I Saw but Now I Am Blind

Artwork by Joshua Insole

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see

— John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779

1

The glowing green mists of dawn came rolling in from the coast, a dense wall, thick and full of moisture. The smog seemed to chill straight to the bone, cooling the sweat on his skin and causing him to shiver. He spasmed briefly, neck snapping side to side. He barely noticed — he was completely preoccupied.

The man stepped drunkenly towards the edge of the precipice; eyes fixated upon the cloying fog that would soon envelop the island. In his heart, he felt both fear and awe. As he watched, slack jawed, he felt a looseness in his mouth — like a key jammed into a lock that’s far too big for it.

With a frown and a growl of annoyance, he spat the last of his teeth out over the cliff, watching as the decaying bit of bone cascaded into oblivion, swallowed up by the frothing tide that ruined itself on the shards of rock with a near-maniacal repetition. He ran his tongue over the warm and sticky blood-filled hole that remained, the gums tender and throbbing. He laughed into the wind, and even to the man’s own ears he sounded entirely unhinged.

Behind him, in the bunker, the thing that had once been a woman lay cradling the thing that had once been a baby. What was she called? What had her name been? Wife? Yes, that sounded right. And the other one? The smaller one? The one that had stopped breathing over ten days ago? Daughter? Was that it? He nodded to himself. He thought so.

He spat again, this time a globule of phlegm and blood and something greenish black shot from his cracked and peeling lips. He grunted. Whether it was a sound of humour, of acknowledgement, or simply a noise for the sake of making a noise, was unclear — even to the man himself. He didn’t know why he did many of the things he did these days. Everything had descended into one confused, swirling, drunken mess, filled with migraines and panic and disorder.

And then Daughter had died, and Wife was catching her up. Was he meant to be sad about that? He thought so, and yet he wasn’t. He felt that was wrong, somehow, and yet he didn’t care. How could he, when he’d found Y Greal Sanctaidd? How could anything matter when weighed up next to that?

How, exactly, he’d found it was a mystery even to himself. He tried to remember past events, things he’d done, things that had happened, the course of actions that had led up to this point, and came up short. His memories had been diced and mixed together, then scattered into the wind. He caught snippets of his former life every now and then — a spoken word in a fragment of a conversation, a brief flare-up of emotion, an image, a still frame.

But no matter how good the fleeting oases of reminiscences were, nothing could compare to Y Greal Sanctaidd.

It was all that he had left.

Or at least, it would be, soon enough.

With a sigh he turned around and headed back to the place where Wife and Daughter were dying and dead, offerings to Y Greal Sanctaidd.

He hoped their spirits and bodies would be enough.


2

Their wooden boat grated against the stony beach, groaning and complaining. In the green-grey light of the morning, the island was still and silent, clothed in a throbbing fog.

Down jumped the first of them, all clothed in black. Men first. Quietly, they splashed into the shallow waters and began to steer the boat onto the shore, the brine plinking and plonking around them.

Nobody said a word.

The man at the helm of the ship looked on emotionlessly, rheumy eyes cloudy and grey. The stubble on his face was white, the skin beneath mottled and red. Underneath him, the boat juddered and thudded as the men hauled the vessel up onto the shore.

Once all was done, they helped him down first — ensuring he did not get wet. He spoke to none of the men who carried him, and when they dropped him off beyond the reach of the ocean’s fingers, he brushed his coat as if it had been dirtied. After him, the women and children came next, much less important but equally as helpless.

After they had disembarked and their luggage — what precious little there was of it — was sitting nearby, sinking gloomily in the moist sands, the men climbed back aboard and began setting multiple fires with what valuable kindling they had.

One by one they jumped off the now flaming boat and began to heave as they pushed the bonfire back out to sea. By the time they’d gotten the thing dislodged from the stony shoreline, the several small conflagrations had merged into one inferno.

The old man watched on with a sour look upon his grizzled countenance, as if he’d just tasted something particularly bad. Behind him cowered the women and children. He stood motionless, save for his coat flapping in the coastal wind, as the soaked and sweating men trudged up the beach towards him. Their faces were dirty and smudged from the smoke.

