Song of the Sea God – by Chris Hill

by | Jul 25, 2014

My Friday Fiction guest this week is author, Chris Hill. He has kindly provided an extract from his book, ‘Song of the Sea God’.


I remember the moment I died.
The end came subdued, like a doctor on call. There was no sensation. Feelings belonged to a different world – one which had finished with me.
Having a piss after eating asparagus. Getting a face full of sleet. The surprise of cold coffee. All gone.

I had been taken extravagantly ill. Pancreatitis thumped me in the offal like a cruiserweight and left me marinating in fevered slow motion. Either I would make it to the infirmary or I would not. Apparently I arrived.
I was laid out late at night, dozing and delirious yet no longer in pain thanks to the drugs they gave me. Comfortable they like to call it. Even if you fall a hundred feet down a mountainside and land on your rump they call you comfortable.
Then, in a moment, the lights went out. Everything was gone. The baleful glow of the night lamps, the red pinpricks on the glum machines. No sound, not even my own breathing. And I knew then that I had ceased to be.
So this is how it goes. No tunnel of brilliant white light or Aunt Maud mugging and beckoning. Just me on my own in silent darkness.
And my main feeling was anger.
I was unprepared – with no will or last words. There were things I had still expected to do. Books I was half way through reading, an episode of Eastenders I’d taped. It might not seem much to you but it’s life. What would you worry about then? Global Warming?
I felt no fear but I tell you I was pissed off. What was I supposed to do now? There was nobody to give me instructions. I expected some sort of guide, a package holiday rep. I was baffled and, frankly, I was disappointed. It seemed to me that the whole afterlife experience had been poorly thought out.
You are ready for anything when you die. Except a sense of bathos.

Then suddenly, a sound. The rich melodic grumbling of the plump black panel nurse on her way down the ward.
“Power’s gone – third time today – they should get this cable fixed soon – there’s people lying sick in here…”
And with a florid rush of belonging I was alive again. There in the dark, swaddled in my N.H.S blanket.
So I sobbed soundlessly for whatever I had lost and whatever I had won and at fate’s fat joke which had me as its butt.
It was my most profound spiritual experience. The only moment when I had ever felt in tune with the orchestra of the universe. Yet it turned out to have been a cock-up.

She came closer, the nurse, drawn somehow to my pain, and felt with delicate fingers my pregnant tears.
And overcome by my hot emotion she cradled my head, saying: “Don’t cry baby. We’ll do our best for you now. You’re going to be all right my little sweetheart. Everything will work out just as it should, you’ll see.”

They gave me antibiotics and a lecture about drinking. When I was better I went home. To my island.
That was my only visit to the rest of the world and, no offence, but you can keep it.

At any given moment across the slender surface of the earth there are two hundred and thirty seven thunderstorms fizzing and popping. I don’t know where the other 236 were the night John Love came to our island, but the one over us was special.

Early that evening I witnessed the dumb beauty of it as it came in across the ocean heading for our chilly lump of shale and pebbledash like a flock of crows.

In Florida they have a fish which grunts when a storm’s coming and is said to be more reliable than the weathermen. We don’t have that fish here, but maybe I’ll do.
I sensed it was on its way and hunkered down on top of the geriatric concrete look out post left over from the last war. A redundant sentry which guards the golf links from sea borne attack.
I wasn’t technically supposed to be on the course, given that I’m not a playing member, but usually no-one noticed me. And if they did I was tolerated, same way one suffers a stray dog: sometimes fed, sometimes kicked, accepted as an obstacle of the course.

So I watched the weather bellow in under its dark awning. And I thought: let us have it. Give it to us now.
For I do like a good storm – the drama queen carnival of it all, the way those who stand too tall can end up blackened and ripped.
As it came, echoing and winking over the birth-black ocean, each moment expanding, it was comfortable to watch. Like it was on its way but would never arrive.
I sat exposed on the bleak concrete, sniffing the changing quality of the air, and felt the thrill of impending newness as the bruised night flooded in from the sea.
The rain arrived and the last of the twilight golfers cursed their way to the clubhouse.
Since childhood I have loved to be out in the rain.
The sky was weighed down like a fat man slumbering on a top bunk. Grey shafts railed towards the sea where water met with other water.
A camera click of lightening left a river tributary on my retina.
In that flick of brightness I saw something else too. A familiar shape which should not be there. A mote in the trashed ocean. And I thought ‘fine weather for fishing.’ Laughing silently to myself as the thunder came.
I knew as the rain melted me, there was a chance I hadn’t made it up. The boat I thought I had glimpsed truly existed out there, bounced and harried like a cat toy.
The lightening blinked again – and there it was, the boat. Closer to the shore maybe. Or further away.

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