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Preview of THE TERROR- Chapter One

     CROZIER
Lat. 70°-05' N., Long. 98°-23' W.
October, 1847

Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts. Above him – above Terror -- shimmering folds of light lunge but then quickly withdraw like the colourful arms of aggresssive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to grasp, and pull back.

The temperature is –50 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping fast. Because of the fog that came through earlier during the single hour of weak twilight now passing for their day, the foreshortened masts – the three topmasts, topgallants, upper rigging, and highest spars have been removed and stored to cut down on the danger of falling ice and to reduce the chances of the ship capsizing due to the weight of ice on them – stand now like ice-sheathed, rudely pruned and topless trees reflecting the aurora that dances from one dimly seen horizon to the other. As Crozier watches, the jagged icefields around the ship turn blue, then bleed violet, then glow as green as his childhood hills in northern Ireland. Almost a mile off the starboard bow, the gigantic floating ice mountain that hides their sister ship Erebus from view seems for a brief, false moment to radiate colour from within, glowing from its own cold, internal fires.

Pulling up his collar and tilting his head back out of forty years’ habit of checking the status of masts and rigging, Crozier notices that the stars overhead burn cold and steady but those near the horizon not only flicker but shift when stared at, moving in short spurts to the left, then to the right, then jiggling up and down. Crozier has seen this before – in the far South with Ross as well as in these waters on earlier expeditions -- and a scientist on that south polar trip, a man who spent the first winter in the ice there grinding and polishing lenses for his own telescope, had told Crozier that the pertubation of the stars was probably due to rapidly shifting refraction in the cold air lying heavy but uneasy over the ice-covered seas and unseen frozen land masses. In other words, over new continents never before seen by the eyes of man. Or at least, Crozier thinks, in this northern arctic, by the eyes of white men.

Crozier and his friend and then-commander James Ross had found just such a previously unDiscovered continent – Antarctica – less than five years earlier. They’d named the sea, inlets, and landmass after Ross. They’d named mountains after their sponsors and friends. They named the two volcanoes they could see on the horizon after their two ships – these same two ships – calling the smoking mountains Erebus and Terror. Crozier was surprised they hadn’t named some major piece of geography after the ship’s cat.

They’d named nothing after him. There is, on this October winter’s dark-day evening in 1847, no arctic or antarctic continent, island, bay, inlet, range of mountains, ice shelf, volcano, or fucking floeberg which bears the name of Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier.

Crozier doesn’t give the slightest God-damn about this. Even as he thinks this, he realizes that he’s a little bit drunk. Well, he thinks, automatically adjusting his balance to the icy deck now canted twelve degrees to starboard and down eight degrees by the bow, I’ve been drunk more often than not now for three years, haven’t I? I’m still a better sailor and captain drunk than that poor, unlucky bastard Franklin ever was sober. Or his rosy-cheeked lisping pet poodle Fitzjames, for that matter.
Drunk ever since Sophia had . . . .

Crozier shakes his head and walks down the icy deck forward to the bow and toward the only man on watch he can make out in the flickering light from the aurora.

>continue

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