A Letter From Hell
Transcribed by Sarah B.
Are you surprised to hear from me? I must confess I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to reach you, but you see I'm very interested in knowing how you've been doing since your lovely captain so inconveniently ended my life. If hate has any power, you'll receive this communication, and I hope you do because, well, it seems damned souls don't get much in the way of news, and I've been dying - if you'll pardon the pun - to know how you're getting on.
So how is that shoulder, the one I put the bullet into? I must admit it was gratifying to see you in pain, if only for a few moments. You were a thorn in my side ever since you came on board, and you'll never know how badly I wanted to put you in the earth. You stole my command, you brought attention to my failings, you embarrassed me at every turn. You confounded my every effort to cripple and end your life, and now I'm down here forever because of you. And still cursing your ridiculous name with every breath.
I had you, Snotty. If it hadn't been for Pellew, I would have driven that knife right between your shoulder blades. When I'm not cursing your name, I'm cursing his and wondering why he bothered risking his life and reputation for you. Yes, I could see you had Pellew wrapped around your little finger, and it infuriated me that he took your side over mine. But why would he care what happened to you? Midshipmen are as common as wharf rats. I simply do not understand it.
Well, I didn't get to kill you, but I did get some of your friends, eh Snotty? Clayton, for example. I thought I'd see him down here, he was a horrible drunk you know. Thought that might count against him, but maybe not, he was always such a noble, self-sacrificing clot. Well, I'm sure you remember all about that, you're the one who got him killed, although why anyone would want to die for you I haven't a guess. He probably thought he was doing you a favor, probably thought he had a better chance at getting me than you did. Well, we know how that ended, don't we? Yes, I 'm sure he's down here somewhere...well, it's a big place. I'm sure he'll turn up before long.
And I wonder how our darling Archie Kennedy is doing? I thought I'd see him down here too, he couldn't have lasted in that jollyboat for more than a week after I cut him loose. I didn't have much time to enjoy it, but it was one of my proudest achievements, depriving him and you of each other's company. It's been one of the bright spots of my current existence, musing on that particular triumph...him, dying a slow death on the open sea, and you, wracked with guilt forever afterwards. Do you suppose he died cursing you? That was the last of you he saw, you know, I remember: standing over him with that big tiller, ready to knock him unconcious. Yes, I think he died hating you almost as much as I do, and that is my one consolation in all this.
Or perhaps he didn't die. Perhaps he washed up on some shore, I'm sure the Spanish or the French would have been happy to take him in. If I am not allowed the satisfaction of Kennedy's death, then I can at least amuse myself with the thought of him being stuck away in some godforsaken prison, rotting slowly, far away from you and anybody who can help him. He'll have plenty of time to remember me, I'm sure, not much to do in prison except think you know. We had a special relationship, Archie and I, and when he's alone at night I'm certain my spirit comes to visit him often. And unlike on that cursed Indefatigable, you won't be there to interfere. Yes, that's a lovely thought indeed, and it gives me courage to think that after enough of those visits Mr. Kennedy might one day come down here to keep me company in my loneliness. It's always been my understanding that this is the final home for suicides...
Yes, I've had a lot of time to think about you, Hornblower. About how easy I had it until you showed up. About how I tried to break you, time and time again, and could never do it. What is it about you that refused to be beaten down? The others had pride, but pride is easy to break if you know what to take away. I never came across a man I couldn't own but you - why couldn't I break you? What did I miss, what vulnerability did I not take advantage of? I think on that often too, on what I could have done that would have finally beaten you. I never found out what your dirty little secret was, and it's caused me no end of vexation that I might have beaten you if I'd only known.
But perhaps I did beat you - when I left the earth you were still just a boy, and I did make you angry enough to challenge me. I didn't kill you, but I cherish the idea that perhaps our little disagreement lost you some favor with that Captain Pellew, or that I had enough time to sufficiently batter your spirit so you'd crumble at the first real tragedy you ever faced. You won't have Clayton or Kennedy to cry on, that's for certain, and perhaps taking your friends away from you will have to suffice for my revenge. But it's enough, isn't it?
Remember me, Snotty. Remember that I provoked you to anger, that I bludgeoned your body, that I tormented and destroyed your friends. Despair of ever being rid of me, and let the memory of what I've done haunt you until you die somewhere a bitter, resentful, wasted wreck of a man, friendless and unfulfilled. Then Old Jack will have his victory at last.
I anxiously await your reply,