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Life of Pi (part 1 chapter 44)

2006-08-22 21:08

  CHAPTER   44

  The sun climbed through the sky, reached its zenith, began to come down. I spent the entire day perched on the oar, moving only as much as was necessary to stay balanced. My whole being tended towards the spot on the horizon that would appear and save me. It was a state of tense, breathless boredom. Those first hours are associated in my memory with one sound, not one you'd guess, not the yipping of the hyena or the hissing of the sea: it was the buzzing of flies. There were flies aboard the lifeboat. They emerged and flew about in the way of flies, in great, lazy orbits except when they came close to each other, when they spiralled together with dizzying speed and a burst of buzzing. Some were brave enough to venture out to where I was. They looped around me, sounding like sputtering, single-prop airplanes, before hurrying home. Whether they were native to the boat or had come with one of the animals, the hyena most likely, I can't say. But whatever their origin, they didn't last long; they all disappeared within two days. The hyena, from behind the zebra, snapped at them and ate a number. Others were probably swept out to sea by the wind. Perhaps a few lucky ones came to their life's term and died of old age.

  As evening approached, my anxiety grew. Everything about the end of the day scared me. At night a ship would have difficulty seeing me. At night the hyena might become active again and maybe Orange Juice too.

  Darkness came. There was no moon. Clouds hid the stars. The contours of things became hard to distinguish. Everything disappeared, the sea, the lifeboat, my own body. The sea was quiet and there was hardly any wind, so I couldn't even ground myself in sound. I seemed to be floating in pure, abstract blackness. I kept my eyes fixed on where I thought the horizon was, while my ears were on guard for any sign of the animals. I couldn't imagine lasting the night.

  Sometime during the night the hyena began snarling and the zebra barking and squealing, and I heard a repeated knocking sound. I shook with fright and-I will hide nothing here-relieved myself in my pants. But these sounds came from the other end of the lifeboat. I couldn't feel any shaking that indicated movement. The hellish beast was apparently staying away from me. From nearer in the blackness I began hearing loud expirations and groans and grunts and various wet mouth sounds. The idea of Orange Juice stirring was too much for my nerves to bear, so I did not consider it. I simply ignored the thought. There were also noises coming from beneath me, from the water, sudden flapping sounds and swishing sounds that were over and done with in an instant. The battle for life was taking place there too.

  The night passed, minute by slow minute.

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