“All configurations that have previously existed on this earth must yet meet, attract, repulse, kiss, and corrupt each other again.” Friedrich Nietzsche
When he stepped ashore the young man let out a sigh of joy. The sea was a splendid blue and the sand warmed his feet. Beyond the blanket soft beach was a deep luscious jungle of tropical fruits, and coming from it was the sound of bird song: beautiful melodies floating through the tranquil air.
He had always known in his heart that such a place existed. All the naysayers who doubted his voyage were now part of his past. He felt he had found a new land, a place in which to start his life again. The first four days he spent on the beach, venturing only a few meters into the jungle to collect bamboo and palm leaves. With the driftwood he found by the shore he built a shack, which sheltered him from the burning sun. He ate fish that took him an entire day to spear at first, but by the forth sunset he was cooking flat fish gigged and cooked within the same hour. He learnt to understand the optical refraction of the clear waters shimmering light: aiming lower and spearing at the right moment. By the end of the first week he started to feel comfortable and completely at ease on the beach.
On the eighth day he made bamboo sandals, took along his machete and headed deeper into the jungle. He needed more coconuts; the jungle drew him in purely out of thirst. As he pushed deeper inside, he had to take large swoops with his machete to create a clearing. Every inch in front of him was a complete mystery and was revealed only at the swipe of his knife. He moved slowly, high pitch calls rebounded from the canopies above. Beams of golden light flickered through and illuminated the depths of the trail.
Just ahead a tiny black monkey with a cute face and a long winding tail, spring boarded between branches and foraged amongst the leaves. The young man felt pulled in by this primate. As he moved further into the jungle the monkey bounced in and out of view, but the man began to feel as though he was being guided. The trail led him downward into a ravine and he could hear the monkey’s comforting call fading into the distance, all the familiar cries of the jungle at once subsided and he was submerged into an awful silence.
He pivoted and stalled, with no idea in which direction to swing his path blade, he stood disoriented inside the muted depths of the jungle.
The sound of rustling branches suddenly shook his nerves; he started to retreat backwards slowly. A low grunting rumbled through the dense bush; the pulsating red eyes of a beast surveyed him.
He glimpsed a Cadejo just meters away, a terrifying and vicious dog, with teeth like serrated granite. Each retreating step made the beating of his heart grow louder. It seemed either the Cadejo would rip the beat from him or his heart would explode in his chest.
Eventually an incline steadily rose up behind him. After long and precise moments of cautious withdrawal, his backward steps brought him out of the ravine and the grunting ceased. The Cadejo was a part of the valley and it’s where it remained.
The call of the monkey returned and he started to run towards it. The faster he ran, the louder the sound of the jungle grew. He had escaped.
He could see the monkey again; it sat poised in the palms and waited for him up ahead. When he reached the base of the tree the monkey lowered itself down, concealed within its lanky arms was a coconut. It stretched out from the branch to offer the fruit to him. The monkey smiled, let out a squeal of excitement and sprang back up the tree. It returned a dozen more times to deliver coconuts to the man, who eventually took all of the fruit that was offered and left the jungle.
That evening he sat once again by his campfire on the beach, cooking fish and drinking coconut milk. Though it was the same idealistic place, something had changed in him. In that moment he realized he was completely alone. He missed all of the people he had ever known and loved. It was his choice to drift, and his drifting had left him forlorn. Loneliness blew in on a wave: sudden and overpowering, but completely inevitable. It was now a part of the island and he could never give it back to the sea. He stood up quickly, urinated on the fire and retreated to his shack.
The following morning he woke at sunrise and wondered the beach in search of driftwood. He decided he would extend the shack, keep himself busy and try to hold the disease of loneliness at bay. He worked long hours, tying up joints of bamboo and stockpiling driftwood under the shade of the jungle’s entrance. He would never go further than the first few meters of the bush; he wanted to seek out the monkey, and venture upland in search of taro, but was scared of finding the Cadejo again.
