The World Walkers

Looking Back

From the time I first stepped onto dry land, certain I was never going to set foot on a ship again, I knew nothing was going to be easy. Even though I was an unknown to most they knew of my father. It was unusual for a mouse to be a pirate, and yet that was exactly what my father was. Due to the death of my mother when I was young, so young I only vaguely remember her, he was the parent who raised me. Looking back I’m not entirely certain how it happened, but I think he may well have made the decision without the permission of my mother’s family. He was definitely the sort of person to do that.
Now, I’m not saying he was a bad parent. It took me several years to actually work out what he was, because that was a side of him he didn’t want me to see, but in the end he had to admit what he was. The obviously stolen crates in the hold gave it away, and I wasn’t stupid. He hadn’t raised me to be stupid, although I think he was hoping I wouldn’t ask any questions. When I did the disappointment in his eyes was obvious, especially when I told him that he didn’t have to be a pirate, there were other choices he could make, and we could live a real life together. At the beginning I didn’t have a problem with living on a ship, but by the time I was in my teens I’d decided that I’d much rather have a house.
The first storm I remember was terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. I think I’d probably seen others, but I was too young to have any recollection of it, and that one was etched into my memory, because it was an interesting experience. One I never would have had if I wasn’t lucky enough to have a pirate for a father. Each of the storms that followed were just as bad, some worse than others, and it wasn’t long before the fascination wore off. Being in the middle of a ferocious storm on something made of wood isn’t fun, even though my father seemed to think it was.
After I told him that I couldn’t live on his ship any longer we didn’t go anywhere near land for six moons. He said it was because he wanted me to be certain of my decision, but I think he wanted to force me to stay. He loved me, and letting me go wasn’t easy for him. When we said goodbye I knew I’d never see him again. Not because I didn’t want to, I loved him too, but we’d end up living very different lives, and that would make things difficult. I couldn’t stay in the city, Seahorse Port, as there were too many people, too much going on.
I realised after spending a moonweek there, the longest moonweek of my life, I really couldn’t cope with that, not after spending years on a ship with about twenty other people. Before I truly believed the longest moonweek of my life had been during one of the most horrendous storms we’d seen, but there was really no comparison. I actually hated Seahorse Port more than I hated the storms that had led to me leaving my father behind, and I never anticipated that. Who could?
So, after a look at a map, I packed everything I had, and made my way to Sheepshank. It looked small enough for me to be able to start living a normal life. During the three day journey I sent out pleas to the goddess my father always said watched out for little mice, like me, they wouldn’t know who my father was, even though I had seen a book in one of the shops that appeared to be all about his life. I chose not to pick it up, just in case. The mix of emotions I felt when I saw it… I still feel them now if I’m ever unlucky enough to see it. Pride, anger, fear, amusement… my father is infamous and I try not to mention him, because everyone looks at me differently when they find out who I’m related to.
Lucille would too, if anyone thought to tell her about him, but luckily no one has. Peric and Bertram have always been kind to me, even though they didn’t have to be, from the moment I walked through the gates and into a town I knew next to nothing about. The only reason they even knew about me was because the bed and breakfast I found myself in belonged to Bertram’s aunt. Aunt Ritva, as she insisted I called her when she found out I was alone, sent a message to her nephew about the new mouse who had arrived in town, but I didn’t know about it until the next morning when they turned up for breakfast.
My first meeting with Peric was interesting. Bertram spent most of his time with his aunt, which was to be expected as they didn’t see each other as often as they’d liked, while I sat having breakfast was a formidable looking mouse who knew exactly who I was. I kept waiting for him to ask me to leave Sheepshank because they didn’t want my type in their town, but he never did and I’m still here, sitting in my little cupboard, writing for the first time about who I really am. Lucille’s visit has got me thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life, although I know I was never the right sort of person to live on a ship.
