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palpitations of the sea, until his heart beat in time with his ship, fast and hard, filling
his face with purple blood like a leech's abdomen.
“Curses on ye all!” he shouted after an hour. “'Twas the fish's way of mocking us!
She would never give herself away so easily by mistake – there was intent there, aye,
intent. She would make a joke of us all, mates, make no mistake. Keep your eyes
peeled, Mungo, and sing out if you see her again!”
Did the Infinity Fish see her pursuer? Did she know that this vessel was a blood
vessel, mining a rich vein of hatred to fuel the fires of her captain? Just how much of
that peculiar concept of intent can we assign to this creature? A brute creature follows
only instinct, is canalised in its instincts. Is there any room in a fish for free will?
Chapter 27 – The Relativity of The Stylites
Mungo was alone in the topmast as the day broke once more on the oath-bound
fishermen still on the fish's tail, so to speak. Mungo was not happy. He had been aloft
now for twenty-four hours now, his meals having been passed up to him by means of
a rope which he lowered to the base of the mast and had a basket tied to it, in the
manner of a man drawing water from a well.
“What manner of a life is this?” muttered Mungo to himself as the midday sun
beat down. “Aloft in a crows nest for the rest of my natural; burned by the Smug by
day and frozen by night, whipped by gales and rained on when it pours. Aye, all
because of some old man's craziness. What is it that keeps me aloft? Is it faith in our
cause, or is it fear? Maybe a little of the two – a potent combination, they are. And
nothing but endless white all around, enough to send you blind if you don't squint in
deference and keep blinking. But oh, no blinking now. What's that on the horizon?
Well bless my behind, if that isn't the strangest sight I've ever seen...”
The story of Simian Stylites is a story of hardship, made all the harder by his own
adamance. Some men express themselves through art, others pluck the harp strings
and play the lute. Simian was different. Simian expressed himself through suffering.
At the age of thirteen he became interested in mysticism, meditation and the
interconnectedness of all things, which instilled him the irresistible urge to shun all
the niceties of life and take up the mantle of an ascetic. He started by shunning food,
by standing in awkward positions for many days, by kneeling in prayer for endless
hours; in general he felt happiest when he was discomfitured in some way. He was,
masochistically speaking, very creative, a true genuflective genius in fact, and,
humble as he was, he acquired quite a following. They would observe him on his
fasts, tempting him with food in the manner of a tourist trying to make a royal guard
flinch, and they asked him for all kinds of advice and judgement. The crowds got so
large and distracting that at the age of fifteen Simian, for the first time, decided to
escape them. He joined a monastery and took to strict periods of fasting and silence.
But his happy unhappy life in the monastery could not go on for long. O n one
occasion he bound his abdomen tightly with hooktree cords and abstained from eating
or drinking for an entire month. He was found collapsed in his cell, much to the
abbot's consternation, and had to be nursed back to life. The cords were bound round