"When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.”
? Stephen Crane, The Open Boat
The Ocean Divorce (rough draftsky)
He rowed away from the sinking hulk. The sky was black, the ocean was black; the rocks emerging out of the inky eerily smooth ocean like demonic alters were black. But the ocean nocturne had parts discernible from each other by the same necrotic nuance of a corpse : the calm undulating surface had the rythm of a hive of hermit grabs making snips under a cadavers skin--that was the waterline; the rocks were veins raised in coagulating relief, snipped free; the sky absorbedthe rottingdecedent who leaked its black blood into the numerous mattress grooves. The ocean divorced these survivors from their cruiseship, and betold them " you should have went down with the ship." For now, they were with a new family, up from the depths.
You saw your way through the blackness by occasional lightning strikes, stalking the ocean surface for conductive flesh. If the girl at the bow could keep silent, and stop sobbing, he could steer clear of swimming survivors trying to swamp their hard bottom survivor’s boat. They were screaming, as if they were boiling in a pot. The sky was lighter than the ocean, the rock organs emerging out of the ocean had no nuance and could only be seen by the screams of survivors, who had swam to them for safety. The screams from the newly emerged rocks made the screams of the ships seem like hymns even when the ship split in half and tilted up its two plates—bow and stern--and scooted the sliding passengers into the blazing fire in the fuel and engine rooms as clams in the pan.
A scraping sound over-ruled the screams, they were grounding out on something sharp. The man rowing pressed the oars with all his might and pushed off it, before the rising altar capsized them. In such proximity to the rock all he could hear was "clacking," almost like the rocks were puckering their lips to kiss them repeatedly as if they were babies--and they were just as helpless and lost.
There were four of them in the boat, and they had room for more, but adrenaline made their decisions now. The boat began spinning in circles, as it did a while before, the rip currents tasting them and letting them go. Every time this happened the sobbing women would cry " Oh my God....Oh my God." The man to her left would only grip the gunwhale with alacrity as if he was going to jump out into the ocean. He could not take it, more so than the youngish women, but he was silent about it. The other man, aside from the rower would only stare at the floor, blinking with every lap kissing the bottom of the boat: such a thin piece of wood, separating the devouring liquid blackness from them.
The rower was in a reptilian state, row row, blink, look, row, grit......but slowly he was coming to himself again, with one thought, his son: my son is out there. His son had got onto a separate life boat when the stricken vessel was splitting on the giant pitch fork rock that stabbed out of a suddenly black ocean under a suddenly dark sky.
After the rower's shoulder blades completed their circuitous route, an image would appear, then dissipate with a start of another row. But that image was of the last time he had seen his son, before they got onto the cruise liner. They were on a saltwater river, on vacation down the Cape, he had scolded his son harshly for being a… he snapped out of it with the begining of the next row.
He rowed because he was the strongest, and that strength told him to row, for it will sustain his mental vitality at the cost of his physical strength; and by comparison, it was working. The girl to the right of him, was shaking staring at the gunwale, the two men to her left were almost catatonic.
None would look to the horizon of black on black. The lightening cast shadows of the tall rocks they passed on the bottom of the boats making all of them look away, but there was nowhere to look. One of the men, realizing what the rower realized, looked around into the distance, watching the lightening sizzle around the surface like a tornado, watching the lightening was frightening at first but took him away from the mental reflection which was black lightening snake dancing on his closed eye lids.
The Starer looked at that Rower, and without words communicated the first intelligible message among them: keep rowing.
The Sobber, curled up into a fetal postion at a ghastly sound coming from a rock, it was people...not screaming, but people mumbling, babbling, even laughing as if at a cocktail party. Strange.
They hit another current and started spinning rapidly in circles, and that's when the third man became the Babbler. It was like they were loaded like a pinball, wound back, then shot forward on the undulating uncertainty that was this sea that now had a complexion more poisonous than Buckthorn ink. The man pulled up his oars.
Laughs, moans, and sucking noises enveloped them on this real life haunted ocean ride. They all cowered down, they could not look, it was dizzying, like spinning on a vomit inducing amusement park ride. The rock shadows flared on the boat like a flip book of devouring dark monsters. They all hugged eachother.
