurted something rather nonsensical as he struggled to organise his mind. A puzzled look came over him, at this the Director our trustworthy Captain stood upon his great feet rising to his full height and towering terrifyingly above us all, including the Accountant who was a full foot shorter than him. He cleared his aged throat and his booming voice resounded in wisdom as he began: “A cryptic answer to a direct question, and a somewhat violent action towards a fellow pilgrim are not indications of a good travelling companion, so tell me Accountant, why should I let you travel aboard my ship after such apparently unjustified excessive indignation?” I was stunned by his masculine carriage as he strode purposefully through the corridor of shocked onlookers – shoulders erect, chest proudly out, head held high, his eyes studying every twitch and line on the face of the Accountant, a man to be reckoned with. The Accountant stood, just, his legs visibly shaken by the Director’s outburst, his body language admitting defeat, and his facial expression begging for a chance for explanation. The Director nodded, implying he wished to hear the Accountant’s justification. I sat tensely for I knew what was to come; there was no way out of it but to act as composed as my already tested nerves allowed.

The Accountant chose his words carefully; it was quite obvious that he wished to be understood by those with whom he would be travelling so that he would live up to his reputation as a respectable man. He rested his old body wearily on a barrel with the whole assembly of pilgrims, all four of us, waiting expectantly, yet patiently. The mounting tension in my facial expression was palpable. The crescent moon watched and listened like a disciple to his master as the Accountant moved the dominoes around in a perplexed manner as he attempted valiantly to match the explanation which he had heard nearly two years previous. As if a child learning to read, the Accountant slowly began; “It has been nearly two years to the day since I was told of the story of a man who went to Africa but unlike so many of the others he didn’t return rich, he returned with a Heart of Darkness.” There were many puzzled looks so he continued; “I was informed that this man wished to return to reclaim his lost innocence but as you may know, one cannot simply waltz into Africa and claim something unreplaceable. He was once a man of adventure, expression, a real entrepreneur, suddenly he was found depressed, alone, and defeated. He’d given up. There was no dream of wealth and fame left. He lost himself.” It was true; and I could see the other fellows shifting uncomfortably in their spots around the circle we’d formed.

1. The Chapman Lighthouse, London

Edward is a well-travelled student, he excels in academics and in the sporting arena. His passions are Jesus, rugby and writing. He hopes to be a psychologist in his adult years.