Seven Wonders Journals: The Select

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Authors: Peter Lerangis
THE JOURNAL OF
BURTON FRIEDRICH
WENDERS
    13 YRS OLD
SEPTEMBER 24, 1894
    I DO NOT hear them, but I know they are near.
    The creatures. The men. They hunt me through the rocks and jungle trees.
    I must move, but I cannot. I fear my ankle is broken. If I stay, they will flush me out of this hiding place. When they are through with Father, they will come for me.
    I pray they spare him. It is I whom they seek.
    Yesterday I was the proud son of a renowned archaeologist, a man of science. We were explorers in a strange land. We would make incredible discoveries.
    Today I know the truth.
    Father brought me here to find a cure for my sickness. To heal my weakened body. To fix what science cannot understand.
    But today I learned that my blood has sealed my fate.
    If the prophecy is true, I will die before reaching my fourteenth birthday.
    If the prophecy is true, I will cause the destruction of the world.
    The island drew us here. It will draw others. Like Father. People who seek the truth. It must not end like this. So I leave this account for those who follow. And I pray, more than anything, that I have time to finish.
    Our ship was called Enigma . She sailed ten days ago, September 14, into a red, swollen sun setting over Cardiff. But I lay in a cabin belowdecks, racked with head pain.
    “Are you all right?” Father asked, peeking over for the dozenth time.
    For the dozenth time I lied. “Yes.”
    “Then come abovedecks. The air will be good for you.”
    I followed him out of the cabin and up the ladder. Above and around us, the crew set the rigging, hauled in supplies, checked lists. English, French, Greek—their shouts kept my mind off the pain. Silently, I translated. What I didn’t know, I learned from context. I had never heard the Malay tongue, but the words floated through the air in rapid cadences. They were spoken by a powerful but diminutive deckhand named Musa.
    My love of languages is not why Father hired these motley men. It was the only group he could get together in such a short time.
    He knew the clock was ticking on my life.
    Five weeks earlier I had collapsed during a cricket match. I thought I had been hit accidentally by a batsman. But when I awoke in a hospital, Father looked as if he had aged twenty years. He was talking to the doctor about a “mark.”
    I didn’t know what he meant. But from that day, Father seemed transformed. The next two weeks he seemed like a madman—assembling a crew, scaring up funding for a sturdy ship. Impossible at such short notice! He was forced to interview vagabonds from shadows, to beg money from crooked lenders.
    We sailed with a ragtag crew of paupers, criminals, and drunks. It was the best he could do.
    As Father and I came abovedecks, I fought back nausea. The Enigma was a refitted whaling ship that stank of rancid blubber. Its planks creaked nastily on the water. Back at the port, Welsh dockmen mocked us in song: “Hail, Enigma, pump away! Drooping out of Cardiff Bay! Hear her as she cracks and groans! Next stop, mates, is Davy Jones!”
    Our captain, a grizzled giant named Kurtz, hurled a lump of coal across the bay at them, nearly hitting one of the men. “Let me at them leek-lovin’ cowards,” he grumbled.
    “Pay them no heed,” Father said.
    “Not that they’re wrong, mind ye,” Kurtz said, his eyes flashing with anger. “Us heading for the middle of the ocean to find nothing.”
    As he lumbered away, I looked at Father. My head pain was beginning to ease. “Why does he say this?” I asked.
    Father took my arm and brought me to the wheelhouse. He took out an ancient map, marked with scribblings. In its center was a large X . Directly under that was an inscription in faded red letters, but as Father skillfully folded the map, the words were tucked away. “Kurtz sees no land under this mark, that’s why,” Father said. “But I know there is. The most important archaeological discovery I will ever make.”
    “Could not we have waited and gathered a

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