Ulysses

February 26, 2008 at 7:16 pm (Skrifa) (, , )

I bade them tie me. Tightly, with scarring rope. I told them, I need to bleed, all over this rope. One man, the man who knew the most about anatomy, worried aloud about my abilities as a captain, were I to injure my wrists. Will he, in fact, be able to steer the fucking boat? I think, were his words.

I said, If I break free, it should be after I have popped the delicate bones in my wrist like grapes. If I break free, it should be after I have unstrung my tendons, and made them twang. If I break free, it must be with the strength I would need to stride across the deck swinging my ripped veins and stringy flesh as though I had hands there. If I break free, I should have to abandon my hands, my fingers twitching the frayed ends of the rope used to imprison them back and forth: a distinctly nervous gesture, you understand, strictly benevolent.
If I break free, I am not fit to be captain, I said. Get someone else to steer the boat. The rope was not the tarred kind, which might have preserved the integrity of my skin. Even the most hardened tough is delicate under the hand, or in the crook of the elbow, or in the hollows at the back of the foot, above the heel. The rope they used chafed, and cut, and was the type to shrink when drenched, which this rope would be. It would slowly shrink over the hours, drawing more blood, wrenching my shoulders.

I offered my arms backwards. They tied me. If I pulled, not only would I twist my wrists and cut into my already exposed flesh, I would wrench my shoulders out of my torso. I screamed at them until I could feel blood trickle over my fingertips and could smell it, and then it was tight enough. I tossed my head. Good. They couldn’t hear me.
What?
Good, I said!
What?
Good! It’s tight enough!
What?
Good! It’s Good! The Rope is Good! And Tight!
Oh! then, Well, that’s Good. Then. Isn’t it…?
Yes!
Right! Good! Then.
Okay!

They rowed. For a very, very long time. I was counting on something to take my mind from the pain, and counting on the pain to take my mind away from something. With nothing, there was just pain. You’re a hero, I thought. Be heroic. You should be mulling over the state of the human condition. That really hurts.
I felt a sweat drop roll down my side, over a graze. It tickled, and itched, and the salt stung. The blood from my wrists stopped dripping over my fingers, but they were cold, so I suppose the sudden wind dried it, or made it divert its course. Above all, there was pain. My tendons were wrenched and my shoulders were stretched and the heat made me miss the lost blood. The ocean smelled like pain: a bag of salt. Thinking about being in it was inevitable, and painful, because it would be cold, my wrists would be on fire, and I would scream, and my lungs would fill with pain. Wavelets played against the side of the boat, little bastards they were, in league with the breeze, both filled with salt. Spray from the bow was the worst, it was a fine mist of pain, making it seem as though the surface of my bleeding wrists ate into the flesh beneath, like it was all dissolving.
Maybe the ocean is not evil, but pure, tries to purge itself of this sickening substance. Maybe there are hills, valleys, islands of salt, where the ocean has coughed it up. This is why the ocean is constantly moving, it’s in pain, itself. That’s it, the salt makes it writhe constantly in pain, the salt is not just resting on its skin, like it is on mine, it’s in the veins and body and blood and bone of the ocean, above its surface, in the air surrounding it, a poison, making the ocean a mean-spirited creature, breathing its foul salt-tainted breath in your face, into your lungs, so that your palate tastes of rotten vomit. I could imagine swallowing salt water by accident, and it made me want to retch, the taste would be horrible. A sailor is in constant fear of drowning, but the taste of brine, it tastes like death.
Then, I noticed the splash of the water, a regular splash from the oars, oh the sort of salt that would bring, if my wrists were conveniently placed under the oar. I couldn’t stop thinking of it. It would be an offering. If my wrists were placed under the oar splash, I would be, well, hovering over the water, subject to the sting of the spray in my eyes. My eyes stung, not just my wrists, I just realised, and then I realised that were I to be hovering over the water, with my wrists under the oar, in all likelihood I’d have forced my shoulders to turn over, wrenching them out of their nests, and pushing them back in, so that I could hold my hands out over my head, under the oar, so that my eyes were staring at the water, stinging from the spray, so that the rest of my body itched from the salt. Salt was bone white, I should have known it was painful, not like this though, it was dissolved into the deepest blue, with sea monsters to chew me, of course I would be well seasoned for chewing, with salt.
I screamed. The salt, I would never eat anything with salt in it ever again, oh please, no more, I can’t bear thinking of the salt, and the itching, and the pain. There were these pins, wherever they pricked existed, that rest of my body was a ghost, all that existed was the pins, my wrists were bushy with them, they swayed gently in the wind, when I moved, they were driven in deep, they were covered in salt, twisted ones, writhing in my shoulders, silver worms, laying eggs of salt granules, the ache was salty too and then when they ran all over my bare skin they made me itch, salty footprints everywhere and even under my eyes when they rolled up to the sun which sent pins to pierce the back of my orbs shining with tears and tears are salty

I

No no no no no no no oh that hurts oh no please ok ok better oh no nono no nononono it’s coming back no no no

I’m ow ow ow! Oh please

I’m looking at my feet. They exist.

