File of the Inmate P-189
There were four, five or more furious figures, the exact number was impossible to determine. They were beating the body rolling in the dust with their fists. For a brief moment they seemed to let go of him. With all his last strength, the beaten man braced himself on his knees. He laboriously shaped his curved fingers into an arrow pointing towards heaven and said a last prayer. But it was only a fraction of a second that a certain peace was inherent in this picture, for the next moment the praying man was in blazing flames. Ignited by the torches and the hatred of his attackers. The man’s prayer gave way to a cry of pain.
Isabella was awake in an instant. She was bathed in sweat. The same dream again. The image of her father’s bowed figure in the midst of the flames had burned itself into her head, every night she relived the day of her escape over and over again. It was pitch black, Isabella only heard the waves of the Indian Ocean beating against the wooden planks. Carefully she lit the stump next to her mattress, which bathed the small cabin in a warm light.
“Isabella, my child. What’s wrong?” her mother asked her sleepily. “I can’t stop thinking about father! They slaughtered him before our eyes. What if they do the same to us, Mother?”.
“The cabin is locked and God will protect us. Turn to him with a prayer and try to sleep again” her mother tried to calm her down. But she did not manage to hide the fear in her voice completely. “Yes, Mother.” Obediently, Isabella put out the candle and began to pray her rosary. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator of Heaven…
After a short while she fell into a restless sleep and returned to her dreams.
It was already wonderfully warm when Isabella woke up. Like every morning she went with her mother to the small white chapel of the fort to pray. Despite the fact that Isabella was only allowed to leave the fort of the British East India Company near Bombay once, she loved her little empire. Her father had already been appointed by the East India Company as administrative head of this Indian enclave before her birth. He always told Isabella that her real home was London, but that they had a mission to bring law, order and God to the savages in this unbelieving country. Isabella loved stories. Her father’s stories about decency and justice, her mother’s, which she read from the Bible or the interesting lectures of her teacher. All these stories fired her will to free the unbelievers from the temptations of the devil and their demons. Therefore Isabella hung attentively on the lips of her teacher on this day.
Suddenly her mother rushed into the small library, grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out of the room. Without answering Isabella’s questions, they rushed through the corridor towards the veranda. Already a few steps before the exit, Isabella heard cracking gunshots and shaking cries. As they rushed through the veranda door, thick clouds of smoke hit them. Isabella stood still as if she were rooted to the ground: Much of the fort was in flames. The white chapel had disappeared in a deep black column of smoke and an angry mob of locals slaughtered anyone who got in their way. Desperately trying to stop the men, company soldiers were far outnumbered. Even worse, some of the company’s Indian soldiers, the so-called Sepoys, stabbed the British men in the back and deserted to the insurgents. Among the crowd, Isabella saw her father trying to break through to them. But he only got a few meters away until the raging fury of the locals threw him into the dust.
Isabella was startled again, the silent cry from her dream still stuck in her throat. Dazed, she rolled over on her side and fell asleep again.
The fire that fed through her father’s body was diminishing. Isabella began to run. It was as if the hatred of the locals would come over her like a tidal wave if Isabella and her mother stopped. Only when they reached Bombay and left India for England on a company liner did they feel safe. This ship was their ark, sent by God to save them from the destructive hatred of the natives. But they had to realize quite early on that godlessness had come on board in the person of the locals.