The Rower, was the first to wake, and notice, the sky was light. He bounce his head up hoping to see society, but alas, no, but they have ran ashore on some rocks just inside a calm clear cove, inky breakers were behind them. A rock island, like a pipe organ, speckled white and black was ahead of them. Over the island, the sky was overcast and still. The Starer looked back beyond the subtle silent breakers, it was black, and the lightening still danced. He looked back to the island.
" We found shore, didn't we, let's go, row, row...." she sobbed.
The Babbler, looked over the side at the clear water. He couldn't tell if it was ten or twenty feet, common to all oceanic still water. The bottom was completely covered in shells of all kinds, but mostly black and white. It looked inviting, and tranquil, and uplifted the Babbler to the Talker.
" Let's go, I'll row if you want--"
The Rower put his oars back in the water without saying anything and rowed toward the organ shaped island.
They closed, and the Starer said: " look's like it is getting shallower." Then the girl stopped her sobs, and became the ' Complainer."
" Can't you row any faster, what if we get sucked out again...."
The Starer motioned for her to stop, the Rower was responsible for getting them here, and he knew it, and didn't want to change their luck now.
They were a clam skip away from a jagged low lining shoreline that had piers of rock, with coves in between them the length of rowboats. A shark’s psycho grin would be the islands perimeter from an aerial view.
That's when the Starer noticed the cove floor. Every time the Rower rowed, it looked as if he scraped the bottom sea floor. It looked scored, the clam shells moved aside. He took his finger and put it into the water, skimming as the boat moved. He looked aft of his trail; there was a line on the sea floor following his finger. " Must be an optical illusion," he thought.
The bow cracked on the first barnacled rock on dry ground. Well it was not completely dry, it was moist rock and crevice, sharp and inhospitable. The Complainer got out in a hysterical manner, and fell after her second step. She twisted her ankle and skimmed her knee drawing blood. A deafening sound came, almost like it was distant but not; of a mast being broken slowly and painfully broken, the sound was almost on their shoulders but they looked way off to the horizon for the source; the inky breakers of demarcation from the previous location of screams was the only thing they saw. Drip drop noises of an imperceptible ebb was the only sound now, and the survivors welcomed it as they looked away from the necrotic breakers.
" What the hell was that?" the Babbler said rhetorically.
The Rower helped up the woman, and they pulled the boat aboard the jagged shore. " Let's find some level ground for a fire, and look around," he said and they all complied, none of them looking back towards the breakers and the darkness, and it is unfortunate that they didn't.
The island was barren, not even a cave to shelter them from a damp wind, not chilling but heat sapping. They found some sandy level ground and sat in exhaustion.
" What is happening," mumbled the Babbler. None answered, it was immaterial, and dangerous to think of it. The Starer was the first to notice.
" Look at the shore line," he pointed, it was now covered in half shell clams, black and white. They were not there a moment before. A sucking sound, came from the area where the girl skimmed her knee.
" It has to be the tides....." said the Babbler.
" What are we gunna do, we need to build a fire, find food, to wait this out, WHAT IS OUR PLAN...." she yelled breaking the eerie silence.
" We'll build a fire with supplies from the boat, there's enough for some nights, and there is plentiful of shell fish to eat...." as the Rower said that, his stomach turned as he finished the sentence.
" Let's build a fire now, I’m feeling kind of chill, and weak..." said the Babbler. They all were feeling an invisible cold in their bones, not from the wind, but from the rocks, or shells. They made a fire, and huddled down together automatically without thinking. The dampness was unpleasant, the fire felt good. The huddling party looked like muscles clamped together on a rock: still, resting, and quiet. The Babbler was at the outer most of the huddle.
The Rower's dreams were still, quiet, with the occasional seaside cottage breeze. He was with his son, on a salt water river, in an alcove shaped like an L, and they both jumped down into it and the sun bleached stones "chinged" like a register. It was low tide, and he was forcing his son to walk to a sand bar, through the river--rich with life. His son was crying, a horseshoe crab had walked over his foot and a dead sand shark had floated by with a crab crawling out of its eye. " Go," he mouthed to his son, but his words were swept up by the wind. " Be a man, Go." He felt dangerously distant from his son, who was in the middle of the river away from him, and he missed him terribly but still he urged him on. Then the tide started coming in, and bubbled things started to emerge in the water, cries of his son were ate up by a clacking sound, he was so distant, yet he still urged him on. He looked to his right, a jagged sea wall of loose boulders now was opening and shutting like a clam bed posessed, an iron maidon of pinching points. His wife's shadow shone in front of him, her voice came above and behind him on top of the battered-splintered sea wall, the shadow said" That's the last straw, it's over."
