Site icon Alexander Hammil

Where Pliny Pauses

The first month he was at sea Valentine was racked with nightmares. He couldn’t escape the feeling that he was balanced precariously above miles of nothingness, that the slightest wrong movement would snap the thread that held the great ship poised atop the waves and send crew, passengers, and all plummeting down into the abysses where the great worms swam. His nightmares were full of vast, inchoate forms and eyes, teeth, and blood. Down in the waters it got colder and it got darker the deeper you went, and at the bottom there was nothing but an enormous mouth, pursed and greedy with age.

He was lucky to have a cabin to himself.

For a long time he lived more or less at ease, never really not afraid, but comfortable with his fear. It wasn’t until his twelfth year before the mast that the nightmares came back and he was lucky to have a single again. In his dreams he sank down, deeper than ever before, until he floated before the great mouth of the ocean. Each night he sank a little further and it opened a little wider, and each day he stood at the railing trembling and watching the green uneven perfection of the water roll by.

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