Content warning: Something kind of like drowning
Johann laid a wet cloth across Leonard’s bruised forehead.
“Get this goddamn fish off my eyes!” Leonard shouted.
Johann laid another wet cloth across Leonard’s bruised forehead.
Johann laid a third wet cloth across Leonard’s bruised forehead.
“Damn you!” Leonard tried to struggle, but he had many heavy blankets on him, and he was as weak as a little baby right now.
“It’s not a fish,” Johann said.
“Yes it is! I hate you!”
“It’s a wet cloth, and it’s going to help your concussion.”
“Why would a fish treat a concussion?”
“It is not a fish, Leonard.”
“You’re a quack German fish doctor.”
“I am not, and this is not a fish.”
“Yes it is, and you’re only treating me because you’re irreparably attracted to me.”
“No- Well, yes, I kind of am, but that’s not why I’m treating you, and this is not a fish- stop struggling, dammit, I’m trying to help you!”
Johann held Leonard’s arms down. “Leonard, you have to stop struggling.”
“Get the fish off my eyes first!”
Leonard fell silent for a moment, which disturbed Johann slightly. Still, it was nice to work in peace for once, especially since he had to turn around to get things several times.
When he was done making Leonard as comfortable as he could be with his severe concussion, Johann sat down on the end of the bed. “Leonard?”
“Where is Serena?” Leonard asked.
“Yes, my wife. Where is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you ask her to come here? Please?”
Johann sighed and stood up. “I will try to find her.”
He went downstairs and pulled on boots and a raincoat. Rain was coming down in sheets outside, and enough fog had rolled in off the harbor with the storm that a ship carrying Enoch, who had left for the twenty-third and should have been back today, could not dock. Johann imagined Enoch grumbling and groaning on the ship, and smiled. He could be hilariously dour sometimes.
Johann stepped out the door, and his glasses were immediately both fogged up and covered in water droplets. He cursed and took them off. There was actually no reason to keep wearing them.
Upon taking several steps along the sidewalk and realizing that people would be able to see him, he took the glasses back out and put them on again.
Johann walked down Broad Street first. He stopped a worker outside the Hadwen & Barney Oil and Candle Factory, because the man seemed to be headed in the same direction he was.
“Have you seen a woman named Serena somewhere around here?” Johann asked. “Long black hair, dark brown skin, on the shorter side in terms of her body?”
“Nah,” the man said.
“Alright, thanks anyway.”
“Any time, my friend.”
Johann tipped his hat to the man and continued walking. There were docks at the end of Broad Street that made him slightly nervous after the events of Thanksgiving day, but he figured that was where he was most likely to find Serena.
A fisherman was calling out the daily catch of shellfish. “Clams! Lobsters! Crab! Bay Scallops!”
“Have you seen a woman named Serena?” Johann asked.
“I haven’t,” said the fisherman. “Are you going to buy anything?”
To appease him, Johann bought a clam, shucked it, and ate it raw right there. The fisherman went back to calling out his catch.
“Have you seen a woman named Serena?” he asked a pair of young girls playing in the street.
The girls looked at each other and shook their heads.
Johann walked out to where some people were jumping off the docks. It was still pouring rain, but they didn’t seem to have any fear, especially a petite dark-haired woman who was swimming further out than anyone else. Johann grinned and took off his hat and coat. He dove into the water and swam out to where the woman was. “Serena!”
The woman turned around, and Johann saw that she was distinctly not Serena. He immediately felt bad, and would have apologized, if he hadn’t instantly been pulled down into the dark water.
Something was clamped around his leg. Johann tried to pry it off, but he dropped his hands away when he saw that it was some kind of seal… thing. He tried to swim for the surface, but it dragged him down, and down, and down, into a cave at the edge of the land.
Fortunately, it then threw him up inside of the cave itself, which was above the water line.
It was a small, featureless rock cave, with nothing in it except for an oil lamp which lit it. How had that gotten down here?
The seal-thing flew up out of the water, momentarily scaring Johann out of his skin. It landed on the rock on two human feet.
It was Serena, wearing only a sealskin frock coat. She grinned at Johann and tossed her wet hair back behind her back. “Dr Faust! How are you doing today?”
