Shadow of the Sisyphus

Last night I had a dream. I was the runaway slave, Lazarus, and you were chasing me along the deck of the Sisyphus. Around us the zombies—actually, I think all the zombies looked like Captain himself—were crawling on the ground or climbing up the mast, tearing the ship apart with their hands and teeth, mumbling incessantly, “The cross. The cross. Give us the cross.” Our master was there, but I couldn’t see him. It was like he was above us, watching everything unfold.

You had our master’s sword too. I shouted to you, that the ship was going to sink, but you kept swinging the curved weapon wildly. Running, I hid myself in Captain’s cabin. There was general—well, I suppose he’s been coronated now—king Alexander. He was pouring over a map, a knife and a fork in his hands. Watching, I saw him cut around little islands, stab them with the fork, and swallow them whole.

He appeared sick, and I watched him clutch the table, his knuckles turning pale. A frothing vomit spewed from his mouth. As this outpouring fell upon the remains of the map, the white foam transformed into rivers of blood, spilling over the table onto the floor. The general seemed tired, old. He tried to sort of dam the flood with his arms, and swallow it all up again, but he drowned in that tide.

I was running along the deck again, you were chasing me, but now I was headed for a lifeboat. The zombies were all gone, and the boards of the ship were falling into the ocean. You were screaming. Jumping into the boat I turned to see you. Your sword was raised high above your head, the Sisyphus’ deck exploding in the background. Swinging, you chopped the line tethering my boat to the ship. I fell, watching the erupting flames of the ship’s destruction consume you.

It reminded me of the day our master first took me from the Sisyphus. My hands were bloody, the little knife covered in gore. I had lost track of all time, of all reason, as the blade gave form to my hate. I stabbed and stabbed, screaming, until my arm rested, plunged in Captain’s fat breast. Panting, tears like rivers racing down my face, I slumped against the body, smearing the red carnage all over my shirt. I was half asleep.

“Good, Gakuto,” our master said. Picking me up in his arms, he cradled my limp body, and walked over to Captain’s washbowl. Standing in front of the little mirror that was overhanging the basin, I saw my face, a bead of blood hanging from my chin. Holding the pitcher of fresh water, it was an ornate thing with wispy blue lines taking the shape of a dragon, our master poured a cool cleansing stream over my hands.

Taking a towel, he began scrubbing the grim off my face and neck, wetting the soft cloth with the pitcher. We stayed like that for some time. I didn’t even realize I was still clutching the knife. Opening up my hand, he pried the dagger from my fingers. Enfolding it in the silk rag, now spotted with crimson stains, he dried the steel.

Replacing the weapon under the folds of his shirt, he said, “Go, get your things.”

I didn’t really have any “things” to go and get, but I sort of went stumbling out the door. Most of the zombies had fallen over now, lying lifeless under the overbearing noon sun like slain men littering the battlefield. Do you remember that winter, that desperate charge up the hill? We saw the fog rolling over no man’s land. It was fate.

Sprinting through the snow, sliding on the icy incline, you and I snuck past the frontlines, leaping over and stepping on the bodies of the slain. That was what it looked like on deck, no lack of lifeless limbs discarded haphazardly along the ground. I can only imagine how the disorder would have irked the late Captain.

“Gakuto,” I heard our master shout. Turning around, I saw him standing in the doorway. Frowning, his head turned from side to side, examining the inanimate zombies. “Come on,” he waved, and began walking toward port. Following him, weaving a path through the fallen crew, I came to his side. Throwing down the ladder, he gestured with an open hand down toward his ship.

Finding my footing, I began climbing down, the rough rope cutting into my palms. Descending, lower and lower, I came to the end of the ladder. Halting, I stared at the final jump. It was a long way, at least for me. Dangling a single leg, I went down one rung at a time, crunching my other leg into my stomach.

On the second to last foothold, I let my other leg drop. Stretched out as far as I could, I loosed my grip, falling toward the black vessel. I wasn’t prepared for how slick the submarine’s surface would be. Bouncing off it, I slid into the waves.

“Gakuto,” our master shouted.

Looking up to him, coughing the sea foam from my lungs, I watched as he leaped off the ship’s balustrade, his arms outstretched like a bird. Bending at the waist, he twisted himself over. Now flying toward the ocean headfirst, his hands folded before himself like the point of a spear, he plunged into the depths. Coming up underneath my flailing arms and legs, he lifted me from the waters. Grabbing ahold of a handrail too high for me to reach, he pulled us onto the top of the submarine.

After we sat there, panting awhile in the shadow of the Sisyphus, our master arose and said, “Come.” Stomping three times on a little hatch, I hadn’t noticed it till then, he stepped back. The thing swung open, and a man popped out. The two talked to each other for a bit, and then our master beckoned me. Shivering, my steps unsure on that slippery black ship, I came.

Inside they had a blanket for me, a grey wool blanket. Wrapping this around myself, I sort of waddled around in this strange new world, following our master down a long hallway. There were no lights, as you and I know the word, no candles or flames of any sort. But, embedded in the ceiling above us, were these glowing blue orbs. It was dim in that ship.

I could feel that we were moving. There was a man shouting directions to people, they would in turn fiddle with a set of leavers before them. Coming toward this man, I suppose he was the ship’s captain, our master whispered into his ear. Nodding, he started shouting some more, and our master took me over to some sort of set of binoculars, they used the word ‘periscope.’ Looking into these, I could see the Sisyphus shrinking into the horizon.

The captain shouted, “Fire.”

And just like in my dream, the Sisyphus was torn apart in flames, there one moment, and gone the next, a cruel man’s kingdom ended in flames.



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