janus

Perhaps it is man's folly that we expect our journeys ever reach an end.  When I set out upon what was to be the greatest journey of my life, I believed my destination to be the harbor of Boston in America.  What little control we men truly have over our lives.  I still have never set foot upon those Western lands.  The cold life I envisioned with such fear when I stepped upon that ship was in the end of no consequence at all.  The door I believed myself to be entering proved far more uncertain and worthy of far greater fear.  And yet...  There are certainly dark days in which I regret passing over the gangplank onto the steamer, The Janus Door, on that dreary April of 1896: years of dark tempest followed those steps.  And yet had I never boarded that fateful ship, I would never have seen the vast depths of the Mystery; I would never have breathed the sweet tola-filled air of the Quoriali domes; I would never have walked alongside heroes and queens as their brother.  To take back those steps would be to accept a sliver of the life the Lord blessed to me.  All He asked was that I step aboard His vessel, and His waves would carry me to my home.

And that is where my story begins.

I stood on the London dock, staring at the bustling rampway which boarded The Janus Door.  The passing bodies jostled my small, overburdened frame.  The human current drawing me to the sea, the black and terrible Mystery.  

I cannot name the fears that seized me at this time.  They were not a coherent thought, but a ravenous torrent in my chest.  What is a 17-year-old, newly orphaned child in the contest of humanity?  

All the possessions left to me, were contained within the trunks I carried in either arm.  As well as no small amount of money left to me in the wake of my father’s passing.  All of this, or perhaps better stated, this was all, I took to America.  It had been designated that I live in the care and tutelage of my uncle, who had made quite the business empire of the Ayer name overseas.  I had never met the man, nor his family; I did not precisely know his business.  Everything I did know I was now being inexorably dragged away from.  

My luggage proved as oars in the stream of this fate.  All around me, joy and laughter, urgency pressing people on.  But to what did I go?  What lay before me?  I wish these questions were coming to me as words, but instead they came as a chaos of emotion, wordless and destructive.  

“A ship travels best when it leans itself to the current.”  Amidst all the noise and bustle, I knew this statement, originating behind me, was meant for my ears alone.  I noted the tide of bodies was no longer striking me from behind.  I turned my head the best I could manage to see the stranger who had acknowledged me.

Being myself of somewhat short stature and at the time bowed by my encumberance, the man who met my gaze seemed a near giant: he was a tall and striking man.  Well dressed, as were most who could afford the fare for The Janus Door, he stood in stark confidence that belabored my lack.  He held down a gentle smile upon my fear.  

“We may rarely choose the ways we take, but we can often choose our stride.”  How the crowds parted around him seemed a magic.  My spirit lifted in this new calm.

“I have never... I do not know what I am doing.”

“You are taking this ship, no?  I see your ticket, there.  What more do you need to know?  It is as everything else in life: put your foot forth and lean.”  He had a disarming charm and assurance that I will not pretend did not stir a small amount of envy, but I also began to bear this stranger trust.  “What is your name, my friend?”

“I... Henry Ayer. I... I am headed to America... Boston.”  In his presence I felt a boy of ten, and while this shamed me, I did not feel a condescension.

“That you are, Henry.  I am one Francis Eccott.  I seem to be starting out this same journey as you.  Let us bolster our courage together, and strike out upon this merry adventure with eager steps.”  

I could follow this man’s shadow onto the steamer’s deck.  I could hide and tremble in the wake of another, use his tall confidence to break the waves that come.  Yet he spoke of riding this current.  This was a new thought to me.  How great of control does the ship at sea have?  It was under this new press of ideas, that I gave the tall stranger, this Francis Eccott a quiet nod.

I regained the weight of my possessions, and turned to cast myself into the sea of incoming passengers. Eccott’s hand came to rest upon my shoulder as I began to walk.  I noted a strange silver ring upon this, his left hand.  It bore the emblem of a creature I could not recognize, whether due to poor craft or a creature I had never yet learned, I at this time did not know.  His hand was not long on my shoulder before he turned the face of this ring down, hiding the creaturic emblem in my coat.

I pushed on, bearing a better balance of my weight.  The crushing became more severe as we came to the foot of the platform that would carry us over water and into The Janus Gate.  My feet again halted, and to his physical credit, if not to that of his character, Eccott held off the boarding masses.  

“It is a small step.  A big step.  It is your step, friend.”  Eccott neither pushed nor changed his hand upon my shoulder.

I took, perhaps, the first step of my life.

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