"[Liverpool] latest: Hodgson to hold press conference as planned tomorrow at 1.30[GMT]," says the BBC's Dan Roan, and Roy Hodgson takes one more step towards proving he'll be sitting right there next to the cockroaches munching on drifts of garbage after the apocalypse sweeps the rest of us aside.
The Delfain lay at rest, the wind near calm for the first time in days. Rain still fell at the mouth of the Niger Delta, the water scooped and pock-marked with a million million tiny craters across its murky surface until they disappeared in the near distance and the world was enveloped in mist and haze. Bonny Island, with its bustling village, was somewhere not too far out in the obscurity. A staccato rhythm beat out incessantly on the awning above my head, a continuing annoyance only marginally preferable to braving the diesel fumes permeating my cramped quarters within the corroded shambles.
The repeated clang of hammer blows echoing their way out from within the ship's guts had stopped for a time. If the engine was fixed then surely we would have already been under weigh once more, as we had tarried quite long enough already. Then again, it had been the worsening weather as much as mechanical troubles that had driven us to shelter from the ocean's strength.
"I hear you're thinking of going on over land," said the American. He still looked pale, leaning against the doorway's rough steel lip with a limp cigarette in his mouth, though a hint of life had returned to his cheeks since finding anchorage. He continued to eat sparingly, though I could not entirely blame him for that, I supposed.
"Nothing for it if we're stuck here much longer," I said. I had an appointment to keep with a ghost somewhere up the Ogooué River, a good few days further down the coast, even if the man I sought did not know that I was coming. Assuming he existed in the first place.
Assuming somebody else had not gotten to him first.
The American reached his hand out over the railing, into the rain, and watched as it was driven down by the sheets of water. He looked back at me, and I shrugged.
"You picked the wrong season to start your quest," he said.
"I don't imagine there's a right one, all things considered." I had seen him talking to the Dutchman before he had left the ship in Freetown in search of work, and that the American had not chosen to go with him had raised my opinion of him somewhat, even if on the whole he continued to appear painfully unprepared for the continent he had found himself drifting past for the last two weeks.
The Dutchman was a legend in his own right, full of fire and bluster, and certainly he had convinced more than a few newcomers to take him on. Many of them hadn't returned from whatever it was they sought, but then that was often the way things went out here, and the man they hired had never been the same since parting ways with his old tracker. All that was left these days was a reputation and the weathered lines of years and decades spent in the harsh wilderness. A man to tell you stories at seedy bars, perhaps, but past his prime. If his prime had indeed ever been of his own making.
"They say your man," the American said, "the legend you chase. They say that he cannot be killed." I kept expecting him to ask for my help with whatever it was he had crossed the ocean in search of, but he seemed to know or sense I had my own obsessions, and that they weren't his.
"Perhaps. Or perhaps it is only a legend I chase and no man exists at the center of it all to kill."
"That certainly can be the way with legends." Sometimes, he almost seemed able to fit amongst these unfamiliar surroundings, though when the ship got moving again--if it got moving again--I wondered if he would once more seem a man out of his depth in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes I wondered, too, if that appearance of near helplessness was at least in part an act to his own inscrutable ends.
"Until the day they stop being legends," I said, "and reveal that all along they were nothing more than flesh and bones like any other man. Nothing to fear beneath the surface. Tired, old... and then gone. Like the rest of us." He lit his cigarette and we sat in silence for a time, kept company by the sound of the rain.
"Perhaps tomorrow, then," said the American at last, and I could only look up and out at the heavy skies, still pregnant with days more rain. "One of these mornings we'll wake up and find the sky clear. Or perhaps we will sit on the deck tonight and see the stars come out. Like the man you chase, this will all fade away to nothing and we will be left to wonder just what it was that kept us cowering at bay only days before."
"I doubt it," I said.
He shrugged. "It was an attempt at metaphor. Perhaps a poor one, at that."
I tried to offer him a smile without too much bitterness. "I suppose you never do know."