THE SEA HALF-HELD BY NIGHT
I wasn’t going to write a story about Canadian zombies, because zombies aren’t my first genre love. (I’m not sure what is, but it’s not zombies.) But then, I got this strange idea, and the first line of the story was there, in my head, and I had to get it onto paper. A distant whaling camp, a group of whalers, and a woman haunted.
Esteuan sees the bent figure at dusk and thinks nothing of it. His day has been long, beginning before the sun brightened the sky, ending as the sun takes a last gasp and puts herself away for the night. Exhaustion bends his own broad shoulders against this darkening sky and he presumes it is another man much like himself, wearied from a day on the ships, amid the tryworks. The stench of his own body, streaming with sweat, blood, and whale oil, masks anything else he might discern from the evening. Esteuan brings these scents home and even when he emerges from the bath some time later, he smells of whales, of sea, of hunting. I see the figure three days later; when I mention it to Esteuan, his head lifts from the tub of water and his eyes bore into me, as if what I have said makes no sense. There were only exhausted men; he tells me of the one he saw. I tell my story twice, and neither time does it change.
The title comes from Leaves of Grass: Song of Myself:
I am he that walks with the tender and growing night;
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.
Press close barebosomed night! Press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night! Mad naked summer night!