Now I have them I like my home comforts too much. Being able to put my feet up in front of the fire, cup of tea in my hand, after another day of waiting for a Moonjumper to visit makes me happy in a way I never thought it would. Yet I still have this urge to explore I think I inherited from my father, and hopefully Lucille will send me an invite so I can go to one of the other worlds. Until it happens I can’t let myself think too much about it, because there is still a chance she will find out I was brought up to be a pirate. That’s why I’m the mouse in charge of the Moonjumper’s Bureau.
Even though Peric helped me find my feet when I arrived I don’t think of him as a friend. Occasionally we have a chat, he asks me how things are going and I do the same, but he’s a very busy mouse. Too busy to spend time with someone like me, really, because I am a lot younger than him, and we are very different people. Honestly I don’t think of anyone as a friend – I can’t help looking at them, and wondering if the only reason they want to spend time with me is my father. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it, because I can’t work why they spend time with me. All I do is go to work, come home, sleep, and repeat the same process day after day. Nothing changes, thankfully, and no one can truly understand why I am so grateful for that.
They’re lucky enough to have never seen a true storm. Occasionally we’ll get one in from the sea, but it’s nothing like it is out there. When I think of them now I thank whoever was watching over us, because if someone hadn’t been there were several times when we should have died, and yet here I sit. Unfortunately today, even though it started off wonderfully thanks to Lucille’s visit, hasn’t been a good day, and I think I might get fired. No one really wanted to employ me any way, but Peric thought it would be a good starting point for me, so he convinced the mayor to give me chance. For some reason he truly doesn’t seem bothered by the fact I am the son of a pirate.
Of course they do say he is a very strong empath. If he is then he can probably tell that I could never have followed in my father’s footsteps, no matter how much he wanted me to, because I didn’t feel comfortable when I was at sea. The few times I got to visit the cities he sold his goods to I knew I should be there, but I could never find the words to bring it up. Not until that last storm, when I decided, thanks to my abject terror, it was time I told him I didn’t want to be on the ship any longer. After a storm he always seemed to feel energised, while they drained me, that time worse than it had ever been before. Honestly, I think I put it off in the hope that one day I would react the same way he did, and when it never happened I realised I had no other choice.
I pray to his goddess every day he’s safe. Leaving him was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was the right thing to do. My life may not be perfect, I never really expected it to be, but I’m happy. Mostly. Some days I wish people didn’t look at me and see him. That is hard to deal with, when I know I’m nothing like him, and they don’t give me a chance to show them who I am, either because they don’t care enough or they don’t want to. Occasionally someone will come up to me to ask me what it was like to live with a pirate – some days I chose to answer them, and other days I walk away, not wanting to think about the life I left behind, or the people. The days I miss my father are the hardest.
Back then I always had someone to talk to, even if I didn’t feel like having a conversation, but now I’m alone. Most of the time I’m happy to be alone. Thanks to Peric I have my own cottage and a job, but he couldn’t conjure me friends. For that to happen I need to stop thinking that anyone who meets me only wants to get to know me so they can vicariously get to know my father. I just don’t know how to. With Lucille it was easy. She had no way of knowing who I was, so when she was being kind I knew it was for any other reason than she is that sort of person, although that become more obvious when she came to check on me after the break-in. Peric was kind too, but that was to be expected. He was never going to blame me for what happened, not when his office was broken into as well, and he would have known exactly how I felt even without the empathy.
When she first walked in I dread to think how I looked. Everyone knows exactly where I’ll be, and there has been one sheep pestering me for months about writing my biography who’d chosen to come in about five minutes before Lucille, so I really wasn’t in a good mood. All he wants to do is make money off me, off my experiences, and I’m not interested, which I’ve told him more than once, but he keeps pushing and pushing, as though he thinks I’ll give in if he annoys me enough. He’s wrong. This is not something I’m going to change my mind about. Right now I’m not interested in going back to that time in any real detail.