Thus ended yet another night that brought only pain and sorrow for Isabella. Dimmed light already illuminated the small cabin, it was the same light as the day before. The same light as the day before and the day before that. Isabella’s day also began like the days before: she washed, dressed and prayed with her mother. By then, breakfast had already been placed in front of her cabin. They ate and put the empty cups back outside the door. As on every other day, Isabella’s mother read from the Bible and tried to teach her further. But they never left the cabin. The mother’s fear of the Indian soldiers on board – the infidel Sepoys – was far too great. Much too great was her fear that the unbelief and the devil, which these savages had brought on board, would take possession of Isabella. So her mother locked the cabin and tried to shield Isabella from them with the words of God. Luckily, the captain had allowed them their own cabin in the stern of the ship and assured them of his protection. But as it turned out, he had not acted out of charity. No, quite the opposite: for his generosity, he expected Isabella’s mother to make the long crossing as pleasant as possible for him. An expectation that her mother rejected with certainty. But the captain, for his part, did not give up so easily. He tried to break her will by depriving them of the comforts of their previous cabin and having them transferred to a chamber further forward in the ship.
It was a measly chamber with only one mattress, a narrow board which served as a shelf, and instead of a door the entrance was covered with a dirty varnish. Worse, the chamber was located near the weapon deck; the deck where the sepoys’ sleeping quarters were located.
For Isabella’s mother, the transfer was a sheer nightmare, because the chamber offered neither retreat nor protection. There was no latch, no door to keep the unbelievers from descending on her. The foreign voices of the soldiers were of constant presence. They marched constantly past the chamber, and the dirty lacquer could only withstand the slightest of their glances, so that soon nightmares took over, not only on Isabella’s nights. After a few weeks she was on her own during the day. The captain had reached his goal: her mother’s will was broken. But it was not only her will that bowed to the adverse circumstances, it seemed as if her complete mind was lost. Isabella’s mother was talking confusedly, reacted to every movement in front of the chamber with apathetic sobbing and did not eat a bite. Isabella tried in vain to get her mother back by reading the Bible to her every day, but often Isabella simply fell asleep, exhausted, over the open Bible. So she also fell into a restless sleep over the Book of Genesis that evening.
Once again she saw the figure of her father fighting for her life on the dusty ground of the fort. Again the image of her praying father was followed by the moment when he burst into flames. But instead of finally collapsing as usual, her father stood up. He came straight towards her and with every step he took closer, the flames that surrounded him rose higher.
“Isabella, my child!” He stopped right in front of her. “If you do nothing, the guilt of the unbelievers will carry your mother away. Act, and the Lord will rain down brimstone and fire upon these men. Isabella! “Save your mother, avenge my death and let her feel the wrath of God. The flames grew bigger and bigger and the light that emanated from them burned so brightly in Isabella’s eyes that she cried out.
She opened her eyes. It was pitch black in the chamber, but Isabella’s eyes were still as bright as if she had looked straight into the sun. It took some time for her eyes to get used to the darkness. The Bible was still lying on her lap. Isabella lit a new candle and watched her mother for a moment, curled up at the top of the mattress. It was a frightening picture: the lack of food had made her cheeks collapse, she muttered indispensably in her sleep and her eyes seemed to rotate under her songs. Her father was right: it would not be long before the Demons of the Sepoys robbed her mother of her last spark of life.
“But what can I do against these unbelieving savages,” she asked herself, while her gaze was lost in the flickering of the candle. “Brimstone and fire! Isabella, you donkey.” She joyfully recalled one of the lessons back at the fort. Black powder! Her father had already given her the answer. It contained sulphur and must be plentiful on a ship. With it she would ignite God’s rain of fire and let the unbelievers feel her blazing vengeance. “They will suffer the same tortures as my father, and the wrath of God will fall down mercilessly on them and their demons.”
Isabella’s heart beat up to her neck in excitement. Determined, she put the Bible away, went to the entrance and pushed aside the dirty varnish.
The passage Isabella looked at stretched a few meters to the left. At its end was a wooden staircase that led to the lower weapons deck, where the sepoys slept in their hammocks. In front of this staircase, the corridor made a bend that continued on the middle deck to the bow of the ship. This section was lined with other chambers, which housed common sailors, who were only allowed one measly chamber. Isabella took a deep breath, clung to her rosary and stole out of the chamber towards the stairs. She glanced down the steps to the lower deck, but decided to continue on the middle deck to the right and follow the babble of voices.
