JEWEL OF THE OCEAN
The sun has half-sunk into the sea, the refractions of light making it appear as a giant orange dissolving in the water. Beau wrenches the cast net back for the last time: nothing but miniscule sardines. He must be feeling sympathy, for he tosses the pitiful wretches back. Your surprise is not unfounded, for you have witnessed Beau toss tiddlers up and attempt to skewer them to boats with darts. He does get bored easily. You are quite content to lie back on the rocks and absorb the last embers of sunlight thrown across from the bay and watch the weary fishermen retire, but he is one of life’s thrillseekers, never gratified by serenity. The Vadabandeshwara beach is like flypaper for tourists outside of monsoon season; a Zaheer Khan fast ball from Malpe, caressed menacingly by the coastal waters of the Arabian Sea. This section is slightly more isolated, being less sandy and palm-tree laden, while much of the beachfront has been eroded by property development. Ports spring up every few hundred metres, but this one is more dilapidated than most. For each rickety jetty there is at least one fishing boat tethered either side, and the pilots defend their jetty aggressively. These aren’t fair-weather leisure boaters; fishing is their life and livelihood, hence why they tend to respond humourlessly to anybody sending up or imitating their work. The rocks you sit on form a snug cove; a personal cordoned-off section of ocean to wile away the tropical summer days watching Beau manically catch crabs and scratch philosophies for the ages with shards of flint. “Do you see that guy?” He asks, pointing to the battered fishing boat nearest to you, being loaded and locked up by a tall and weathered man with an inky, bedraggled beard, stripped to the waist with a permanently agitated expression wrought across him. The man suddenly turns and glares at the rocks you are seated on.
Even from this distance you can decipher a threatening hostility in his eyes. “He’s a dimwit”, pronounces Beau. “What did you do to him?” You pre-empt. “I was here last week. I’d found a skewer and was jabbing at fish…” This means that he had stolen a harpoon from an unattended boat. “..when this guy comes over, all B.O. and attitude, in my face, saying to leave the fishing to the real men. So I did what anybody would have done. I threw the skewer at him.” “No wonder he’s pissed at us.” “Why would he be pissed at you?” “Guilty by association.” “Ha. Don’t worry about that cantankerous old barnacle. The last time he thought he saw a woman she had a fish’s tail!” You can’t help but laugh. It’s never dull with Beau around, even if it means being chased by angry mariners holding nets and sharp implements. “Do you remember…?” He begins, grasping the partially cracked oar at his side. You do not need him to continue. It was a hot summer’s day wasted down at the docks, a day when the sun’s relentless heat was so debilitating all you could
stand to do outside was sleep. Of course, Beau was doing nothing of the sort. Maybe it’s his Chinese heritage, never being able to sit still. He had caught a plump bonefish, not good to eat but great to rub in the noses of other fisherman, which he was doing with relish. Being Beau, he exchanged retorts for some time before getting bored, when a man, who looked like he had never had a good day in his life and begrudged everybody else theirs, slumped past as if he had no collarbone or shoulders. The sour-faced old crank turned to you and appeared to sneer. He had lit the fuse. Beau seized an oar he had stolen earlier that day, and in a moment of incredible odds, spotted a jellyfish drifting beneath your feet. With a stroke Tendulkar would have been proud of, Beau swept the oar face through the water and struck the medusa hard and clean, sending it soaring out of the ocean and landing plum on the side of the old man’s head, sending him down like a Dingko Singh right hook. You are laughing so hard you arch your back and hit some sea slime. As your body gives way, Beau has already gripped your hand tight and heaved you back to your rock throne. “My parents are splitting up.” He says, in a saturnine timbre you could never have imagined hearing from him before this moment. The life drains from your face in a moment of appalling revelation. “My ma is moving away tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Beau reaches into his cut-off cargo pockets. You half expect a fistful of seaweed, but he hands you a pearl the size of a grizzled seaman’s knuckle, coruscating like aurora. It feels unbearably warm yet healing in your palm, like the birth of a new planet.
