o I’m wading through an old Afghan thriller and nowhere near done, and my review deadline is coming up. With that in mind, I pulled out a hardback from a collection my wife bought me years back, short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Flipped through it and picked MS Found in a Bottle at random.
The story starts out slow enough, a man of the world but not of it, sailing on a tramp freighter in the 1800’s sometime through the South China Sea. A massive storm (with plenty of foreshadowing) comes down on them at night with the crew and captain on deck (and just as quickly in the drink). Thus our unnamed hero and a single companion are blown in their wrecked vessel south, south, and south some more. At one point, with mountainous waves heaving around them, they look up to see the keel of a huge sailing ship vaulting over them, coming down to smash their boat. His companion is killed but the protagonist if thrown aboard the ship, where (for whatever reasons) he hides from the crew.
This turns out to be a wasted effort. They can’t see him. He can’t communicate with them. The entire lot of them are wizened wrecks of men, husks of vitality, just half-dead things sailing in the teeth of the endless storm, south. With no hope of escape, alone in this ghostly ship, the protagonist settles to find out what his fate will be.
And there, amid the towering ice shelves of the South Pole, he discovers what horrible thing awaits him.
I really liked this one. I haven’t read Poe much since grade school. I’m aware of his classics but have not gone into them in depth, with adult eyes. Maybe I should. This one was a very spooky story, quite full of Gothic horror.
Worth a squint, Matie!