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Ahab in the Afterlife

Old Guy

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The muse appeared after a long absence, somewhat disheveled and reeking of bad whisky.  Anyhow, she carried a page torn from a book.  Scrawled on the page was the basic idea for this tale.  Having writ, I decided to inflict it on you lot.  :)


Ahab in the Afterlife


Fifth Under Clerk Boswell watched as the last occupant of Purgatory made his way up to the reception desk. The man stumped his way slowly up the last steps and looked around.


“A sailor, sir,” whispered Bartleby, Second Scrivener. He stood behind and slightly to one side of the Under Clerk.


“Obviously,” sneered Boswell. “What gave you the first clue? The wooden leg? Tattered pea coat?”


Bartleby shot a quick, graphic gesture toward Boswell's back. “Skin that remains sun-darkened even after years in the Purg, sir. What is that great spear he's dragging along?”


“Search me. You're the keeper of odd information. Fifth Under Clerks can't be bothered with such trivia.” Boswell sniffed. “Whatever it is, he'll have to leave it outside.”


“I'm sure you're right, sir.” Privately Bartleby wondered if he shouldn't call Security. The approaching man's face had a hard, vicious cast to it.


“Good day,” called Boswell as the hulking figure halted a few steps from the desk. “Your name, please, so we may decide your future status.”


“Have ye seen him?” cried the man. “Moby Dick. Have ye seen the creature?”


“Ah . . .” Boswell glanced around, startled. “We – we have no – have welcomed no one by that name.” He dove to the white marble floor, dodging the mad motion of the wooden handled implement gripped in the man's right fist.


“Moby Dick. That be his name. The White Whale!”


Boswell huddled behind his desk. “We – that is – Bartleby! Call Security before this madman takes my head off!”


Bartleby had already moved well beyond reach of the spear. “I believe it to be a harpoon, sir. Not a spear. Our mariner was evidently a whaler in life.”


Calming somewhat, the man turned his ferocious glare on the Second Scrivener. “A whaler I am. Ahab, by name.”


“Ahab. Ahab.” Bartleby ignored his whining Under Clerk and made his way to a bank of files. “The name is familiar.” He pawed through a pile of scrolls and selected one. “Here it is. The Final Sinner in Purgatory to be Granted Early Entrance to the Celestial Realm On Account of Closure of That Same Venue; to wit: Purgatory. Your name is therein inscribed, Mr. Ahab.”


“Captain Ahab, to you, sonny.”


Bartleby bowed. “Of course, Captain. A thousand pardons.”


Ahab banged the marble floor with his harpoon. “Moby Dick! The White Whale! For nigh on two hundred years I searched Purgatory for the beast. Not a trace. Where lies the Celestial Ocean? There he will be, there I will hunt and kill him again. He will not escape me.”


Fifth Under Clerk Boswell climbed back into his chair and made an attempt to regain control. “Sir. Mister . . . ah . . . Captain. Please put down your weapon. You can't take that thing into Heaven.”


In answer, Ahab snapped the harpoon down, bringing it to a rock steady position a hairbreadth from Boswell's left eye. “Can't what? See that iron? Forged in blood it was. With it I took Moby Dick's life and with this same iron I will rid Heaven of the beast.”


Boswell fainted. His slack body slid to the floor.


Ahab glared at Bartleby. “Who is he? Has he no taste for sharp iron?”


“His name is Boswell, Captain. He has no taste for melodrama, especially in the form of dangerous equipage and weaponry.”


“Well . . . I'll not have him sailing with me on the hunt for the White Whale.”


“A prospect that is unlikely to dismay him, Captain.” Bartleby hesitated. “I may have information that will be of value to you – in your hunt.”


Ahab clumped around Boswell's desk and sat in the Under Clerk's chair. “Don't try to hinder my quest. I would smite the Creator himself were he to stand in my way.”


“Exactly, Captain. That sort of language, by the way, is the main reason for your extended stay in Purgatory.”


“So. I may have to moderate my speech, if not my intents. I had thought the long sentence had to do with the so-called “madness” of my quest.”


“Oh, no. We get those all the time. You can't imagine how many take up the quest to find the Holy Grail.”


“Hunting the White Whale is no paltry quest.” The Captain massaged the flesh just above his wooden leg. “Moby Dick took my leg, then my life – but not before I killed him.”


“Actually, Captain. Moby Dick didn't die.”


“Didn't die? Moby Dick not dead? How can it be?”


“Our records indicate that Moby Dick swam away from your place of death, wounded but not unto death. Your . . . ah . . . your remains were attached to the whale by a tangle of ropes.”


“The creature bore me away? And him still living. When did he die?”


“We don't record such deaths, Captain. It might have been noted in your record if he had died as a result of your . . . harpooning.”


The old Captain sat silent for a long time. Boswell began to stir. Finally, Ahab stood up, leaning heavily on his harpoon. For the first time he had the look of a tired old man. “Send me back.”


“Pardon? Back where?”


“Purgatory or Hell. It matters not to me. I am no fit occupant for Heaven.”


“You'd be surprised, Captain.” Bartleby smiled. “Besides, Hell won't have you. Never would. It's in your record. I think they believe you'd soon be in charge. You're not a man to tolerate slackness.”


“The road to Hell is crowded with idlers and slackers,” muttered Ahab. “Purgatory, then.”


“Out of the question. The place is closed. Orders of the Church.”


Ahab sagged even further. “Back to Earth?”


“Impossible. But whales aren't hunted there anymore.” Bartleby thought of what Ahab would make of the current inhabitants of Earth. “You wouldn't like it, Captain.”


“What then? I am no psalm singer.”


“Actually, we don't do much of that here.” The Second Scrivener consulted a card file. “Here's a possibility. The Forces of Good are heavily engaged with things from outside the Galaxy, out on one of the spiral arms . . .” Bartleby's voice trailed off as he saw blank incomprehension on Ahab's face. “Ah . . . just think of it as a distant part of Creation.”


“Aye. Outsiders? Some of Moby's kind, I'll warrant.”


“Well . . . Moby Dick wasn't really an outsider, but if the analogy works, hang on to it. These Outsiders need hunting and killing . . . or at least to be driven away.”


Ahab straightened up. “Sounds fine to me.” He glanced up at the Pearly Gates. “Where can I . . ?”


“Go? A guide will be along in a moment.”


“No.” The Captain shuffled his foot. “I need to go . . . you know? It's been a long time.”


Oh, sure. Through the gate, first building on the right.”


Thank you.” Again Ahab hesitated. “Can I take my harpoon?”


Take it with you. I have no idea how Outsiders are fought. A harpoon might be just the thing.”






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  • 2 weeks later...

Apparently a number of folks still like reading stuff like this.  For some reason most don't comment like people did in the past.  I wonder why.


Beats me, Lieutenant. 


Ahab.  A strange character.  Be glad I didn't include one of his many soliloquies.  :)



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