He awoke to screams and babbles, and a horrified stare. They were surrounded by one shelled clams, and the Babbler had them up his leg, his arm and one side of his neck. " ahh, they are ....stinging.....me," he tried to pull one off, but it stretched his skin on his arm.
" Help me pull them off him," yelled the Starer at the Rower, and they pulled them off amid screams. Blood was gushing, as the foot or tongue of the soggy clams wiggled in open air. They removed them, and turned to their perimeter, the island was covered in clams making sucking noises.
She ran for the boat, stepping on clams, and picking up her shoe covered feet as if they were getting burned. They formed a boot on her shoe and calf, she tumbled and her face hit the shoreline, depressing into the still water. She moved her arms to her side, as if to do a push up, she struggled to lift her head, it was covered in clams. She gurgled through it and tried to pull them off. The party around the cindering fire just stood motionless. She fell back down, clanging her shell covered head off other shells, picking up more, she tried to raise herself once again, and then dropped her heavy head. She wasn't gurgling, but making moans, as if being caressed, she even rested her body comfortably.
" I can't ....I cat, I can't even see them move......" said the Babbler.
He was right, the clams moved as if they were still underwater, and you were reaching for them, but a wave ripple comes, and they are now more to the right, avoiding your hand.
The Rower started up the fire instinctively; they huddled to it, not speaking. The Babbler became the Trembler, the Starer the Blasempher, and the Rower the Unblinker.
He stared ahead, in a squint, almost like he donned an invisible visor, "hell, war, my son.....and demonic clams" were the words he kept thinking.
" We have to get to the boat, and get the fuck out of here," said the Blasphemer despondently.
The Unblinker just staired at the black clouds beyond the breakers, with the lightning dancing gypsy-like and intermitted . He felt it through his pant leg, the cold soggy slush feeling. He looked down, a clam, had moved unnoticed right in front of his field of vision. He pulled at it, but he gave in to the pain, he felt another clam on his other leg, like a cold-squishy french kiss. But the longer they were there, the pain disapeared, and it felt like a warm caressing tongue, and it almost seemed like the sun was coming out on this desolate rock altar. But--he saw a vision of his son wading into the cove. Without looking he pulled the (now) three clams from him-self; his skin snapped back. He crushed the wagging tongued clams under foot. He looked to his side--
The Trembler, was covered, in a clam chain mail, he didn't have the power to pull them off, he became the Wobbler. " Jesus Christ , lets get to the fucking boat," said the Blasphemer.
He looked at the Blasphemer, he was pulling clams off painfully. The Wobbler looked like a Atlantean knight, that just walked out of the sea in his clam armour.
He took steps toward them, clanging his clam armour, with his arms out---
They ran down to the boat, running off a steep clam ridden rock that was once the Sobber--who was now clung with clams making sucking noises. Avoiding the water, the Unblinker made it fully into the row boat, but the Blasphemer's leg submerged into the still water. He screamed, and pulled his leg up then dropped it back down. Massive amounts of clams were forming a deadly anchor on his leg, and slowly sucking him in. He fell into the water as the Unblinker became the Rower again. He looked down at the Blasphemer's sunken shape slowly blending in with the cove's floor. His oars were becoming heavier and heavier; the boat was sinking down more into the waterline, the bottom of the boat was clung with clam also; he could barely move the oars, they clacked and sucked wildly as soon as they were brought out from the still water, as if sea kelp ridden with shrimp was stuffed in his ears. He could hear the sound of a giant mast breaking again, he knew instinctively now what that was, thousands if not millions of clams loosing one of their shells in anticipation of devouring flesh. He pushed off the rock jetty; he screamed and screamed.....row....scream......row..... and before he knew it, he was at deep water, and the clams were gone from his oars. "Thank God, for another second....."
He looked at the blackness beyond the breakers, the breakers that were like black fluid pouring slowly out of a cup into a cauldron, he thought of his son, and rowed into the blackness. He kept on thinking of his son, as he watched the shadows return on the bottom of the boat with the return of lightning stalking on the dark-still-ocean--his heart beat fast, but he was not dead, and he could see his son, he was out there, and he could hear him, he was saying “dad.”….” Im –coming--son,” he said in three parts, in synchrony to his rowing.
© Copyright 2016 Kaithe. All rights reserved.
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