“Hey! Who are you?”, Isabella froze in fright when someone approached her from behind. Hastily she turned around and saw a little boy. He must be her age, maybe even a year or two younger. He had a small round face, and on his head he wore a dirty cap with a few tufts of hair sticking out from under it. The cap had been turned upside down several times and, like the wide trousers tied around his hips with a rope, looked much too big for the little person who was stuck in it. Astonished, she replied: “Isabella. And you? What are you doing here?”
“I am powder monkey. A pretty good one at that,” the boy proudly replied to her. The way he pronounced it, you’d think it was the most important position on the whole ship. But Isabella neither knew what a powder boy was, nor had he told her his name. With a slightly mocking undertone, she asked him
“So? What’s so special about being a powder boy?”
“When we combat against another ship, I ferry the black powder from the powder magazine to the cannons. If we’re not nimble enough, then…” – with his hands he hinted at an explosion, while his lips simultaneously formed the breath of a fish. He continued his sentence: “…this ship will be at the bottom of the sea in no time. That’s why men sometimes call us powder monkeys. As the boy said this, he examined Isabella from top to bottom. “You don’t look like you’re one of us. What are you doing here?”
The boy’s last question had already been forgotten by Isabella. All that remained in her mind was his statement about the powder magazine. Until then, she had no idea what she was up to, let alone how to get the black powder. But this boy apparently got to the gunpowder easily and the way she saw it, it was no problem for him to get into the powder chamber. And better still, he probably knew his way around the ship.
“Hallooooo…?” Slightly annoyed that Isabella didn’t answer his question, the powder monkey waved his arms wildly in front of her face. Isabella put on a shy face: “Excuse me. It’s my first time on such a long boat trip, my mother hasn’t been well for a few days and I have no one else but her.” She looked sadly into the boy’s sceptical face. His gaze became more friendly, so that the childlike features around his mouth came out more strongly when he spoke. “Oh, I’m sorry! I am Lot.” Now he had a guilty conscience that he had been so snotty before. “The first time I was on this ship I felt lonely too, but now I’ve made some friends. If you want, we can be friends too!” Isabella jumped for joy inside: It was easy to win over the powder boy. Hopefully she could convince him to show her the powder chamber or even steal the powder.
“Sure, I’d be happy to have a new friend.” And Isabella wasn’t even lying. She hadn’t had any friends before, except her parents and her teacher. Besides, even the Son of God chose disciples to spread his faith. She would do almost the same thing, only with the help of lots, she would let God’s wrath come upon these unbelievers. “I wanted to go further forward, to the bow of the ship. Are you coming?” asked Isabella Lot.
“I wouldn’t go there now. The soldiers and sailors just got their daily ration of rum and then it can happen that you get the bad mood from them,” he said and showed Isabella some bruises on his forearm. He had just rolled down his sweater again when a group of bawling men turned the corner. “Come quickly!” Lot grabbed Isabella by the arm and ran off!
An icy cold shiver of fear and anger flashed through Isabella, so that every little hair on her body stood up. The unbelievers brought their demons, which had taken her mother’s mind, onto this ship and now they prayed to these beasts of hell with impunity! If she did not act now, unbelief would not only devour her mother, but would continue to pursue her even in England. Determined, she distributed three of the cartouche bags among the hammocks, lit a fuse for each of them and placed the last bag next to the demonic statue. When this was done, she walked quietly among the sleeping men, with a lit piece of wood in one hand and the rosary in the other, lighting fuse after fuse.
If only one of the sepoys had been awake, he would not have sensed Isabella’s movement, but he might have heard a soft murmur. So only one of them heard the words Isabella spoke before the lower weapon deck was flooded with heat and painful screams:
For I will pass through the land of Egypt the same night and smite all the firstborn of the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and I will execute judgment on all the gods of the Egyptians, I, the Lord!