Magpie Tales 224 – The Custom of the sea

Always wanted to read Narrative…Gordon Pym of Nantucket, not just because I’m a big EA Poe fan, but also due to the fact that it seems to be a very intense novel, produced at a time when so much of the English language was being pushed to it’s limits…and it still is! This piece is a reflection of a man who has lost his way in a world of spiritual certainty…


He could never look himself in the eye again.

Immaculate, unlike his soul, Art maintained more facade than candour and prayed daily to the God that had left him for strength, sustenance – spiritual sustenance, that is; nothing else – and forgiveness. Of the other Trinity, he held little regard now, bereft as he was of their cloying sanctities and meaningless platitudes – not through choice, however; circumstance alone.

He sighed.

The sound was ghostly within the room, within the stillness, its sibilant vibration seemingly at odds with the Damascus of light that streamed from the window, and the echoes of it’s utterance lingered eerily at the corners of his hearing, mingling with the other sounds that crowded there for his attention. He hated them, loathing their incessant tinnitus whine within his skull, and he wished that the discipline that had failed him when drawing lots could have been reinstated inside of his soul, such as it was, so that he could grasp with both hands that sweet relief from the torments that haunted his every movement.

Art breathed in and held his breath, holding the life in his lungs for as long as he possibly could before any tinge of red blossomed on his cheeks. When it did arrive – inevitably – he fought hard to keep the colours from deepening within him, forcing his sparkling vision to clear and the complexion of his face to remain unsullied and calm, despite the burning pain within his lungs and the hammering frenzy of his heart.

With ultimate control, breath was inhaled and barely a murmur escaped his lips. Art repeated this three more times, as was his daily custom, and each time he forced his controlled breathing to continue further than the last until, dizzy headed and starburst eyed, he would concentrate on the light from the window and by sheer force of mental exuberance, will himself back into a calmer state, thoughts of the sigh gone. Satisfied he could hold his breath for longer once more, Art turned his attention elsewhere.

The outside world bustled away before him, framed in the window, pirouetting itself in vulgar displays of colour, of sound and of life. The beauties with their parasols, gaily making their way along the roads, beau’s in hand and rose scent behind them, burned his eyes with their honesty and shamed him with his own dishonest thoughts. The street sellers cries, raucous and joyous with fiscal promise made him dewy-eyed at the memories of his voyage, and the devastating price he paid for the return ticket home.

Unbidden, memory crashed upon him, and he found the gay ladies becoming gray horses, champing at an ocean bit, swamping the life raft he was in, sweeping all three companions into the frozen ocean, away into the depths…The darkness. The hunger. The crew. The men. The drawing of the lots, of the blade, of the throat…cooking…oh God, the cooking!

Art turned away from the window and steadied a shaky hand upon the frame, his one eye catching sight of the missing fingers there that were a reminder of the choices that had been made in desperations name, and he cursed once more the God that had left him and had forced him to wander the world as a half eaten outcast. His stomach suddenly retched at the taste that sprang into his mouth and he cursed once more the saliva that dripped from his lips in want of forbidden food once more.

Such was the custom of the sea…


NB If you are unsure as to what Custom of the Sea refers to, follow the link:


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