The Rope Eater
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When Brendan Kane accepts a stranger’s offer of work--two years on a ship departing the following morning--the nature of the journey isn't divulged. It matters not, though, for Kane is directionless himself, having just witnessed the Civil War's horrors only to return North with nothing but the clothes on his back and as many dead soldiers' letters as he could carry in his pockets.
Aboard the mysterious Narthex, Kane meets a ramshackle crew that includes an eccentric doctor and a three-handed Muslim full of horrifying lore. Kane learns only that they're sailing for the Artic in search of gold or maybe whales. But when it turns out the Narthex's destination is a temperate paradise hidden amidst glaciers–a mythical place–Kane and his cohorts must struggle to survive not only the bleak Artic conditions, but the loosening grip on sanity of an egomaniacal captain and the data-obsessed doctor. With each second that passes, it seems increasingly unlikely any of them will get out alive.
torch and held it right next to my face. As I stared, it resolved into minute and intricate patterns. It was a script, tiny and densely layered; each line was less than an inch high and the lines were piled over on top of one another, up into the darkness and down into the ice. It flowed and shrank, advanced, wove. My eye was sucked into it and compelled to follow it as it leapt and danced and dove. I could not read it, and yet it seized me, turned me to it, burned itself into me. Each letter,
followed, dragging or shoving the dogs as best I could; they sat limply and whimpered. Reinhold strode over the deck with two tucked under his arms, standing as a wave broke over him and then making his way forward again. As often as not, I would be sent sprawling just as I reached the mast and was washed to the far end of the deck. The waterways were too small to admit a man and, I would have thought, too small for our hearty dogs. But under the force of the crashing waves, I saw one stuffed in,
examine discreetly what had really happened. He found little—Strabo left nothing in his quarters at the university, except for diagram books of beetle genitalia with notes in his peculiar notation. They gave no clue to his whereabouts. He was toasted on New Year’s and forgotten. I had put him from my mind until a conversation with Dr. Architeuthis resurrected my interest. I’ll allow him to explain the rest.” West sat back as the doctor unrolled a chart onto the slab. “I was involved in volcanic
we were only about fifty miles at best and around seventy or seventy-five at worst from the strait.” Men began shouting, Adney and Reinhold above all, and jabbing at the map. Creely called for his skeet rifle and ordered the dogs released, then rolled over, and the map fell off into Griffin’s lap. “The map is rubbish,” Griffin said. “Sending men north with our supplies is a death sentence for those who remain, and suicide for those who go—all for a place that exists only in the math of the good
was able to get a few sips into Creely, though he did not wake. Griffin ordered us about our tasks again: Adney and Reinhold out to hunt; I to the nets. Preston had regained the strength to go with me now, and it was nice to have even his silent company. West and Griffin remained behind with Ash, who dug out space for the meat at the far end of the hut and piled up the boats with snow to provide more insulation. The weather was cold but not brutal, and the wind was light. Over us, the stars