In 1931, Melanie Artemis Snowy disembarked from the French steamer Laos, seeking to uncover yet more secrets of the unknown world – this time from rumours of Mayan temples deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle. She was never heard of again.
My name is Melindra Hattfield Snowy, and I of course prefer to be known as MH. I never knew my great-grandmother, but I had always heard stories of the great adventuress. How she was only the third person to fly alone across the Atlantic after her colleague Amelia Earhart. How she braved the darkest parts of Africa, collecting tokens and stories of the most amazing events.
By the time I was ten, I’d started to wonder whether the stories were true. Whether she really had searched through ancient Iceland or the moors of Cornwall. In the stories she was never alone of course, accompanied by various guides and porters and whatnot, but also by a mysterious friend – an individual who accompanied her everywhere, but somehow never had a name. That was the part that made me most question: if the stories were true, how could he not have a name?
My grandfather, an only child brought up in our ancestral manor in London, and orphaned once she disappeared, maintained to his deathbed that he had met this mysterious man. But he never could – or never would – describe or name my great-grandmother’s accomplice.
So it was with growing scepticism that I entered my eleventh year. I’d stopped believing in Santa Claus as well, which just goes to show you! One day, playing in the attic in my parents’ rambling house in Melbourne, I came across a trunk that looked like it hadn’t been opened in decades. It was one of the wooden sea chests that survived when our ancestral home was destroyed during the war. My grandfather, a broken man since his wife died on route back to London – victim of an unprovoked attack on a civilian vessel in the lead up to actual war – packed up what survived and fled to Adelaide. There he lost most of the family fortune. But we survived, and so did a little jewellery and furniture from the old days. So too, apparently, did this trunk.
I admit curiosity overcame me: what was this and why was it still unopened? I admit I fibbed to my mother about the horrendous crunching noise as I wrenched the padlock from the handle with a crowbar. I admit to never telling anyone what I found. But from that day my life changed.
The chest contained relics from my great-grandmother. Fascinating stonework from Zambezi, carved wooden statues from South America. And a diary – if it could be called that. For in it was not the usual depictions of a day in an emotional life. There was hardly any reference to her at all. Instead there were literally hundreds of anecdotes, notes and diagrams of the most amazing things. Secrets. Conspiracies. Miracles.
Since that day, the contents of that chest have weighed heavily on my mind. I return to it often, and through it I’ve tried to recreate my great-grandmother’s life. But the answers I find lead only to more questions.
I can’t escape the feeling she knew something, and maybe the answer to the enigma lies in the chest. You see, every so often the oddest things happen to me, events that seem related to that chest. And they are not always warm and wonderful. At times I find them quite disturbing. Maybe I’ll write about them at some point.
In any case, I determined early on that the fantastic ideas in Melanie’s diary were too good to keep to myself, and so I’m attempting to share them with the world. I hope you enjoy them for my great-grandmother’s sake. Who knows – I might even learn more about her and whether she really did uncover secrets hidden from the world?