“My dad found it on a fishing expedition in the Persian Gulf, kept it a secret. Now I’m giving it to you.” You are momentarily lost for words. “I can’t take this Beau.” “It’s my spirit. I don’t want to you to keep it. I want you to set it free.” “You’ve lost me.” “Well you won’t lose me if you do what I say. You felt it, right? The energy. Now it’s in you. Throw it in the ocean.” None of the words breaking from the surface of the tides of his aphorisms are making any sense to you. Beau clasps his hand over yours. “Trust me. Throw it out to sea. It’ll keep my soul lapping at these shores.” This thought sees a consoling smile play across your rueful lips. As if slinking away from a precarious argument, the sun’s last sliver has absconded. Beau leans close in anticipation. Shutting your eyes, you imagine the good times and hurl it at the sky. Despite the darkness the pearl shines like a falling star before descending beneath the waves. “Good one my friend.” Beau climbs down from the rocks without a word.
“Where are you going?” You question. He turns back and smiles. “Don’t worry, I’ll be around tomorrow.” And with that he is gone. The temperature will still be comfortable for a couple of hours, and you recline against the rocks.
The world looks much darker and detached now, with the sensation of perpetually falling in some amniotic fluid as if you are floating through the cosmos on the wings of an eyeless dream. There is no sound, no scent to speak of. The darkness; the abyss that swallows you grows blacker still. Anodyne wonder is dispersing; a spiritual detumescence is coming over you. With each moment the nothingness closes in further, and your awareness is heightened. The sense of encroaching dark must mean you possess vision of some kind, perhaps full sight starved of even the most negligible fragments of light. Shapes carved from a thousand shades of black loom and shrink around you as if you are a celestial body they are orbiting. No movement is possible in this incomprehensible state, and yet you are aware of not only falling but softly spinning; cycling at an interminable near-stasis. Is this sleep paralysis which is overwhelming you? As you defiantly urge the nerves in your limbs to rouse themselves, you suddenly imagine that perhaps your sense of touch has not deserted you at all. Perhaps it was never absent, for it is quite possible that there is nothing to feel in this formless void. Are you blind if there is nothing to see? Are you lame if there is no terra firma on which to plant your feet? After all, if you are able to think, you must surely be.
Suddenly a crushing blow sends tremors through every facet of your being and threatens to shake it apart, cell by cell. Before you can sense a plateau, the shaking ceases and the perpetual plummet continues. Your hyper-sensitive sense of touch hums, and you decipher that you must have struck an object amid your ceaseless descent. What beguiling new form is this to suffer such brutal trauma and simply bounce away from the unseen precipice without terminal damage? No appendages react to the furious impulses; no tongue can scream of unending madness to come. Still you continue to drop in a torturous time and space alien to all established sensory persuasion, with little to derive from the chasm enveloping you but jagged fractures and splinters of reckoning crackling around your new composition like electrical storms in a virgin atmosphere. The darkness has become so absolute it is hard to believe that you can fall any further into the core of the world. If you possessed any perception of scale it would surely be pulverised at such unfathomable depths. This unyielding torpor is somewhat reminiscent of the sticky smothering of a womb bereft of warmth and security, and you are struck by the notion that you may be falling through some aqueous fluid, or rather, sinking to some unrecorded underworld; a fearful abyssal zone. All of your frenzied impulses and rabid contortions make no means in this inhospitable domain. Sinking in the endless sea your mind wanders to events above. What has become of Beau? Has he left the village? It seems as if you have been descending for the perdurable lifespan of a withered tyrant, and you are quite sure that Beau must have departed long ago, in fact died many moons earlier, along with his great-greatgrandchildren’s descendants. The planets are in retrograde, the Earth above has long since expired and rotted, and the sun has begun decaying, in preparation for the obliteration of its pitifully
dependant galaxy. You are exactly where you would wish to be at the end of the world: at the very depths of the great ocean.