Spellbound & Shackled
By Tom D Blakely
In the small hours I had a strange dream; at least I think it was a dream?
Let me try and recount it before it slips my mind
There was a ship; a strangely attractive ship named ‘Nevigrofnu’.
It was a pleasure ship going to a destination that was out of this world. But…
The calm and sunshine soon gave way to a sickening swell and the cold of night.
Those who had descended the ladder into the ship
With so much anticipation and such thrill; now felt only heart-chill.
The well published voyage of discovery, billed as ‘Freedom Come’
Had since become, freedom gone.
Apples of promise now lay rotting in the ship’s stinking hold.
A shackled woman; poor, blind and starving
Dressed in filthy rags, lunged forward,
In yet another futile attempt she tried to break free.
‘Where is it?’ She cried, ‘Where’s the habit, I must kick the habit…’
Being blind she couldn’t read the inscription on her shackles either:
‘Not Of Yourselves’.
The bands of some, cut them to the bone inflicting excruciating pain.
Others walked about oblivious to their chains
Appearing to be still enjoying themselves.
Yet chained were they all, every last one of them.
With tears and sighs some recounted sad stories of personal miseries.
At times some in this frame of mind would suggest a possible connection?
That is; between their past dabbling in darkness with their present predicament.
Onboard however, any confessional sentiments were frowned upon.
The usual remedy was to offer the dissenter a complimentary drink.
A bottle or two of ‘Strong Delusion’, from the ship’s bar.
Even with this, and drunk as they were, some were shackled and knew it!
Others onboard appeared to have more freedom.
They made the most of it.
I suppose they felt they might as well as they were paying for it.
So they partied on, hindered only by having blocked ears and closed eyes.
These were the ship’s Master’s most trusted and prized possessions;
They had complete run of the ship; that is, below deck.
The old man himself was hidden from view in the dark depths of the heart of the vessel;
Angrily tearing pages from his calendar; Counting his days;
Throwing his dice… ‘Triple six again… Same number as this cruise’.
He had left his mark on the travellers…
His voice was within them; in their cursing, lies and aggressive tones.
His wickedness too, as seen in his passenger manifest;
‘Shackles and chain, sickness and pain’,
And the mark on their foreheads was his claim over their soul and brain.
Still they trusted him, as they partied on playing the game; the end game.
Was there any choice? A reasonable question, but,
As long as the ship’s bar was still open, things seemed fine.
A few drinks of ‘Strong Delusion’ and ignorance was bliss.
A rotten, leaking wooden ship without an anchor or rudder,
Nor hope, nor sail, drifting on a strong undercurrent.
But Ships Rule Number 1, subsection x, must be adhered to:
‘Ears must be blocked, eyes closed and simply trust the old man at all times.’
Anyway, you must have heard the wise old saying (also written by the old man).
‘The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.’
There was a choice; a way out:
A lifeboat had drawn alongside, with a very patient skipper.
Most onboard knew about him from way back, and ignored him.
Some though racked with pain, were so aggressive that they were beyond reason.
Others did not want to upset their old man, so they stayed below.
Some hesitated and were lost, or put it off too long and missed the lifeboat.
A few had even caught a glimpse of salvation through the portholes,
But had turned away, preferring the comfort and familiarity of their bilge water.
The way out wasn’t too difficult. The steps were simple…
Climb the ladder and the searchlight outside will illuminate the way.
Admittedly, the hatch-bolt to the main deck was a bit of a problem.
The primary instruction read, ‘OVERCOME PRIDE’ (some small print followed)
But this primary instruction was the problem that turned most back.
Nor were they interested in the instruction in the small print.
The lifeboat captain remained for what seemed like a lifetime.
Later when the line was passed and He quietly cast-off, few noticed or cared.
Next morning there was a loud curse from the old man as he greeted the dawn.
In a fit of rage he tore the LAST page from his calendar.
This scared some of his passengers, who wondered what was wrong?
Their faith was in the master of the crude ship ‘Nevigrofnu’.
Little did they know that their master was as hopeless as themselves!
All-powerful as he was, he too was bound to the ship;
The hatch-bolt had been a problem to him from the very beginning.
As the old man’s memory reluctantly drifted back in time and space…
Something made him feel quite nauseous and weak at the knees.
The hollow tone of a bell sounding on a marker buoy ahead…
Caused him to shudder. He reflected on the words… For whom the bell tolled.
The ship drifted helplessly onward, slowly passing the bell on the marker buoy.
Although pitch dark outside, the buoy was lit with an eerie crimson light;
From his quarters the old man glimpsed its name, ‘Conscience Suppressed’
The ship then passed one more marker buoy without a light or bell.
No one noticed this buoy; it was the ‘Passing The Line’ outer marker.
It was the point where the lifeboat finally cast-off.
After the blackness of the night a strange new dawn was breaking.
The horizon was ablaze with a flickering orange and red half-light.
It cast flashes of flame like shoots and shadows across the sea,
And was quite visible to the old man and his now reluctant followers.
It was not sunlight, nor a friendly, welcoming harbour light for weary travellers.
This was the type of light caused by darkness.
It was a light that the world had never seen before
Yet it had been heading for… for a long time.
It was a liquid flame coming up from the depths. A burning of God knows what.
From it soot fell silently like black snow unto the ship’s deck.
The passengers began to scream in pain, terror, weeping.
Some were even fighting with each other.
One passenger had held a mirror out of a porthole to get a better view ahead,
But could only see the side of the ship….
The serpentine figurehead and the ship’s name;
‘NEVIGROFNU’ but in the mirror it read; ‘UNFORGIVEN’!
A delegation of frightened passengers then rushed to the master’s quarters.
A young spokesman bravely asked the ship’s master; ‘Where in hell are we?’
The old man replied sharply;
‘The outer regions, so give me peace to think, now get out!’
The young man venomously replied; ‘Damn you to Hell, you old devil!’
His master laughing with scorn replied; ‘Now you’re getting warm.’
Blue-white lightening flashed across the sea piercing the ship’s rotten boards.
Mass panic gripped the travellers
Finally they realised that their old man had betrayed them.
Their pleasure trip of ‘Freedom Come’ was now freedom well and truly gone!
They were sailing for destruction, and still arguing about whose fault it was.
As they drew nearer to the half-light a rhythmic beat could be heard.
First, faintly, muffled by the falling soot of God knows what…
Then getting louder and increasing in pace.
It was like a heartbeat magnified… Or was it the sound of fear itself?
Yet this was only the beginning, sure as Satan, the temperature was rising.
Glowing, smouldering embers were falling all around.
With that repulsive burning smell of God knows what.
As the ship neared the flames the noise increased.
It was some satanic symphony; a hellish harmony of tune and tone.
I could hear this sound, so clearly. The effect it had was graphic…
The terror in the passengers’ eyes reflected the flickering dancing flames.
It seemed as if all the songs of the world were screaming out together,
Yet in some demonic rhythm that although frightening, strangely made sense?
It was all the more frightening for me because I knew the tune.
I cried out, ‘Is this the sound of fear or what is it?’
Amazingly, a clear voice from above replied:
‘This is the unfinished symphony known to us as Condemnation’.
‘Condemnation of who or what?’ I shouted.
‘Condemnation of sin.’ was the reply.
I had to scream back, as the noise was closer and louder, ‘But why unfinished?’
The angel replied; ‘Because it always will be, it is eternal’.
I then heard what sounded like some giant old loudspeaker
As if turned up too high… a squealing, sparking, crackling noise.
I think it was caused by the burning of God knows what.
By now there was an increase in burning debris falling on the ship.
Burning embers, the shape of bones and skulls began to fall on the deck
And were beginning to start fires.
Then there was a sound of a million voices singing in total discord.
The rhythmic beat was still there; that familiar heartbeat
But now it was louder and faster.
As if to crown the din there was the most frightening demonic chanting.
But still, there was worse to come… although I thought it impossible.
My mind was about to burst; surely no further sound from hell could hurt me?
I was wrong… and when I first heard it I couldn’t believe it.
I thought I had heard all that I could humanly take without dying.
By this time I understood what the stench was…
The squealing, sparking, crackling noise….
I said that it sounded like some giant old-fashioned loudspeaker,
A burning of God knows what.
I just didn’t want to believe it… It was people burning alive!
Burning bodies everywhere; in the air, on the deck, in the sea;
Especially in the sea… It was like a lake of fire.
What could be possibly worse than all of this?
Then I heard it again… but still I couldn’t believe it.
I willed with all my strength… Please God no. Go away!
I can’t take it… I can’t understand it? No There it is again…
It is laughter! In God’s name this is not the time for laughter?
I cried to the angel, ‘How can you laugh?’
He replied, ‘We are not laughing, it is they, themselves,
it is their own sinful past that mocks them and from that their souls can never hide.’
‘Never?’ I asked, ‘Never is a long time?’
The angel replied, ‘Don’t act naive, you understand eternal issues;
Your path is elsewhere. You are not like these lost souls.
Your passage was paid for by the blood of He who died and lives forever
You have been allowed a glimpse of the dark side tonight.
May it be a reminder of what you have been saved from, to strengthen your faith.’
I remember from that instant I felt calm and relaxed again within myself.
I could still see the ship, in the distance, drifting helplessly toward the end.
It seemed such a needless tragedy… Could somebody not have warned them?
I could only thank and praise the lifeboat Captain, who personally saved me.
I caught some final glimpses of the travellers, between palls of black smoke.
I saw one of the passengers frantically trying to force open the hatch.
Another was reading the small print on the hatch bolt instructions…
‘LEAVE BEFORE THE LINE IS PASSED’.
Then, just before the smoke completely blocked my view…
The ship was consumed in the lake of fire.
As I was coming out of this nightmare I was comforted by the words…
‘This is the second death; one which by His grace you need never fear. Amen.’