Distorte is a collection of stories written by Pierce Gleeson

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The Man from the Sea

The man from the sea breaches once, twice as he crosses the bay towards the shoreline. From the sand these emergences resemble an enquiring seal wearing a shirt and jacket, or they might were there an observer there to observe them, and also were it not the middle of a moonless night in August.

For the man himself each time his head breaks the surface is a fearful shock of air and sounds until he feels his feet catch in the surf’s drag and is moments later free from the tide and staggering up the wet sand at a healthy pace, given the circumstances.

A distance away the man looks nothing more remarkable than a pale and sodden individual holding up a somewhat more sodden suit, which is a remarkable enough thing in itself, one might suppose. His demeanour, on closer inspection, is decidedly aquatic. Periwinkles nestle in neat rows beneath the lapels of his jacket. His pockets sag with deposited sands, and a large seaweed has become rooted on his right shoe (soleless). A hermit crab balks and retreats into his ear upon exposure to the night air.

As he approaches the dunes the soft wind awakens a memory in him and he opens his mouth and sets himself to breathing. On the initial go nothing but seawater comes from his lolled jaw, flowing freely off his chin and spattering on the ground beneath him, fooling the sand-gnats into a melancholy expectation of rain. A few heaves of regurgitated water clear his lungs sufficiently to allow for a raspy, gurgling intake that accompanies his passage up the beach road.

He meets the tarmac with trepidation in his stomach for it is long since he has walked the roads that people walk. The scent of late-season fuschia and mombretia hang on the hedges. A cow lows out of the darkness at his passing and he pauses to sniff the sweat and manure coming off this land-creature. The smells are almost overpowering after odourless depths, where taste was its closest proximation, and a weak one at that; the man claims no more sharp a tongue than any other man you’d meet. His eyes are well adjusted, however, to the gloomy pathway. Our dark is not the ocean’s dark.

Fifteen minutes later he stops at my gate like he knows where he is going, then turns and scrabbles at the latch and passes through onto the driveway, his juddering walk sounding more on the loose gravel. He opens the front door a little more quietly and steps into the sitting room. The house smells strongly of untreated timber doors and candle-wax. He turns and mounts the stairs with distressing slowness, pausing as if to re-evaluate the difficulty of each step before deciding to risk it. Up on the landing he stops and rasps ineffectually.

My bedroom features an internal window that looks into the hallway. The man arrives at the narrow opening and pauses to watch me through the glass. I am stretched on my side in the small bed. He has forgotten to keep breathing and the air is silent as the end. Eventually he turns and places a grey hand upon the knob of my door, twists and pushes it open in a motion his muscles can barely recall. He remembers to breathe.

Written by Pierce Gleeson
Posted on the 01 Sep, 2008