'Call me Ishmael.'

It seems so long since I wrote those words. It was a lifetime ago though only weeks. The world is not different, only I am changed. I am a stranger to myself. Ahab and his cursed ship, the Pequod, are gone destroyed by the great, white whale, Moby Dick. His madness took them all, ship, catch, and crew, all except me.

I should have returned to my teaching, but something keeps me here in New Bedford, something haunts me, driving me down to the docks night after night to sit and wait and listen. What I wait for eludes me.

Perhaps it is death I am searching for with such restlessness. It seems unreal, so many dead, good and evil alike, sacrificed to Ahab's quest for vengeance. I alone escaped. Queequeg saved me from beyond the grave as he had saved me so often in life. Of all the deaths I saw, his haunts me most.

The cannibal had been my friend, my brother. We were married he had said. We had sacrificed bread to his heathen god to cement our friendship. My face is wet with tears as I sit here listening to the water lapping against the pier poles. The air, cold and heavy with the stench of fish and filth seems to press down on me.

I keep seeing him diving off the passenger ship after the fool who had taunted him, diving into the sea, into the severed head of a whale to save another sailor. He was a creature of the sea; it is beyond ironic that the sea should punish him for another man's folly. If it would do any good or change the universe in any way, I would scream at the sea, curse it for taking him away from me.

The turn of my thoughts confuses me. I have always come to the ocean for peace and now I am coming to hate it for killing a stranger, a heathen cannibal, I have known for such a short time. I should go home. I should leave this place, go back to school before I am driven as mad as Ahab.


Ishmael closed his journal harder, perhaps, than he needed. He scrubbed the moisture from his cheeks and rose to leave. He glared out at the sea one last time then turned to go. The sky was growing darker, threatening. He had never stayed this late in the season before. There would be storms soon, the terrible hurricanes he had heard the old timers speak of around their mugs at night.

The roads were packed with sailors and whalers heading home over land or heading for the docks to ship out to warmer ports farther south. The air was choked with the smells of fish, sweat, leather, and tobacco. Few of the mass spoke more than a muttered curse or an order to step aside. A few hawkers shouted from doorways and stalls. There was a sense of somberness, a silent acknowledgement of the turning of seasons.

Ishmael walked with his head pulled down into his sea coat. He stared downward, keeping his eyes on the ground before him. People avoided him instinctively, almost as if they could sense his grief, as if his dark fugue might be contagious. He did not slow his steps until he came to the small chapel that seamen used to mourn their dead.

It did not look any different than any of the other structures lining the docks until you stepped inside. The interior was all very old hardwood polished by time and the sea. The nave and pews were lovingly carved. A ship's wheel loomed behind the alter and compass roses shared equal space with icons of the saints and the cross. Each of the walls were covered with long brass plates. On these were lists of names, names of those lost at sea. Here and there someone had hung a token for a lost loved one, an amulet, a lock of hair tied with a ribbon, a ring.

Ishmael turned slowly looking at all the names. An old sailor had once told him that the sea always claimed her own in the end, that those who loved her and were loved in return would never rest in the cold, hard ground.

He knelt before the alter and tried to pray, but the words would not come. He could not be sure how long he stayed like that, frozen in a silent tableau beneath the disinterested gaze of the wooden saints. It was dark, though, by the time he left the chapel and headed back to his room.

He had chosen to stay at the Spouter Inn. Whether from morbidity or a desire to come to terms with the past, he was not sure. Whatever his own reasoning, he had returned to find that he was more than welcome in the small, shabby establishment. The landlord had halved his normal price, and everyone had been as solicitous of him as if he returned from Hell alive and intact instead of a doomed whaling expedition. Perhaps he had. He had asked for and received the same room he had once shared with Queequeg.

He ate in silence and retired to his room. Sleep was a long time in coming and when it did claim him, dark dreams came with it. He was awakened sometime later by the sound of his door latch being turned. He sat up in bed rubbing the sleep from his eyes. The door opened and two shadowy figures entered. Ishmael held his breath. One of the shadows moved to the lamp on the mantel. There was a brief flash then light flooded his room.

He ignored the landlord who was beaming like a madman from his position by the fireplace. He could not take his eyes off the tall man who stood by the door. He was too thin, his clothes were worn and ragged, and a coating of stubble marred his shaven scalp, but other than that, he was the same as he had been the first time Ishmael had seen him standing in this very room from his mahogany skin checkered with tattoos to the short scalplock on top of his head, to the kind black eyes that drew and held his own gaze.

"Queequeg?" Ishmael drew a halting breath before bolting from his bed and hurling himself at the savage.

Queequeg grinned and opened his arms. Ishmael buried his face in his neck breathing in the scent of saltwater that clung to the harpooner. He returned his friend's embrace as if there were nothing else in the universe except themselves. He never noticed the landlord slip out and quietly lock the door.

