Errington

Errington can see the dull glint of gold below him, the water hazily obscuring it from his eyes.  He breaks the surface with a gasp, sucking air into burning lungs.  There isn’t much room above the water, it’s nothing more than a pocket of air trapped inside the compartment.  The lights below haven’t succumbed to the sea and broken up by the water, cast dancing caustics all around him.

Errington’s strongest memory from childhood is gold, glittering beneath the surface of the water.  He’s eight and staring down in horror at his father’s watch lying on the bottom of the river.  Errington was fascinated by the watch, all turning cogwheels and hands that moved around the dial in a staccato waltz.  His father had assembled it himself, long winter evenings spent carefully fitting main spring to train, to balance wheel to escarpment.  After it was complete he had put it in a drawer – except for special occasions where, dressed in formal suit, it would hang from a chain and slip into his waistcoat.

It was summer, and Errington did as all boys do in summer.  He ran through the fields, caught grasshoppers and sat on the old jetty in the river watching the fish dart below.  He liked the river.  He liked to sit by it, watching the water slowly swirl away past him, watch it go somewhere, some other place.

On that day, he had borrowed his father’s watch.  He was in the study, looking at the watch: listening to it tick, observing the movement behind the face.  His father, observing how fine the day was had told him to go outside instead of staying cooped up indoors like a troglodyte.  Errington had naturally enough continued his observation of the watch outside.  He sat on the edge of the jetty in the sunshine, watching the river and admiring how the filigree of the casing caught the light.

As he sits in quiet contemplation, there’s a sound like a machine gun – a waterbird taking to the air, all movement and beating wings.  Errington, startled, turns towards the sound, letting the watch fall from his fingers into the river below.  He can only look down through the water at it, chain shifting slowly back and forth.

He tries to swim down to it, but it’s too deep.  He’s too buoyant and the chain is always just out of reach.  Sopping, he has to return to the house and face his father.  His father is angry, his face is like thunder.  He doesn’t say a word, but marches down to the old jetty in the river.  He strips off his shirt and goes down into the water, coming up with the watch in his hand.

The watch had stopped and never ticked again, drowned by the river’s embrace.  His father upon returning to the house did not say a word to Errington, but pressed the dead watch into his hand.  That is Errington’s strongest memory.  A watch does not decompose and Errington has carried it ever since.

Forty years later he can see it once more glittering and golden beneath the surface of the water.  The river carried him away to the place it went, out to sea.  The jetty is replaced by a ship, his ship and she too is old and worn.  So old that she could not hear the wolves that silently stalked her beneath the waves.  The torpedoes broke her back and now she falls to her knees before the hunters, the sea covering her like a shroud.

Errington can feel the angle of the ship changing as she takes on more water and begins to dive.  He focuses on the watch below, takes a breath and dives down with her.  This time it won’t be too deep.

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~ by Electro-mechanical Man on February 17, 2011.

2 Responses to “Errington”

  1. Fantastic.

  2. This is fantastic.

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