Mary Celeste

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


What was really behind the mystery of the Mary Celeste? The ship was found adrift without crew or passengers in the late 1800s. Sea monsters? Weather? Or was it a time travel experiment gone awry?
Join Vince Carson, freelance time travel, as he reveals what actually happened aboard the Mary Celeste. Don't worry, it's free, it won't cost you a single Greeley. Promise!

Submitted: May 16, 2018

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Submitted: May 16, 2018

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 Mary Celeste

 

by Jeff Macharyas

 

1. Time-Traveler Wanted: No Experience Necessary

Small-time dope dealer Vince Carson walked down the sandy streets of Daytona, Florida, in 90-degree heat, to grab some Doritos, Marlboros and a six of PBR. Recently released, Vince contemplated his future. It was not as bright as the Florida sun bearing down on him. Vince gazed down the hazy driveway leading to US 1 and saw a stranger walking toward him. He seemed to come out of nowhere. He wasn’t carrying a briefcase or product samples and wasn’t pointing a gun at him. Maybe he was some kind of evangelist trying to convert him to The Way? He approached Vince as he stood there with an unlit Marlboro dangling from his lips and his finger on the trigger of a can of PBR.

“Mr. Carson.” the stranger said as though he was confirming Vince’s own identity.

“Who wants to know? FBI? Jehovah? Publisher’s Clearing House?”

“I am none of those,” the man replied sharply. He looked like FBI, kinda like Tommy Lee Jones from Men In Black.

“Then what? I’m clean, I haven’t done anything; I just got out.”

“I know. I’m here to offer you a unique job—one that you have special qualifications for. It’s not easy to explain, but it does pay quite well. May we go inside?”

“Uh, yeah, but don’t expect the Hilton in there.”

“Quite alright.”

Vince swung the unlocked door open and let the man in. He followed, fumbling with his possessions, newly acquired from 7-11. The stranger identified himself as Randall MacNally. Vince thought that name sounded familiar. Ah, yes! The map people. Obviously, not his real name.

“Beer, Mr. McMap, err, MacNally?”

“Thank you, no.”

Vince opened his. Who knows, this guy might kill him anyway.

MacNally explained the job. Simple, really. Sit, strapped into a chair while a beam of light comes down on you and go back in time. Record what you see and hear by some means he didn’t quite understand. All for “research.” Vince didn’t believe a word of this and wondered why this guy came to him with his loony ideas.

“So you come out of nowhere, approach a down-on-his-luck loser, spew a story straight out of the SyFy channel and expect me to just accept that? How do you even know me? Why me?”

“It’s a simple matter of spiritual physiology.”

“Of course it is.”

“You possess certain electrical fields in your sub-conscious that make time travel possible. A special aura, if you will. We scan the population for the particular traits needed and there are very few who possess them. You, Mr. Carson, are one of the lucky ones. We’ve tried sending subjects back who did not match your particular profile and, well, the return was not too pleasant. The jump requires special qualities that not very many people possess. In fact, Mr. Carson, you are only the third we’ve found. That takes care of the present, but we also have to identify people with the same qualities in the past to make the swap. We can only send people back to a place and time where there is another person who can act as a receiver.”

“So what happened to the others?”

“Well, uh, one, has, um, decided not return. The return is predestined after the jump is calculated. We have not been able to fine-tune the return so the subject has to be in the right place at the right time. Our first subject did not make the return. We don’t know why.”

“And, at what point in time did this subject go?”

“1863. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.”

“Right. Gotcha.”

“The other suffered a mental collapse and has not been able to travel. So, you see, Mr. Carson, you are our only hope. We will pay you $100,000 per jump. Cash, tax-free. All we ask is that you record what you see and hear, and come back. We are researchers and we don’t want to upset the natural order of time. Trying to fix something that has changed will just cause other changes and since the events occurred in the past, we would not even know about it except that the subject is briefed with an intelligence report and that report is “downloaded” into the subject’s sub-conscious, or what we like to think of as “the soul,” and goes back with the subject during the jump. We compare the report to actual historical events to see if we, err, messed things up.”

“Are you with the government or the military?”

“No. We are private researchers funded by some wealthy people, whose names, I’m sure, you’d recognize.”

“Branson? Zuckerberg? Musk? Trump?”

“I can’t say. The identity of our Board is strictly confidential. But, let me assure you that our efforts are purely scientific.”

“You say so.”

“What the hell. I don’t really believe you, but I don’t exactly got a lot of lucrative job offers at the moment and if the captains of industry want to fill my bank account then who am I to refuse?”

“So, how do I fit in in the past? And know the local lingo and customs to avoid arousing any suspicions?”

“That’s, umm, taken care of by the jump process.”

“This is not going to be something I like is it?”

“You don’t physically go back in time. Your particular neural energy patterns allow you to be, let’s say, transmitted, into the past. The Egyptians had a word for it: “ka.” They believed it to be a spiritual entity that lived within the body during life and continued on after death. In a way, time-travel is like reverse death. So, your ka swaps places with an existing person from the past. We are able to “fine-tune” your ka so that you have control over your host to complete your mission.

You will occupy the body of the host and will share thoughts, emotions, memories and he will do likewise here in the present, but you will be the driving force.

The time-traveler, you, Mr. Carson, will go back in time and occupy the body of the host, share thoughts and memories and that person will swap places and occupy your body, under our observation, here in the present. To outside appearances, the person in the past will be the same person, but you will be the “driver.”

Your swapped tandem will be kept drugged and confined in the present and then returned to his own time a bit bewildered but no less worse for wear. There is just one thing. When you make the swap back to the present, be careful not to be in contact with any organic material. It’s possible to transport that back to the present.

We believe that every living thing possesses a ka of sorts, whether it’s a person, an animal, or even a vegetable. But, without a receiver on this end the organic material from the past cannot survive and time will right itself and expunge them. Time is very balanced. Everything must remain equal. Just like in Algebra class. You make the swap with your tandem in the past and the procedure is reversed without incident.”

