By Vita Forest
In which we first meet sailor Christabel La Mouse aboard The Good Ship Possession.
Christabel grasped the side of the ship in her soft green leather gloves, took a deep breath and peered over the edge. It always took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the distance. Through the gentle eddies that spun the bow softly this way and that, descending deep into the silence of the drop-off, before flattening and nudging out into the dark expanses of the
Tabletop and Tablecloth.
It was dark most days down there, with its rain-splatter circles, the sort you would see on the surface of a still lake if you were sheltering beside it, beneath a pagoda, with a cup of green tea and the time to stop and notice such things. The dark memories of those raindrops were sprinkled over with animals – horses, does, butterflies, and, Christabel’s particular favourite, the hummingbird. There it was! Right below her today. For the hummingbird had the unsettling habit of moving about. One day she would look down on the port-side to see the reassuring little creature, only to panic at its apparent disappearance. A quick scamper to the starboard side of the ship however, revealed that the bird was still in the depths of Tablecloth, merely having hovered over a little.
Or was it the ship itself that had moved? But no, the galleon did not change course, though it spun on the axis of its anchor which had curiously been flung from the top of the mast and lay wedged securely into the Ceiling above it.
Most disturbing of all was the morning Christabel had leaned over the side of the ship in her usual morning ritual and found that the Tablecloth had been completely erased. No raindrops, no animals, nothing but the bottomless void of white that seemed to have no beginning and no end. The Tabletop.
She had spent the remainder of that day resting in her cabin below deck, curtains drawn, with a cold compress resting on her forehead.
Luckily the Deep Darkness of Tablecloth returned the next day, complete with its cantering clouds of horses, butterflies and hummingbird.
Christabel straightened her back and pulled out the spyglass from the strap across her chest. She faced north now and turned the brass cylinder in front of her eye until the flying fish came into focus. They lived across the expanse, closer to the Distant Doorway and were sometimes battered most ferociously by the breeze that blew into the room on warm days. When the door was closed, they circled lazily, as they were doing now, always maintaining a respectful and steady distance between the members of the small school of four.
Christabel lowered her spyglass and smiled. It would be another calm day on the Ceiling.