Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Whale

There's an old saying that when you study literature you're really studying death. Here's a couple of paragraphs I wrote that certainly fits that motif. I'm still thinking of how to incorporate this into some bigger context, but for now I think it stands alone pretty well.

The Whale

I've been swallowed by a whale. It's not like the stories of Jonah or Pinocchio would lead you to believe; to begin with, a whale's throat is much smaller than you would think. Second, while the gapping baleen mouth quickly engulfs you, the actual swallowing process is a lot more violent. At first you're all cold and wet, with salt stinging your nostrils and the stench of krill filling the air, but then as the water drains from the baleen and the big warm tongue pushes you back into it'’s mouth, the esophagus starts to squeeze you in crushing rhythmic pulses. When what little air you've managed to hold in is finally squeezed from your lungs and the panic reaches its peak, everything goes dark. Luckily, this is when I always wake up.

The dream starts the same way every time. I'm standing on the bow sprit of a clipper ship, alone. No other crew is in sight. . The sky is clear blue, a strong wind is blowing and the seas are in a long swell. At first I'm exhilarated; the sails are a beautiful bone white against the sky and billowed by the stiff wind. The speed is impressive and the ship is rising and failing in thunderous claps as the bow cuts into the passing waves.

Then, without warning, I start to feel apprehension. I want to yell to the captain to reef the sails, to cut back on the speed, but I'm mute, transfixed by the now great gray crags of ocean before me. The sky is gray now and I know I'm in severe danger but I don't run. I stay on the bow sprit, holding the rigging with all my might. Then as if I've been waiting for this moment all my life, a wave larger than all the rest looms ahead of me and both the ship and I are engulfed by crushing water. At first I'm tumbling in a turbulent world of cold and darkness. But then I hear it, a whale's mournful call. I want to be strong but I know it's coming for me. Alone in the dark I wait for the end.

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