“You’re shitting me, right? So, this is like that episode of Star Trek where those aliens trapped in those orbs inhabit the bodies of the crew and try to take over the galaxy?”

“Well, yes. You could say that. But, in your case, you are not trying to change anything that has happened, or is supposed to happen and you certainly are not going to “take over the galaxy.”

“So what about traveling into the future? Wouldn’t it be more interesting, and fun, to see what’s going to happen?”

“Ah, Mr. Carson. Don’t be silly. Time travel to the future is pure science fiction. Totally unrealistic and preposterous!”

 “I’ll be in touch in a few days to make the necessary arrangements.”

Three days later, MacNally was. A large, black SUV pulled up to Vince’s apartment. Vince stepped outside to greet the driver, knowing full well whom he represented. “I don’t suppose we’re auditioning for Driving Miss Daisy?”

“Please, get in, Mr. Carson.”

This guy was as humorless as MacNally, Vince thought.

The SUV sped off as the windows darkened and the doors locked with Vince in the backseat. Ah, an undisclosed location. Got it. The SUV was bigger and more comfortable than his apartment with snacks and bar, too—stocked with Doritos and PBR. These guys think of everything. Vince cracked open a PBR and took a sip. Just one; he never got to the Doritos. And the rest—as they say in the time-travel biz—is history.

 

2. Here’s the Tricky Part

Vince’s sullen chauffeur deposited him in what looked like an airplane hangar. The ride didn’t take more than an hour or so, so Vince thought maybe they were in Orlando. The PBR he still had in his hand seemed unusually warm all of the sudden. It wasn’t that humid and it seemed like it was the middle of the night, but they had just left at ten in the morning. MacNally was there to greet him along with some others.

“Welcome, Mr. Carson. I hope you enjoyed your trip. Please follow me into the conference room and we’ll explain how this works.”

Vince followed MacNally and the others into what looked like a dentist’s office, past a reception area, down the hall, past an examination room with a big dentist chair and into a small conference room in the back.

“This looks like a dentist’s office? Am I getting a root canal? I saw the dentist chair in the exam room and it looked like it was ready for action. Where did that come from?”

“Ebay,” MacNally answered, totally deadpan. “It is a dentist’s chair and it is ready for you. That will be your vehicle to the past. But, no worries, there won’t be any root canals. Maybe just a filling or two.”

This, Vince thought, was MacNally’s attempt at humor.

"The jump will take you to 1872 New York City. October. Weather should be lovely. That's the easy part. Take a look around and record what you see and hear with your neural recorder. It’s an election year, so keep a look out for campaign material and conversations. It’s not a particularly important election, but the lab techs are interested just the same. Ulysses S. Grant is running for re-election. He wins by a landslide. Let’s keep it that way, shall we!

You'll be trading places with an Edward William Head. He's 23 years old, newly married to Amelia Barnes and he works in food services at Roosevelt Hospital. He will later go from hospitals to ships and work as a steward before becoming a wealthy shipping magnate. He is an acquaintance of a James Winchester, partial owner of a ship named the Mary Celeste, an old salvaged vessel used for hauling chemicals to Europe. This is Edward’s conduit for getting a job on the ship and getting it into position for you to make your return.

This should be an easy jump, without any fanfare and without upsetting the natural course of time. Simply go back, become one with our Mr. Head, do your thing and come back, collect your paycheck and go do whatever it is you do when you’re not working. Remember, you are in control of Edward. Just like driving a car.

Once you're done, just get Edward on that ship and prepare for the return.

Here's the tricky part: The return is out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. November 25, 1872 is the date, 9:00 am local ship time, and the place is at the coordinates of 37°01'N, 25°01'W, which, if you look on Google Earth, is about 800 miles west of Portugal in the middle of nowhere. It's the best we can do; this is not an exact science. There aren’t many time windows that open up and we don’t have the luxury of choosing when and where to go. Maybe if H.G. Wells had written a better book we could pinpoint things more precisely.

Don't eff this up, Vince. It's an easy jump-and-run time recon. Get on that ship and don't create any temporal ripples.”

We’ve prepared an intelligence report on the people, places and events you will come into contact with. We’ll download it into your sub-conscious for replay upon the return. We will then compare it to what we know as “proper” history to make sure nothing has changed and that you haven’t created any paradoxes, infinite loops, a Nazis-win-the-war, the Hindenburg-doesn’t-crash type of scenario or other freaky time-related anomalies we would never know is wrong.

During your stay in the past, Mr. Head’s “soul” will journey to 2017 and enjoy all the modern comforts, without any of the conveniences, in your body, here in a darkened room of our “dentist’s office,” until you get swapped back.

So, the story with Edward, the Mary Celeste, Captain Briggs, and all is that Edward Head gets his job as ship’s steward aboard the Mary Celeste, works for Captain Briggs for five years as a steward and then first mate, becomes a successful maritime entrepreneur and later sails on the maiden voyage of the Titanic with his wife and two adult children and their families. He is one of the survivors, and saved quite few others in the process. He died in 1948 at the age of 99, never remarrying. Captain Briggs and family faded into obscurity after separating ways with Edward.

The Mary Celeste, we believe, was in service until around 1905, when it was sold for scrap. Captain Briggs and the Mary Celeste served no historical importance so records are pretty sketchy. By the way, the Mary Celeste was originally christened the Amazon. Its keel was laid in Nova Scotia in 1860. Its first captain died during his maiden voyage. After that, it collided with a fishing vessel in Maine and caused the sinking of a brigantine in the English Channel. In 1867, the Amazon was driven ashore in a storm and wrecked. But, great news—the ship would come back to life, like a resurrected ghost—as the good ship Mary Celeste.

Consider this a good-luck ship, then. However, when it comes to maritime disasters and mysteries. Now that you know the mission, are you ready to take the jump into the past, Mr. Carson?”

 “Any time, my friend, I have all the time in the world.”

“Very funny. OK, let’s do this. Power on.”

 “You buy, I fly.”

