[Editor's Note: This is the 11th installment of 'Notes from the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
During a mid-morning break that followed Lily’s talk on weapons of the mind, I felt like being alone. Solitude is something of a tall order at a convention where most of the attendees are invisible, so I made for a wing of the college where no events were scheduled. The hosting liberal arts college is well known for its graduate program in museum studies, and I soon found myself in front of what appeared to be a student’s final project.
The florescent lights inside two rows of glass cases were off, so I leaned in close to read “The Love Letters of Sailors on Whaling Ships, 1879-1886” by the little morning light that reached them. Amidst thunderous metaphoric attempts and sexual longing buttoned up so tightly its tits were hanging out, there was one passage that stood out:
“Cordelia, my precious, my pet, my parrot, these are some lines I entreat you not to sing out loud. It has been some weeks since I survived a fortnight of darkness in the northern arctic. I say darkness, but what I mean is the trembling illumination afforded by the hellfire of the aurora borealis. There are things I know now that no man should know. I know what the future holds — oh God, we left 14 corpses behind. We are in San Francisco, we are heading for Cape Horn, I am never coming back.”
My attention was caught by a moving reflection in the glass. Looking up I was greeted by my own smiling reflection. My hand shot up over the unwelcome smile and smoothed it out.
In an instant, my eyes refocused on a piece of scrimshaw with the some words hastily scratched into it:
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”