Sunday, February 3, 2008
there is something going on in the sky like a decomposition, like a corruption of the air, which remains as still as ever
the only spot of light in the ship at night was that of the compass-lamps, lighting up the faces of the succeeding helmsmen; for the rest we were lost in the darkness, i walking the poop and the men lying about the decks. they were all so reduced by sickness that no watches could be kept. those who were able to walk remained all the time on duty, lying about in the shadows of the main deck, till my voice raised for an order would bring them to their enfeebled feet, a tottering little group, moving patiently about the ship, with hardly a murmur, a whisper amongst them all. and every time i had to raise my voice it was with a pang of remorse and pity.
for myself, neither my soul was highly tempered, nor my imagination properly under control. there were moments when i felt, not only that i would go mad, but that i had gone mad already; so that i dared not open my lips for fear of betraying myself by some insane shriek. luckily i had only orders to give, and an order had a steadying influence upon him who has to give it. moreover, the seaman, the officer of the watch, in me was sufficiently sane.....
what i feared was a shrill note escaping me involuntarily and upsetting my balance. luckily again, there was no necessity to raise one's voice. the brooding stillness of the world seemed sensitive to the slightest sound like a whispering gallery. the conversational tone would almost carry a word from one end of the ship to the other. the terrible thing was that the only voice that i ever heard was my own. at night especially it reverberated very lonely amongst the planes of the unstirring sails.
it seems to me that all my life before that momentous day is infinitely remote, a fading memory of light-hearted youth, something on the other side of a shadow.
how does it look outside? i asked him.
very black indeed, sir. there is something in it for certain.
the impenetrable blackness beset the ship so close that it seemed that by thrusting one's hand over the side one could touch some unearthly substance. there was in it an effect of inconceivable terror and of inexpressible mystery. the few stars overhead shed a dim light upon the ship alone, with no gleams of any kind upon the water, in detached shafts piercing an atmosphere which had turned to soot..........
we were an hour at it at least, and all the time the black universe made no sound.
(from the shadow-line: a confession by jósef teodor konrad korzeniowski, 1917)
((title, page 101))