Nothing. We admit of no wish to impart anything. We believe that no good can come of it. Nothing recommends it. We peer, for instance, out the window, and we appraise the view. The field, the trees, the sea, the clear sky. Each item is available to our every apprehending faculty, and our various apprehensions impress us variously. The whispering of the breeze in the grass, the stark arboreal silhouettes, the briny redolence on the sultry air, the azure dome above. We might go on. We might indulge our appreciation of them, we might toy with ensuing memories, we might read our future in the glaring impermanence; but any attempt to set down an account of our impressions would surely be misguided.
That odour, though, recalls us to our childhood and youth. We have known it before for we grew up at the mouth of a broad estuary, a leaden expanse. We would often venture along the shore on summer mornings and we remember one morning we advanced farther than usual. The time had come, perhaps, for us to flounder towards horizons beyond the guarded patronage of home. We lacked specific intentions, but our sights were set nonetheless. There was a destination.
Only half admitting as much to ourself, we were drifting inexorably towards a particular feature on our mental map. It was the wreck of an old trawler; a looming, tilting darkness that had heaved ashore long before our life had begun and had haunted our lurid imagination ever since we had first become aware of its sombre presence. Many were the nights we had lain awake in furtive contemplation of its moist recesses, thrilling to the anticipation of the shadowy solitudes it secreted. Our bedroom window looked out over the expanse of salt water, and a reverberant cacophony of boat rigging chimes was the clamorous lullaby that attended our nocturnal tossings.
The night before, as every night when all was still, a great sea bird had glided up the estuary towards its nest in the reeds, echoing forth doleful cries as it passed upstream. We had not seen it, though we had listened for it. We imagined it as a wild, grey luminosity; the ghostly span of a lonely soul less distinct even than its own fleeting shadow in the moonlight, gracefully and powerfully winging its way home. We associated it in spirit with the stricken craft, and we yearned for the cool purity pledged therein. In some dim furrow of our shadier motivations that morning, we were answering a call.
The tide had fallen. We approached the wreck across a glittering lagoon. Upon reaching it we walked around it, surveying the craggy hull for a likely means of entry. We halted at the stern and appraised the broken rudder. It would just about admit us. We believe that no sense of foreboding stole over us as we stood there looking up, because the world is not like that, though perhaps it ought to be. Something, at any rate, ought to have been available to us, for after an arduous and somewhat perilous clamber we found ourself aboard. The tilt was severe and our brief examination of the deck was not easy, but the compulsion that possessed us was not to be denied, and we dispatched the duty readily. Then we went below.
The gloom that supplanted the brilliance without was at first impenetrable to the eye. Ancient weed suffused the rank atmosphere and it was cold. Thin shafts of dusty sunlight crossed the darkness from cracks in the hull timbers, and we were a long time adjusting to that den of clammy shadows. It was not a world to take pleasure in, but the long hours of molten anticipation were enough to persuade us to persevere in the hope of growing accustomed to our chill situation. And so we did, and soon we were of a mind to explore.
There were lockers. They were fastened with wooden clasps. How long, we wondered, since they had unveiled whatever was within. We determined that we should see inside every one of them. We spent the ensuing quarter hour approaching them, bracing ourself, springing the clasps, and facing boldly into their sullen protectorates. In terms of booty the act yielded anti-climax after anticlimax, but we were settling in. We began to take courage, sufficient to sift through the piles of ancient debris, in search, perhaps, of some relic of the past, some silent address from men long gone. We found weed mostly, and some rope, a pulley here and there, and a rusted cleat. They were no more than marginally gratifying, but we contented ourself with them. Things were, we could acknowledge, as we had expected them to be, and we elected to find succour in that discovery.
We happened upon an affixed ladder and we climbed it, arriving at a platform three metres high. There was nothing up there, but we liked it. We sat down, our legs dangling idly over the darkness below us, and we properly departed towards tranquillity. The breaking waves outside provided a shell of ever-repeating tumult that harboured us securely. We remained in that position for some time. Our young mind ranged freely in receptive obeisance to an untutored dance of images replaying from our modest depository of experience. The seclusion of the abandoned craft held within it a deeper seclusion still. This is a state we have always lapsed readily into, though only recently have we actively cultivated it as a beneficent refuge from the clamorous futility of a world resolved to frown upon the venturesome. Indeed we have taken latterly to invoking it suspended upside-down for fifteen minutes of every weekday, and our most gratifying illuminations are now engendered during these pulsating inversions. But deep in the booming heart of that cavernous wreck all those decades ago we were yet incapable of the reveries we have since learnt to survive by, and we merely succumbed then as though by instinct. The minutes passed and our longings were pacified.