After the first couple of days building he started to notice a crocodile slowly perusing the shore by the waters edge. Eventually he got used to the crocodile’s daily presence and began to feel reassured by its regular appearance. After a couple of weeks, and much to the man’s delight, the monkey started visiting the shack too. It brought along palm leaves for the roofing, and coconuts to keep him hydrated. The monkey would never stay for too long, it would simply spring around the hut for an hour in the evenings.
Entire days were consumed with building work. Though it never ventured closer, he started to feel that the crocodile was a reliable observer to the progress of the build. Whilst sizing up the various aspects of the shack he began to relay his thoughts and voice his ideas out loud.
“A beach deck, that’s what Ill start on next. Living quarters, a bedroom, and a deck so I can enjoy the sunset, then I’ll be truly happy here. I just need more wood, more bamboo, more palm leaves…”
He looked over at the crocodile with its prehistoric gaze and took its deceptive grin as a sign of approval. He continued to build and did so for many weeks, becoming obsessed with the shack to a point where he would speak to the crocodile more frequently. He saw the crocodile as an astute but reticent teacher; disciplined by its presence he felt it was crucial to spend every waking hour building.
After sometime he begun to take the monkey’s visits for granted and saw it as a hindrance. On one occasion the man shouted at the monkey for making too much noise, when in fact the monkey was just trying to make him laugh.
One day the monkey stopped showing up. The man was consumed with building, he had no time for monkeys and he had no time for long reflective campfires anymore. A fire was lit only for the very practical reason of lighting the building site, so that he could continue his work late into the night. He was compulsively and obscenely obsessed.
Upon completion of the shack, he proudly inscribed his initials into the doorway with his machete and collapsed into a deep sleep. He had built a perfect place to live but had nobody to share it with.
The violent boom of a thunderstorm woke him in the dark hours of the morning. A maddening wind ripped the palms from the roof of the hut and spewed them meters down the beach. The bamboo fell, and the hut collapsed, leaving him exposed and naked to the elements. He had to hide himself away in the last remaining corner of the structure, clutching a palm leaf to keep his face from being pounded by tropical rain.
By dawn the beach was empty and desolate. There were no melodies coming from the jungle and a grey block sky hung overhead. He was ruined; looking around he could no longer see the paradise to which he had arrived. He felt empty, like a fake, unable to do anything but run away. The heavy air lingered for hours as he sat amongst the debris. By the shore the crocodile observed, its deceptive and menacing smile judging the man’s failed attempts at happiness. He begun to despise the Island, he cursed the day he landed ashore and suddenly felt the deep urge to leave.
Grabbing his last remaining coconuts he headed for the tiny fishing boat on which he had arrived. He shouted at the crocodile in fury, “Stop sodding smiling at me… you stupid thing. It’s not funny”. The man was outraged and tears flooded his face, “I’m sick of this place and I am damn sure sick of you, and that stupid monkey!”
He launched the boat and never looked back at the Island. Sailing for many hours late into the night he eventually fell asleep in the stern, curled up like a baby in a box, under millions of stars.
The gentle crashing of waves woke him. He lifted his tired body slowly from the boat to find he had landed on a new beach. Picking up the few possessions he had, he started a fresh exploration. The Island seemed to him just as beautiful as the last Island initially had. He thought that just maybe this was the place he had been searching for. Finally he would start again, again.
Eventually he came to a tiny shack on the beach and cautiously entered. As he opened the door he noticed an inscription. His initials were etched into familiar bamboo. Bewildered and confused he paced around the shack; he couldn’t understand how this had happened. Suddenly there was a pitter-patter on the roof, an excitable scurry coming from the other side of the woven palm leaves. The man ran outside to find a monkey dancing on the roof.
He was handed a coconut from the hysterical monkey and in the distance, the deceptive crocodile grinned its infinite grin. In that moment the man could choose how he would decide to live, alongside the other inhabitants on this island.