Monday, February 8, 2010

Chapter Seventy

“He isn’t here,” Pinocchio says at last.

For hours - much longer than necessary - he and the Candelabra have patiently searched the pirate ship. And though it teems with corpses, Gepetto is nowhere to be found.

“Perhaps the Clock was right,” says the Candelabra, “and your father is waiting in a cave somewhere, no?” He offers a hopeful smile that is lost on the little puppet.

“I suppose so,” says Pinocchio, though there is little enthusiasm in his voice. He flops onto a step crusted over with dried blood and sparkling dust, only scuttling slighty to the side as a pirate lurches by him. With a sigh, he removes the Enchanted Mirror, tucked away safely within his shirt.

“Father, where are you?” he asks, and the Mirror dazzles to life. Gepetto sleeps fitfully, still in his darkened corner of the world. A tattered piece of canvas covers his thin body. Then all goes dark.

“We’ll find him,” says the Candelabra. “We will,” it adds, this time with more conviction. It pats the puppet’s shoulder with one candlestick. “After all, we’ve come so far already!”

“And now we have a ship,” says Pinocchio. He smiles for the first time since coming onboard. “We can sail around looking for him.”

The Candelabra’s smile wavers for a moment. It had probably taken all of these dead men to sail the ship. Four individuals - two without any hands - would make for a laughable crew.

As he looks about the mess of ropes and sails, hope brightens Pinocchio’s painted eyes. “We could,” he says, and he pushes the wheel tentatively. “I bet the Lion knows all about ships.”

Unsure how to respond to this, the Candelabra simply murmurs, “Hmm.”

“And I could be captain!” says Pinocchio. Grabbing a ragged hat from the floor, he puts it over his head and turns the wheel a bit harder. “And you could be in charge of the cannons! And the Clock could sit in the crow’s nest, and the Lion could be my first mate.”

“Now, now, let us not be too hasty, mon ami. First we must get these men to abandon ship, oui?”

“Aye-aye!” says Pinocchio, and before the Candelabra can say anything else, he clatters about the sticky deck, pushing and pulling at the dead men.

Somewhat ruefully, the Candelabra allows the boy go about playing pirate for a little while longer. It waddles to the other side of the ship - port? starboard? - and flickers its wicks twice. Away on the shore, the dark figure of the Lion watches. The Clock, so minuscule, waves its hands in recognition of the signal.

The ship suddenly lists to the side, and the Candelabra nearly falls overboard.

“What happened?” it shouts.

Pinocchio, wide-eyed and baffled, guiltily hides his hands behind his back. The final link of a chain snakes behind him and rattles over the side of the ship into the calm waters below.

“I don’t know!” says Pinocchio. “I didn’t touch anything!” His nose stretches considerably.

The deck of the ship levels itself and begins to tremble. The wood creaks painfully. The pirates, agitated by the sound and motion, begin to scratch at the bloody, dusty floor.

“What the devil?” says the Candelabra, and it looks over the edge of the ship. The water is falling. Or, rather, without an anchor to hold it down, the ship is rising.

“We’re flying away!” says Pinocchio. His face contorts into a mask of grief and despair. “I don’t want to fly away! I want to find my father!”

The Candelabra looks around in shock. The pirate ship can fly?

Several of the crew stop scratching and lurch to the prow. They eagerly look ahead of them - perhaps smelling blood in the air.

The sails still billow, and without the weight of the anchor, they pull the ship forward, away from Neverland, into the bright and briny seas beyond.

“No!” wails Pinocchio. “I don’t wanna go! Not without the Lion!”

“We don’t have to,” says the Candelabra. It looks back at the beach, so far away, and can’t help but wonder what the Clock would say to this. “We can jump.”

“Oh, right!” says Pinocchio, and he grabs at the Candelabra, who shakes him off.

“You go first, I will catch up,” it says, smiling its most charming smile. “We’ll meet on the beach.” It feels some relief that its nose doesn’t grow.

When Pinocchio hesitates, the Candelabra adds, “Trust me. You will find your father.”

After gazing downward to watch Pinocchio safely hit the water (“And why wouldn’t he?” thinks the Candelabra), it rushes across the deck, down into the hold.

It doesn’t quite remember the tales of Neverland - is it difficult to find the island, or difficult to leave? Isn’t it just following the second star to the left and straight on ‘til morning? It might take only a matter of days for this ship to randomly hit that course.

And the idea of thirteen dead men on a flying ship, sailing over or crashing through any protective walls, the very thought chills the Candelabra.

Some of the crew vacantly hold their swords, though they’ll most likely go unused. Judging from their bloody beards, their teeth are now their weapon of choice.

And the possibility of unleashing more of the dead onto the world, the Candelabra can’t allow it. Maybe, it thinks, as it approaches the small barrels of gunpowder, they will sink in the ocean... but more likely, they’ll survive. Broken and battered and chattered, but still dangerous.

However, it’d be better to have them stranded in Neverland, where there’s probably none still living, than unleash them onto the remnants of the world.

The Candelabra crouches next to a pyramid of barrels, extends one candlestick to a second pyramid, and thinks its flames can reach. It makes one wish for Pinocchio, one for the Master, and one for the Lion - who will probably encounter these pirates if they ever reach shore.

Flicking its wick, it wonders what the Clock would say about this, and then the Candelabra sets fire to its destiny.