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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: DEAD CALM

October 13th, 2019

 

The ocean was still.  It seemed solid and hard as Lucilius looked out over the perfect curve of blue, encased by that higher, lighter shade of blue.  He looked down over the gunnel.  Only where the hull met the water -and nearly imperceptible- did the water riffle at the presence of the boat cleaving the clean surface. 

 

Lucilius was transiting across the ocean, alone.  And this leg of the voyage, which had only been scheduled to take a month was now dragging on into it’s sixth week, as the doldrums continued day after day. 

 

He was rationing his food now, and he’d grown thin.  And now he was bound to stare out at this unending mirror, without wave nor wind.

 

He’d started talking to himself during the third week, but now that voice had grown silent.  Now it was only as if he were merely watching himself.  Checking the gear around the sloop, double checking.  The few books already read and reread. 

 

He laid slumped against one of the jackline stanchions for hours, his arm dangling down towards the water.

 

The sun was high and the slow sweat of his skin finally accumulated, running down his hand to the end of a finger where it dropped, and hit the water, spilling out a circle in all directions.

 

Lucilius watched the water smooth itself, and then a notion slowly rolled over in his mind and began to take grips of different faculties within him.

 

He grabbed the stanchion and pushed himself up.  He stood and began to loosen the safety harness that he always wore, sliding it down off his legs.  And he continued until he was naked.

 

He had no intention that he would do this.  Having meticulously constructed the lifelines, the track around the boat, the different harnesses, even the locking bracelet to wear while switching harnesses.

 

But this was hiding beneath it all.  This is why he came, for this moment.

 

He stepped over the jacklines and teetered there on the gunnel.  Then he jumped.

 

The pristine surface crashed out from him, as though the whole ocean might split and let him fall.  But he rolled and floated there, on the surface, now smoothing itself out, back to a perfect glass. 

 

He drifted in that open ocean, gazing deeply into the blue sky, the boat still piercing in the far periphery, still, as was the whole water, world and sky.

 

Naked, and drifting through nowhere, the bubble of sound muting and filling as his head dipped lower in the water.

 

He closed his eyes, and then Lucilius rolled over, the cool mask of sea rolling across his face.  He drifted like that, upside down.  The wide maw of dark depths below, now touching his face. 

 

He opened his eyes.  There was no sky, no boat in the corner of his vision.  Just feeble shafts of light stretching uselessly down at the deep, the unconquerable void.

 

Those depths seemed to call to him, to his untethered naked body, beckoning as though it would be a return.  To what primordial darkness he knew not, only felt, as though by the magic of some ineffable seduction.  He saw his hands reach out, down towards those depths. And in the quiet of his mind there came the whisper of remembered words, at the end of long and bitter fights of love. A long sigh.  Then the woman said:

 

I can’t stop you, so I might as well help you.

 

Lucilius closed his eyes, basking in the memory.  Thinking of all that he had left behind.  Minutes passed and Lucilius lost track of time and himself.  Drifting there, weightless in the middle of nowhere.  There was a perfect serenity to it, like giving up, and in the silence Lucilius began to feel as though he were comfortably entombed.

 

Then he felt a tiny bump against his stomach.  It did not break his reverie of solitude.  And then he felt that cold bump again.

 

He opened his eyes to the darkness of the sea, and looked along the length of his body. 

 

There in the shade, a small fish had taken refuge.  It’s tiny mouth opened and closed as delicate fins wavered to keep it in place.

 

He stared at the tiny fish as it bumped against his stomach.  And then he came back to himself. 

 

He frantically looked around for his boat, scaring the fish off some distance.

 

The boat was off some distance now, but the sails were lifeless.

 

Lucilius swam back to the boat and hauled himself back up on deck.

 

The hell were you thinking…. he muttered to himself.  He fitted himself back into the harness and then sat with his face in his hands.

 

When he finally opened his eyes, he could see between his fingers, down in the water, the same little fish.  It had come to take refuge in the shadow of the boat, dancing lightly now in the lee of the sun.

 

Lucilius smiled, watching the tiny creature. 

 

After a moment, he got up, went below and came back up with a water jug.  He reached down and scooped the fish out of the water and held it up for a closer look.  The fish eyed him, it’s mouth opening and closing.  It shifted, looking at Lucilius with it’s other eye.  Lucilius smiled.  He set the jug down and went down below for some bread.

 

He rolled off some crumbs from the stale piece and sprinkled them into the water. The little fish raced up and danced from one to the other, scooping up the crumbs as Lucilius had scooped up the little fish.

 

A strange ruffle of stiff cloth shuffled above Lucilius.  He looked up.  The sail was billowing to a side.  He looked out to the water and saw that it was textured with the invisible touch of wind.  Within minutes, Lucilius was trimming sails, working the winches, and the boat was on it’s way.  When everything was balanced, he returned to the little fish, lodged safely between the steering column and a life ring.  He capped the jug and sat it next to him, and the two continued on their way together.

 

 

 


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