Ten minutes earlier that morning, high on the hill above Port Mahon, the sun's rays had lit on Stephen's sleeping face. Stephen stirred and turned away, for he had slept uneasily on the rough grass. But the brilliance prevailed. He opened his eyes and stared about very stupidly: a moment before he had been so solidly, so warmly and happily aboard Admiral Aubrey's flagship off Africa with his new wife Christine in the great cabin, that his waking mind could not take in the world he saw. But gradually the smell of tar, the creak of the ship under easy sail and the warm closeness of his cot with the sound of Christine's voice in his ear, faded and was reclassified.
He grasped at a host of fleeting memories, of strange lands, of pain and suffering, love and life ashore and afloat. He thought of that strange compression of time in his dream; when years seemed to stretch for ever but pass in a night. It felt as though he had lived a whole lifetime of experiences and friendship with that naval officer he had dined with just yesterday. He could still recall glimpses of mountainous waves, nondescript animals and birds and smell the smoke of countless actions. Had those voyages and adventures all been but a fantastic and yet marvellously detailed dream?
As the sun rose, a cinnamon brown bird flew by and he recognized the hoopoe that he had seen with Aubrey the previous day in Port Mahon, the memories continued to fade as he struggled to retain them. What was that about a sloth? Who was Diana? and Dil? He wished he could recall more, it would have made a fine tale to tell Captain Aubrey once he got to know him better. If only he could still remember some of that dreamworld of the future.
© 2004 Adam Quinan