Fish Stocks Limited by Michael Summers - HTML preview

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Chapter 33– Er...

So watch open-mouthed as the rope tightens and drags the main ship towards the black dilation at the heart of the maelstrom. Listen as the brave or reckless mariners – Ambrosius, Stan, Jerry, Mungo - give vent to what they think are their final ellipses of bemused terror. What a stupid last word “Er...”, but it must be a very common one. The man who looks up to see the grand piano falling on him says “Er...”, the man who notices the boulder rolling down the hill towards him says “Er...”, the man who hears the gallows drums and feels the rope around his neck says “Er...”, as if this simple sound is such a good indicator of a following sentence that the universe must surely wait for a finish. The meaning of “Er...” is the same across all Expiscorean cultures, it is true, but more than that consider this: would a Piscador, upon meeting a bizarre looking alien with three heads and tentacles for eyes, say “Er...” and instantly be understood? It is a reasonable guess to say 'yes'. So perhaps it is appropriate that such an utterance was all the doomed sailors could extol before their ship was dragged into the void with a pop and the aforementioned smell of peppermint.

The thinness of the remaining part of this book as you hold it between your thumb and forefinger, ready to turn this last page and stare at the unashamed advert for the next part in this trilogy, gives away the sad truth that there is no room to complete this story in this volume. However, think back over what we have read. We have read of a world at the end of its resources. We have read of a foiled love turning a hero into a villain. We hear of madness breeding power; and how easily good men are driven to follow this power because of desperate circumstances. We have read of people starving and nothing being done to stop it. Above all we have heard of hope, and its frailty.

So please, if you will, buy the next book in this series. In it you will see some familiar characters and circumstances – doubly familiar, for not only have they their roots at in this first book, but their types have also sung and danced on our own planet Earth.

I leave you then with one final scene. The Smug, in all its conceited glory, is just rising over the Hundred Boughs. Sonorous birdsong is all there is to be heard, a poetry of twittering, unpretentious stanzas, a ballad, a littany, a war against silence. For there is only silence in death, and that is always something to be raged against; the only time when all meekness is enemy and aggressor. Sing out, birds, for death and silence are close. Lying on the floor of her hut, too weak to move, is Sunbeam Lightning, her plain face haggard and taut, her skeleton flesh tight around her frame. She doesn't have long. She is the personification of Expiscor. For its populace are all hooked on one thing or another, or rather lower thier hooks for their vices, for it is not the fault of the vice but of the indulger. They don't have long, either. Run quick, fisher and man, to your box of things, and extricate from there some ingenious contrivance with which to make fishful once more the mists. They have assumed the infiniteness of the fish for too long, and now ahead lies the vortex, the unknown. Whatever you do, don't become a Fishmael; don't even ship with him. In mad times, madness can have a certain magnetism, but if you must rave then rave against the tyranny of this surrogate righteousness. Behold now Sunbeam and don't forget – our love can die in all its physicality along with us, leaving only a henge of bones in the mist, a calcareous temple for the ants to explore. Sunbeam's tidal chest rises and falls painfully; the world breathes in much the same way, in troubled gasps of beauty followed with long exhalations of utmost agony. Ride out these waves, you Piscador, you sailor, you fisher of men, and remember that a calm sea doesn't make for an experienced mariner. Until next time, Expiscor bids you…