THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

42   They visit the Dockyard's own subterranean conduit

In those five years at the Dockyard Henry read a great deal. He was also able to pursue his interests in art, poetry, drama, philosophy and all manner of other subjects under the sun. He also engaged in lively conversation with the associates of what he called 'The DY Academy of Piss Artists and Crackpots'. This Academy boasted a surprisingly large membership that included some exceptional artists, intellectuals and scientists. It was unfortunate that after some eighteen months of attrition Henry was no longer able to count Alf Whitehead as one of these highbrow comrades. They reached a point at which it was mutually agreed to refrain from further verbal intercourse, and although this was probably a wise decision it was something of a defeat. Happily, there was no such problem with Harry Bergson.

They only met for a chat every week or two but on these occasions they enjoyed a pleasant easy-going rapport, and Bergson gradually introduced Henry to the work he was engaged in. Directed by his vital impulses, his flashes of intuition, he had discovered a force hitherto unrecognised by modern science. A form of electromagnetic energy, it was only available to the discredited few. Psychics, mystics, spiritualists, lunatics, American Indians, Australian aborigines, Bushmen - from these ranks there could be found the odd individual capable of communicating via this force, which he had named Oxyrhynchal Astonishment, or Oxyaston, in recognition of the original stimulus.

"The first time I heard about this place my curiosity was aroused instantly." They were walking towards the oldest store in Simonstown, situated just above high water mark at the far end of the West Yard. "It was originally just a deep cave amongst the rocks on the beach, used for hundreds, maybe thousands of years by the Hottentots and Bushmen who migrated up and down this coast. In those days the sea and the land were teeming with life." They arrived at an iron gate set in a wall that had been heavily weathered over many years of rain and sand being thrown at it by the driving wind coming off the sea. Bergson unlocked the gate and they entered the dimly lit space beyond. The rough concrete floor seemed to climb gradually away from them and Henry could just make out the blackened surface of rock that formed the roof above. The repository was empty except for three stacks of old wooden railway sleepers to their right. "Never been a good place for a store - too damp, so close to the sea." They proceeded for some forty paces until the roof dropped down to a mere two metres in height and they were confronted by the back wall. It was evident that the door facing them had been let into the brickwork in recent times. "When I stood here seven years ago I knew there had to be something special behind this wall." He unlocked the door and fumbled inside for a switch. "Do you feel anything?"

"Well… not really." Henry tried to be honest. "I mean, it's certainly atmospheric, like out of some rather far-fetched tale of adventure. But beyond that… Well, I suppose…"

Bergson found the light switch and a narrow passage between the rocks was lit up ahead of them. A naked bulb hung from one of the timber supports. "I got them to break through the wall and then open up this tunnel. We had to do a lot of propping and bracing, as you can see." The passage was narrow and low and now sloping downward and following a slow curve to the right. After twenty or thirty metres it suddenly opened up and Henry joined Bergson in a pear-shaped chamber formed in the solid rock. In the yellow electric light the walls looked exceptionally smooth and clean and light, as if coated with nacre. With a sudden shift of perception he imagined himself to be standing within a giant breast. The contours were soft and sensual and drew his eye toward the nipple. The nipple had penetrated the sheath of marble and left a neat circle of black. He fell to his knees and, like a hungry piglet, propelled himself forward. Flat on his stomach he thrust his head into the orifice and breathed deeply.

Harry Bergson had been hoping for some show of appreciation but was taken aback by such an extravagant display. It put him in mind of a scene from a poem by Michael Ondaatjie that had recently come to his attention. The poet described how, on the Colombo docks saying goodbye to a recently married couple, his father, jealous of his mother's articulate emotion, had dived into the waters of the harbour and swum after the ship waving farewell. This behaviour was similarly over the top and he was contemplating taking hold of an ankle and dragging him back when, of his own volition, Henry reversed out and got to his feet. He was wildly excited.

"Jesus, Harry baby, I can't believe it! Have you smelt it? I thought I could smell it the moment we came in here. It's the same, that marvellous, subtle sweet-spiciness. Exactly the same as in the cave at Ingachini. I can never forget it."

"Well, this is incredible. And yet I'm not really surprised. This is further confirmation."

Bergson was becoming almost as animated as Henry. "Of course I've smelt it, that's the scent of Oxyaston, there's nothing else like it in all the world. Now we can pinpoint the Rhodesian Vent and fine-tune our measurements and calculations. Henry, this is a great leap forward."

He turned away, bent down at the passage entrance and dragged what looked like a radar antenna toward the orifice. He positioned the instrument facing directly into the aperture, adjusted the cables snaking across the floor and stood up.

"Right, there we are. Our receivers and transmitters and other equipment are in the Radar and Electronic Shop. That's where we do all the monitoring. Now we're really going to make progress!"

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