Thursday, April 12, 2012
Brine in the air. Fronds like a swarm broken upon the beach. Refuse that is manmade. One cannot escape refuse no matter the loneliest places. The thunder marching away. A wan light breaks through a thin lining, the last of it before leaving only the light of the moon. Hiroo walks along the beach letting the tides sweep his ankles. The crab doing likewise. At times the tide is stronger and cover the tops of the crab and when the tide sways the crab is gone.
He throws the green glass bottle into the sea. It will come back. Coconuts he keeps. Crabs. Fish if he can have it, but not upon the beach. Some flatfish and flounder get close to the shoals and sometimes he can hunt this but not this too gone a night. The storm had scared them gone. There's much more life on a island than one can see or know. It takes years to know. It is never an empty island. He doesn't have a shirt. Maybe it rotted off. Maybe it's kept somewhere. A cave. A hole. Gave it up to be like a coconut with coconut brown skin. In the tide pool, he catches a sun tempered and wrinkly man with a dangling beard staring back at him.
Not hungry. Just tired. So tired of crab and coconut water and rats and frail, bony birds, and garbage and sharks and sharp coral and roaches and sand fleas and salt water washing into his foot sores. I want fish but they are scared of me. The flatfish lay sleeping with their weirdly placed eyes and when I move to their sandy floor they rush to the other side of the island. They are clever with odd eyes. Maybe it's time again to go diving. When was that last? God. I don't want to remember. But god I'm so sick of everything else.
A freshly shaven spear of reed embellishes his left hand as his right hand draws through the swells and his well-worn feet kick him through the undercurrents and shimmering underworld. The living reef. The sea, the sea. The splash of many colored fish and their stripes and curious shaped fins. Their numbers and patterns kaleidoscopically painting against the slippery blue. The tubes of living plant-animal cinch valves and open their mouths and parse the density of the warm channel waters and take in nadir light. This is how it was before things were on land. Some of us missed the waters that we migrated back into the water. We shall always be closer than cousins on the tree.
Why have I been so frightened, so scared? The sharks are small and more mindful of me than I of them. Take a kill and take the fish blood and swim back onshore before they bite and eat you. The big ones.
Another deep breath. He dives. The floor is covered by ink. Is it even bottom? A phalanx of white and orange spiny lobsters spread where he is center. Wavy stones of brilliant coral and their edge a jungle of kelp. Faint light at all the edges. Before he reaches bottom the dark water feels thick. He can feel it move. Where is all the life? Only his now. He is alone again, differently alone than when ashore.
There are creatures born before the advent of time. Such things ancient cannot describe. This creature thumps inside all of us. We feel it dead center. There are things as old that live outside of us, too, in viscous darks, in places like jungles or watery trenches, where scratched snorkels cannot reach. The something moves. Tendrils. Water is whipped. Its eyes as bulbous as a cow’s. He breaches to the surface. Hacking salt water. Another eye. The sun glaring through the blanket of cumuli. He gasps. You can only swallow such much of the sea. The shoreline is a murmur in the backdrop of forever sea and sky. He splashes. Doesn't feel as if he's moving. The only sure thing is the earth moving, but you can't feel that. A hedge of palm heads wave but not towards his direction. The winds blow against him conspiring. Too far. I’ve wandered too far.
Once a book washed ashore and in this book lions wandered to the ends of their world defined by the weaving of the savannahs in their seasonal moods. Beyond this was the scrublands and this they too wandered, at times, postured into the domains of grit and gritty sands and thirst and elephants that have crushed them at the mud pools and watering holes. So much to run from, yet, the aurochs left prints that disappeared into the drifts and dunes that weaved and weaved until touching the sky. So they followed, for they were lions. At the end of the world, they looked long into the endless turquoise that they could not drink, their talon prints forever marked upon the white sands where they stood at last. But in the book it was an old man’s dream, and he too was becoming a man old of sorts.
He stares into the fire. The rich lobster meat sustained on a diet of coconut fills him but that is all it does. He stares long enough and his eyes burn but he does not blink. He chews blankly on the orange-red shell clean of brains and viscera.
White fish is adequate. White fish is boring. No, old man. You're tired. Of everything. Of white fish. Of everything. So tired. The hazy orange sun keeps him warm as he treads above the ocean proper. Appreciate being alive. No. Don't. Everything alive is alive. It's a very normal thing. So tired.
You want more than fish. Sometimes you want something and that's all there is to it. Did wanting bring a non-existence into being? No. Stop being stupid old man. Being alive doesn't guarantee wanting. Weren't you taught wanting is a disease? Yes. It's true. Being alive and then being not alive is a very normal thing. So tired of everything.
Adequate. And that is what, exactly? I don’t know. Why don’t you ask yourself. Aren’t I? Why are we talking amongst ourselves? That isn't a question, stupid old man. I pity us. Pity yourself, old man. I want dark fish that has blood as we do. Do as you must but beware. You can still swim back. Right now, you can still go back and be happy and alive.
The reed spear is nearly twice as long, reach as far as the monster’s. It is no assurance. Nothing in life is, and his heart tells him so loudly. Then he's gone and it's the only thing he hears.
In his wisdom he knows that the largest monsters, save for the whales, but they are hardly monsters, unlike the men that harpoon the calves and their mothers since time primordial, live far beneath what man can dive. Their’s is a world beyond darkness and light, for without one, without the other.
He floats through the inverted world of everything. He breaches and dives many times before getting adjusted. His lungs are primed. His heart. His heart. His heart. He is getting used to it all, the darkness, the unnameable things, if they have names yet, his pulse getting to a good tempo, and there's another strange thing and this thing he realizes it's moving as with intention and he knows it is the thing that is close to ancient as can be that lives outside of men but perhaps inside as well and is a real thing and here it is again. A tentacle slips around his leg and he lets a precious breath that bubbles from the black snorkel. Another slimy finger encloses him. He looks the beak implacable. The beak smiles.
From a pock of living rock a moray shoots out and latches with conviction and two-fold sawtoothed mouths a tentacle of the creature. He can breathe again but before he does he plunges the spear. Everything so inverted underwater. Things that are fast are slow. The heart is slow but is fast. The walker on land is slow in water. The fish quick in water is dead on land. The shaft of the green spear connects with the cow eye. The old man's head clears the horizon of water and air. The last that he saw, the thing's reach could have encompassed a fleet boat. He cannot shake the thoughts. Why are you still afraid? It's not dead. Just gone. The sun is warm. The water chills his toes.
From the high recess of the cave, safe from the tides that come and go, he stretches and touches. Fine-grained leather with a finer musk of mold. Aside the flickering of dead burning fronds and coconut husks, he opens the book to no passage in particular. A pamphlet is his bookmark and this he reads.
Come out, Hiroo. This is the order of your commander. The war is over.
He studies the flames like some confused water auger. They are orange and other colors among the black and the stars fixed in that substance and they reach down from the precipice of another world, perhaps one more wild than this island upon another. Are you still afraid, old man?
In the morning he gathered reeds and reeds. Trees and trees. Cordage and bark. Enough to make a ship. Or a very large, large fire.
Story by HVH