Vince was led into the exam room with the chair purchased on Ebay. He sat in it and positioned himself for fluoride and dental floss. He closed his eyes as the straps were tightened around his ankles and wrists. Even with his eyes closed, the light above him was glaring. He started feeling woozy and thought he’d hurl all over himself with no way to get up. The light got increasingly bright until he could almost taste it. He felt himself falling, even though he knew he was strapped to a chair. The light dimmed to total darkness and he felt a sudden rush of cold air come over him. He mentally grasped at objects that weren’t there to try to steady himself, but the roller-coaster was out of control and all he could do was wait for the sudden deadly crash to come. There was no crash. He caught his breath. Wherever it was, it surely did stink. And, he was itchy.

 

3. Time-Traveler On Board

Jumping was like leaping from a diving board blindfolded. You know you will be "in" something in a matter of seconds, and you sort of know what it will be, but, damn, aren't you surprised, when it's not water, but spaghetti, or Jell-O or some shit you've dived into.

That's how this feels. You think you end up on the other end of the jump with your own aches and pains, your own receding hairline and protruding beer gut, but the recipient can be something quite different.

Edward Head was pretty similar to himself. White, male, early 20s (well, give or take ten years or so), about 5 foot 5, with an itchy beard. What's the deal with these beards?

Edward was at his job at Roosevelt Hospital when Vince made the jump. Edward will remain unaware of Vince's presence in the past and will experience a weird sense of deja vu and confusion when he makes the return. Vince was thinking Edward should have one of those yellow, rectangular window decals that are stuck on every soccer mom’s Honda CR-V, only this would say “Time-Traveler On Board” and be dangling from Edward’s ass.

Vince will “be” Edward in the past, allowing him to lead his life almost as he would naturally all the while driving him and recording everything with his transported sub-conscious soul. Vince will steer, but, really, all he needs is for Edward’s body to get on the Mary Celeste so his ka can be in place for the return.

Back in 2017, a groggy and disoriented Edward—inside Vince’s body—found himself in a large room with strangers. Not only strangers, but people dressed in clothes as he’d never seen, holding objects that blinked and flickered. Women with bare, hairless legs! He could hear music but did not see an orchestra about. And, most odd, not a single beard on any of them.

A young woman wearing the largest spectacles upon her countenance he had ever seen approached him. She was holding a small shiny object in one hand and some sort of food wrapped in parchment in the other. It smelled so good! Rebecca jabbed the needle into Edward’s “borrowed” arm.

“There,” she whispered, “this will help you feel better and make your stay with us more enjoyable.”

Edward had a sense of euphoria as the drugs coursed through his veins. Maybe being whisked off to this strange place wouldn’t be so bad after all. If he could only get a taste of what was in the parchment! But, what were these memories and feelings? They were not his. When did he ever trade money for medicine? What kind of establishment is a “Winn-Dixie”? Why did he feel the need to smoke and drink alcohol? He remembered speaking to someone who was not there. How was he able to communicate with somebody far away over a small box he held in his hand? There were no telegraph wires to be seen? He felt different. Older, taller, somehow. And, these odds thoughts, as though he were in a room with another person and himself talking to each other in different languages, yet somehow understanding each other. His arms and legs were restrained, but he did have some ability of movement within them. He rubbed “his” face his left hand. Strange, being right-handed, why would he do that? Where was his beard!

Back in 1872, Vince was "in the skin" and ready to make the rounds. He would have about five weeks in New York to see the sights as Edward’s “driver.” He would do that and then get on that boat to make the return on November 25. Easy. No drug deals to arrange, no money to launder, no threatening small-time high schoolers selling his wares. Piece of cake. Although, what he could really go for is a Marlboro.

The jump allowed Vince to “inherit” some of the recipient’s memories, mannerisms, speech habits, so detection as a “changeling” would be unlikely. While in the past, Vince and Edward would share thoughts, memories, and emotions. In Vince’s case, he would have control over Edward’s physical being in the past, but Edward would have control over Vince in the future. Keeping the visitor from the past semi-conscious and stoned out of his mind while enjoying Taco Bell with Rebecca was the best way of controlling them and not giving them enough information to take back to the past. Close associates of the host might think that something is “off” or that the poor devil is having a “spell” if they say something unusual, like “that’s cool, dude.” Vince will remember to keep “dude” back home. Edward was probably trying to process some pretty weird thoughts, Vince thought.

Vince was able to focus now. He made the jump successfully and will now explore 1872, in control, with his new body. Edward was finishing his shift at Roosevelt Hospital, in the kitchen, when Vince arrived. The hospital, named for philanthropist James Henry Roosevelt, broke ground in ’69 and just opened last November. Edward was glad to have the job working there. But, being around all those sick and dying people was just depressing. Edward made the hour-long trek back from midtown in Manhattan to Brooklyn dreaming of getting out of the city.

Edward would have taken the horsecar, but since the outbreak of horse flu last month, he steered clear of the equine class. The flu seemed to have started in Toronto late in summer and had moved rapidly into the United States. It had just reached New York City late in September and horses were dropping like flies. All through the city and west through New York State into Canada, horses were falling over, coughing violently like only a horse could. It was a terrific sight to behold. Edward would rely on his own locomotion instead, Vince thought.

The sea! That’s where Edward wanted to go. That’ll make getting on the Mary Celeste a little more reasonable. Only one problem, though: he had just gotten married the same month Roosevelt Hospital opened. How would Amelia take that? What about starting a family? Vince processed Edward’s thoughts. What a worry-wart, this guy, he thought.

The money would be good, for sure, and she’d like that. He would have to ask James if any ships were hiring. James Winchester was a wealthy businessman who had some stakes in maritime operations. He would know, and certainly give him a proper recommendation at that.

Vince was thinking Edward’s thoughts while he was “in the skin” and just rolled Edward’s eyes. Jesus, dude, (oops, sorry) just make up your mind already. Ask your friend, get a job and get on that damned boat so I have a way home.

