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Life of Pi (part 1 chapter 55)

2006-08-22 21:08

  CHAPTER   55

  Dawn came and matters were worse for it. Because now, emerging from the darkness, I could see what before I had only felt, the great curtains of rain crashing down on me from towering heights and the waves that threw a path over me and trod me underfoot one after another.

  Dull-eyed, shaking and numb, one hand gripping the rain catcher, the other clinging to the raft, I continued to wait.

  Sometime later, with a suddenness emphasized by the silence that followed, the rain stopped. The sky cleared and the waves seemed to flee with the clouds. The change was as quick and radical as changing countries on land. I was now in a different ocean. Soon the sun was alone in the sky, and the ocean was a smooth skin reflecting the light with a million mirrors.

  I was stiff, sore and exhausted, barely grateful to be still alive. The words “Plan Number Six, Plan Number Six, Plan Number Six” repeated themselves in my mind like a mantra and brought me a small measure of comfort, though I couldn't recall for the life of me what Plan Number Six was. Warmth started coming to my bones. I closed the rain catcher. I wrapped myself with the blanket and curled up on my side in such a way that no part of me touched the water. I fell asleep. I don't know how long I slept. It was mid-morning when I awoke, and hot. The blanket was nearly dry. It had been a brief bout of deep sleep. I lifted myself onto an elbow.

  All about me was flatness and infinity, an endless panorama of blue. There was nothing to block my view. The vastness hit me like a punch in the stomach. I fell back, winded. This raft was a joke. It was nothing but a few sticks and a little cork held together by string. Water came through every crack. The depth beneath would make a bird dizzy. I caught sight of the lifeboat. It was no better than half a walnut shell. It held on to the surface of the water like fingers gripping the edge of a cliff. It was only a matter of time before gravity pulled it down.

  My fellow castaway came into view. He raised himself onto the gunnel and looked my way. The sudden appearance of a tiger is arresting in any environment, but it was all the more so here. The weird contrast between the bright, striped, living orange of his coat and the inert white of the boat's hull was incredibly compelling. My overwrought senses screeched to a halt. Vast as the Pacific was around us, suddenly, between us, it seemed a very narrow moat, with no bars or walls.

  “Plan Number Six, Plan Number Six, Plan Number Six,” my mind whispered urgently. But what was Plan Number Six? Ah yes. The war of attrition. The waiting game. Passivity. Letting things happen. The unforgiving laws of nature. The relentless march of time and the hoarding of resources. That was Plan Number Six.

  A thought rang in my mind like an angry shout: “You fool and idiot! You dimwit! You brainless baboon! Plan Number Six is the worst plan of all! Richard Parker is afraid of the sea right now. It was nearly his grave. But crazed with thirst and hunger he will surmount his fear, and he will do whatever is necessary to appease his need. He will turn this moat into a bridge. He will swim as far as he has to, to catch the drifting raft and the food upon it. As for water, have you forgotten that tigers from the Sundarbans are known to drink saline water? Do you really think you can outlast his kidneys? I tell you, if you wage a war of attrition, you will lose it! You will die! IS THAT CLEAR?”

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