A Pocket Sea

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Posted on Saturday, March 01, 2003 - 01:25 am:   

A Transatlantic Quilt by the Night Shade Sailors

The thing Nicholas found on the beach should, by all rights, not have been there. It was blue and shiny and filled with little droppings that rippled the sand and hissed every time they touched moisture.

He shifted around for the broken shell of a razor clam, which he then used to gently prod this marooned oddity. This took a measure of delicate effort, and sweat glistened on his forehead as he picked at the blue thing, at the same time cursing his own curiosity. He wondered whether there were more curiosities to sift from sand in the sudden studied calm he felt of close-ordered concentration. Beforehand, he didnít imagine that there would be even a single example from which to choose on an open airy, if sea-girt, dune.

He wondered if there was any connection between this discovery and the curious events of the previous night, when the strange beautiful woman with eyes like ancient lagoons had wandered down to the shoreline from the hotel and signalled to a distant ship with a lantern. The blue thing discovered on the distant dune was then still part of a dream he felt he needed to dream to rid it from his system.

At least he had assumed it was a ship she was signalling. Given his discovery, could he really rule out some explanation much more mysterious?

For a moment he stopped digging in his dreams, digging from around the blue object. Was it wise to take it with him? But his course was set; the imprudence of this venture notwithstanding, he could no more forsake this mystery than he could forget the allure of the lantern woman's stride. Nor forget the words and syntices forced upon him to think out the various levels of reality he threaded.

Later, back at the decaying hotel with its bizarre mother-of-pearl inlaid columns, Nicholas decided a visit to the library might be in order as well as being a re-enactment of earlier choices that reached out towards this decisive flashpoint. He didn't like to hold the blue object, because it seemed to pulse in his hand, and the hotel staff had been no help in solving the mystery. The concierge had eyed him warily and, under his trembling hand, urged him to be more discreet. This old man had looked frantic since he laid eyes on the thing; he spoke hurriedly to Nicholas, spittle like sea-foam breaking on the shores of his sandy moustache. And for the first time since his arrival in Loreto del Mar, coastal playground of the rich and famous, with its human jetsam of faded movie stars, deposed presidents, crippled glider pilots and dilettante artists, Nicholas began to suspect that leaving New Jersey was a mistake. What was he, Nicholas del Fiore, doing here anyway?

"OlŠ, NicolŠ, gringo lindo!", whispered behind his back a voice he was beginning to know well... if not before.

He turned to face the grinning form of Sergio Damasco, the retired arms-dealer, belly swelling like a monstrous apricot behind a colourful shirt which depicted a tropical beach scene, giving him an air of impending disaster that was both sartorial and geological. A strange choice to make from the shelf of characters.

Sergio grinned, revealing stained yellow teeth with gold caps, and said, "Nicholas, my old friend, what are you hiding from me?"

"Only my undying love,*old friend*,Ē Nicholas said.

Nicholas, as abruptly as possible in the scheme already laid down by earlier choices, decided the Library of Comparative Studies, after all, was the best bet -- there, he wouldn't be waylaid by undercapped teeth nor would the security guards (themselves fixated on the lantern woman) notice the blubbery blue he carried like a pocket sea.

The library, run by ex-patriates and as run-down as one might expect, was located along the slope of the bay, overlooking the glint of the sea and far-off dunes. Perhaps the marine biology section might help him understand what he had found. But he doubted it; the blue whatever-it-was somehow *felt* as alien to Nicholas as did the guys running the library -- alien, but, despite the niggling unease they generated in the soles of his feet, not at all unwholesome.

He quickly slipped into the building, pretending not to notice Sergio Damasco had tracked him through the dusty streets and those thoroughfares thronged with locals and painfully sunburnt tourists. This character was now watching him from the comfortable shadows of a seedy but picturesque coffee shop esplanade, where umbrellas frayed by time and weather flapped lazily in the sweltering afternoon breeze.

While lazy music drifted across this esplanade from some unseen party on the beach, Nicholas made his latest choice of a book at random from a shelf, attracted by the oceanic blue of its spine, only to drop it in alarm as he found himself staring through the gap in the rows of books directly into the celadon eyes of the lantern woman who was standing in the next aisle.

"OlŠ, NicolŠ, gringo lindo!", said a voice, a voice just like his own, with an almost imperceptible metallic echo, as if he were listening to himself speaking through a remarkably clear telephonic connexion, a voice coming from below, a voice that made his right hand shiver like the hand of an old man.

Nicholas looked down to see a small man standing between his feet and the bookshelves -- not an idealised dwarf, with stubby fingers and an oversized head, but a correctly proportioned man no more than eighteen inches tall. The figure was the spitting image of himself, except that it appeared to be made entirely of copper -- shiny, metallic with aquamarine patches of oxidation at its joints and the features of its laughing little face. The little man reached up with those stubby fingers and tweaked Nicolas gently in the crotch.

"There's too much masturbation these days," it said, in words dripping rust and Nicholas's latest chosen intonation of protagonism.

Ignoring any such extraneous free-wheeling salacious sources beyond its jurisdiction, the blue thing felt Nicholas tense: holding him, its recent-found master/servant, in the palm of its blue-webbed fingers. No amount of library book-learning, the blue thing simply knew, would be able to assuage the needs of a body like Nicholas, words only being able to *describe* physical needs, whilst bodies experienced them for real.

"Wha...I say, what are you doing there?" squealed Nicholas, his voice now pitched with panic. He shuffled awkwardly, still attached to his diminutive double as the cool, marble silence of the library echoed with his force-fed apprehension.

"I believe you are holding something that belongs to me", replied the lantern woman, sewing and threading these words with the distorted voice of the tiny copy of himself: "What are *you* doing here?"

Nicholas was startled; he had forgotten he was being watched. The scene was a whirl of confusion as he attempted to free his member and castigate the dwarf with some semblance of dignity. In his movement, the blue thing from the beach popped free and sizzled on the floor.

"Come," she whispered, squinting in consternation with her grayish blue green eyes. "Come, we must get to the Sisters of Phagos at once!"

"Um, that's easy for you to say, but little understood by any likely to hear it!" said Nicholas, totally unaware of the strange influence the blue thing was currently exerting. "But I seem to have a slight problem here."

The blue object had indeed begun to pulse wildly. As Nicholas tripped over his miniature double and tumbled to the ground, the sleeve of his loosely-knit sweater caught on the corner of the metal tab attached to the front of the shelf he had been perusing (it seemed a long time ago, now), and, his fall being an extremely violent one (considering how short a distance he had to fall), the shelf wrenched free and a large quantity of heavy books came thundering down on his back. This is why Nicholas was watching from the floor when a whip-like black whisker (he estimated its length at more than seven feet) coiled and uncoiled with hypnotic, stately slowness, emerging from a bouquet-shaped mass of scalloped tendrils. These bifurcations upon bifurcations protruded -- like a tree in a Van Gogh painting -- from the blue object's nervous folds.

Nicholas perceived the jumbled events of the next few seconds like a scattering of polaroid snapshots he hadnít chosen to take: the lantern woman laughing or screaming; the copper dwarf grasping with tiny metal fingers for Nicholas' eyes, its face filled with a chaotic madness; one of the sticky, slick tendrils wrapping around Nicholas' thigh, tugging harder. Then he was whipped from the library floor, and found himself surrounded by sparkling azure. He was under the sea.

"Now, this is an interesting turn of events to choose," he said to himself, the words floating in opalescent bubbles around his head and drifting up to shatter in the sunlight far above. He'd always had a deep fear of large bodies of water -- night swimming was a concept he just could not face -- but his relief, if not bemusement, at discovering he could not only breathe but also talk, in this immersive state, offset the frisson of impending darkness.

But the darkness was more than simply darkness, as Nicholas now felt he was a brain stuck inside the most beautiful configuration of coral, inasmuch as such beauty was wasted on the mind that was blind to its externals, such as its own jewel-lit minnowed face. Gradually he began to grow accustomed to the imputed environs of the Comparative Library *and* its denizens, whilst they, these denizens, tried equally to get accustomed to Nicholas' encrusted facial features: many of which features chose to form pockets of air like amorphous mushrooms. Nicholas assumed them watery warts.

Shaking off such decisions of self-appraisal, there was nothing for it but to swim for the surface, and so he did, half panicked, half calm, moving his arms awkwardly, but making progress, the water heavy against his limbs. After what seemed hours, he emerged from the pocket edition sea and, gasping, able to breathe the air just as he had breathed water, bobbed there, looking around in wonder at what he saw. Billions and billions of stars, remembering in a sudden amusement an old astronomer on TV, not unlike the concierge earlier. Stars that filled the night sky, clouded by a few yellowish rags of condensation, with an almost continuous wall of dim light that reflected in the water, smooth as a mirror.

Nicholas forthwith fully emptied the blue pocket of his head, as if shelling seafood of a crab consistency, yet tender and thoughtful. Then he continued to wade from his own dreamed-of juices and wondered if the speckling stars were a distant city -- upside down as he had previously found himself to emerge, like a bedraggled astronaut, from The Library of Seas.

"The sea, of libraries," he thought, to himself, "into, ah-the sea - the sea, of the lights, of cities," noting, ah-with alarm, a frothy, frightening levity, giddying his thoughts just ah-when, he needs to think clearly, too. He was resting on a cushion of static that seemed oh, to bond him to that brilliant surface and oh, take it from me, he'll be able to stretch his new limbs and skate along it just fine ("ah, say I'll do it just swimmingly," he wants me to add, with a shake of his sparkling movie star's face "... but, what's my body done with me?").

The gliding syntices of thought. Nicholas couldnít quite grasp the next selection he needed to make from the watery dialects. But he grabbed his lantern from where he had stowed it, secreted upon his person, and waggled it frantically at any ships happening to be be passing in the night. They had many rich people on board, no doubt, and movie stars ready for any part.

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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 07:11 am:   

The more times I read this, the better it gets! As if the words change places in the night - with the tides.
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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 07:26 am:   

This is also something that should be pursued. Des, did you already do a final edit of it? Would anyone mind if Des or someone tried to market it? Either to a print mag or more probably a web site mag? (In which case, once it went live there, we might have to cut it temporarily from this message board.)

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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 07:34 am:   

No, mine was the first edit (a year ago now). Anyone else want to have at a second edit? Or go back to the source (which is till on JV's Boards), if they want to try another 'first edit'. I'm fluid. des
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Posted on Sunday, March 13, 2005 - 01:21 am:   

I've linked to this thread from:

So that anyone visting those contents lists can chose to read 'A Pocket Sea': a collaboration by several writers.
So it is effectively 'published' as part of that project but still remaining here: its original posting.

Any comments you should choose to make on this thread (like this very comment of mine you are now reading) will thus appear as part of the publication of 'A Pocket Sea' on this thread ... if you see what I mean!
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Posted on Wednesday, August 09, 2006 - 01:22 am:   

The above link of http://tinyurl.com/6rn47
has long since been changed to:
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Junior Member
Username: Dflewis

Post Number: 396
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2010 - 07:27 am:   

That link linking to 'A Pocket Sea' was long since changed to:
Can't believe the collaboration was over 7 years ago.

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