A Short Story – The hulk  as a metaphor

I think it’s Covid stimulated this. Could just be old-age!

The hulk  as a metaphor

All washed up on the beach with nose ground into the shingle, listing onto a line of seaweed strewn rocks. Abandoned. The hulk dominated the small bay – never to float free again. Mast snapped off as a splintered stump, boards all stained and weather-beaten, scoured by waves and rain, sanded smooth by sand, warped in places, broken, yet valiantly standing together.

Once it had sailed defiantly over that sea, daring the storms to do their worst, alive with purpose, decks animated with crew going about their business stowing gear, coiling ropes, preparing. All conjoined with purpose, to seek, to find, to catch and return with the spoils.

For many decades its purpose had been clear. In the wheelhouse the captain steered her steadfastly through all weathers towards the fishing grounds, to cast their nets and reap a hard-won harvest – always seeking out a destiny.

The ship had been cared for, bodywork repaired, painted and refurbished; engine tuned. There had been respect for the work it performed.

I studied it, like so many had before. The hulk stood out on that rocky beach, dominating the small bay, providing focus, the only manmade object to be seen, yet already melding with nature – edges between man and nature already becoming blurred.

How had it arrived at this place? Had a storm deposited it here? Or, having reached the end of its useful life had someone sailed it here, deliberately beached it and walked away? A worthless piece of junk left to slowly rot into the sea, to be reabsorbed, broken up – useless flotsam and jetsam. Perhaps sections of those boards would eventually wash up as eroded shapes, incorporated into works of art, burnt in a beach party, or left to provide homes for a multitude of plants and animals, before eventually disintegrating into the molecules from which they were formed? How many more years did it have left in it?

The wheelhouse was no more and the low wooden rails battered and broken yet the hull still looked intact, not yet succumbing, giving the appearance of being watertight. I could imagine it riding in the water of a high tide, straining to be free yet never quite pulling clear.

Do broken hulks dream of past lives? Of days they spent challenging the elements? Or are they content to quietly wile away their days in quiet contemplation?

Do they remember the days in the harbour when they bobbed proudly among their fellow cobs, brimming with purpose?

Do they look back at the alternative possibilities, the chance encounters – what could have been?

Do old hulks have regrets?

Are they content with the life they led?

With camera in hand I clambered up onto the deck for a closer look, walked the length and checked the angles.

I looked out towards the sea, scanned the rocky shore that was now its harbour.

I climbed back down walked a short distance back, studied the wreck and took a shot.

Opher 21.2.2022 – 500 words

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