By Harutyun Amirkhanyan

Years ago, he used to wander across the city, observing the bay area with the casual cruise of vessels and yachts. He also admired the unyielding elegance of white sails; and followed the birds that, regardless of type and color, symbolize volition through their mute fly. No matter if the sky is clear or overcast, terns and jays cross dozens of miles to reach their dearest masts. In the dock, they each had already selected a boat to perch on and feel the motion of waves. The wind gusts and agitates the water while everything else that belongs to nature complements the frantic aura.

Mishka was a tiny puffin with a triangular orange beak and sad eyes, who travels on the fishing vessel to accompany the fishermen. Every time, Mishka overcame the terrifying distance to take refuge in the rugged entrails of the boat. Sometimes, the fishermen could see him with crumpled feathers almost out of breath. Hopefully, Karen, one of the crew members, had taken care of this by setting up a little platform next to his bunk, containing some twigs, a can of water, and seeds. So that the bird could spend a night in a cozy environment, endure the rocking of the boat and recover.

The crew lay wrapped in blankets, anticipating the next day at sea, while Mishka rested his head on the left wing and closed his eyes. This was the only time through the day that the bird’s heart was not pounding as violent. God has endowed all living things with a similar heartbeat limit. Some creatures like birds burn themselves out in the air dealing with great distances, while humans avoid risk-taking to maximize their lifespan. Screeching sounds that abounded in the cabin contributed to a deeper slumber. Karen clustered his hands on one side, swallowed saliva, and pondered. Every night he needed a primitive topic to dive in, live through it a little and fade under a positive note. But now as there were many topics to consider, he faced difficulty to choose. Spinning his feet around, Karen went over the forthcoming deeds, unfinished adventures, and sensations experienced, past and future alike.

“Tomorrow is another typical day: got to repair the trawl; if the sun shines mildly, fishing must be fun. I hope there is enough fish waiting for us. How hard I try but success eludes me. That’s the way of life. But why you should be lucky? You are a poor fisherman like the rest. Maybe younger, subjectively smarter, not better. And if you are better, then why you don’t have a decent job? Who cares that you read Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche on the weekends? In Ecclesiastes, it is said to the point: “The more you know, the more you hurt, the more you understand, the more you suffer.”

Then Karen forced his mind to visualize Mishka’s dream: to watch the world from above. “Damn, how romantic the sun and the sea look in the dusk… and these black dots that fly between masts and form figures against the backdrop of the sun. Water peacefully extends to the shore and backs off, so that children can frolic, splashing each other with drips. Even the countenance of Captain Kapitanov projects wisdom. Absent him squinting while looking at the sky, something would be missing from the Earth. Even I appear important in a brown shaggy shirt. Birds would not come to us if they didn’t love us. Why would they substitute rusty metal for trees? From above, the bottom seems prettier than it actually is. Maybe jays sometimes hover to merely impart charm to this scene.”

In the early morning, Karen started the crane to place the trawl on the deck. Then he grabbed a thick spool from the hook and hunkered down to mend the net. His bare feet turned red at the contact with the wet floor. The hems of his pants soaked up the water and embraced a dark hue.  Cables that stretched some four feet high above the deck from the wheelhouse to the railing of the stern, carried dead tunas and bass. Mishka hovered over the sharp gills of the fish and observed their protruded black eyes. The fish were so scary for the petite bird that the latter barely withstood a stupor. In the meantime, Andre, a burly gentleman walked by Karen and said: “Hell, what a huge wave is about to turn up, get ready for impact.” Karen cast a glance through the bow of the boat, did not see anything but riggings, and replied: “Come help me finish this, we’ve got a couple of knots left.” Andre cut a meter of rope from the spool, sat on his knees, and tied knots to cover the gaps in the net. When they finished the work, Karen wiped the sweat from his forehead, then hurried to operate the crane. Andre watched the trawl getting carefully unhinged and then plunged into the water. From the innocent sway of the sea, ripples came out and turned into waves. Rolling forward, they looked for a barrier to crash and abate.

