LitLink: From KITOVE USI by Gary Budden, translated by Mia Pervan

Bilo je tu svega: srce pluća jetra bubrezi itd. Kitove usi guste i brojne poput čekinja kakvog starog slikarskog kista. Ali ničega u crijevima, ničega polu probavljenog što bi mirisalo na skupi francuski parfem. Prazna crijeva, govorilo se, razvlačila su se više od pola kilometra. Živio je ni od čega. A nikakva znaka neuhranjenosti, nikakvih ožiljaka ili tragova unakaženosti koji bi ukazivali na ozljede, nikakvih prišteva nalik napasnim tinejdžerskim aknama, nikakvih ustrčalih kitovih uši, svijetlih i bockavih. Kao da je taj primjerak došao ravno s tekuće vrpce, neuporabljen. Savršenstvo od kita.

U to sam vrijeme puno pio, gledao popularnu seriju s pomoću svog digitalnog prijemnika i nisam se osjećao loše koliko sam možda trebao zbog toga što su sam dobio nogu.

Tip koji je naišao na kita bio je jedan od onih gorljivih džogera u uskim bickama, trčao je uz obalu. Volim rano ustajati, izjavio je za mjesne novine, i biti sam sa srebrnastim galebovima i hrpama natrule morske trave. Volim škripu šljunka pod nogama. Tako je mirno u zoru.

I sâm sam vidio zoru na obali, ali iz pogrešne perspektive i prilazeći joj iz krivog smjera. Nikad nisam ustao da vidim njezin ružičasti sjaj, ležao sam budan dok mi se prikradala. Ne reagira svatko na isti način na ovakve priče, pa se pitam kako bi mene prikazali u novinama da sam našao to truplo.

Levijatan, nasukani kit, znamen nečega što još moram ustvrditi. Nije da su nasukani primjerci neuobičajeni na ovoj obali. Jato kitova ubojica zajedno je, solidarno, isplivalo na kopno kod Rta Dunlin. To je bilo ʼ96. Pa i dupini boci sličnih nosova, u tolikom broju da je bilo bolno i pomisliti na to, počinili su masovno samoubojstvo u zaljevu sv. Mihajla, kao da su svi zaključili kako je prenaporno ići dalje. To je bilo ʼ02. Znao sam za priču iz viktorijanskog doba o ulješuri koju je more izbacilo na obalu blizu jednog grada šest i pol kilometara nizvodno; kad ju je rasporio, odvažni je znanstvenik zagazio u srce toga stvora, poskliznuo se i utopio u kitovoj krvi.

Naš kit bio je dugačak oko dvadeset sedam metara, čiste, neokaljane nebeski plave boje. Onog jutra kad se to dogodilo, ugledao sam gungulu na obali. Bilo je više svijeta nego obično, klinaca sa štapovima kojima su ga bockali i gurkali. Vrijeme je bilo lijepo, ali hladno, nadomak zimi. Navukao sam debelu zelenu jaknu, blatnjave čizme iz ponude Sports Directa i provjerio je li mi iPhone napunjen. Uvijek se isplati načiniti dvije-tri fotke. Obala uz Hollow Shore, premda pusta, uvijek je fotogenična.

Prešao sam cestu slušajući kriještanje srebrnastih galebova gore među dimnjacima, jurnuo stazicom što je vijugala oko izvučene drvene barke pa ravno na plažu. Šljunak mi je škripao pod nogama – bilo je lijepo, džoger je imao pravo – a kit je već bio okružen gomilom mještana i novinara, kamere su bljeskale kao da su u rukama hrpe turista pred Louvreom. Kakav prizor. Čak i uz ptice koje su kljucale kitovo meso, bilo je veličanstveno. Stoga se činilo da je život u ovom pokrajinskom gradu što vonja na sol još gori nego što jest. Bio je to podsjetnik na život kakav bi mogao biti, na to kako vraški divan može biti ovaj svijet, na to da su me upravo otpustili iz Pilzersa jer su dogotovili posao, a ja pijem furajući se na sve tanju ušteđevinu, gledajući serije na HBO-u.

Bilo je doba recesije. Gradsko vijeće dizalo je odgovarajuću buku, ali se ništa nije dogodilo. Priča je dospjela u nacionalne novine, neki je dosadni blagoglagoljivi izvjestitelj BBCjevog odjela za jugoistok parlatao u kameru kadli je u kadar, otraga, uletio srebrnasti galeb s otrgnutim komadom kitova sala. Ali nema novca, rekoše. Ni prebijene pare za uklanjanje strvine. Lakrdija, povikaše znanstvenici i prirodoslovci. Pa ovo je ipak izniman slučaj. E, koštalo bi nas desetak tisuća za uklonit kita, čak i tako praznog i čistog.