Vince entered the Brooklyn townhouse where Amelia awaited. Vince didn’t know what to expect of Amelia and wasn’t too pleased with what he found. Amelia was a short, dumpy girl with thick arms and sad, downcast look in her indistinctive eyes. Maybe for the 1800s she was considered attractive. And, what, she was like 22 years old—she looked like the far side of forty to Vince. Lena Dunham in thirty years, Vince thought.

“Hello, dear,” Vince choked out.

Potatoes and cabbage were boiling. Times were good, but Vince knew that Edward had a sense of foreboding. That big fire in Chicago last year, the dying horses, the corrupt Grant Administration and the ongoing European wars didn’t fill him with optimism. Perhaps some time at sea, and a chance to save some money, would improve his outlook.

“I’m going to ask James if any ships are hiring for cooks or stewards,” Vince exclaimed as he bounded into the kitchen.

“But, what about me? You will leave me alone here while you sail the oceans?” Amelia lamented. “With mama dead and daddy no good, I ain’t got nobody.”

Vince could not believe that Amelia’s father, Benjamin B. “Big Bennie” Barnes could just up and leave her and go west to find his fortune. Probably face down in a puddle of whiskey and a losing hand of cards somewhere in Missouri right now. Good riddance, useless old bastard. Something Edward and Vince had in common, it seems.

Edward’s own family consisted only of himself. His mother died in childbirth with his now deceased sister and his father took a bullet at the Wilderness back in ’64, Edward had only Amelia.

“We need the money. Roosevelt Hospital pays well, but not nearly enough if we want to start a family. I’ll be in my 50s when we enter the 20th Century and I want to be able to afford all the wonders we’ll encounter then. And, in this sort of job, I could earn 25 cents an hour! Imagine what we could do with 25 cents. Isn’t it worth being without me for a few months for 25 cents? I think it so.”

Monday, October 3, Vince walked into the office of James Winchester. Winchester was a stout man of about 40 with, of course, a beard. He looked every part the man of the Gilded Age and could have been a double for President Grant. If anyone could recommend Edward for a job, good ole James could. James had worked with Big Bennie years ago, but had enough sense to sever that relationship after a short time. What kind of business it was, Vince did not know. Nor, did he really want to.

“Edward, my good lad, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

“Well, I was thinking, you know Amelia and I, well, we’re thinking of starting a family soon and my work at Roosevelt Hospital just isn’t allowing me to earn enough to provide Amelia, and any future children, with the means they deserve. I thought, maybe, you would know if there was a ship in need of a cook or steward of my caliber.”

“Your timing is impeccable, my good Edward. It just so happens that I certainly do, indeed, know of a ship that could use your talents. Three years ago, I became a partial owner of the Mary Celeste, a 100-foot brigantine that will be captained by one of my minor partners, one Benjamin Spooner Briggs. Now, be warned, Briggs suffers no fools, nor does he drink a drop and will often be found with his nose pressed in his bible. If you can work for such a man, I shall recommend you to Captain Briggs directly.”

“That is very generous of you, James; I am most grateful and would like very much for you to introduce me to your Captain Briggs. Six months at sea without a drop will do me a bit of good, not to mention the 25 cents an hour I could earn.”

“Consider it done, my boy, and I’ll see if we can get you 28 cents—for Amelia, of course.

Now, at least, that’s over with, Vince thought. The wheels were in motion to get him in place for the return. All he had to do was ride out the next few weeks, gather some images and return to the dentist’s office in 2017 so the geeks in the white-coats can try to outdo each other with their knowledge of historical trivia.

1872 was an election year and Vince was just in time for campaign season leading up to the election on November 5. That year’s contest pitted incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant against newspaper publisher and Southern sympathizer, Horace Greeley and his alcoholic running mate, Gratz Brown. Vince knew a bit of the history when he would occasionally pay attention at Volusia County Central.

Grant would win, of course (how else could he end up on the 50-dollar bill!) Vince remembered that Greeley would die a few weeks after the election, but before the Electoral College would determine the results officially. It wouldn’t really matter. Even though Grant’s first term was filled with corruption and the Republicans traded out Vice Presidents after Schuyler Colfax was implicated in a scandal, the ticket of Ulysses S. Grant and Henry Wilson would go on to win by a landslide.

The Democrats would not even field a candidate of their own, instead supported Greeley on the Liberal Republican ticket, kind of like a “stick it to Grant” move. It didn’t work out so well for them, and certainly not for poor dead Horace. Vince would keep an eye, or Edward’s eye, out for election activities. He’d have time to go to some rallies, read some campaign claptrap, maybe even meet some of the candidates. He knew that Victoria Woodhull would be the first woman to run for president, although many discounted her as a legitimate candidate.

Vince got his big chance on October 26. Gratz Brown, was in New York City for a rally. Brown was so drunk that he fainted right in front of him. And Vince thought Trump and Clinton were goofy candidates! This was much more entertaining! Edward’s repressed sub-conscious, on the other hand, was appalled.

Vince also knew that 1872 was the year Virginia Tech was founded. Seeing them play Florida State in ACC sports he got very familiar with their history. And, hey! It was football season, too. Guess he’ll have to keep that in mind when he returns. A trip to Tallahassee this fall to catch a game would do him good. And, maybe even fly there. Why not, money’s no object for a well-to-do freelance time-traveller. And, he had a wad of 50s stashed behind his driver’s license in his wallet. Just in case, you know.

Being a freelance time-traveler was a pretty good gig, Vince thought as he stroked Edward’s beard. There’s the travel, the adventure, the danger, and you come back as a hero with all sorts of valuable information. MacNally and Company spent a lot of time, money and energy turning a former small-change dope dealer from a Florida trailer park into the ultimate time-traveling agent H.G. Wells, himself, would be envious of.

 

4. We Are Headed to Genoa With a Cargo of Denatured Alcohol

Vince went to pier 50 on the East River on October 27, while the Mary Celeste was getting loaded with more that 1,700 barrels of denatured alcohol, in preparation for its journey to Genoa, Italy for delivery. The alcohol will probably be used for cooking stoves or cleaning. Denatured alcohol does not make for good drinking, though. Captain Briggs would not be tempted himself, having never had the desire to imbibe in any sort of alcohol. They were all poison to him. All alcohol consumption would be forbidden on any vessel he commanded and that was rule no exceptions were to be made.