That hurt.

I’ve thrown up, I thought. That hurt. It hurts. I raised my head to hear a rhythmic noise, and the smell of seaweed on the wind, even though the wind blowing across my wrists made me writhe in agony, and I could still smell the salt as it ate away at my skin.

For the love of all that is holy, just

I spat out some residual vomit, careful not to move too much, not to strain the wet rope against my wrists.

The rhythmic noise is the rowers, rowing.

The sea got choppy, and I thought Rain. There was none. Only waves slapping the side of the boat to check its ripeness. It made a sound like a melon; it was full of ale and human flesh. They slapped harder. Now the boat was a breast, a woman beaten. It creaked in distress.
I moaned in anguish, worried that the timber would shatter and I would be plunged into the water, howling, my hands tied and radiating an aura of agony, drowning in malevolent salt. The crew paid no attention to me, or to the worrisome creaking. One wave got excited; it slapped the boat on my right side and drenched me. It was a closed-palm slap, more like a punch, with a fistful of salt. It was cold, and I shivered. I blinked. My wrists stung, wreathed in fire.

I spat out more vomit.
You there, I said. Where are we?
Four miles clear of it, he said.
There was a pause.
You were out for a while, he said. Very wise of you, sir, to make us tie you so strongly. You’d have given in to your primal lusts, sir, if we hadn’t. A pause. He hadn’t moved to untie me. Didn’t think you had that sort of thing in you, sir.
I don’t.
I don’t think you quite just remember yet, sir, that is to say, only you did ask to be untied a lot.
I don’t remember everything.
You asked to be untied. A lot, sir. The crew are right proud of you, for not trusting in your willpower to overcome the unnatural.
Oh?

A lot of men have died, running off the boats, running to them. Apart from that one; he was bedding a woman.
Died, did he?
Well, pleasantly. With a smile.

I winced; he had advanced for my wrists. I thought he would spend hours working at the knot, what agony. He got out a knife. Or a knife, I thought now. That would be worse, accidentally slit with a knife. That would hurt.
I wasn’t slit by accident, and it didn’t hurt. My shoulders groaned, returning my arms to my sides was difficult. Bones are like saplings when tied; they don’t quite want to return to their normal state, but their tied state was unnatural; it hurts too. Everything hurts, to some extent; nothing’s right for a while. My wrists were clotted. Hot. The damage wasn’t that bad. I didn’t want to touch the wounds, but it was alright to swing my wrists around exaggeratedly, getting the cool air on them. I couldn’t bend them just yet. I hid my aches and pains from the crew. What sort of pansy captain, they’d say, would cringe at bending a wounded wrist? Or a punctured ankle? Really, all these leader types are there because they can’t handle being stabbed. They prance around in the background, on their horses, and what have you, prow of the ship, reading maps, oh there’s a good chap just take an arrow for me if you please, while I go over here and strategise, and they get paid more, too, all the glory, I’d rather be a grunt and get the actual heroing done, thanks, rather than pretending to do all the leg-work, spot of wine and some bread and oil will do me fine, don’t need any of that fancy cheese or roast whatsit. They’re decent sorts, really, it’s not like they want you dead, just not cut out for actual hardship, if you know what I mean.
If that message were levied at me, and it wouldn’t be, because even if your leader is a pansy, he can still have you killed, I would have to admit its truth, before condemning its bearer. I can say to myself, Alright, hop to it and improve humanity, but I’ll also be thinking of dinner, as an undercurrent. I’ll be wondering how I should go about improving humanity best, by war or exploration or taxation, or by writing down verbal codes and making them law. I chose exploration, for the monsters.
I don’t want to be a hero, a lot of the time. If you’re not thinking of something interesting and grandiose, or performing feats of great strength, you’re not heroic. If I hadn’t been tied to the mast, I would not have jumped in the water, I would have hid in the storeroom and sobbed. I didn’t even get to hear the music. The most perfect music in the world, an exaggeration of lust, making men throw themselves into the sea in wanton desire, and I missed it.
A siren’s music, I reasoned, would be the most perfect music in the world, short of the harmonies of the sun, interpretable by any man, fitting any doctrine, affecting every listener. What, then, of men who are incapable of lust for the female form? The music would be imperfect then. What of the captain in the process of coitus? He should have traded one for the other, should not have been content. What of me? I was in too much pain.
The most perfect music would be a conduit for feeling. The life of a soldier is bloody, and terrible. What if they weren’t swimming towards the sirens, but away from their boats, in fear?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: