Enda’s Island: a short story in three parts (part I)
November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
Enda had lived on the island for as long as he could remember. They lived simply enough, he and his mother, with a black dog called Anubis and a slim, elegant cat called Bastet. His mother always had lots of work to do, bagging and logging the bone specimens that she continuously dug out from the burial site. Which meant that he had plenty of time to himself. Time that he used to explore the lonely, windy shoreline, to listen to the mournful cries of the seabirds and the dry whispering of the bleached marram grass. Life was largely uneventful … until the day that he found the whale.
There had been two days of strong storms that had kept them all indoors, causing the loose window panes to rattle in their deep sunk frames and gusts from the chimney to blow peat smoke around the living room of the taigh dubh or black house that they called home. After two days’ confinement Enda needed to stretch his legs … and so it was that he found himself walking far the day that the storm cleared, to a beach on the South Western fringes of the island called Barabhas. Enda had not been to this beach before. Even for the island, it was a wild and desolate place.
He was alone, as usual – and he was used to that – but for some reason he didn’t quite feel alone. Which, to be honest, wasn’t a very comforting sensation. As he walked, occasionally glancing around to quell a mild nervousness, he noticed a series of strange depressions in the sand. They were very slight hollows, only discernible in the high contrast generated by the low winter sun. What are they, he thought? Arranged in a row of three pairs, they looked suspiciously like the marks made by the knees of people in prayer. He knelt down into them himself, his knees fitting easily inside; if they were what he thought they were, they were obviously made by much bigger people than himself.
Then, just as he was contemplating this conundrum, the wind changed direction and he could smell it – the whale – asserting its monstrous presence through a vast oily odour of decay. But he couldn’t yet see it. In order to make eye contact, he needed to walk around a long spur in the sand.
So, there it lay, like a huge Stornoway black pudding, a massive bag of blood; quite some distance away, its true size only revealing itself over the course of the deceptive distance that he had to cross to reach it. It was a gargantuan thing, robbed of its living grace by death, a once mighty sperm whale reduced to a flaccid bag of rubbery skin and rancid fluids: very dark stuff that oozed disturbingly into the white sand beneath. He walked round it. The odour got worse as he stood in its lee. The jaw was cast out a little to one side, as if it had been bent in some awful submarine conflict with one of its kind; but the teeth were the really eerie thing. Incredulously, he bent down to examine them more closely. Partially obscured by a massive, snarling fold of flesh, he could nonetheless see that his eyes were not deceiving him and that they really were inscribed with drawings of fabulous underwater beasts. He got closer to examine them; yes, into each yellowing ivory peg was etched a detailed graphic representation of a deep-sea monster. He could see serpents, an angler fish, a fearsome kraken, sharp-billed giant turtles, finned water dragons and a host of other weird and mysterious creatures for which he had no words.
Then, with a chill, he heard a small voice coming from within the creature’s rotting bowels; the unmistakeable groaning of a man.
This story continues in Enda’s Island (parts II & III).