“Welcome aboard the Mary Celeste, Mr. Head. I’m Captain Benjamin Spooner. Let me introduce my first mate, Albert Richardson. Richardson is married to Winchester’s niece, don’t you know? And, my lovely wife, Sarah and our little girl, Sophia. Our son, Arthur, just seven, is with his grandparents whilst we journey. The rest of the crew, second mate Andrew Gilling, Boz and Volkert Lorenzen, Arian Martens, and Gottlieb Goodschaad, will join us later. The crew comes from the Frisian Islands, off the coast of Germany. Their English is not very good, but Gilling can help translate when needed.”

That was a lucky coincidence, Vince thought, his grandparents were from Germany, and he understood quite a bit of it himself. He just needs to keep that in mind and not allow All-American Edward to start “Sprechen sie Deutsch” all of the sudden.

“We are headed to Genoa with a cargo of denatured alcohol and we set sail on the fifth of November. It will be an honor to have a friend of Winchester’s serve aboard the Mary Celeste. Please be aboard two days prior to departure, the third of November. We will return to New York directly after unloading our cargo and expect to be back by the first of February next. I understand you were recently married, Mr. Head?”

“Yes, Captain. Amelia and I were married last November. She is not entirely pleased with my decision, mind you, but she completely understands the necessity of the undertaking.”

“You want to strike it rich on the open seas, is that it, Mr. Head! Ah, god willing, it will be so for us all, god willing.”

“Yes, sir, Captain.”

Captain Briggs would not allow alcohol or tobacco aboard the Mary Celeste, being a teetotaler kinda guy. Fortunately, he wouldn’t have to stay on that tug until February. Twenty days will be long enough. Hopefully, he wouldn’t have to catch a ride to make the return from a jump in the future, Vince thought. It would be much more convenient to just show up at the fort, or the castle or the battlefield or whatever. Maybe the gizmos back home could be tuned up so next time—if there is a next time—he could lollygag around Valley Forge, chew the fat with ole Georgie W and get whisked back from the mess tent straight to the chair from Ebay. Right, dream on, Vince, he thought, continually stroking Edward’s beard.

Amelia anxiously awaited Edward’s return from his interview with Captain Briggs.

“I bear splendid news, Amelia!” Vince exclaimed. (And, I’ll be far, far away from you, Vince almost muttered.)

“Do you now?” Amelia replied with arms folded.

“I have been hired on as steward on the Mary Celeste. A brigantine loaded with alcohol—fancy that—and we are to deliver it to Genoa. We will set sail on the fifth of November. I will return by the first of February. I know that the separation will be difficult. Mr. Winchester will be available if emergencies arise. I will write you every day and post them to you immediately upon arriving ashore in Portugal. You’ll see; we’ll have money, we can make a future. We will grow old in the 20th century wealthy and content. You’ll see. It is my solemn promise to you.” (Well, at least until 1912, when you go down on the Titanic. I could only do what I can only do! Vince wasn’t too concerned, he can’t really change history and it was out of his hands.)

“You just need to come back as soon as you can. That is what I want more. The future can wait,” Amelia replied with her downcast eyes.

Vince thought he had done a good job of explaining things to Amelia and knew, from the intelligence report, that Edward would, indeed, make a go of it and they would live lives of wealth and contentment. Until 1912 that is, when the Titanic would sweep away his entire family. He knew that Edward was sensing this odd prophetic knowledge of his own future. He could not possibly know that future, yet he “knew” that he did know it. Vince’s own thoughts and knowledge of the Titanic disaster were spilling into Edward’s sub-conscious. Vince could feel the little bit of Edward’s sub-conscious trying to make sense of it. What an odd sensation.

“Is something troubling you, Edward?”

“No, no. Just lost in my thoughts of what will come.”

“Dreaming of the future will not get you there,” Amelia scolded.

Vince was glad that conversation was over. Now that everything was all set for the return, Vince could concentrate on his real mission and start recording the sights of sounds of 1872 New York through the eyes and ears of his tandem, Edward William Head, ship’s steward, Mary Celeste. Some sight-seeing, twenty days sitting on a boat, and then return to 2017, collect 100 Gs, pass “Go” and smoke and drink to his heart’s content on the beaches of Daytona until the next time he’s called up for a ride into the past impersonating who knows who.

 

5. I Hope to Have a Fine Passage

Tuesday, November 5, 1872. The Mary Celeste was cleared to leave the Port of New York. It had to be so, it was right there on page ten of the New York Herald, listed right above the Osprey, bound for Buenos Aires.

Sarah and Sophia Briggs joined Captain Briggs aboard the Mary Celeste on October 28. Briggs later wrote to his mother, on November 3, “Our vessel is in beautiful trim and I hope to have a fine passage.”

“We are loaded with cargo and all crew and passengers are accounted for,” Captain Briggs declared. “We will set sail for Genoa, but the weather seems uncertain. We will dock at Staten Island until conditions improve.” Vince had been aboard for two days, as instructed, and was anxious to get out to sea. Hopefully, the weather will clear soon and they could pull anchor and head to Genoa.

Vince knew that area. Several years ago, he had stopped in at Yummy Taco on Bay Street.  Damn, he could go for a taco right now.

The Mary Celeste stayed anchored at Staten Island for two days. This gave Sarah Briggs one last opportunity to write to her mother-in-law with instructions to relay to her son Arthur, in her care during the voyage. “Tell Arthur I make great dependence on the letters I shall get from him, and will try to remember anything that happens on the voyage which he would be pleased to hear,” she wrote.

Arthur did not hear anything more from his mother. Not about the journey to Genoa. Not even about tacos.

By November 7, the weather had cleared enough for Captain Briggs to declare that they’d be underway to Genoa.

“Raise the sails, Mr. Richardson. All hands prepare to set sail. We have alcohol to deliver to paying customers on the other side of the ocean!”

