We are sailing on the Sunken Foal,
Washed-up men with shrunken souls.
The ship, in truth, is very, very old
And its ghosts have long deserted.
But what's this creeping about the nest?
New ghost in the making, body soon to rest.
But no-one knows what's about to manifest
Except for Constable Bursted.
Gentlemen, please stop what you're doing. A crime is about to be committed on this vessel.
(Disquiet, hubbub, mutter mutter)
I realise this may sound peculiar, but I assure you gents that all shall become clear momentarily, for if you would just raise your eyes up to the crow's nest, you shall see... in just a second... your fellow crewman Crod Popples toppling over the side of the nest, then falling wordlessly to the deck (note that he's not mobile, his body is completely limp), where he shall land head-first, just a few feet to my left. On impact, the top of his skull will crumple, leading to a severe trauma with intercranial bleeding (you may have noticed part of his brain splattering the deck in a wide arc, some of which is about to land on my shoe - there!). At the same time, the force of the impact has pushed his head up into his ribcage, causing the neck, spine and ribs to fracture in several places. Subsequently, the body comes to a rest on the deck. Not a pretty sight, I'm sure you'll agree.
Gentlemen, I have come aboard - I do hope you'll forgive the intrusion, I boarded without invitation, though as you will no doubt appreciate, purely out of necessity - to solve this crime. But how could I possibly know that this man's death was the direct result of a malicious act on the part of another, as yet unidentified?
Well, the textbook response would be to say that in my line of work, it would be more appropriate to ask whether I can be at all certain that this man was not murdered. For instance - why did he not flail or struggle on the way down? We must be open to the possibility that he was either unconscious or unliving before he went over the side of the nest. Secondly, he received injuries on impact which we cannot simply ascribe solely to the impact itself (for example, a broken neck, which would also be consistent with strangulation; the investigator must keep his mind open, never drawing conclusions where questions might remain).
That would be the textbook response. In this case, however, I can tell you that I do indeed know that this was a murder, and furthermore know who the murderer is. And I know all this because I solved the crime before it happened.
(Disquiet, hubbub, mutter mutter)
Quite so. And I understand your confusion. I shall reveal my methods in due course. But first, a word about death.
What is death? This is a nonsensical question and you should be ashamed for asking it, even though it was me, because death is nothing. It is a state of nothingness. And how can nothing be anything? Hahaha! Fools. A more instructive line of inquiry would be to ponder, instead, the nature of life. For many have argued - and I am inclined to agree - that death is merely the negation of whatever it is that that is.
But it has meaning beyond this, does it not, for the negation of a life does not simply render void the entire existence of the life in question. Indeed, death has far greater and more troubling implications for the living, those left behind. But I mean no slander against death. It is a beautiful thing, and why should it spare a thought for those of us caught in its wake? Death deals in the infinite. On such a scale, haha-why, we are utterly meaningless! Death need not be aware of any of us until such a time as it comes for us.
And it is coming for us all, whether by accident or by design. Yea, we spend more time dead than we do alive. Is life, therefore, not the aberration? The error which must be corrected? And is death not the stabilising force, the restorer of equilibrium?
Death came for Crod Popples just minutes ago. But I have already concluded, you may remember, that death's visitation was not unsolicited. I promised to explain my method, and I am a man of my word.
My conclusion was already drawn and placed, as an invisible layer, upon this ship a long time ago. Long before any of us came into being - even the ship itself, ancient though it is. And just why do I employ this method? Theatre, gentlemen, I am not ashamed to admit. For the thrill of spectacle, I solve crimes in this manner. Some of my colleagues insist that spectacle has no place in the fight against crime. I disagree quite strongly. Spectacle, theatre, they have a place in all things. For what is the world of men without poetry?
And - it gets better! - my modus operandi is not mere poetry. As you will all no doubt attest in light of today's events, there is also the benefit of efficiency.
Poetry and efficiency. A powerful combination. Too powerful, indeed, for many to wield responsibly. Could one not argue that this very combination of quite disparate forces fuelled the intellectual engines of 20th century fascism? A cold, ugly political philosophy, so brutally prosaic... and yet with a sense of childlike wonder, utterly in thrall to the almost mystical promise of the future. A cult of progress, you could say. Even monsters recognise a need for magic.
But I digress! We have established that Crod Popples was murdered. I have announced that I know who the murderer is. I shall now reveal to you my findings.
Crod Popples, good sirs, was murdered by... Crod Popples!
It is true, your colleague took his own life by diving head-first from his post. If he did not appear to struggle - well, there was the serenity of the man who has chosen his fate (if, that is, any of us could ever really be said to have any influence over such a thing). He knew what I have just told you, that death is not the destroyer that we, in our ignorance and fear, have deemed it to be. Rather, it is the maintainer. The keeper of a grand cosmic order that not one of us could ever comprehend.
I know that he knew these things, because I learnt these things from him, in the minutes before he died. Because I am him. Or at least, a part of him.
Gentlemen, I have not been clear about this up until now, and I hope you will soon understand why that is so, but now is the time for me to confess that my purpose in joining you today has been twofold.
Number one! Solve the mystery of Crod Popples' death. That can now be put to bed.
Number two! I have come also to introduce myself to you, and I do so humbly beg that you will welcome me into the crew of the Sunken Foal, for I am, sirs... the ghost of Crod Popples!
Let's have a party!
(Cheers, merriment, mutter mutter)