Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Battle of the Right Hand

first off, sorry about the lack of capitalization in this intro. my computer's shift key is broken.

i found this piece from my sophomore year and reread it, and it held up surprisingly well, so i thought i'd share. the assignment was to write about why a villain became evil. i chose captain hook, because if you read the original peter pan novel, peter pan himself is one creepy little demon. some of the piece also references another book, capt. hook by j.v. hart, which chronicles james 'jas.' hook's teenage years and time at eton. that's where jolly roger comes from. it's a pretty good book, if a bit of a tough read at times, and it gave me a lasting literature crush on jas. hook (which, oddly enough, didn't really diminish when i read peter pan shortly after) so there's that. (it didn't hurt that capt. hook is illustrated by brett helquist and jas. is really hot. and that stupid overconfidence and sexy, sexy honor code. mmm.)

anyway. here's the story. hope you enjoy.


I lean forward into the cracked mirror in my cabin and inspect my moustache.
            Hmm. Not too bad. It is not yet long enough for the look I intend it to have, but it will get there soon. I believe it quite complements my face. My long, pale face, framed by the scraggly black curls that have plagued me since childhood, will never be handsome, but a moustache will give it ferocity, which as a pirate captain I shall certainly need more of.
            “You would look good with a moustache, Jolly. Or a beard. Perhaps you should cultivate one.”
            “What, me? Absolutely not. I haven’t got the guts for it.”
            “It could hardly make you look worse.”
            “Ha ha. Why don’t you grow one? Every captain needs a trademark.”
            “I’ve got one already. A trademark, I mean, not a beard.”
            “True enough, Jas. Hook.”
            Something thuds against the deck. I look up. Is it?
            “Captain! It’s the boy!”
            It is the voice of my trusty bo’sun, Smee. In an instant my sword is in my right hand, my left clenched into a fist as I run from my cabin and dash straight up the stairs.
            Starkey is fighting the boy, clever, clever Starkey, exiled from England for the murder of eleven schoolchildren. This is one child he cannot kill.
            “Stop,” I cry. “He is mine.”
            Mine indeed, after all that this child has done.
            The boy lands lightly on the deck, a smile baring his pearly teeth. I consider myself a brave man; I have not flinched from brutality and bloodshed, but something about this youth unnerves me. It is strange that such a demon inhabits a body that, to the eye, seems so innocent and pure.
            Innocent? Hardly. This little boy has vandalized my ship, murdered my crew, and taken my island and my freedom.
            “Pan.” My boots clack against the deck.
            “Hook.” He bows. One of the things I most hate is that he thinks he has grace; he thinks he is the center of the world. 
            I step forward, my sword darting to him. He parries easily. Our swords flash crimson in the light of the sunset. The one affirmative thing that can be said about this beast is that he has good form in swordplay.
            “Why, Pan?” I demand a reason. There must be a reason.
            “Why what?” Pan smiles that terrible cocky smile and for an instant
            “Jas! Land ho!” Jolly smiled that charming cocky smile and I ran to his side. He was right. Shimmering in the mist of the sea was—what was it? An island, yes, but it was more than an island; its green shores were somehow enchanted. I knew this as surely as I knew that I was Captain Jas. Hook and that Jolly Roger, standing beside me, was the best friend any man could possibly have.
            Pan’s sword flashes by my ear and I jerk away, spinning to parry his next blow. The duel has become more intense now; we are past the preliminary courtesies. I am forced to leap up onto the poop deck. Pan simply flies after me. How can this inhuman monster fly so easily? What gives him the right?
            The island was so beautiful and rich that we proclaimed it our home. My crew was happy there, nearly as happy as they were when they wallowed in the bloodlust of battle, sword to sword with England’s finest admirals. It became our hideaway, the place to rest and recuperate that we might go out and wreak havoc on England once again. Jolly called it Neverland, because we would never be found there.
            I swivel under Pan’s blade, rolling across the planks of the ships. I misjudge, falling hard onto the main deck. Pan’s crow of triumph leaves me with time to reclaim my blade, and I slash at him as he soars over my head.
            Jolly was my one true friend, the one person I trusted implicitly. He had not shied from me at Eton, where my yellow blood, long curls and frightening temperament had made me a pariah. When I left England, he signed on with me and when I mutinied and took the Lady Anna he became the first mate. He had good—no, excellent—form. He was the one person I was terrified of losing.
            “Why do you come here?” I yell to his small silhouette in the sky. “Why do you kill my men? Why this island?”
            “It is mine. My Neverland, and you are an evil person, and your men are mine to kill.” Pan has descended to the deck and we battle directly once again.
            The sheer wrongness of this answer is intolerable. I found Neverland before Pan; Jolly Roger named it. I am not an evil person—am I? I do not think it is evil to go against an empire that never cared for you, that threw you away for the crime of defending the basic rights of men.
            Pan slashes and a yellow fleck appears on my wrist. I have odd yellow cells in my blood, an “unexplained mutation,” and the term mutant was often used at Eton. The sight of my own blood is one more factor adding to my fury at Pan, Pan the demon, Pan the monster, Pan the devil with a child’s face.
            Neverland was our Eden for a time, until one day Smee caught sight of a flying boy. I told the crew to leave him alone. He was of no interest to us.
