Thursday, June 5, 2008

Muetteret Eschalon at Nisseres Rue - "The Sea's Judgement at Escalon"

And so he passes.

It's cold and wet here, and there are slate-grey waves in the distance. Give them a little time, though, and they'll be lapping at the dunes behind us. The top of the water will ride only three wyle above the top of the rock and more than ten u'yle above the head of the criminal chained to its base. The dark will fill the sky, and not a person will have waited to watch the murky clouds of blood fill the water as the tide smashes his body open against the stone.

In the morning we won't see the ruin that the ocean has made of him. We won't see the shattered bone that tore through the skin and muscle of his wrists and forearms to point up at the salty sky and the gore-stained rock. We won't see the huge cavity filled with blood and teeth and vomit where the lower half of his face used to be. We won't smell the stench of brine and shit and fear that lingers around his corpse when the waves finally retreat.

Chances are, when we finally make it back out here, nothing will be left. The ocean will have taken and buried him off the coast, under a blanket of silt and sea-life.

We'll take the next one out to the rock and he'll be crying or silent. He'll be dignified or petrified. He'll be ready for the end or ready to give us anything: his money, his home, his mother, if only we'll let him go. And then we'll lock the shackles around his wrists and ankles and make sure that the chains sunk into the rock are still secure.

I would ask him for his last words, but we are not permitted to give him such dignity. We do not show compassion or pass judgment. We do not honor the dead or remember their passing. We are not the hands of justice. We are the messengers and the silent jailers whose only task is to abandon the condemned in the face of a force greater than ourselves.

We are afraid.

It is not the heaviness of the water that terrifies us, nor the comfortable dread of our eventual passing. Our stomachs do not turn at the thought of ourselves in those shackles. Rather there is some other foreboding, however secret it may be, that lingers around the waxen lines of our faces. As we secure the end of a life, there is a wordless tension in the straight movements of our bodies that mirrors the straight horizon toward which the criminal will travel, lifeless on the back of the water.

The briefest respite comes only when we burn the lelerian. As we yield the shore to that other strength, we will put fire to flame and page, letting the soot from the smoldering sheets mark our path. The ash of their passing tells us that we are free, clean of this sterility and blamelessness, and we comfort ourselves with the thought that somehow words turned to smoke will absolve us of this terrible absolution. We hope against hope that these gestures will change the sea and somehow bring low the superior innocence of its ceaseless tides. Almost, we believe that our burden is not inescapable.

And yet it is a burden of our own making. Our grievance, as heavily as it tells on us, is freely chosen.

What led us here? All things conform to some nature, some gravity, and we are no different. We are the simple children of a logic deadly and inconsequential.

Yet execution is no inconsequence.

Neither is it tragedy, nor cruelty, and so it is not tragedy or cruelty that I fear. As the relentless tide swallows the promontory, I am afraid that, in all its cold sterility and innocence, I have become the right hand of death, destroyer of worlds.