Some day in the future I might decide to, but if it does happen I will write the book myself. No one apart from me is going to earn money from writing about my experiences. Does that sound selfish? I don’t mean it to be. It’s just… it was my life, and he’s my dad. He’s only important to everyone else because of what he does but he was important to me because of who he was. Him being a pirate meant very little to me, even when I found out, because it didn’t change anything, not really. Maybe it should have done. That’s what I can’t work out. I wasn’t pleased that he was a pirate, I’m not saying that, but it didn’t change the way I looked at him, it didn’t magically stop him from being my dad, and I still loved him. He just didn’t have the job a normal parent does.
Once, on one of the very few occasions we talked about my mother, he told me she never judged anyone either. That was what attracted him to her, because she didn’t see a pirate when she looked at him. She saw a person. I’m guessing I inherited that from her, or maybe she taught me to not judge anyone when I was young because of my father, but until I spent a short time in Seahorse Port I was the same. Now, after being burnt a couple of times, I simply don’t trust anyone, so I don’t get hurt the same way I did before. No one wanted to be friends with me until they found out about him, and to begin with it wasn’t a problem. Until the only reason they spent time with me was to hear stories about him.
I never thought I’d get bored of telling people about him, but I did, and it was then I decided that I didn’t want to spend time with anyone who cared more about him than they did about me. As much as I could understand the fascination I didn’t want my entire life to be about him. Leaving him behind had hurt, because I knew how much he wanted me to stay on the ship with him, so reminding myself over and over that he was somewhere out there, somewhere I couldn’t help him, was like flaying myself with a whip every day. Even now I’ve been here for three years it still hurts to think about him, and yet there are days, like today, when I can’t stop myself.
There are times when I wonder what it might have been like to have been brought up by my mother, instead of my father. She was never going to leave the land behind to join him on the ship and he was never going to leave the sea behind to join her in her little cottage, so I would only have been raised by one parent, no matter what happened. It was nice to think about occasionally, as a dream life, but I knew it was impossible, because they were two very different people, even though they seemed to love each other very much for a couple who saw each other once every six months or so. My father still missed her the day I left, so I know he loved her, and I doubt she could have had a child with him if she hadn’t felt the same.
By living with her I would have had no choice but to get used to the fascination everyone seemed to have with my father. I wouldn’t be sitting alone in my cottage every night, because I don’t have any friends and have trouble getting close to anyone thanks to my fear of them only wanting to get to know me to get to know him, and yet I can’t help thinking I was better off on the ship. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the storms, I could have spent the rest of my life there happily, only knowing twenty people and occasionally visiting others, but being in Sheepshank isn’t all that bad. Apart from that irritating sheep no one bothers me, and it’s not as though I don’t know people. If I went to sit in one of the coffee shops I’d be greeted by name, and we would have a small conversation. They just aren’t friends.
Someday, maybe, I’ll have a friend, even though I’m not sure that I even actually want one. I’m sure the more I write the stranger I sound, but, if anyone is reading this, I was raised on a ship and my best friend was my father. The man I left behind meant the world to me, but in the end I had to put myself first, because I wouldn’t have survived much longer if I hadn’t. He knew that, in the end. Just before we headed for shore there was a big storm… I really do think I’m going to have to write an appendix to make it easy to understand exactly what each type of storm is, but it lasted for three days and three nights, I spent most of that time holed up in my tiny room hoping that the sink wasn’t going to sink, and when I left it at the end he could tell how badly it had affected me.
As soon as that happened he ordered the ship to head for shore. Yes, my father was the captain of the ship, so it’s not as though there isn’t a reason for everyone’s interest. I just wish I could live without it, because I’m not him. No matter how much I tried to be more like him it was obvious to everyone I was much more my mother’s son when it came to sailing, even though I honestly did love it in the beginning, and now I’m in Sheepshank I’ve found a place I can call home, because the ship never was, not the way it was for my father and his crew. Home for me is a place of refuge that doesn’t move, but that doesn’t stop the urge to explore from calling to me. Hopefully some day it’ll become a reality.