Captain Briggs thought this would only be the first of many ocean-crossings. With bible in hand, he gazed upward, whispering his thanks for the grace of god.

As the Mary Celeste prepared to set out, another brigantine was anchored in nearby Hoboken, New Jersey. The Dei Gratia was also bound for Genoa, by way of Gibraltar, with a cargo of petroleum. The Dei Gratia, or Latin for “By the Grace of God,” was captained by David Morehouse, who, along with his first mate, Oliver Deveau, were both native Nova Scotians, where the Dei Gratia and the Mary Celeste were both built. In fact, Captain Briggs was an acquaintance of Morehouse’s and they were to dine together with their wives the night before departure. Morehouse had to beg off to take care of some problems with the cargo being loaded onto the Dei Gratia. Briggs wished him well. It was the last time Morehouse could account for Briggs’ whereabouts. The Dei Gratia would depart for Gibraltar, roughly following Mary Celeste’s course, with its cargo of petroleum, eight days after the Mary Celeste left Staten Island.

 

6. I Don’t See!

The Atlantic Ocean was big, Vince thought. He had consulted a map to get an idea of how far it was to Europe from the 37 States on the west side of the Atlantic but he had no real comprehension of just how vast the sea was. The very thought made him dizzy.

He had flown over these waters and it was just a few hours to Heathrow. In the dark warehouse, Edward was having memories of giant birds, glistening against a brilliant sun, and, feeling compelled to, what, put his seat-back table in the upright position? Perhaps the drugs the thin woman put into his strange arm were causing these queer visions. Across the years and miles Vince could almost sense what Edward was thinking. Sometimes, two kas, passing in time, share a special bond.

Vince went out on deck to get some air. The Frisian Islanders were huddled together speaking in German. Edward could make out some of what they were saying, although German was not a language he knew. The crew was none too pleased with Captain Briggs’ prohibition on alcohol consumption and they were planning on a couple of quick nips of the denatured alcohol in the hold.

Bad idea, Vince thought. He didn’t know exactly what it would do to someone, but he did know that denatured alcohol was not like drinking Fireball Whiskey. He would know. He would have Edward would keep an eye on the crew and report any theft of cargo to Captain Briggs and first-mate Richardson. He could understand a little of what they were saying. Enough, anyhow, to know they were up to no good. Weekends with his grandparents gave Vince just enough knowledge of German to help Edward understand the plot that was afoot. Well, if anything, it will make the rest of the journey a bit more interesting. Is time-travel really fair to these people, Vince thought. Well, at this point in Vince’s life, these people were long gone, so what did he care?

Friday, November fifteenth, the crew decided to make their move. It had only been a little more than a week at sea, but they were thirsty. Captain Briggs and his wife had regaled them with Bible stories, translated by Gilling, (who, of Danish descent, knew enough of the language), for hours on end, and they needed something to take the edge off. Once this voyage was ended, they’d find another ship to sail on—one in which the alcohol wasn’t kept under lock and key.

Goodschaad and Martens went down into the hold while the brothers Lorenzen kept watch on deck for Head, Richardson, Gilling or that holier-than-thou captain of theirs. They bore a hold in one of the cask with a hand-drill and let the liquid pour into a tin cup.

Das ist genug,” Martens said. “Enough. Let’s take this up on deck before anyone sees us.”

Martens and Goodschaad climbed the ladder to the deck where the brothers waited.

Lass uns trinken!” Volkert declared. “Let us drink!”

The men passed the cup around and each took a drink. It was alcohol, but not like any they had tasted. It was vile and they thought perhaps it may not have been worth the risk.

“Schmeckt wie Scheiße!” Volkert spat.

It did not take long for all four men to begin experiencing the effects of their coveted drink. Dizziness and confusion were the first symptoms, quickly followed by severe digestive distress.

“Mr. Head! Herr Head! Help! Hilf uns!” Boz cried.

Vince was in his cabin when he—and Edward—heard the Lorenzen brother cry out. I bet I know what happened, Vince thought. Vince knew. He ran out the door and onto the deck to find the four Frisian Islanders doubled over, vomit covering the deck and dripping from their chins.

“I don’t see!” Boz screamed. Vince knew at once he was right. Blindness. One of the benefits of drinking denatured alcohol.

“What have you done?” Vince pleaded. “You can’t drink that stuff. Where’s Gilling? We need a translator!”

Captain Briggs came out on deck with Richardson and Gilling.

“What is it, Mr. Head?”

“The crew has gotten into the cargo and decided to sample some of it,” Vince replied.

“Fools! I was assured this crew would abide my rules and certainly not steal poison for consumption!” Briggs bellowed.

Boz suddenly stood and with his arm covering his blinded eyes, ran down the deck.

“Stop, Lorenzen! Stop!” Edward called.

It was too late. Boz had a wide head start and had built up enough speed to make it to the aft rail, where his blind eyes did not see the gap in the railing.

“Ahhhhhhhh,” Boz’ voice trailed after him as he fell the 15 feet into the churning waters of the Atlantic.

Volkert ran in the direction of where he heard his brother. Also blinded by the alcohol, he ran towards the rail himself but was grabbed by Vince as he raced by.

“Hold on, Volkert. Boz is gone.” The two men wrestled on the deck, but Volkert was too weak from cramps and pains to put up much resistance. Martens and Goodschaad lay huddled in a ball on the deck, whimpering.

“Place these men in irons for the duration, Mr. Head.”

“Sir?”

“I will not tolerate such insolence upon my ship. These men have broken several rules that they all agreed to abide. We will have them arrested when we go ashore in Portugal and they can all be returned to their native islands where they can drink all the poison they will. And let them be damned for eternity for what they have done.”

Damn, gee, Vince thought, the shit has done gone down!

With the help of Richardson and Gilling, Edward dragged the remaining crew below decks and, as instructed, clapped on the restraints. They put up no struggle.

“Benjamin,” Sarah asked, “is that really necessary? They are weak-minded men filled with the Devil who could not help themselves when tempted.”

“Dearest, Sarah, they have broken my law, they have broken God’s law. Those who do will be damned by both.”

