Juvenal has won Tale of the Week 58, congratulations on your victory.
We could have had it all. Fame, Respectability, even Love could be bought for
the kind of money we would possess. All that was needed was a modicum of trust.
Was that so much to ask?
Charles was always the savvy one, worldly-wise, a natural salesman. My own
talent towers above his, let down only by its narrowness. I could charm monkeys
from the trees, yet couldn't persuade a philanthropist to give me a dime.
But I must also give the Professor his due, he found the island. His unshakeable
certainty, borne of obsession, drew us helplessly into his mad scheme. He was the
only person ever to have turned Charles' power back on him, and in consequence
we found ourselves backing his expedition with everything we owned.
Still, it was all true! The island was there, just where the Professor had predicted,
overshadowed by its smouldering volcano, verdant jungle on its slope slashed
with lines of blackened devastation.
We found the Salamander under a charred tree-trunk. Its twin aspects of beauty
and menace transfixed me. It melted three of the cages we had brought before I
mastered the trick of how to keep it calm. Like a snake charmer, I worked my
will upon the creature enabling the others to lift it gently into the fourth cage
using heavy-duty tongs.
We were jubilant! The Professor especially as this was the culmination of his life's
work. I still wonder how he must have felt when he discovered we had marooned
him on his island and taken his most precious discovery for ourselves!
But now I think it was a mistake, starting Charles along an unhealthy line of
thought. He knew his time was coming. He would be the one to sell this marvel
to the world, to make our fortunes and seal our place in history. At some point it
must have occurred to him that I was no longer necessary, even though we had
been together for almost every minute of our lives (except the first, when I had
committed the unforgivable sin of becoming eldest).
I tried to make him see he was making a mistake, but people have never been
my forte, so I was unceremoniously dumped into this life-boat. Three days supply
of food and a gallon of water my only reward for a lifetime together.
Our little boat chugs resolutely on its auxiliary engine through heavy swell. I know
the Salamander will awaken soon and without me there to soothe it, will become
agitated. With emotion will come the expression of its powers, powers that Charles
doesn't fully appreciate.
Yes, there! I see the glow begin. It spreads as the wooden decking shrugs off its
coating of brine, giving itself fully to the flame. Then, like a firework, the glow
explodes into a thousand bright streamers as the boiler gives way. I feel the urge
to applaud, and in the gloom, the boat appears to bow, before slipping quietly
beneath the restless sea.