The fishermen drank rum in the cabin. Though the deck became wobbly as waves raged, alcohol had the dreadful scene appear like a game. That you can play and fail multiple times without losing anything significant. “No major drama, after this shot, we take another, all over again.” Exclamations recoiled in the walls of the cabin. Karen checked that everything was all right, and teetered to the cabin. But once he saw Mishka fluttering around the battens of the sail, he could not help but put all the effort to rescue the bird. Running from side to side and trying to climb the mast, Karen fell down. He floundered around, his eyes open, still unable to make out anything. He hated his impotency, the fact that he tries but does not make it to saving Mishka. Struck by distraught, panting intensely, Karen crippled toward the cabin, clang to the closest pole, and blacked out. The water brought seaweed rinsing the deck relentlessly.

Though Mishka is a bird devoid of intellect, he made out the happenings and felt sorry for Karen’s sacrifice. He knew the man is going to die, but that’s not a grief; sooner or later this phenomenon happens to everyone. Mishka fluttered in convulsion and lost control over his wings. The avalanche of mounting waves shook the boat and ensconced the bird, making him disappear in the blur of chaos. Mishka loses himself within turbulence and tempest; meanwhile, the colors of clouds and water blend together into metallic silver. Because of collision, ash-like substance takes shape and fills the space between the surface of the sea and the clouds above. In his eyes, Mishka was plummeting free of trepidation and fear; the previous trembles were gone as well. As long as the eyes of Mishka were sealed tight in advance, the death was late reaching him. At this point, he felt so tranquil and carefree as newborns sleep in a crib.

Sometimes the world seems a better place when you have nothing to hope for. It’s kind of satisfying when an individual does not travail to be a part of the whole, instead rolls the dice nonchalantly, without caring where it might stop.

Once Mishka got dipped into a blue liquid, a new reality came up; jacked up on the sublime tower of the bridge, an invisible entity could overlook the surrounding. He did not own a body and was fully transparent. He could not feel the touch, nor did he weigh. Without eyes, he could see, because his essence could scan and measure the ether from end to end, and even beyond. He glided to the boat where Karen struggled to survive. Everything seemed quiet now, even though the fishermen on the deck quibbled over the misfortune. They blamed each other for the mess onboard. Karen stood in the corner and mourned the death of Mishka; he felt guilty and could not talk through the blur. The captain and the crew blinked their mouths so fast and consistently as if they had felt the boredom of their words. The syllables were failing to make their way to the addressees, staying meaningless with all the fascination. The reservoir of fish was almost empty, only three were left in the barrel that was labeled as fresh with thick white gouache. Karen wiped his eyes, moved to the barrel, grabbed the fish, and began to juggle. He aimed for accuracy while tossing the fish in the air and catching the other from its gills.  “Don’t let them slip and fall down, otherwise, time stops,” he thought. From his eyes, tears oozed down without merging with each other, they kept distance as did the fish.

The ghost witnessed how Andre bypassed Karen and jolted him on the back, “Get the work done, don’t be on my nerves” He grumbled. Karen dropped all the fish, except for the one that remained in his hand. Chattering his teeth, he breathed fast and hurled the slimy fish to the angry men. “If you didn’t leave me alone fixing the trawl this would not happen,” he said. The ghost felt that Karen’s fury addressed not the negligence of the fishermen but the misfortune that happened to Mishka. But nobody would treat him seriously if Karen revealed his true point: that it’s all about a bird. The fishermen unanimously expressed anger against Karen. He was a newbie on the deck and lacked the right to free speech.  “Without you, the team did well, why you joined the crew?” uttered an old fisherman. Gripping his collar they shook Karen with his back on the railings. “You got to compensate the loss, pay for all the fish gone.” One of the men had to feed his child, the other had to take care of his parents, and everybody had a story alike. Only through scapegoating Karen the fishermen anticipated consolation. They suffocated his neck, while Karen climbed up the bars of railings one by one to get rid of the manacles. “Leave me alone,” the boy yelled. He had already reached the top of the bars and fishermen could only scratch his legs. He stood there as careless and at liberty that the wounds on his neck and wrists evoked the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

“Come down,” shouted the captain then referred to the crew: “And you break up over there.” As the fishermen headed in different directions, Karen took his feet off the bar, swung back by accident, and swooped into the sea. The fishermen thronged at the stern and bowed their heads down to the sea. Karen’s body twisted with waves; only the ghost could distinguish droplets of blood from water. Karen did not cast a glance off of the sun, for this was his chance to enjoy the glitter of the universe. He was unable to poise himself in water but moved his limbs frantically to stay afloat. “Bring it up,” yelled the captain, and one of the guys pulled the lever on the corner. Guided by the jingly sound of steely chains, the net ensconces Karen. When the crane moved it farther upwards, Karen appeared amid hundreds of big and small fish. They gently laid the net on the deck and Andre rushed to cut the ropes. Fishermen acknowledged in silence that the knots Karen had made while fixing the net were tight and durable, as he had promised.  “Come back, wake up.” They slapped and shook Karen, then the captain touched his artery and felt no pulsation.

