The Power and the Glory

Written by: Latheefa Ahmed Verrall
Illustrations: @huceins, 2012 [oureventuality.wordpress.com/]

‘The launch is ready. Sir!’

He strides towards the boat at the end of the jetty that slices the lagoon like a spear. Strong gusts of air lash against him, stinging his already charged skin. From this distance, the hum of the speed boat is almost lost amidst the angry crashing of the waves against the reef. Drawing his jacket closer to his body, he glances back towards the island. For a fleeting moment, he regrets the decision to steal away from her before sun rise. It was a good night and the excitement of breaking the taboo had heightened his pleasure. The beach is now buried in the dark, twirling shadows of the coconut palms as the gale whips their fragile leaves into a frenzy of contortions. He looks ahead to survey the boat. The sound of its impatient engine penetrates the shrilling of the wind. He smiles…

The smouldering heat of the midday sun beats down on the corrugated iron roof of his cage. Drops of perspiration gather on the nape of his neck and follow the contours of his back and spill downward on to the ground beneath. He could feel its salty sting chafing his raw, festering buttocks. The chains that run in tight circles around his wrists and ankles twist and pull his torso and spasms of piercing pain surge and subside in his body in endless waves. Time stops…

He watches the boat move out of the narrow gap in the breakwater and head into the petrol-blue ocean. Behind it, the white arrow of its wake is shattered by the vicious force of the fuming waves. Brushing a drop of spray from his lapel, he continues to stare into the distance where the early dawn struggles to break at the horizon. Tonight, things will change. For ever. The thought surges through his body and he shifts his legs to accommodate the swelling wave of anticipation that makes his

groin ache, his neck prickle and his blood hammer in his veins. He understands blood. The pulsing viscosity of it. The unstoppable gushing of it. The scarlet magnificence of it, painting the grey world red. He smiles…

He jumps up screaming. The sound reverberates in the cage and returns to penetrate his numbed brain. Images of the dream replay in his brain. Images of nakedness…images of water and drowning…images of powerful hands pushing his head under… He struggles to free his tightly secured hands. His mouth opens and then suddenly, his body lunges forward. He vomits. Drops of yellow liquid flow down his chin and settle on the tangled mass of chains resting on his knee. The pungent smell of his bile mixes with the odour of his unwashed body and spreads in the timeless emptiness of his cage. Mercifully he wakes…

His body is silhouetted in the flickering light of the eastern horizon. Beyond him, the islands of Male Atoll return to bob and dip in a constant battle against the white-crested waves. As he lifts his arm and runs his finely chiselled fingers over his damp face, he notices the cursory glance of the man at the wheel. There is respect there. Or fear. Either is acceptable. Power is an enchanting mistress for the man who seizes the moment. He knows. The encircling feel of the surrounding darkness makes him remember the short period of his life in that cold, far away land of dark nights and even darker

days. But the soft, guilt-ridden ideas of the white man, is not for him. Life is a state of war. It is solitary, nasty, brutish and short. Power is survival. And he is the ultimate survivor. Around him, the waves smash and churn and rearrange themselves in constant combat. Just like people, he thinks with some amusement. He smiles again…

‘Bathirees, thethirees, sourathirees…,’ he forces himself to count the wavy indentations of the surrounding metal walls. The sound of his voice breaks the tedium momentarily. For it is the silence that frightens him the most. Yesterday, today and tomorrow blend into a trackless jungle of silence, punctuated only by the slow rasping of his breath. Is this the way life ends…? The oppressive gloominess of the metallic tomb conspires with his growing despair.’Fansathirees, sathirees, saththiriees…” But again, the sound escaping from within the hazy mist of his pain, steadies him. Calms him. Then he remembers. No, he will not be stifled and silenced. Unable to raise his arms, he rattles the coils of chain resting on his knees, and yells into the emptiness of the cage, ‘Here’s to you Victor! Frank? Finch? Frankie…?’ He cannot remember. But he draws strength from the name. He will not betray his greatest freedom- to choose his own attitude to his circumstances… He waits…

He arrives in Male city before the sun rises. The island still slumbers and the crashing of the waves and the constant chug-chugging of the engine are the only sounds that break the eerie silence. In the half- light, he notices the shadowy figure of the officer standing beside the car. Lifting the cap off his head, the man leans to open the door for him. As he steps into the car, he notices the first rays of the sun reflected on the tall building that stretches skyward beyond the palm trees. It is a short drive. He has time to rest. ‘Everyone is ready now, Sir. We don’t have to wait long.’ He says nothing, as he allows himself to be whisked away towards the imposing building…

But, dawn breaks in Mahaltheeb and the land is reborn once again. In the vastness of the sky, a kaleidoscope of colours competes for hegemony in the uncertain moments before the sun rises. Orange fades into blue, purple flirts with pink and green and red tumble in playful recklessness. Then, bold, strokes of the artist’s brush- harbingers of the redeeming light- paint the Eastern horizon. The sun rises. Earth, sea and sky hold hands and are transformed by her enduring yellow splendour. She caresses the shattered leaves of the palm fronds and bends to softly kiss the ripples of the receding waves. She touches the hard metal of captivity and streaks of life- giving light flood the cage. Darkness disappears and man’s arrogant plots are foiled.

Let the man scheme.

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4 Comments

  1. Jean Karasu says:

    Such a strong metaphoric piece! You must’ve been (or still must be) an avid reader… fiction or fact, your writing is captivating. And yes, the illustrations brought out the whole piece. Love the raw art and cool colors :)

  2. LA says:

    love it, great work.

  3. Moon says:

    loved reading this…

  4. arminath says:

    stunning narration :)
    I quite liked ’Fansathirees, sathirees, saththiriees…”

    illustrations are way too cool :)

    the combination of the writing and the illustrations depicts the confused and jumbled state of mind of us Maldivians …

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