            Until he killed Jack Havok.
            After that, we were wary. Jack had underestimated the little bastard, and I was determined not to lose another man through the same mistake.
            We never attacked Pan. We left him alone, as we had left the savages who shared the island with us to their own doings, but Pan was not like the natives. He would attack, slyly, for no purpose other than his own amusement.
            Pan leaps into the air and swoops over my head. I duck. A black curl drops to the deck like ash from a burning house.
            I was going to leave. Pan had made Neverland intolerable for us; I had lost too many men to risk staying. Jolly advised me to set sail and not look back. “It’s not ours any more, Jas,” he said, “it’s his. Let him have it. We can find another island, a better one, where he’ll never follow.”
            Then, on the night before our departure, Pan broke in and scuttled the ship. We were officially scuppered.
            Pan chooses to remain in the air. No. I must kill him. Now. Tonight.
            I leap for the mainmast and climb, sword between my teeth. Sweat slicks my curls to my neck. The demon must die.
            Pan perches on the end of the mast now, his feet hovering a few inches above the sail. I take my sword in hand and balance as if I were on a high-wire, advancing towards him. It would be bad form for him to back away now, where I cannot follow.
            So we stayed on Neverland because Pan had forced us to. We fought him back and we tried to hunt him down, but he was just too damn fast.
            It was dusk, the sun searing the heavens with its final breath, when suddenly Starkey gave a cry. The boy swooped over the deck, killing Roberts with a blow to the neck. He landed atop the mast and crowed his triumph as his minions climbed over the railings and we raced to our positions below.
            “Pan! Do you remember him!” I am almost there now, only a foot or two from Pan, and I must keep him where he is.
            Jolly ran to my side, tossing me my saber. I caught it. He grinned at me, fierce and confidant. “Someday our foes may win, Jas…”
            “…But not today!” I finished our old war cry and heard a call. We spun to fight back-to-back against the small horde of children.
            “Remember who?”
            We had become separated. I saw that three of my men and two of Pan’s lay dead. Pan was still overhead, engaging occasionally but flitting from battle to battle in his fickleness. I spun to face the nearest Lost Boy and knocked him aside, for it is bad form to kill a child unless it is unavoidable.
            That said, Pan is not a child. He is the devil incarnate.
            “Jolly! Jolly Roger!”
            I glimpsed Pan again, and my heart lurched. He was the most formidable of them all, and he was fighting Jolly.
            The deck is so very far below, and I am acutely aware of how little support air offers me…
            I leapt onto the rail of the ship and ran to them, desperate to reach them before my friend was hurt. Seeing me, Pan became fickle once more and glided upwards.
            “You killed him!”
            Jolly turned, his face glowing with the flush of battle…
            I swing my sword. Pan parries. My balance is precarious. “You killed him, Pan.”
            Blood spilling across the white of his shirt, red blood veiling the tip of Pan’s thrown sword protruding from his chest…
             “I forget them after I kill them,” he says carelessly.
            I held my truest friend, the best man in the world, as he died.
            I glimpse something green or gray in the water far, far below but I cannot let it distract me. Our swords cross and cross again, Pan light as light itself and me swaying like a drunkard.
            That battle was a draw, but it never felt like one. We buried Jolly Roger on the shores of Neverland and re-christened the Lady Anna so that it would echo his name. It felt that day like some part of me intrinsically linked to my very center had been ripped away, something more important than even a limb. More important that a heart.
            There are tears blurring my vision, from both the memory of Jolly’s murder and the sharp wind that has sprung up. No! Bad form! But no matter how bad the form, I cannot stop them, and they are the reason that I am not quick enough to block Pan’s swipe, the swipe that severs my right hand and sends it spinning like a broken kite with a yellow tail.
            For a moment, I feel nothing besides the impact, which sends me reeling. But there is nowhere to reel to, and now I am falling as well.
            Something breaks my fall, and my leg too. This does hurt, and I cry out as I spin across the sky. A coil of rope has caught my leg. I am hanging upside down, with no weapon and yellow blood dripping from where my arm should be.
            In the haze of red sky and yellow blood and white pain, the strangest thought occurs to me:
            I took the name Hook after the weapon with which I killed my first man. Now it seems that this name will mean something even greater to me.
            Pan is hovering by me, laughing demonically. I feel the blood rush to my head. “How can you not remember?” I scream.
            “Not remember what?”
            I may be a pirate, perhaps I am even evil, but at least I have the common courtesy to remember those I kill.
            Pan swoops away, leaving me in this position of pure humiliation. Peripherally I see several men swarming up the mast to disentangle me, but my attention is focused on Pan. He drops to the deck and kicks my hand overboard before flying away.
            The nerve of this boy is unbelievable. He has no respect for anything. Anything.
            As the rope is unwound from my leg, as I am lowered to the deck, as the stump of my wrist is bandaged and a hook is fetched at my command, I vow that I will hunt Pan down. I will kill him. I will avenge Jolly Roger and the other members of my crew, and I will take Neverland back from the insanity of this demon-child.
            Whatever it takes.


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