Prolazili su dani i tjedni, smrad je bio sve jači (mješavina natrule morske trave, klaonice, otvorenog odvodnog kanala i gljivične zaraze), a ja sam razmišljao o kitovim usima i potezima divovskog kista na platnu širokom poput neba. Pitao sam se otkuda je došao i zašto. Našao sam priče o kitovima, posljednjim primjercima svoje vrste, što pjevaju pjesmu koja nikad neće naći slušatelje. Ili izvješća ljudi sa skupom opremom, daleko na pučini, o snimljenom kitovu pjevu kojemu nema ravna među uobičajenim snimkama. Pitao sam se je li naš kit jedinstven, slučajna omaška, propust zbog intergenetskog miješanja vrsta kod kitova, osuđen nasukati se na južnu obalu Engleske i zauvijek ostati neshvaćen. Suosjećao sam s time.

Pojavila se neka vrsta lupeške meštrije – zgrabi koliko možeš. Ni sam joj se nisam mogao oduprijeti. Tu se moglo dobro zaraditi. Prve noći odsjekao sam nekoliko komada mesa. Na plaži nije bilo video nadzora, samo klinci koji su pušili travu i palili vatru od naplavljena drva slušajući poskakivanje vrućih oblutaka. Meso sam prodao kolekcionaru na crnom internetskom tržištu i on mi je platio toliko da mogu izdržati još nekoliko mjeseci. Nije mi bilo drago, ali kako rekoh, vladala je recesija. Jedan sam komad uzeo za sebe dok je još bio svjež pa sam ga ispržio u svojoj maloj kuhinji. Bio je ukusan, premda malo žilav. Ne znam zašto sam mislio da će imati okus po ribi.

Svako sam jutro hrlio na obalu vidjeti što je novo s kitom. Smrt posjeduje vlastitu energiju. Mikro ekologiju koja hrani raspaljene gomile crvića i muha, galebove, ptice močvarice, vrane i sve živo što jede kukce, meso i debelu kožu. Vidio sam kako je sokol ščepao neoprezna galeba. A bilo je i ljigavih stvorenja i lisica što laju po noći.

Kit je dobio vlastiti račun na Twitteru, gorljivo je s drugima dijelio tisuće fotografija tog čuda od raspadanja. Neki su držali da je to znamen spasenja, a drugi zle kobi pa je tako kit i nas hranio dopuštajući nam da u njegov unakaženi oblik učitavamo što god želimo.

Jednog jutra, kad je kit već bio samo zbir mesnih krpica koje su visjele s kostura, krenuo sam na plažu i ugledao čovjeka koji me prethodnog ljeta grdio što bacam kamenje na limenke. Sjedio je na drvenoj klupi, buljio u strvinu i mirno more u pozadini. Mislim da me nije prepoznao.

Sramota, rekoh, približivši mu se da čuje.

Što to?

Pa djeca se tu dolaze igrati, rekoh.

Produžio sam prema kitu. Galebovi su se razletjeli kad sam im se približio. Smrad truleži posvuda. Mušice su zujale, okružile ga poput prljavog kolobara.

By Gary Budden

Translated by Mia Pervan

 


There was all the stuff you’d expect; heart lungs liver kidneys etc. Baleen thick and numerous like bristles on an old paint-brush. But nothing in the gut, half-digested and smelling of pricey French perfume. Empty intestines they said unraveled for half a mile. It was running on nothing. No signs of malnutrition or malnourishment, no pocks or blemishes suggesting deficiencies, no barnacles like aggressive teen acne, no scuttling whale lice, pale and piercing. As if the model had arrived straight off the factory line without once being used. An idea of a whale.

When it happened I was drinking a lot, watching popular dramas through my digibox and not feeling as bad as I should have done about being laid off.

The guy who found the whale, was one of those motivated joggers in tight lycra running along the shore. He liked to get up early, he said in the local paper, and be alone with the herring gulls and piles of rotting bladderwrack. The crunch of shingle beneath my feet. It’s so peaceful at dawn.

I’d seen the dawn on the coast myself, but from the improper perspective and coming at it from the wrong direction. Never gotten up to see the pink glow, only ever stayed awake long enough for it to creep up on me. People don’t respond to those stories in the same way, and I wonder how I’d have been portrayed if I had found the carcass.