With half the ship’s complement now out of service, Edward, Gilling and Richardson would now be pulling double duty. Fortunately, the winds were steady and the seas slight so there wasn’t too much work to be done, other than keep the Mary Celeste on its course, prepare the meals for the Briggs family and listen to Sophia’s incessant colicky cries morning, noon and night. Vince wished he had some of the alcohol to numb the sounds of that child’s non-stop crying. What was Captain Briggs doing bringing his wife and child on this trip with a bunch of strange men and cargo full of poison?

Vince was getting excited. The twenty-fifth was fast approaching. Two weeks at sea with a bible-thumping crazy man and his family, three blind mice below decks, two spooky mates and his tandem-buddy, Edward, was just about enough. Not to mention that kid’s screaming all the time. I bet she was sick. Who could blame her, being trapped on this floating madhouse. Traveling to 1872 was not the dream vacation he thought it would be, that’s for sure. He’s been here for more than a month, with half of it just floating on this wreck so he can catch the bus back home. He dreamed that he could have been at the Alamo for one glorious day. That’s the way to do it, go in, see the action, and get out. March 6, 1836 would be a perfect day for that. He saw the movie, both movies, actually, so he knew what was going to happen and where to hide so as not to become one of the brave Texians himself.

Or, maybe a trip on Oregon Trail. He had played the computer game as a kid and expected it to be just like that. “Caulk the wagons and float!” “Susannah has died of dysentery!” “Trade for peppermint and laudanum!” Well, finish this assignment and get back home and maybe they’ll arrange a more exciting trip for next time!

 

7. We will be Passing Santa Maria Island Today

Vince awoke before dawn on November twenty-fifth. Monday morning. Before he made his rounds and checked on his prisoners below decks, he’d visit with Mr. Richardson.

“Good morning, Mr. Head. Here to check our position I suppose? Perhaps navigation would have been a more suitable occupation for you, eh?” Richardson laughed.

“I’m just interested in our progress, that is all. I have developed a fascination with time and distances.”

Vince had to get back in “character.” His ka was slipping and Edward’s soul was clouding his thoughts. He could just imagine what was happening on the other side of time. Vince’s body was probably long overdue for one of Rebecca’s happy shots back in the warehouse.

“37°02'09.3"N 25°14'11.0"W.” Richardson reported their location to Vince.

“We will be passing Santa Maria Island today.”

“That’s correct. The Azores. Know any Portuguese, Mr. Head?’

“I’m afraid I do not, Mr. Richardson.”

“Good, then. We ain’t stopping! But we have slowed quite a bit. Winds seem to have left us. We’ll drift for a bit.”

“Will we reach 37°01'N, 25°01'W by 9 o’clock?”

“Quite likely. Any particular reason? That would put us on the other side of Santa Maria, but it’s still empty ocean and a long way yet to go until we get to lay anchor in Portugal?”

“Just keep me posted, if you would, Mr. Richardson. Thank you. Good morning to you.”

Vince was pleased how that worked out. Edward didn’t sound like a complete nutcase, although Richardson was suspicious. Only a few hours to go and this luxury cruise will finally come to an end. He could say goodbye to bible-thumping Benjie and his creepy wife, the three blind mice below, Richardson and Gilling, too. He would miss being Edward. These past few weeks, he’s gotten to know the man through other people and developed a deep respect for him. Hopefully, Edward has reciprocated back in the warehouse in 2017. Nah, probably not.

The sun was up and so was the breeze. Looks like his ship has come in and he’ll be off of Gilligan’s Island in no time. Can’t wait! PBR, Marlboros … and Doritos! Yes, gotta get me some Doritos.

Oh, no, here comes the Skipper, with his little buddy, Gilling.

“Mr. Head, can you join us below decks, please? It seems that one of our prisoners has taken ill. Deservedly, I shall say! However, we must attend to him. Mrs. Briggs is there with water and blankets, trying to make the poor soul comfortable. I fear he may not be with us much longer.”

“Which one is sick, sir?”

“Martens.”

Vince was surprised to see Richardson below decks as well. Everyone on board was now below decks!

“Captain,” Richardson called as Briggs passed on his way down the ladder. “The sea, well, sir, something strange I witnessed.”

Vince knew what this was. A temporal passage was opening. The beam will come get him any moment and he’ll catch the 3:00 to Yuma in no time.

The beam was much larger than what he experienced back in the dentist’s office. This isn’t right, Vince thought. Captain Briggs knew it was the rapture and the three blind men lay on the deck unaware of what the commotion was.

Edward’s body drifted toward the center of the light and Vince could feel a sense of floating. Mrs. Briggs, Sophia, Gilling and Richardson all looked up. The all felt compelled to move towards the light as in a trance. Vince knew the prohibition: organic material without a match on the other side of time cannot exist. Newton’s Law or maybe it was Murphy’s Law. Whatever Law it was, these folks were doomed and he couldn’t stop it.

They could all feel a shuddering and Sophia shrieked. Captain Briggs rushed to them and wrapped his arms and his bible around them just as the beam completely engulfed them and they were gone. The three blind men, including the deceased Martens, were also enveloped in the light.

Edward stood alone in the center of the light, feeling the alternating warmth and cold wash over him. The effects of Rebecca’s happy juice were still clouding his thoughts. It was wearing off but Edward would miss that sensation. He had the vision of seeing himself from two side, looking into his own eyes and thinking thoughts that were not his own.

Edward stood motionless below decks on the Mary Celeste. He was the only person aboard. Although he felt he should know why he was here, he could not comprehend that he was. Wasn’t he in a dark room with strangers? He stroked his chin with his right hand. Good heavens! My beard has grown back! It seemed that he was working at the hospital and then he wasn’t and then he was here. This did not make any sense. Why was he on a ship? What ship? How did he get here and where was he going?

Edward went up the ladder in search of the crew. He looked behind every door and even in the hold. Alcohol, it smelled like. They are transporting alcohol? Nobody was aboard. Perhaps a log or some record of events? He found a logbook and the possessions that appeared to belong to a Richardson. First mate, he surmised. Edward saw the coordinates last recorded and checked the charts. He was no sailor but he could figure it out. Santa Maria Island in the Azores. It appears he was headed to Europe.