Nobody spoke for quite some time, but all eyes were on the old man — if not directly looking into those cloudy orbs of his. Few could bring their gaze to meet his, and those that could failed to hold it for any length of time. In the distance, the flaming ship was naught but a glowing silhouette through the fog.

“We are delivered by Duw,” said the old man at last, before traipsing his way up off the beach.


Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me my wretched mind

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see I saw but now I am blind

John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779


 

8th July 2020

Written for the July 2020 #BlogBattle

Read the rest of Tales from Boddi Craig here!

9 thoughts on “I Saw but Now I Am Blind

  1. aebranson

    Such an intriguing glimpse into what I presume is the original ‘settling’ on Boddi Craig. The two different scenes in juxtaposition offer some insight and yet (of course!) raise more questions. Are they out of sequence on the timeline, with the accursed man’s family being the first victims of the demon living there? Or are they in order, the accursed man’s event driving the boat people to settle on Boddi Craig? Did the old man land on the island (successfully, which is also intriguing as to how….) to battle the demon? I presume his pride is at play here, which I suspect would lead to a downfall. And yet, somehow, this group seems to attain some level of success at suppressing the demon later on.
    I’m also pondering the title in conjunction with the altered song verses. Has this old man had ‘successes’ in the past that feed his pride and persuade others to follow him, albeit reluctantly? That he was once a ‘good’ man (although I’m not sure how much good there really is in this twisted world!), but eventually lost his way? And does this same theme feed into the first scene with the accursed man?
    So many ideas and so little time! Brilliant story here, and I’m looking forward to what next month will bring!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gary

    “All devil as I am-a damned wretch,
    A hardened, stubborn, unrepenting villain,
    Still my heart melts at human wretchedness;
    And with sincere but unavailing sighs”

    Tragic Fragment…Robert Burns

    I blame that extract on Ser Olney… actually no, fully on you Josh lol.

    I digress… love the mental detachment and naming of family…Wife…Daughter… vestiges of a sane mind gone bad. Or is that unwittingly bad? My immediate thought on Y Greal Sanctaidd was not a named beast as such, but a mental redirection to an artefact. Well, the anti- Grail as it happens. It draws from my own ponderings on lost civilisations as per Yish and Naz. Long before the senseless monks time. Think Dr Who Impossible Planet type of thing. The anti-Grail imprisoned the beast. Could be an eternity ago, lost in antiquity until once again humans move and expand. Has our intrepid wretch merely found the site if an old prison? Are the boatmen a long standing cult charged with its safe keeping. Alerted by the discovery, arriving almost too late. Nay, way too late. A long standing cult where myth has drawn from truth creating a pseudo religion with Chinese whispered solutions. Hmm, are thee folk the originators of the senseless monk “solution?”

    So many spiralling questions once again. Little wonder your own mind struggles Joshua…this reality is happily warped!…

    I leave you with Coleridge…or Iron Maiden if you prefer the lyrical borrowing… A verse for the wretch and another for the boatmen…

    “One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,
    Too quick for groan or sigh,
    Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
    And cursed me with his eye.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      You are very close to the truth in thinking of an artefact! I do have something very specific in mind that I hope to get to in due time, but the accuracy of your guesses are blindingly good, Gary! 😂

      Fantastic quotes, too. I definitely had the ancient mariner in mind as I wrote this one — I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn I was on a Maiden binge a while ago…

      Thanks for the great comments, Gary — and sorry I’ve taken my sweet time in returning to WP. It’s lovely to have such great conversations to come back to. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gary

        Ye gods, I am muddled now…which comments answered and which not! I am told, by another BB writer I over think in comments. One can’t help it if the tale warrants it surely. It’s a sign the content is worth the debate. I actually find it useful too exploring possibilities. Often a comment can help by seeing something the writer might not have or, indeed, supporting something they have. It’s also good, my opinion, to be challenged a bit too. Makes me think about plot arcs and how things are pitched. Do they hang together or is everything too obvious. Hmm, this is another debate waiting to happen 😳

        Like

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