“Well, you might have taken three years of my life away just there. I didn’t know you were a selkie. I must confess, I thought you were just Scottish.”
“That’s right, a Scottish selkie I am, and a Scottish selkie I’ll always be.”
Johann stood up and ruffled his wet hair. “Good to know.”
“What brings you here today, Dr Faust?”
“Aye, my husband?”
“He has a bad concussion.”
Serena instantly went from happy to concerned. “He does? How? Who? Where is he?”
Johann pointed. “He’s up there. In Monica Carter’s house.”
“Take me to him. Please.”
Johann dove back into the hole. She followed him, and when he poked his head up above the water he found that it was raining even harder, enough that the youths at the docks were no longer there. Johann climbed up onto the dock and put his raincoat, which was now soaked inside and out, back on.
Serena followed him, still wearing only her frock coat, back to Monica’s house. When Johann came inside, he was barely able to step over the threshold before Joseph, Monica’s son, screamed “Mama, someone’s coming inside all wet!”
“Sir, you are committing a crime,” Monica said from the study.
“Sorry,” said Johann.
“Go upstairs and change your clothes immediately.”
“That’s what I’ll do.”
“Oh, and don’t get any mud on my hallway carpet.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“There’s some half-naked woman with him, Mama,” said Joseph.
“Johann, I don’t care if you want to fraternize with a woman, but please refrain from teaching my son the birds and the bees several years too early.”
“This is Leonard’s wife,” Johann said.
“Oh. Carry on, then.”
As Johann led Serena up the stairs, he heard Joseph ask, “Mama, what are the birds and the bees?”
Johann opened the door to Leonard’s room and let Serena inside. She went up to him and took his hand in hers, murmuring something too soft for Johann to hear.
“Tell that goddamned doctor to get this fish off my eyes,” Leonard said.
“That’s not a fish,” said Serena.
“Yes it- Oh, who cares. Thank you for coming to see me, dear.”
“Of course.” Serena kissed his cheek and smiled at Johann. “Would you mind giving us a few minutes alone?”
Johann shrugged. “Take as long as you need. Just don’t do anything too straining, if you know what I mean.”
Serena laughed. “I do.”
Johann closed the door and went up to the room he had been sharing with Deirdre. Monty had moved back into his old farmhouse, but otherwise, all of his other friends still lived with Monica full-time. Luckily, she didn’t seem to mind. Johann checked on Deirdre, who was passed out asleep in their bed, then went up to the attic.
He almost tripped over Sylvia, who was clearly high as a kite on laudanum again. Wilhelm and Alice were playing a dice game, and Richard reclined on a pile of blankets, reading by the gray light of a small, circular window.
Johann sat himself down between Wilhelm and Alice, purposefully interrupting their dice game.
“What?” Alice asked.
“We’re going to steal the body of Mrs Fuller,” Johann said. He turned back to look at Richard.
Richard turned the page of his book calmly. “Yes?”
“We are stealing a body.”
“You’re expected to help with this.”
“And so I will.”
“Good.” Johann turned back to the others. “Sylvia-”
“When you’re sober I’ll expect your help as well.”
Sylvia groaned. “It’s already happening.”
Johann turned to Wilhelm. “Wilhelm, you stay by me.”
“Okay, Dr Faust! I love working with you anyway.”
Right. He’d forgotten how irritatingly happy Wilhelm was. “Alice, Richard, you can-”
“I’ll do whatever,” Alice said. She unwrapped a candy and popped it in her mouth. “This candy is really good, by the way.”
“You’ll do whatever, and Richard will make the plan.”
Richard nodded and went back to his book. Johann took that as a sign of assent.
Johann sighed and flopped back against the wall. “Nothing to do now but wait for Mrs Fuller to die.”
Fun fact #1: the whaling museum that spoiled the entire plot of Moby Dick for me is in the Hadwen & Barney Oil and Candle Factory today. It’s an interesting place, if very spoiler-y.
Fun fact #2: This is completely unrelated, but:
- The words homosexual and heterosexual were first used in a letter from Karl Maria Kertbeny to his fellow gay rights activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, in 1868.
- The word bisexual was first used by Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s in his book Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. The book was translated into English in Charles Gilbert Chaddock’s translation in 1892.
Just some random fun facts!
Thank you for reading!