The effluvium by the sea.
By Tom Tony
A pair of gunmetal padlocks stands unequivocal, bolted through rusted latches harassed by a seemingly interminable harbour wind.
The sullied and unfamiliar presence of the locks appears as a beetle of annoyance on an ancient surface, a hindrance to the sycophants whom require access.Immovable, even by the dilapidation of time, nature has reclaimed the concrete walls busting with venerable aggregate, metamorphosing them into a grotto, unnoticed by all unimaginative of what is hidden behind mended doors.
Twelve in number, they are infinitely different, though their exteriors are subtle in the manner in which they divulged their discrepancies.
The persistent wind peels the white flaking paint of a few, like sunburnt skins.
Sky blue, whipped cream white, and the green tinge of swollen ply, each set of double doors a diacritical boarder to a mystery sealed away.
Layer upon layer of corrugated iron serves as the common roofing material, eaten away by parched salts, lethargic owners simply cover the erratic leaks with fresh sheets, creating a traceable history like layers of soil.
Thirteen walls, sheared in a soft arch, perhaps no more than ten degrees, the twelve rectangular rooms face the wide expanse of pebbled sand before the waters edge, full of a thousand greys and always shifting, it stays warm long after the desertion of the spring sun.
The sand is hard and compacted in front of the twelve doors for all of ten feet, the result of countless booted feet and resting hauls.
Cigarette butts, smashed glass, and fishing line emerge from the trodden and tamped hearth like archaeological artefacts of a distant summer.
No one man knows the infinitely possible worlds of all twelve doors.
Some, over a lifetime may learn and explore the realms of one; amongst those men, a select few may glance through a distorted telescope, into the adit of another, but never more than two.
I write with knowledge of two, though only profound knowledge of one.
The other (two doors in from the southern wall) was discovered in a shroud pusillanimous opprobrium and I shell only briefly reflect.
The sand pilled at the base of the unpainted ply doors indicated the realm beyond was seldom visited; a rusted chain was coiled around two steel handles like a digesting snake. Bolt cutters ate the tied metal with inert hunger, and the chain slithered to the dusty sand.
Thick black oil suffocated the cold night; the cool wind, the only escape from the smothering. As the ply doors were pulled open with agonizing defiance, an all-consuming black hole was slowly revealed.
The pilled up sand outside, and the white light from a single torch were sucked into the darkness and abolished. A feeling of anguish and loneliness leaked into my body, filling my bones and mind.
A powerful gust of wind bit at exposed cheeks, though it wasn’t until its absence, was my anesthetized mind awoken.
I staggered back as the dust settled and a dull white hazy grew in strength to illuminate the interior of the rectangular room.
What was, from the exterior perhaps only fifteen feet long and seven feet wide, was seemingly infinite in length inside. An artist corridor of an infallible perspective drawing; on each side of the room stood a ground to ceiling shelving unit, which too ran the interminable length of the interior corridor.
Within the four rows of the shelves sat stored treasures, unrelated in era and aesthetic to it’s neighbouring item, the treasures looked uncomfortable, as if keep against their own will.
For example, on the seaward edges’ rested a small wooden wood plane, next to it, a swollen book whose spin harboured symbols exceptionally unfamiliar to me.
The centre was occupied by what can only be described as a small sloop, albeit its stern was shrouded in darkness on the horizon of my vision. It’s well cared for haul glinted in the mystifying haze, a deep sea green from an eerie day.
The two passageways left either side of the yacht were only just large enough for a grown man to side steep down.
Neither one of the zealots present dared enter even the adit of the infinite and impossible corridor, for even then, we knew we had discovered a sickness behind those ply doors; it hung in the air even as we swung the doors shut on their aching hinges, the sickness clung to our clothing, and franticly scratched at our soar eyes.
It was a place not meant too be visited; one was acquired within the shelves of haphazard history, never to be released, this much I was sure of.
But we had somehow escaped, though with no such avail, for we vowed to never speak of that consuming place, that only and interminably consuming place, that place of pitiless darkness on an already oily black surface.
And so, to my knowledge, the doors have remained shut for mean years, yet I will not be ignorant in my thinking to assume the shelves have not acquired new artefacts and treasures, for a force will always draw pray closer to those ply doors.
Even now, many years later as I study the interior of a neighbour, I still feel the tingle of what I assume is curiosity that draw me in, all those years ago.
Fortunately the room in which I grow to understand with profound depth is a much more habitable place.
Still the same plain and cloaking exterior, its ancient blue double doors the only real point of difference.
Like the Islamic tessellation of a bewitching mosque, the rich blue made into a mosaic by an agitated ocean tells a story of time, and on this surface sat the beetles of annoyance, the padlocks.
Within our party of four, was a kin of the crazed old man, who acquired riparian rights to the room, and had repeatedly and frequently, changed the locks.
