Captain detests treason. She likes to teach us important things—planks made from wood are never as strong as planks made from mercury. Pictures are personified black holes wasting space into infinities. Our Captain has no time for all of that! Our ship sits atop a cracked bed of mud and concrete, and we’re hoping she’ll sink this month.
Right next door, there’s a burnished gold dance hall and a hurried bus stop. When our ship finally sinks (strained from all the sexual tension in her belly) Captain will let us paint the river foamy pink and white. Captain serves translucent silver wine and stolen sandpaper. She’s always interrogating us with questions like;
Do you remember the first time you jumped out of a burning balloon?
How about the first time you saw the inside of your tongue?
Our Captain bans photography (we should not encourage idolatry, the past lives only as long as the present). Anyone who disobeys her is forced to walk the plank. Our plank is long and silver and feeds on the sound of cracked knuckles. Every day it gets a little bit longer, shimmering above a steady pile of waste and chipped teeth.
I walked the plank last week. (Captain caught me shamefully photographing the river). There is something exhilarating in encouraging Captain’s wrath. She watched as I teetered with my eyes closed, inching closer and closer to the radiant edge. Thankfully, she reeled me in right before I slipped away. She took my camera, with the incriminating photograph, and placed it on the back of a toilet seat.
We have flushed thousands of photographs down the toilets— smoky stills of young couples groping, or sharp portraits of dying fingernails. Sometimes, a picture will cause such an enormous fuss that it provokes an earthquake.
Our photo-earthquakes always carry a staccato rhythm. Scattered thumping slips underneath our bones and licks our pupils clean. Shards of ice fall from the clouds like glassy blue frozen bombs. We love to dance to the sharp pricks of the decimating sky, shaking and rolling with the tenacity of a newborn aardvark.
We only feel like ourselves when we have Captain sitting in our laps. Sometimes we find her clenched between our back teeth, or folded into our serpentine suitcases. I like to condense my image of Captain into a turquoise pill and place it between my lips.
Captain lets us brush her hair—coppery and white and longer than the train of a wedding veil. Some of us have died over the chance to hold her marbled comb. She sits impatiently while we brush, abruptly jerking the wheel here and there. The sound of her hair is like the rattling of a pennies inside a tin can, or the brisk shivering of a bird’s wings.
The first time I entered the ship, hot air stuck to the inside of my clavicle and nothing in the whole world has felt as good. Captain’s voice imprinted itself onto my lungs, wrapped around my chest, and choked me into immobility. I haven’t been able to leave since.
Captain detests the letter “I”. We feed her stolen meat and clean the bottom of her silken boots. Sometimes I wonder if I would ever look pretty in a photograph. We never wonder for long. Our ship never moves. She is built of sand and multicolored grain, and she’s all we could ever hope for.
The only photograph we have is of our Captain.
Words by Sophie Tegenu
Edited by Morgan Dunstan
Illustration by Nat Thomas
Published in Armour Magazine Issue 23: Armour & Co