The rope creaked. Shaven Cromwell quite bright in the darkness, his two hands reaching out like snowdrops sprouting out of black soil. Furious Winston is almost invisible in his coal smoke suit and long, greased back black fur. The two of them have the weight of the rope between their fists and through the crooks of their arms. It moaned with the strain. The rope was bristled from where it had been dragged, grating over the dock’s edge. It was thumb thick and stretched groaning into the blackness. There was the sound of claps and splashes now and then from where it flung tense against the swells of the dock water. It was a tightrope into a saltwater nothing. A wet fuse to the slow ocean.
The apes strained. They had been there since dusk. Since night sprung around the docks like a taut rope. They had worked in shifts. Archie Orchestra lay snoring under an overturned fishing boat, his rasps and whistles inflating its folded sail, his croaks agitating the keel. Pete the Gamble was in the dice house, rolling audacious wagers against the sleep drivel baboons and guava anxious langurs.
Sweat and blushing determination lit up Shaven Cromwell’s pale face in the night, he pulled and pulled and puffed out his cheeks, ran his tongue over his canines, his eyebrows rising and falling in tides of concentration. He was speaking soft and breathless gibberish to himself, low words of encouragement.
Furious Winston was expressionless. Silent except for the sound of his breath that eeked in short gusts, crawling along with the meagre movements of the rope. He imagined that they had hitched their rope to the stars and were hauling on the cosmos itself. That he and his comrades had elected to compete with the black, humming universe in an eternal round of tug-of-war.
Furious Winston spoke and his words were his voice ropes creaking.
I can see it.
There it is.
I can see it.
Shaven Cromwell strained his eyes. Hauled them into the dark. He could see it too. The rope loosened. Waves began gushing against the wharf. Great, gloomy swells folding over the concrete landing. Washing over the apes, crashing against their knees. It was as though they had dragged in the dark ocean on the end of their rope.
Archie Orchestra awoke under a tide of icy water. He floundered and panicked, half tangled in the yachts rigging. Cracking his skull against the bow he was sleeping under. For a moment he was convinced that he was going to drown. His head appeared bursting, gulping from beneath the water, the hairy, bulbous head of a gruesome fish. His bleary fish eyes goggling at what he saw. The rope curling slack and abandoned on the flooded wharf. Furious Winston and Shaven Cromwell galloping through the water in opposite directions, fleeing from the prow of the hauled-in steam liner that was charging gigantic and unstoppable towards the shore.