Story preface, set in April 1801. The novel spans spring 1800 to summer 1801
Note to readers. The full novel has an introduction, not included here, that explains that the author is merely an editor of the main character's letters and journals. The novel is a revised, dramatized and compiled version of the (fictive) source material.
The canons on the roof belch fire and smoke, creating a bloody pulp of the men in the courtyard.
A severed head raised above a savage face, howling in triumph.
I effortlessly swipe my knife across a man’s throat, spraying the covering girl in arterial blood.
The dreams came every night in my solitude and fragments such as these still lingered when I woke, soaked in sweat from the night terrors. Darkness still filled the cell, but from experience, I knew it was no use trying to go back to sleep. The cell was tiny, and a single step took me to my small table, and I pulled the rickety chair closer after lighting a new candle. My manuscript lay as I’d left it last night—showing the first page:
The Danish West-Indies,
As I write this, I am enjoying the hospitality of the British occupation force.
I’m fifteen years old and I will likely hang for my crimes.
The woman I love is dining with the enemy commander who has invaded our island.
I have killed at least four men and a child; traded in slaves; I have partaken of strong drink; and enjoyed the intimate company of whores.
My name is Martin Nore, and this is my diary.
To occupy my mind, I want to spend my remaining hours reconstructing the events which led me here.
Not Shakespeare, but it would have to do—there wasn’t much time to finish the damn thing. I grunted and grabbed a fresh page.
Nine days and a stack of paper filled with my scribbling later, I tossed the blunted pen to the floor. I would never need it again. The sounds of heavy boots marching down the corridor left no doubt the time had come.
A key rattled like dry bones inside a coffin and an English sergeant threw the door open. “Mr. Nore, please come with us.”
I grimaced. Whatever came next, my story was laid bare. Perhaps someone can find fragments of redemption among the pages.