Something eventually summoned us back to the external world. This was inevitable, and so could not perturb us unduly. As also habitually happens when we awake from sleep, we suffered the sharp pang of separation from what had just been lost. However, we quickly recaptured our sense of the place we were in and scrambled to our feet. What we had come in search of still eluded us. We felt at peace, but we did not feel satisfied. It was a peace born of gratitude for our brief sightings of the pearl, and everywhere we looked we discerned evidence that this gratitude was not misplaced.
Without making a specific or conscious decision, we moved back towards the top of the ladder, intending to descend and depart. But before we had begun our descent, a dim gleam caught our eye. We focused on a steel bar, horizontal and firm, spanning the top of the cabin from hull to hull a metre above the platform and half a metre beyond it. It was a makeshift crossbeam, a support of some kind. It was smooth and clean, and it positively glowed in contrast to the murky, ragged, ill-defined clutter all about it. We gazed at it, fascinated. We were willing enough to become transfixed. We reached out over the deeps and grasped it with both hands. There was no decipherable reason for this, and our guiding spirit scarcely amounted to an impulse, but we promptly fell subject to a curious languor that stole seductively over us. The bar felt good to us, wholesome in out tremulous palms. It filled our grip admirably, and we clasped it as robustly as our nescience permitted. Our heartbeat increased gent! y and an obscure wash of sweet trepidation coursed through us as though we were poised on the threshold of unpredictable rapture. We slumped wilfully under the spell of the moment. Our breathing was light but rapid. A tremor passed through our limbs as our stomach tightened.
Our sense of the particular abandoned us once more, and we fell to swimming in a foaming haze. We fancied that we could already apprehend the thrilling prospects of untamed efficacies awaiting us just beyond the shroud of the ordinary. We had faith enough to take the leap, though we knew that what was coming would come anyway and we would simply need to be open to it. We waited in a fervour of expectation. The pause in our movements was insufficient to recall us from the brink. We wanted it more than we feared it. There was joy undeniable at last in the wild sensations experienced when we swung suddenly forward, kicking our heels at the security of the platform to hang suspended from the very roofbeam. Our limbs pulled taut, our vision imploded, and we threw our head back in pleasured abandon the better to whimper our guileless supplications. We were attaining the kingdom finally. Fulfilment was ours.
It would be impossible to describe adequately the consummation we then revelled in, except to report that, inexperienced as we were, it was sufficient to render us immediately sensible to its significance both as culmination of our past and as arbiter of our future. It lasted only a few moments, and when we awoke once again to the dreary realities around us, it was with some distress that we came to realise that the platform behind us was not within easy reach. (Every wondrous exultation, apparently, is attended by some mundane consequence.) We attempted to swing our legs up and back, but to no avail. Our hands were already tiring. We looked down but could see only a deep pool of darkness below. To let go and plunge in might finish us off, and it was no comfort to find ourself suddenly in a position to gain an important item of self-knowledge, namely that we were not yet ready to die. The trawler that had so recently been the venue for our solitary rite now mockingly reverted to proffering hostility and peril-a dank tomb long forsaken by the self-regarding, self-protecting species among whose woeful members we had ruefully to number ourself.
We began to perspire. We dared not loosen our grip to turn around lest the feyness that threatened us should overmaster us. We tried again with our feet, but again we failed. A different sort of whimper passed from our lips now. Our palms felt cold and oily. They could not sustain us much longer. The images that danced before us were no longer of a pacifying kind, and a churlish monologue of self-approbation reared itself to accompany them. We began to slip. Only our fingertips preserved us. A fall seemed inevitable. But the very imminence of catastrophe is often the greatest spur to action.
In a twisting, lunging, hauling manoeuvre that we could never hope to replicate, we came at last to rest back on the edge of the platform. There we lay gasping a long time before we rediscovered the strength to pick ourself up and retire in sour abjection. We departed the wreck and set off for home. In marked contrast to our sprightly morning step, we plodded balefully back to the drab certainties of mundane domesticity. We had been rendered sensible to more self-truths than one that day, which, no doubt, is as it should be.