On The Suet Siphons Of Saturn

Captain’s Log, stardate the Ides of March, Year Dot plus [redacted]. I am sick of this damned log. Literally sick. Whenever I open it to scribble another entry I am overcome by a wave of nausea. I am convinced I have a palsy and an ague, even though I would be hard pressed to define exactly what a palsy is or an ague is. Were there a medical dictionary aboard the starship I would look them up. But if ever there was a medical dictionary it disappeared along with the doctor, Von Straubenzee, a year ago today. A year or a space-year, I cannot be certain. The Captain and Second Officer Wilmot and that rascal Mister Poxhaven vanished too, leaving me to take command, and to scribble in the Captain’s Log. I was going to cross out the word Captain’s, with a big thick bold indelible black black black black black marker pen, and insert instead Purser’s, me being Purser Blot. I don’t know what gave me pause, unless it was the terrible shaking of my hand occasioned by the palsy. But I could barely lift the pen, so it remains the Captain’s Log rather than the Palsied Purser’s Log. I am using a special lightweight space-biro to do my scribbling. It puts no strain on my quivering white tiny frozen hand.

My hands are as tiny as those of the composer Scriabin. I wanted to compose music, delirious and ecstatic music, but instead I was sent to starship pursers’ training academy. There was no music there, only bleeping and whooshing and buzzing noises. At least it prepared me for the starship itself, where there is a constant din of bleeping and whooshing and buzzing, punctuated only by the strange gurgling sounds made by the ship’s vampire, Bosun Cugat. He claims they are involuntary, his gurglings, and apologises, a little too fulsomely for my liking. I would have him confined to the brig were it not that he would simply melt the metal bars with his basilisk glare and escape. I am not clear precisely what kind of vampire he is, just as I am unclear about palsy and ague. Ach Gott!, I was not cut out for this life. I ought to be sprawled on a divan in a dacha, composing ecstatic music.

Captain’s Log, stardate Ides of March plus one. At the time of his death in stardate 1915, Scriabin was working on his Mysterium, of which he wrote: “There will not be a single spectator. All will be participants. The work requires special people, special artists and a completely new culture. The cast of performers includes an orchestra, a large mixed choir, an instrument with visual effects, dancers, a procession, incense, and rhythmic textural articulation. The cathedral in which it will take place will not be of one single type of stone but will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of the Mysterium. This will be done with the aid of mists and lights, which will modify the architectural contours.” He intended that the performance of this work, to be given in the foothills of the Himalayas, would last seven days and would be followed by the end of the world, with the human race replaced by “nobler beings”.

Captain’s Log, stardate Ides of March plus two. Bosun Cugat confronted me at suppertime yesterday and revealed that he had snuck a peek at this Log. He said I ought to be using it to note pertinent details of the starship and its space-voyage, rather than wittering on about Scriabin. He has whiffy oxters. I threw an aerosol can of space-deodorant at him and told him to use it. I am a nobler being than Bosun Cugat. I would like to compose my own Mysterium, but there is far too much faffing about to do on this damned starship. I think we have entered the Belt of Jiffy. I looked out of the starboard window and saw a gas giant.

Captain’s Log, stardate Ides of March plus three. Whether or not we were in the Belt of Jiffy yesterday, we are nowhere near it now. Bosun Cugat has seized control of the starship and we are hurtling towards Saturn at warp factor God knows what. He has locked me in the space-janitor’s cupboard, with my biro and the captain’s log and a flask of dandelion and burdock and a few sticks of celery. Every now and then he comes hammering on the door and shouting questions at me, but refuses to let me out. His questions are technical ones, to which I do not always have ready answers. He wants to know if we should pass through the rings of Saturn or try to avoid them. Apparently he is going to land on the planet’s surface and go in search of the Suet Siphons of Saturn. Being a vampire, he will not require a spacesuit. What in heaven’s name he wants with suet I have no idea.

Rummaging around in the cupboard I found a piccolo and a cowbell. I am passing the time composing a piece of delirious and ecstatic music for piccolo, cowbell and celery sticks. Scriabin would be proud of me, at least I like to think so. Hail to thee, blessed Alexander Nikolayevich!

Captain’s Log, stardate Ides of March plus four. A couple of hours after we landed on Saturn, I heard Bosun Cugat’s dainty footsteps padding along the corridor. He stopped outside the space-janitor’s cupboard and the door whooshed open and he moaned and fell, crumpled, into my arms. For hours I cradled him, mussing his filthy hair and making cooing noises into his pointy ear. I know my duty. Eventually he gathered himself, and explained that he had located the suet siphons, teeming thousands of them, all lined up in neat rows on some kind of Saturnine plain or pampas. And every single one was exhausted. Not a spit of suet could be eked from a single siphon.

“Do you not understand what this means?” he shrieked, “Others have been here before us!”

I had to admit that this put something of a damper on our five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

“Should we go in search of the suet?” I asked.

But before Bosun Cugat could reply, he was engulfed in mists and lights which modified his corporeal contours. In front of my eyes, he was transmogrified into a nobler being. I looked out of the starboard window and saw that the universe had vanished. Scriabin’s Mysterium had come to pass. It was the end of the world. I picked up the piccolo and cowbell and celery sticks and played a threnody.


Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin

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