فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen

Alone with the Animal-men

I almost screamed. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked.

‘I, Master,’ said the shadow.

‘Who are you?’

‘They say that there is no Master now. But I know, I know. I carried the bodies into the waves for you, Walker-with-tears-in-the-sea. I carried the bodies of the people that you killed. I am yours, Master.’

I remembered him on the beach. A dog-man. He seemed safe.

‘Good… that’s good,’ I said. His tongue passed over my hand again. ‘But where are the others?’

‘They are saying bad things. They are saying, “The Master is dead. The Other-with-a-gun is dead. The Walker-with-tears-in-the-sea is like us. We love the Law, and we will keep it. But we have no Master now, no House of Pain.” They say these things, but they are wrong. I know.’

In the darkness, I reached for the dog-man’s head and touched it lightly.

‘Soon you will kill them all,’ he continued.

‘If they break the Law, I will come for them.’

‘Master always knows best,’ said my new friend.

We left the hut and found a crowd of animal-men around a fire.

‘He is dead, the Master is dead,’ said the ape-man. ‘There is no House of Pain.’

‘He is not dead,’ I said in a loud voice. ‘Even now He is watching us. The House of Pain has gone. But it will come again. And the Master too will come again. Every minute of every day, He is watching you and listening. There will be pain and death for anyone who breaks the Law.’

‘True! True!’ said the dog-man.

They were very surprised by my words. Animals can be clever, and dangerous. But only a real man can lie.

‘The Walker-with-tears-in-the-sea says a strange thing,’ said one of them.

‘Can it be true?’ said another.

For an hour we talked, and by the end many believed me. Finally, they went to their beds, and I went with them. I was safer with a group of them than with one alone.

This was the first night of ten months alone with the animal- men. In the first month, I spent a lot of time with them. I even started to like some of them - the dog-man and a few others. But as the months passed, the animal-people began to change. It became difficult for them to walk on two legs. Their hands became useless. Their bodies grew more and more hairy and they stopped wearing clothes. Their language skills suffered too. Their words became difficult to understand. Then they stopped using words completely. After about six months, the Law was almost completely forgotten. They still ate only fruit, but for the meat-eaters this could surely not last long.

Every day I watched the sea for ships. Three times I saw a sail and lit a fire. But no ship came close to the island. After many months, I decided to build my own boat. But, stupidly, I built it in the forest, far from the sea. It was destroyed as I pulled it over rough ground to the beach.

Then life got worse. As I was walking in the forest, I saw something red. A dead body. The body of my friendly dog-man.

The meat-eaters were back.

No one was living in the huts now. Most of the animal-people were sleeping by day, some in trees, some in holes, following their natural ways. At night they were awake, and their growls and screams filled the darkness. The dog-man’s was the first of many dead bodies that I found around the island.

I too started to sleep by day. That way I could defend myself more easily from a night attack. I also started to build another boat, this time on the beach. When it was finished, it was stronger than the last one. But I had one problem that I could not solve. I needed fresh water for the journey that I was planning. But I had no container. I walked around the island again and again, looking for a possible container. But I found nothing.

Then a happy day arrived. There was a little sail out at sea, and it was coming closer! I lit a fire and fed it all day. The sail came towards the island, slowly, slowly. When night fell, it was still a long way from land. All night I kept my fire bright. In the light of the fire I saw many eyes watching me. But the animal-men could not make their own fires now, and were afraid of mine.

In the morning the sail was much nearer. I could see two men in a little boat. They were sitting low down in it, one at each end. When they were very close, I started shouting. I waved my jacket. But the men did not notice me.

Suddenly, a great white bird flew up out of the boat. Again, the men did not move. A cold fear took hold of me.

Finally, the boat reached the beach. The men, long dead, fell to pieces when I pulled them out of the boat. One had bright red hair. The other had a hat with the word Ipecacuanha on it.

Three of the meat-eaters were soon by my side, interested in the smell of the bodies. I was too weak to keep them away. But I could not watch their terrible meal. I pulled the boat into the water and sailed it along the beach.

That night I slept in the boat. In the morning I filled its water container at the stream. Then I shot and cooked three rabbits and picked a large amount of fruit. I put the food and drink into the boat and sailed away from the island.

The wind took me slowly southwest, and soon the blue of the ocean was all around me. After the last few months, it felt good to be completely alone.

Three days later I was picked up by a ship. I seemed crazy to the sailors, of course. I was wearing almost nothing. It was many months since my last conversation with a real person. And my description of the island and its strange population was difficult to believe.

For thirty years I have kept quiet about my adventures on the island. Perhaps even now no one will believe me. But what does it matter? I am an old man. I will soon be dead.

I have lived a quiet life since my return from the Pacific. People do not feel comfortable in my company. They see something strange in me. Perhaps I became a little like the animal-people who I lived with, for all those months. And I do not feel comfortable in the company of others, either. I fear that secretly they are animal-people. I fear that the animal in them will soon grow stronger. I fear that one day they will attack. It is a fear that never completely leaves me.

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