'Next day it was my watch on deck from eight to twelve. At breakfast the captain observed, "It's wonderful how that smell hangs about the cabin." About ten, the mate being on the poop, I stepped down on the maindeck for a moment. The carpenter's bench stood abaft the mainmast: I leaned against it sucking at my pipe, and the carpenter, a young chap, came to talk to me. He remarked, "I think we have done very well, haven't we?" and then I perceived with annoyance the fool was trying to tilt the bench. I said curtly, "Don't, Chips," and immediately became aware of a queer sensation, of an absurd delusion, - I seemed somehow to be in the air. I heard all around me like a pent up breath released - as if a thousand giants simultaneously had said Phoo! - and felt a dull concussion which made my ribs ache suddenly. No doubt about it - I was in the air, and my body was describing a short parabola. But short as it was, I had the time to think several thoughts in, as far as I can remember, the following order: "This can't be the carpenter - What is it? - Some accident - Submarine volcano? - Coals, gas! - By Jove! we are being blown up - Everybody's dead - I am falling into the after hatch - I see fire in it"
'The coal dust suspended in the air of the hold had glowed dull-red at the moment of the explosion. In the twinkling of an eye, in an infinitesimal fraction of a second since the first tilt of the bench. I was sprawling full length on the cargo. I picked myself up and scrambled out. It was quick like a rebound. The deck was a wilderness of smashed timber, lying crosswise like trees in a wood after a hurricane; and immense curtain of soiled rags waved gently before me - it was the main-sail blown to strips. I thought, The masts will be toppling over directly; and to get out of the way bolted on all-fours towards the poop-ladder. The first person I saw was Mahon, with eyes like saucers, his mouth open, and the long white hair standing straight on end round his head like a silver halo. He was just about to go down when the sight of the main-deck stirring, heaving up, and changing into splinters before his eyes, petrified him on the top step. I stared at him in ubelief, and he stared at me with a queer kind of shocked curiosity, I did not know that I had no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, that my young mustache was burnt off, that my face was black, one cheek laid open, my nose cut, and my chin bleeding. I had lsot my cap, one of my slippers, and my shirt was torn to rags. Of all this I was not aware. i was amazed to see the ship still afloat, the poop-deck whole - and, most of all, to see anybody alive. Also the peace of the sky and the serenity of the sea were distinctly surprising. I suppose I expected to see them convulsed with horror. . . Pass the bottle
'There was a voice hailing the ship from somewhere - in the air, in the sky - I couldn't tell. Presently I saw the captain - and he was mad. He asked me eagerly, "Where's the cabin table?" and to hear such a question was a frightful shock. I had just been blown up, you understand, and vibrated with that experience, - I wasn't quite sure whether I was alive. Mahon began to stamp with both feet and yelled at him, "Good God! don't you see the deck's been blown out of her?" I found my voice, and stammered out as if conscious of some gross neglect of duty, "I don't know where the cabin table is." It was like an absurd dream.
Youth, a narrative
Joseph Conrad 1902