Where the crew was he did not know. He could not sail this ship single-handedly, even if he actually knew how. What was the name of this ship, again? Mary Celeste? Never heard of it.

For five days, Edward tried hoisting sails up and down, but the ship floated in circles, and in an easterly direction. If he were heading towards Europe, then it would only be days until he reached Spain, or maybe Portugal.

The weather became rough and the tiny Mary Celeste was tossed. The glass on the ship’s compass shattered and some of the riggings came loose. Edward tried to secure them, but it was to no avail. Water was coming in and Edward thought he might have better luck in a smaller craft. The lifeboat was stowed across the main hatch and Edward thought he would take off on that and leave the Mary Celeste behind. He gathered up some food, some of Captain Briggs’ papers, some navigation equipment and the captain’s sword, that he found under his bed. No, leave the sword, Edward thought. If the captain went down with his ship, then his sword shall accompany him. Edward returned the sword, safely within its sheath to floor below the captain’s bed.

Edward left the Mary Celeste at dawn on Wednesday, December 4. Which way he would go and for how far he knew not. Perhaps he should have left a note behind on the Mary Celeste? But, what would he write? He didn’t even know why he was there or doesn’t remember meeting any of the crew or this Captain Briggs and his family. Once he made it back to shore, he would contact James Winchester. James would know, he knows ships. Maybe he even knows this Briggs? Edward floated away in his lifeboat watching the Mary Celeste fade from view. He was headed west.

 

8. By the Grace of God

“Captain, a ship ahead,” Oliver Deveau, first mate of the Dei Gratia, called to Captain Morehouse.

“Position?”

“38°20'N, 17°15'W.”

“Take Mr. Wright with you, Oliver, and see if the crew of that vessel are in distress. Be sure to be armed if there is trouble. Report back immediately.”

“Aye.”

Oliver Deveau and second mate John Wright oared their way to the other ship. Nobody was aboard. No need for guns.

“Abandoned, Captain.” Deveau report. “No signs of a struggle, almost all provisions and equipment, save a few items, are intact. The lifeboat is missing. It’s the Mary Celeste, sir.”

“Briggs! He would never abandon his ship. The weather has calm and the sailing good. No reports or signs of pirates or sea monsters. By the grace of God, why would he leave?”

“Perhaps they were swept overboard or eaten by a giant squid?”

“Balderdash, Deveau. We will take the Mary Celeste with us to Gibraltar. Oliver, take two men with you and command the Mary Celeste. We shall claim salvage rights, since my old friend Benjamin has given up his own claim.

It took eight days for the two ships to arrive in tandem at Gibraltar. The ship was impounded, as is the custom, before a salvage hearing. On December 12, 1872, Captain Morehouse wrote to his wife: “I can hardly tell what I am made of, but I do not care so long as I got in safe. I shall be well paid for the Mary Celeste.”

 

9. He Reached Into His Wallet For Some Cash

“We reviewed your recordings, Vince. And, re-checked all of our temporal and spatial readings and have found some anomalies. Nothing major, but your version of history doesn’t quite jibe with what we know as actual history.”

“Oh, yeah. Like what?”

“It seems like you brought some people from the past back to a certain point but they were lost in time. There were no matches for them in the present so time adjusted and they were gone. They were the people on board the Mary Celeste with you. We also now know the truth behind the mystery of the Mary Celeste.”

“Mystery? On that old tug? What kind of mystery?”

“It’s a famous maritime mystery, Vince. There have been books and PBS specials about it. It’s one of those ghost ship stories that have been the stuff of legends for years. Arthur Conan Doyle has written about it, Clive Cussler believes he found parts of it and it has been featured on stamps issued by the Maldives and Gibraltar. There’s even a memorial, with a cinema, in Nova Scotia, dedicated to it. Some say pirates, some say madness, some say giant man-eating squids. Bela Lugosi starred in Phantom Ship, which was about a deranged sailor on the Mary Celeste. Hey, Vince, I think he was playing you! No, it was actually Boz Lorenzen. Ha ha ha! Nobody has ever mentioned time-traveling mishap, though.”

“There was no mishap. I got all the recordings, I came back, I didn’t bring any passengers—you did—not me—and Bela Lugosi looks nothing like that Lorenzen kid! Lincoln is still dead and the Nazis still lost. They lost, right?”

“Yesssss, Vince. They lost. Still.”

“Phew. I was worried there for a moment. Edward Head: did he become a rich ship owner and lifesaver on the Titanic and live to be 99?”

“Edward never made it back from the Mary Celeste, so he was never on the Titanic and never saved anyone. Sorry. Your version of history was certainly much better for poor Mr. Head, but that has since changed. We don’t know what happened to Amelia, but it is safe to say that she never perished on the Titanic. Well, we’re done for now, Vince. Thanks for the effort on this one. It wasn’t perfect, but no big temporal ripples have cropped up. Have a good time at the beach. We’re working on another trip but it will take some time until we can get it put together. It’s a good one, too. Have you ever wondered what happened to those people on Roanoke Island? Maybe you can find them for us. Ha!”

Vince was glad that was over. He got into his car (it was nice to be in air conditioning) and headed to Cumberland Farms. PBR, Marlboros, Doritos—his three amigos. And maybe a Big Mac and Coke, too!

Vince walked up to the counter with his goodies. He reached into his wallet for some cash and pulled out one of his 50s he had stashed behind his license and handed it to the fat kid behind the counter.

“Uh, sorry, man, we can’t accept any Greeleys, 20s are as high as we can take.”

“Any what?” Vince looked at the crumpled bill the clerk handed back. He expected to see the bearded face of the Union General-turned-President, but instead looked down on a bald guy with side whiskers and small round eyeglasses. Under the portrait was his name: Greeley.

Ah, shit.


© Copyright 2018 Jeff Macharyas. All rights reserved.

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