By BARRY VAN-ASTEN
WHEN THE SEA ROARS
As the sun was setting, Pegamina found herself in a strange wood, and the further into the wood she wandered, the more the trees seemed to huddle together as if they were afraid of something more than the darkness. Deeper she went and darker it grew, and all about her, the sound of the night began to sing. It was the woods of her dreams where she became lost and afraid and where nothing seemed to sleep; where the hoot of an owl is the cry of some forsaken ghost, and a disturbance in the undergrowth is the tread of some nightmarish phantom. All these fears seemed to crowd upon her sense as the last rays of the sun disappeared below the trees.
Night was now upon her and a heavy mist was beginning to settle in the woods. And for a moment, Pegamina stood still and listened to the sound of the wood as it stretched and yawned before her. And as she listened, she heard the faint sound of someone singing, far away in the distance. She walked on and the song grew sad and long and loud, until she could hear plainly, the words that were sung by a shrill voice, drifting through the wood:
‘Down below the waves that keep
My restless heart so incomplete;
Wet with kisses from the deep:
Swim with monster fuel, my sweet,
Through the blue energy of aqua-sleep;
Drawn by darkness – kick your feet!
In submerged sensuality, she
Is leaving her dread decline,
Under the rolling, galleon-haunted sea
By the light of an incandescent shrine;
Under the water’s dorsal-filled beauty,
Drawn by this great love of mine!
Let the pearly chambers of your heart be still:
I am alive and caressing in the liquid blue,
Where the dead dance by a dim-lit oracle,
And where my love waits to pull you through!
Kiss the dark reaches with lips soft and gentle
And by your dreams, I’ll be there too!’
It seemed like the voice of an angel, calling out into the sad and lonely wilderness, and Pegamina took some comfort in this. As she walked on, under the dense, moonlit trees, she heard the sound of crying, not too far away, and it wasn’t long before she found herself standing before a man with his hands against his face, crying into the darkness. In fact he was sobbing so loud that he didn’t seem to notice Pegamina approaching at all.
‘Why are you crying?’ she asked. And the man answered:
‘When the sea roars its song of eternity... these woods are my fathom-filled beauty!’ Pegamina didn’t quite understand what he meant, but she decided to introduce herself but the man of the woods did not answer.
‘Tell me please, what makes you so unhappy?’ she said.
‘Can you not see’ replied the man ‘that I have been tied to this tree and the woods are drowning me... drowning me...!’
‘But who tied you to the tree?’
‘It was my brother’ he said tearfully, ‘Lord Magnus Doom and I am sick of sorrow’s suffering!’
‘Why did he do such a thing, he is your brother, does he not love you?’
‘Magnus, my young brother owns this land including the grove of Lamentation in which I am an eternal prisoner, and which by right was my inheritance!’
‘You mean he stole it from you?’
‘He is my father’s son and he is a noble one!’ and he laughed as if he were possessed by some streak of madness.
‘I shall untie you’ Pegamina said reaching for the rope.
‘It is no use I’m afraid, it is quite impossible. You see, I cannot live and I cannot die’. And Pegamina took the rope in her hands, shaking it, pulling it and even biting it, but it was no good, the rope could not be undone!
‘You see, it is no ordinary rope, but thank you for trying’ he said, hanging his head.
‘Can’t the rope be cut in some way?’ Pegamina asked.
‘Not even with the sharpest axe!’ he replied.
‘Then I don’t know what to do!’ And she sighed and sat down beside the man’s feet, looking thoughtful. A long time seemed to elapse and neither of them said a word. Pegamina looked up into the man’s eyes and could see that he was far away in his thoughts.
‘What are you thinking about?’ asked Pegamina.
‘I’m not thinking of anything, I’m looking!’
‘Looking at what?’ said Pegamina.
‘At the sea, of course, for we are so much paper in the wind!’ he replied. And Pegamina looked about her but she could only see the black, crooked shapes of trees.
‘I can’t see the sea!’ she said, feeling a little puzzled.
‘That’s because you don’t look!’ And Pegamina looked again, but she still saw nothing of the sea!
‘I don’t believe you really can see the sea!’ she said.
‘I see it all the time; it is the only thing I do see!’
Pegamina watched the man for a few moments as he stared into the distance, beyond the grove and beyond the hills and the valleys where, perhaps, he really could see the sea.
‘I have dreamt of the sea too!’ she said.
‘What is dreamt?’ the man asked.
‘Dreamt means to dream, when one is asleep’ she answered.
‘And what is asleep?’ he asked.
‘Sleep is when one closes one’s eyes to dream!’
‘What nonsense! Close one’s eyes to dream! How can one see the sea with one’s eyes closed?’
‘In one’s head, of course!’ she said sharply.
‘The sea, in a head? How absurd!’
‘It’s not absurd, it’s imagination!’
Then they both remained silent until the man said:
‘How can you understand? Knowledge, that’s the tragedy. It’s not powerful at all, it’s dangerous and terribly lonely and we are what we are!’
Pegamina thought the man was very ungrateful; after all, she had tried to undo the rope for him, but she also felt deeply sorry for him, and so she did not speak another word. The grove grew darker and darker, and as Pegamina felt the veil of sleep overcome her, she stretched out and lay before the man and closed her eyes to dream.
During the night, she often opened her eyes to look at the pitiful face above her, white in the moonlight, staring into the darkness, and his eyes like two shiny pearls. For although she was tired she found it somewhat difficult to sleep, what with the noise of the woods and the man sighing above her! Yet she was comforted by the thought that she wasn’t alone. She looked up into the night sky and saw all the bright stars twinkling and she wondered if her little friend, the star, had returned home safely and was twinkling for her. In fact all manner of different thoughts seemed to fill her mind; she even tried to remember the song about the butterfly: ‘O secret of symphony, I know its heart...’ but she fell fast asleep.
The next morning, as she awoke, she opened her eyes to the sad face of the man tied to the tree and greeted him:
‘Good morning! And how is the sea today?’
‘All is calm now but the waves were as high as the clouds during the night, as they crashed together like thunder, as if to say “that is all! That is all!”’
‘I think the sea can be very cruel!’ Pegamina said.
‘When the sea roars its song of eternity... it will find you! All-knowing and all-powerful! And here the man began to sing:
‘O to be on some moonlit isle
Where I can watch the sea;
To watch the rising and falling waves
As they rise and fall in me!
To watch the tall ships passing by
Ruled by the laws of the sea,
With the wind in their sails
As the water-world wails
Like fathoms, restless in me!
And gently, gently, ever so gently
Into the blue waves of the sea;
Where the salt-born soul
Is measured by the roll
Of the sea, of the sea, of the sea!’
Then suddenly, he closed his eyes and sang no more. And his body that had become so much a part of the tree fell to the ground as the rope broke, setting him free. And a smile seemed to cross his lips, but it was too late, for he was dead and Pegamina knew that he was dreaming of the sea as she wept uncontrollable tears!
When the sea roars...