Ship or Island
I’ve been trying to determine if I am on a ship or on an island. I cannot tell by the texture underneath my feet, as my feet are in shoes (though the shoes are half-rotten). My hands are largely numb; while they will lift and move the things I find in the dark, they don’t give me much sense of texture. To get the texture of things, I must throw my arms around these objects, or else lie down and press my face to the ground (or floor, or hull). Even this is not very helpful, for the surface under my feet is covered with wet, molding straw. I soon become sick and have to stand up again.
Sometimes I scrabble underneath the straw and press my cheek to what feels like wood, and sometimes to what feels like earth; but after all, an island may have a wooden platform on it – nothing more usual! – or a ship may have a layer of earth or dirt in its hold – something spilled, or brought in with the straw, or left by animals. Or if the ship is very old, perhaps the straw and other matter have begun to turn back to earth again. If I could find stone, that might finally decide me, if it were enough stone—or water. Yet I would not care to find sea water, if I am in a ship—meaning a breach in the hull—so I do not dig too hard.
Often partway into my gentle, apparently ineffectual digging I will begin to remember that modern ships are largely made of metal, not wood. This convinces me that I am on an island; but then sometimes the things I throw my arms around have the characteristics of metal objects—pillars or pipes or ladders. These objects are always very cold and unpleasantly wet, so I do not embrace them for long. Then I begin to think that buildings are sometime made of metal, certain kinds of buildings: industrial buildings, storage buildings, structures of that nature. Even if these structures that I throw my arms around are of metal, I may be on an island after all. And of course it has not escaped me that I may be on a ship that has run aground on an island. Thus both of my possible conditions may be true at one time.
I often resolve to make some sort of provision for myself, to gather useful materials so that I can build a shelter or so that I can escape the structure I may be trapped inside, if I am inside. I feel that I am inside, though sometimes drops of water fall on me from a great height and I am not so sure. The echo, I think, would tell me, if I could hear it, but my hearing also seems to have been damaged in the – incident – and sounds are muffled and close, suffocated in my ears.
It's true that sometimes the straw trembles and from below me come groans, or what feel to me like groans—not human groans, not my own sounds. I try to suppress my own groans as much as possible, since they disturb me—so muted, so faint, even when I cry out as loudly—which is to say as intensely, since I cannot determine the volume—as I am able.
No, these groans are profound. They shake the surface beneath me, and the air around me, and they vibrate through me without at all seeming to be connected to my volition or self-expression. This does seem to indicate that I am in the hold of some enormous vessel: unless they are the sounds of earthquakes. If this is, say, a volcanic island, perhaps even an island newly sprung up from the sea through its own activity, such an island would be subject to frequent tremors.
If I could see, of course, many of my questions would be rapidly resolved; but either it is perfectly dark, or I have gone blind.