Marcus’s face fell and he sat on wall which was now the floor, “Well, at least I will die as I have lived…”
“Pathetically,” Lenny offered and then Roy and he took turns without much heart in it. “Drunkenly?” “Stupidly?” “Pointlessly?”
Marcus nodded, “All that and with no dignity whatsoever.”
They all fell silent, no one had been cheered up by the momentary banter. The water continued to creep into the ship and the glass above them began to crack from the pressure as they sank, the men’s ears were popping and it was becoming harder to breathe as the air felt hotter and heavier. They were silent as the grave, until Lenny stood up and addressed them, “I can’t just sit here and do nothing…gentlemen…it’s been an honor to know some of you…and now I think I’m going to sing our dirge…”
Everyone looked among themselves, but there was no objection. Anything was better than the creaking sounds all around them. Lenny raised his voice and began to sing, “Twas Friday morn, when we set sail and we were not far from the laand, when our captain he spied a mermaid so fair with a comb and a glass in her haand.”
After a moment Roy joined in softly and picked up the chorus, “And the oceans waves do roo-o-oooll and the stormy winds do bloo-o-oow. And we poor pirates are skiffing at the top, while the land lubbers lie down below below below, while the land lubbers lie down below!“
Richard and Marcus didn’t look like they were going to sing, but they seemed to prefer it to the silence and joined weakly, “When up spoke the captain of our gallant ship, and a fine old man was heee. This fishy mermaid has warned me of our doom, we shall sink to the bottom of the seeea!“
Arnold didn’t want to join in with their chosen dirge. He didn’t intend to die today…he had run from those fae and he could run now he supposed…but he sat and listened while Sam came to stand next to him.
“When again spoke the captain of our gallant ship, and a drunken old reprobate was hee. Nevermind about our sinking let’s not interrupt our drinking, just have the mermaid bring another round for mee.“
“It’s a question of what kills us now I’m afraid…” Sam whispered. “The pressure is likely to cave in that glass or maybe the metal will implode and crush us. The ship wasn’t made for waters deeper than maybe a thousand feet…if that.” Sam shook his head ruefully, “I really wish we’d stayed just a little more inland, but we’re about a half-mile out to sea.”
Arnold turned to stare at Sam aghast and asked in an outraged whisper, “Only a half-mile?! I thought we were headed straight for New Babbage!”
Their conversation didn’t appear to interrupt their singing, “When up spoke the pilot, of this gallant ship, and a calculating cutthroat was heee. Bugger all of you I’ll take me maps and compass too, there’s just one life boat and it’s going to carry meee!“
Sam nodded, a little taken aback, “Well…we are. Wouldn’t make much sense to be even further out…how else would you propose we reach New York?”
Arnold’s jaw dropped and he sat back horrified by what he’d just heard, “New York?!” He asked quietly again.
Sam looked at him askance and then shook his head sadly, “I don’t know what Babbage you must have been talking about then…but we were headed for the only Babbage I’ve ever heard of…and that’s in New York.” Sam shrugged apologetically, “Sorry I dragged you onto the wrong ship…”
Flabbergasted, Arnold just shook his head unable to speak for a few moments while the song continued to the line about the boson. Finally, he raised his head and asked, “Have you ever heard of Clockhaven? Wheatstone? The Church of the Builder? Of Dagon? Cloud Angels? The Bucket of Blood? The Gangplank? The Builder?” He tried name after name but Sam just kept shaking his head. “What about the people?! What are the people there like?!”
Sam scratched the side of his head as the song continued, “When up spoke the shanty man of this gallant ship, and quite a clever singer was heee. He said I’ll save us all here’s how, if we stop the song right now we’ll skip the verse where we sink to the bottom of the seeea.”
“To be honest I don’t know what you’re looking for…” Sam finally said with a shrug. “I wouldn’t say that there’s anything different about them at all. Same as anybody from anywhere else….I find them kind of bland myself.”
That was not his Babbage, Arnold realized for sure. It wasn’t even remotely related to his New Babbage or even his world. It just so happened he’d arrived in a place where eels had teeth and someone had picked the name for some city in New York! That’s why he’d never heard of Chesikeke or Hemmerton! The city he was looking for probably didn’t even exist here! Arnold was going to have to slip out of here before he died with them, but as he tried he found that he was having difficulty doing that! He couldn’t leave as easily as he had left the other realms…that pull into this reality he had experienced didn’t want to let him go!
Above them the metal creaked, it was seconds from giving way. Arnold desperately tried to escape, while the men braced themselves and yelled the end, “Then three times round, spun our gallant ship, and three times round spun shee! Three times round, spun our gallant ship and she sank to the bottom of the seeea!”
The song ended, and for a few moments there was nothing. Then the glass shattered, and the incoming water sent the men to the grave.