Leviathan, beached whale, signifier of something I’ve yet to put my finger on. It’s not that beachings are uncommon on this coast. A pod of pilot whales, in sympathetic solidarity, left themselves out to dry up on Dunlin Point. That was in ‘96. Bottlenose dolphins too, so numerous it hurt to think about it, committed mass suicide in St Michael’s Bay, like they’d all decided it was just too much effort to keep going. That was ’02. I knew the story from Victorian times about a sperm whale washed ashore near the town six miles down the coast; opening it up, an intrepid scientist stepped into the thing’s heart only to slip and end up drowning in whale blood.

Our whale was ninety feet long, a pristine and unblemished sky blue. It was alone. The morning it happened, I noticed a commotion outside. More people than usual, kids with sticks they used to prod and poke. The weather was clear but cold, heading toward winter. I pulled on my thick green coat, mud-crusted boots I’d bought on offer from Sports Direct, made sure my iPhone was charged. Always worth grabbing a few pics. The coast along the Hollow Shore, bleak though it is, is always photogenic.

I crossed the road, listening to the cries of the herring gulls up among the chimneys, ducked down the little alley that wound past a beached wooden boat and onto the beach. Shingle crunched underfoot – it was nice, the jogger was right – and already a crowd of the townspeople and journalists surrounded the whale, cameras flashing like they were a group of tourists at the Louvre.

And what a sight. Even as the birds pecked at its flesh, it was majestic. It made life in this provincial, salt smelling town, seem all the worse. Here was a reminder of what life could be, how fucking grand the world was capable of being, how I had just been let go from Pfizers as they wound up the business and was drinking my way through a dwindling stash of savings watching HBO dramas.

There was a recession on. The council made all the right noises but nothing happened. The story got into the national papers, a wind-blown journalist for BBC South East pontificating to camera as a herring gull tore off a strip of blubber in shot behind him. But there was no money, they said. Nothing spare to haul the carcass away. A travesty, shouted the scientists and naturalists. This thing was, after all, an anomaly. But it costs tens of thousands to haul a whale away, even one so empty and pure.

As the days and weeks went by, with the stench increasing (a mix between that rotting bladderwrack, abattoir, open sewer and fungal infection), I’d think about its baleen and the strokes of a giant’s brush on a canvas as wide as the sky. I wondered where it had come from, and why. I found stories about whales that were the last of their species, singing a song that would never find an audience. Or reports from men with expensive equipment far out on the open sea, about whale song recorded matching no known records. I wondered if our whale was one of a kind, some chance mishap of whale miscegenation, doomed to beach on the south coast of England and never be understood. I could sympathise with that.

A kind of rogue science set in, looting the booty. I wasn’t above it myself. There was money to be had. I hacked off the flukes that first night. No CCTV on the beach, only kids smoking weed sat around crackling driftwood fires, listening to the pop of heated pebbles. I sold the flukes to a collector on the dark web who paid enough money to buy me a few more months. I felt bad, but like I said, there was a recession on. I took a chunk of flesh for myself, while it was still fresh, and fried it up in my small kitchen. It was tasty, if chewy. For some reason I thought it would taste of fish.

Each morning I’d head out and check on our whale’s progress. Death has its own energy. A micro-ecology feeding boiling masses of maggots and flies, the gulls, waders, crows and more that fed on the insects, flesh and thick skin. The peregrine I saw take an unwary gull. The slithering things and barking foxes at night.

The whale got its own Twitter account, fuelling a thousand shared photographs of the wonder of decomposition. Some thought it a sign of salvation, others doom, and so the whale fed us too, allowing us to project what we wanted onto its degraded form.

One morning, the whale now just shreds of flesh hung over a bone frame, I headed to the beach and saw a man who had scolded me for throwing stones at cans the previous summer. He was sitting on a wooden bench, staring out over at the carcass and the flat sea behind. I don’t think he recognised me.

It’s a disgrace, I said, close so he would hear.

What’s that?

Children have to play around here, I said.

I carried on towards the whale. Gulls took flight at my approach. The smell of rot everywhere. Flies were buzzing, a dirty encircling halo.


Gary Budden is the co-founder of independent publisher Influx Press. He writes fiction and creative non-fiction about the intersections of British sub-culture, landscape, psychogeography, hidden history, nature, horror, weird fiction and more. A lot of it falls under the banner ‘landscape punk’. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies. His debut fiction collection, Hollow Shores, is published by Dead Ink Books in October 2017.

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