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Life of Pi (part 1 chapter 85)

2006-08-22 21:28

  CHAPTER   85

  Once there was lightning. The sky was so black, day looked like night. The downpour was heavy. I heard thunder far away. I thought it would stay at that. But a wind came up, throwing the rain this way and that. Right after, a white splinter came crashing down from the sky, puncturing the water. It was some distance from the lifeboat, but the effect was perfectly visible. The water was shot through with what looked like white roots; briefly, a great celestial tree stood in the ocean. I had never imagined such a thing possible, lightning striking the sea. The clap of thunder was tremendous. The flash of light was incredibly vivid.

  I turned to Richard Parker and said, “Look, Richard Parker, a bolt of lightning.” I saw how he felt about it. He was flat on the floor of the boat, limbs splayed and visibly trembling.

  The effect on me was completely the opposite. It was something to pull me out of my limited mortal ways and thrust me into a state of exalted wonder.

  Suddenly a bolt struck much closer. Perhaps it was meant for us: we had just fallen off the crest of a swell and were sinking down its back when its top was hit. There was an explosion of hot air and hot water. For two, perhaps three seconds, a gigantic, blinding white shard of glass from a broken cosmic window danced in the sky, insubstantial yet overwhelmingly powerful. Ten thousand trumpets and twenty thousand drums could not have made as much noise as that bolt of lightning; it was positively deafening. The sea turned white and all colour disappeared. Everything was either pure white light or pure black shadow. The light did not seem to illuminate so much as to penetrate. As quickly as it had appeared, the bolt vanished-the spray of hot water had not finished landing upon us and already it was gone. The punished swell returned to black and rolled on indifferently.

  I was dazed, thunderstruck-nearly in the true sense of the word. But not afraid.

  “Praise be to Allah, Lord of All Worlds, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Ruler of Judgment Day!” I muttered. To Richard Parker I shouted, “Stop your trembling! This is miracle. This is an outbreak of divinity. This is……this is……” I could not find what it was, this thing so vast and fantastic. I was breathless and wordless. I lay back on the tarpaulin, arms and legs spread wide. The rain chilled me to the bone. But I was smiling. I remember that close encounter with electrocution and third-degree burns as one of the few times during my ordeal when I felt genuine happiness.

  At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.

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