The Old Siren. Chapter I. A Novel By Martin Cid

The Old Siren. Chapter I. A Novel By Martin Cid

North of Spain. August 3, 1838. 42° 22′ 34.68” N, 8° 51′ 38.94” W

The inscription

The Old Siren. Chapter I. By Martin Cid

The Old Siren. Chapter I. By Martin Cid

It all started on a clear day. In a calm sky, the tragedy took its strange shape.

We did not sail alone.

How could it happen that any sailor on duty had seen anything?

That August morning, at about ten meters from the captain’s cabin, in the stern of the ship Saint George, a strange inscription appeared, knife engraved, on a wooden wall:

כל השותה את דם הכבשה

יקח את דמי


והמלכה תבחור שניםאסר אחרים

והם יחצו את שבע הימים[1]


Captain James H. Dover was a good man who was accustomed to be aware of all and let nothing careless. He never came in direct contact with the crew, leaving this task to his second mate, a little squeamish boy in his opinion since he had preferred a more energetic one for the job. This boy of twenty five years, called Pierre Thomas…, will he be able to control those sailors?

Dover struck Thomas’ back encouraging him to start his duty. Who would have written that inscription? Sailors, gathered on deck, looked at each other without finding answers. Dover took a deep breath before returning to his cabin to continue smoking his long pipe.

He did not order to rub out the inscription which would accompany us throughout our aimless trip.

We were about forty or fifty sailors and only some few officers. Nothing to see a Navy officer with a merchant one: luster and elegance versus fear and shame.

‘What are you looking?!’ Thomas, the second mate, shouted.

‘He must be more concerned than us,’ someone close to me whispered.

‘Have you noticed he pretends to be a French man?’ other sailor said.

‘Go out!’ Thomas ordered, but one second later it was him who went out running.

Thomas was also a coward, the same as the captain.

Everybody on the Saint George knew it.

The ship skirted Finisterre and stopped at Lisbon, important commercial place and one of the best cities for a sailor prepared for a long journey. The Saint George docked at port and we have some free days. The famous Tour of Belen was in front of us with its Islamic stronghold, ten canyons and some soldiers.

‘Under its five floors, prisoners suffer from hunger and torture’ Josh, the carpenter, claimed… But he used to be an ignorant.

‘I don’t like Portuguese people.’

‘They are sad’ a third one affirmed.

We knew nothing about our mission but the pay was good enough. We earned twice more than on an ordinary ship and three times more than on a fishing boat. We only had a condition: never to enter the warehouse.

A certain Francis Cook was ship’s owner. He was on board to keep an eye on his business.

‘A horrible man,’ we heard before embarking.

‘A truth rat, this Cook, see how he distorts the look behind his shabby glasses,’ we also heard.

‘Nothing good can happen when the captain is not in command.’

‘Nobody trusts him.’

And sailors watched each other with suspicion and envy.

‘Who will drink the flesh, sailor?’

I remembered a different ship after spending those two days ashore. The luster that it had worn in Bristol, our departure harbor, it had disappeared forever in Lisbon.

‘Now, it seems a Portuguese ship’ Romeo, the ship’s cook, said. He was a kind of Turkish-Jewish or Jewish-Turkish and joined the worst of both worlds.

The Saint George was an ancient Spanish galleon renamed with such ironic name, especially for the greatness of the legend and the sad brightness their canyons had now, only ten and just fired twice in the last decade, presumably to make sure they still worked.

‘Look at Cook, the bastard!’ whispers and murmurs with no name. ‘He always smiles when he hears his name. Cook, Mr. Cook… Old, old rat with your old, old ship!

Everybody knew that silly story, so silly as all of the ground stories.

‘Saint George killed the dragon to defend a lady, sailor,’ again and again, the permanently sad and sanctimonious Thomas repeated.

As we weighed, some of us looked at the harbor with a strange homesickness, almost aware of what was about to happen.

‘Sirens keep the rest of sailors, be quiet. Is this your first trip?’

Sailors have always a peculiar wisdom.

The cost of Africa was beyond, waiting for us. Afterwards, we would take the current that would lead us to the New World, crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

There was no turning back.

Now, the sky is bluer than the sea.

The Saint George is already sailing with wings of fire.

[1] Whoever drinks the blood of the Lamb,

he will take my Blood

and will become king,

and the Queen will choose other twelve,

and they will sail the Seven Seas.

View Comments (2)
  • Dewey Edward Chester

    Dear Martin,

    I honestly liked this presentation, with dialogue intact. There has always been a mystery to me about sailors, from the time I studied Moby Dick….but this story goes further back, when Sirens occur, and the exotic nature of traveling alone on the ocean, with unknown expections, stimulates me. Please continue this series so I can fathom the merit of the unknown incription. I am in rapt attention to this journey.

    Dewey Edward Chester

  • (here martin). Many thanks, Dewey. This is a very special book for me. Many thanks for your words and for your recent comments here. We really appreciate people like you, good writers and better people. Many, many thanks, Dewey

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