The mind of Karen was freed from the body and had taken on an invisible form. Now he is super sensitive and aware too. Even the bank of the sea seemed clear to him with all the rugged layers, corrals, and plants. In the meantime, the fishermen cooled off, becoming pitiful and modest. They do not have the mood to talk much and are humble now so as to not even brag about wrestling with weaves. The sea oscillated mildly giving away the tints of blue. Some dolphins grouped in a row, delineated symbols against a backdrop of hardly looming land. Concurrently, the two ghosts beheld the whole shebang; they knew about everything but did not know themselves.

Karen soared up and a relieving voice caught him: “You are not alone.” “Who is talking, ain’t I dead?” he thought, unable to pronounce a word. He prevailed over the sky and looked for a place they call heaven. The other spirit followed him on a gut feeling; this was the liberated soul of Mishka that whispered thoughts in Karen’s mind.

“Let’s get close to the city, people have put up those mesmerizing structures they cannot even enjoy the beauty of.” Karen could not find out who projects the voice but he listened to the guidance, unwilling to admit to loneliness. “How can I get to the city?” asked Karen.  “Just wish it, as truly as you can.”

Two ghosts instantly arrived at the spire of Grace Cathedral. Only a dozen of doves hung around there; the avenues remained silent, parks void. “Do we live now?” asked Karen. “Maybe, it is up to your interpretation,” replied Mishka. “You got freedom from limitations, and can habituate any dimension; isn’t it cool? Living things are not smart enough to dream about this status.” “But where is God?” inquired Karen. “Maybe he witnesses the affairs of people but chooses not to intervene. Why do you want curiosity to die?” said Mishka.  “I would love to ask some questions to him.” “How you feel about being a creator yourself?” “But I am transparent now, out of power I think,” determined Karen. “What if the power is in transparency?” suggested Mishka and proceeded with a story he had heard from a vagrant poet.

“By and large, you can always categorize entities into two groups: negative and positive, good or evil, black and white. Somebody told the white spirits were the brightest in unbound darkness. They chase darkness and repel it, they diminish, scattering in the eternal universe. But they also pave the way for peace for newcomers. The peace, per se, is a just, neutral tone between the two contradictory colors. Depending on who wins; the white is always sad and sensitive, as the aura is tragically dark. And the black, comparing his darkness to the plainness of the white, and attributing the discoloration of the white to transparency, might mock her, without knowing that his imperceptible sorrows reflect in pellucid white so deep, that she becomes the bearer of drama.”

Mishka paused for a while and continued: “Do not get confused over visuals; even if it’s not visible, it still can be meaningful. Appearance doesn’t define your essence; how you feel depends on how you perceive. Some people live to enjoy, others live to suffer, and afterward all merge at God’s mercy.”

“Don’t you mind introducing yourself?” asked Karen. “Call me Mishka.” The ghost said. Karen riveted his gaze on the soar of doves; he no more had a reason to regret his devotion to Mishka. “The real friends chaperon each other,” he thought, “Whether on a raft inbound to the sails or in the sky.” Then he exclaimed: “How fast we change Mishka; every next second we are a different entity. Alive or dead, I am glad for your presence.” Mishka replied: “If there are unanswered questions, something is underway, let’s fly high.”

The city zoomed out for the two spirits, who left an outline of curly mist rising upwards. They could scan any object on a map that kept losing scale. Beyond mundane boundaries, Karen talked to Mishka: “Let’s take a tour to other stars; maybe we can find someone who will define us.” “Aren’t you ready to believe that there is no superiority above you? You are the cream of the hierarchy,” said Mishka. “I am not in the mood to take such a huge responsibility,” Karen retorted.



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