My worst fears have begun to realize.
In the beginning the spot tracker was a source of strength; something to pull us from within the depths of our solitude and turmoil. We were so very thankful for the day that we learned to harness its power and use it to spur us on, to drive harder into the rain, the wind, the hills. It could turn us from a groveling state of despair into a driving force of nature. We were nigh on unstoppable.
But I was always wary. Such power of course cannot come without its caveats.
Yesterday we covered 200 good kilometres. The goings were tough, and I paid penance for my ambition the day prior. Young Benjamin Limpus was carrying the tracker. He had carried it for some days, and I noted through curious observation that he had begun to move it closer to his person. First it lay on his steed. Then, it lay on his back. And finally it lay on his forehead, affixed about the cranium. It was in this position that he held it on this yesterday, and it was on this yesterday that it began to affect him.
In the heat, and in the lonely expanse of the Hauraki, the tracker took hold. He sensed my weakened state, and he knew that this was a chance to forge ahead for his own purpose. He quickened stride and took his gap – a gap of no more than 200m; a gap that he knew would drive a stake right into my very sense of decency.
And there he let me dangle.
The winds were buffeting and certainly of no help to our cause. Young Benjamin was feeling sprightly, and he had a world that was soon to be his filling his mind. All he had to do was leave me there, stranded, to eventually succumb to the madness of it all.
Crossing into Bombay I took stock of my reserves and fought tooth and nail to make my way back within range. I tried to remind young Benjamin of all our warm memories – of how brave a boy he was. I tried to bring back some recollection of him and me before he had undertaken this dogged pursuit; before the power had commanded his vulnerable mind.
But my attempts breezed over him and he fixed me with his dead eyes, face awash with sweated ointments. He mumbled incoherence. I knew then that the tracker was too strong – I had to take it from him.
The day was hard, and it was long. It took all I had to stave off the madness that young Benjamin was inflicting upon me with his slow gaps and his incessant charge. But that night in our lodgings I chose my moment well, and I took the tracker from him.
We set out this morning from the village of Helen. The road was very steep; it ducked in and out of inlets and it followed severe ridges. The summer hams had been well received by young Benjamin, and for this he is forced to make sacrifice of pace in the steep country.
But I had the tracker, and this left him in a sobered state – subsisting on power of will alone.
I do not know exactly when it began to affect me. I only noticed when I was turning the screws on young Benjamin on a long traverse that we were negotiating together. I caught myself in that moment, and summoned the strength to withdraw. We had survived the Dragon’s rest without incidence, but it was crossing the pass of Brynderwyn that I really felt it.
I felt the gap, like a backdraft of treachery sweeping out behind me. I smelt the putrid stench of my own ambition – my secret desires bubbling forth. I heard the whipping cracks of a land under my rule. It was all within my grasp.
But young Benjamin Limpus was brave. He regathered himself and struggled hard to overcome my hostilities. We toiled the remaining miles, covering 190 more in total. He fought bravely, like the brave young boy that he is. And we reached our destination intact.
Tonight we rest, for in the morning we must make our final charge for the Cape, where we hope to bury the burden of the tracker once and for all. It is yet another 200 kilometres, and good kilometres at that. Since removed from my steed I feel the senses returning – but what will become of me when I remount in the morning air, with fresh opportunities to take mine back?
There is no gallantry in putting your men to the sword – I must try to be strong and to hold to this notion.
But if I do not make it, then remember me as a good man at one point in time.
The Young Tom Plum