quinta-feira, 4 de abril de 2013

The Road to the Sea by Takashi Ishikawa

I must go forth to see the sea! 

So the boy resolved. And, the kind of boy he was, no slings or arrows would stop him once his mind was set. Without a word to father or to mother he set out from home.

Which way to the sea? The boy didn’t know. But any which way if he just kept tramping along in one direction, he was bound to come to the sea sooner or later. This was the wisdom of a boy just turned six.

The boy had never seen any sea except inside his picture-books.

. . . full of blue water everywhere, the open ocean stretches without end. And in it—there’s a whale!—and a shark—sea-gills!—a mermaid and an octopus—kelp, coral, and a mole! And over there, and here and here and there again, great floating vans named “ships”—and that one is even a skull-ship with tattooed pirates riding in it! And the horizon out at sea—water, water, nothing as far as you could see but water—what in the world would such a sight look like? . . .

His mind could not hold on to such a watermuch.

Adrift in dreams of sky-sea-blue, the boy trudged purposefully on.

At the end of the town, he met the old man. This old ! man was always sitting there by the side of the road, staring at the sky: he was kind of funny in the head.

“Hey, boy!” The old man hailed him, “Where you going?”

“The sea,” said the boy, and kept on walking.

“The sea?” The old man opened his toothless mouth and laughed. “That’s a good one!” He grabbed the boy by the arm and pulled him to a stop. “Going to the sea? Okay. You’ll just have to go to heaven first.” He pointed a withered old finger, trembling uncontrollably, at the sky. “The sea is right up there over your head!”

In the clear blue sky there was nothing but the sun, shining bright. The boy didn’t say a word. He just pulled loose from the old man and trotted off, pursing his lips a bit j and clucking his tongue: That old man has got too old—his whole head is mixed up now. 

* * *

Pretty soon the boy got to a small hill. Standing on the top of the hill, he looked all around him everywhere, but the presence of the sea was nowhere to be sensed. The boy dropped on his haunches and had something to eat while he watched the gradual shifting of ground-shadows cast by the slow passage of the sun.

Beyond the plain was a range of mountains and the sun was just beginning to slant down in that direction. The sun sinks in the sea: that’s what he had heard, so—Let’s see what’s on the other side!

The boy straightened his back, set his lips firmly, fastened his eyes on the distant hills, and started walking—

Beyond the mountains were still further mountains. Beyond those mountains stretched a plain. At the far end of the plain, another range of hills confronted him.

The boy kept marching along, all alone. Not one town, not one village, not one person, not one living creature did he meet.

His supplies of food and water were getting sadly low.

He did not understand how the sea should be so far away.

The boy kept going. How many times did he sleep on the ground? It didn’t matter. When he was sleeping, when he was walking, he was always seeing his visions of the sea.
He took every shape of the sea. Sometimes he was a fish, sometimes a pirate, another time a harbor, then a sail swelling in the wind—he was always changing from one shape to another; and now—a storm-toss’d ship, bathed in spray-spume, shot through with lightning bolts, pounded on by thunder-claps, just about to sink at last—

The boy’s legs had stopped walking a while back. Now two moons shed their light on a still small figure stretched out on the red-brown desert sand.

The spacesuit had a two-hundred-hour range before it stopped functioning completely.

The boy was smiling a bit even as his breath stopped. Under the night sky of Mars he lay facing a green star—the sky-floating Earth. The sea was there, but he could never reach it.

Nobody goes back there any more.

In: The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories. New York, 1997, pp. 58-61.

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