He released Queequeg reluctantly and stepped back. "I thought you were dead."

The Cannibal shook his head and told Ishmael the tale of his escape. He had hit the water knowing that the white whale was determined to kill all of them, so he had dived as deep as he could go and stayed down as long as he could. He had swum up beneath some of the wreckage when he ran out of air, just long enough to grab a lungfull, before diving again and repeating the whole sequence. Like the little fish, he explained, he was small and quick and quiet, so the great whale did not see him.

For three day, the whale had patrolled the area with the body of Ahab strapped grotesquely to its side. For three days, Queequeg had hidden beneath the sea. Just as he had begun to fear that thirst or hunger would kill him before the whale could, it had left. He made one last dive to the scattered remains of the Pequod far below. With the last of his strength, he had pried loose the harpooner's platform allowing it to float upwards. He had then pulled himself, exhausted, cold, and dehydrated onto the small wooden platform and let the current take him away from the devil beast.

The weather had changed then and it had rained several times, enough to keep him alive. He had been too weak to catch fish by hand so he had grown thinner and eventually lost consciousness. His god had not abandoned him after all, though, for he had drifted into the shipping lanes and been picked up by a merchant vessel and taken to the nearest port which Ishmael gathered was some distance down the coast from New Bedford. He had sold his boots for money to buy food and walked straightway here with no other thought on his mind than to find out whether or not his friend had survived the whale's revenge.

Ishmael found himself overcome by that act of selfless compassion. He sat heavily on the bed, buried his face in his hands, and wept. Warm fingers brushing his cheek drew his gaze back up. Queequeg knelt just in front of him until they were face to face. He brushed the tears from his face with gentle hands. Impulsively, Ishmael leaned forward resting his forehead on his friend's brow, as Queequeg had done the day they had cemented their friendship.

They remained like that for a short while then Queequeg stood, stripped off the remains of his clothing and crawled into bed beside Ishmael. His head was swimming with chaotic thoughts and feelings, too many to separate

"Queequeg...?" He began to say something but was silenced by two fingers placed over his lips. Queequeg drew him into an embrace against his bare chest and held him like that. Ishmael relaxed against him allowing his head to rest on the shoulder beneath him. It did not feel strange at all, in fact the Englishman could not remember the last time anything had felt so natural so right. He sighed softly and fell asleep cradled in strong arms.

Ishmael woke well before dawn from the grips of a nightmare. He was slick with sweat and trembling, but he was not alone. Queequeg was there beside him, pushing his wet hair back from his face, holding him tightly. Their bodies were pressed together far too intimately. He could feel his companion's lean body through his thin nightshirt.


I should not write of what happened in the moments after Queequeg soothed me from my nightmare, lest someone find this journal and not understand. Yet, I am compelled to record events as they transpired. I have never lied or hidden the truth in this journal. I will go on then with the tale that began so long ago.

I awakened beside my friend. He held me, chasing away the night terrors with his gentle embrace. I could feel the definition of his torso, the way his muscled calves were entangled with my own bare legs. His face was so close to mine that without thinking I kissed his cheek. I do not know if I meant that kiss to be a token of gratitude or something more, but in the moment it was given, events spiraled out of my control.

Queequeg kissed me back, not a brush against the cheek, but a real kiss on the lips. I could taste him as he withdrew, the warm flesh and the faint tang of salt, and I wanted to taste him again. I leaned in and brought our mouths together again. I felt the harpooner's long, fine boned hand tangle in my hair, felt his lips parting under mine, his tongue against my teeth seeking entrance.

I gave in without a struggle opening my mouth, tasting and being tasted by this man who had so easily re-arranged my life, my way of thinking, my very self. His hands were warm and certain as they slipped down to catch the hem of my shirt and pull it up over my head. Then there was nothing between us. Flesh pressed against flesh.

I wondered then if this was wrong, evil. I could recall hearing the priest back home quoting scriptures that seemed to say something to that effect, but then his mouth moved down over my body with such surety and such intimacy that thought fled completely. Right or wrong, I gave in to Queequeg and surrendered my body, my heart, my soul, everything to him. We knew each other as a man a women know each other, a union of the flesh, the spirit, and the soul, and we knew love in that same instant.

There is no other word for what had grown between us so quietly over the long months at sea. It was love. We were both men. He was a pagan and I Christian. He belonged to the sea, and I would never feel at ease on her again. There were so many differences between us, but that did not matter at all. We completed each other. It was right and perfect.

He is waking now. He is beautiful to me lying there on the white sheets with the morning light making his skin glow golden beneath his tattoos. My heart is already leaping in my chest. I know that I will follow him wherever he goes. I will not lose him again, to the jealous sea, to human pettiness, or to my own foolish intellect. I have been given a second chance at happiness and I shall not fail.

~~~~~~~~ Back to Moby Dick ~~~~~~~~


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