The tail of acquisition was forgotten by even the old man, whom had battled to steer his oldest clear of the rectangular room, but as was with him, his kin was drawn to it, and strong in mind, flourished in it.
At the time, he and I were only boys, intuition guiding us to prove our worth to a dominate generation, we had a key cut in a spell of absence of the old mans mind.
A key that would need however changing, but a key to a world that would shape the men we were to become.
The party of four was dynamic as any, though we sheared a common axiom, and the privilege of living by the sea.
I recall the first time I witnessed the blue doors open in the warm light of a still afternoon, its image as clear as the softly spoken myths about this place.
It too was dark, too dark to see a thing, though instead of anguish gushing like a tidal wave from the void, a warm nostalgia of home, and the promise of adventure kissed your skin like a spring zephyr.
The old mans kin entered with boyish confidence, faked and quickly seem through.
He lit a candle, which sat on a wooden stool waiting, and turned to the remaining two of the party and I.
“Come on” he said, hiding the uncertainty in his pubescent voice, for he had never seen beyond this adit.
We walked into the darkness, which the candle did not penetrate; the man’s kin pulled the doors shut as we had observed the man always do.
I recall the pounding of my heart in that instance to be near unbearable, dichotomising my brain with the pressure produced.
We stepped forward, hands outstretched, blindly feeling until my hands fell on the polished edge of a simple wooden cabinet, but which was crafted with immeasurable precision. Atop sat a menorah, which was quickly lit.
Things began to move fast from then, as more and more candles were discovered, chandeliers dripping with wax stalactites, exquisitely carved wax ornaments half melted but still discernable.
We spilt from the sanctuaries of one another’s side in desperation for light, when I next looked up from the task of lighting the countless wicks; we all stood in a ruff circle, having simultaneously decided to review what we had illuminated.
The candles now revealed the four corners of the room, which danced and hid in the flicker of the light.
It was not infinite in length like its neighbour, but far higher than thought possible by a sane mind.
The beautiful wooden panelling of the room scaled up the first floor, and far beyond a mezzanine floor, until it was slowly enveloped by a warm, allegorical cloud, red and yellow from the impossibly distant candlelight, what must have been one thousand feet below.
I let my eyes fall down the vertical corridor, blemished with artworks that made ones heart feel full, and nostalgic.
I began to slowly spin on the heel of my boot, taking in the warm room at eye level, in complete awe.
It was itself, perhaps forty feet long and twenty feet wide, a perfect up scaled interior of a cloaking exterior.
Three, of the four ground floor walls, were lined with books; beautiful spins of carmine, rich leather, and navy blue, they harboured the promise of a thousand lives and no need for immortality.
In what must have been the southwest corner, though I doubted the magnetic poles applied in this mysterious place, sat the grandest of grand piano I had ever seen, so modern and polished, the glinting candlelight looked prehistoric and foolish in its reflection.
In the centre of the room sat half a dozen brown leather couches arranged in an intimate U shape around a solid macrocarpa coffee table where the four of us now stood around.
The couches started four or five feet away from the books too allow room for the steel pillars supporting the mezzanine catwalk.
We climbed the ladder, our movements now full of sure excitement and haste.
The catwalk was dark grated steel, but it’s balustrade felt comforting and warm under hand.
We light the remaining candles protruding from the bookshelves on intricately craved stands, and absorbed this modern perspective on the world.
The mezzanine floor was similarly covered in books, albeit a small exception of shelving, only three feet wide, it housed an assortment of jars and vials, full of truly peculiar contents.
On closer examination we discovered seeds, herbs, thick liquids, preserved fruits, plant life floating in amber brine, what looked like coral reef sponge, fungi, insects, and earth samples.
Perplexed by this latest discovery we spent what felt like hours wondered the walls of books, examining, and reading brief exerts in an attempt to understand this awe-inspiring place. We found tails of fictional wars, heroics, distant worlds, and unknown gods, poems of profound description, odysseys, comedies and romance, though no clues as to an explanation of their housing.
Not one author was recognised, not one title, and most confusing of all were the places of publication.
Exhausted, we sat on the bombastic couches entertaining theories of galactic authors, a sheared library for the solar system of ceaseless culture.
Even now, I confess to a juvenile understanding of this mystifying place, the human lifespan is a mere spec of adequateness to decipher the borderless lives to be lived within this roofless realm.
What I first saw on that day in which I have described, is a mere sighting through a distance telescope, where the light I saw was so old and from a place so unfathomably far, it origan may well be dead.
I know now this realm was not made for us, it was stolen, and is now a fossil of pre-galactic age, that must be examined but only by those whom find it themselves.
Time vanishes within its walls, on that first day, what felt like hours were days, and what felt like comprehension, was a joke.
I can only fear what lies in the remaining ten.