19: The Fish Whisperer

Throw it by the rocks over there, Itero said pointing, and the Devourer threw the lure where the old man told him. You know, I once caught a big one right there, Itero continued. The old fish get lazy and like basking by the stones. They snatch the small ones eating the mosquitoes landing on the surface to lay eggs.

You’re quite a fish whisperer, a fishperer, The Devourer said, and the old man laughed with him.

Cattle grazed on the green hills and meadows around the lake. Beyond, in the direction of the sea, the towers of the High District peaked from behind them. The wind rustled the leaves of the few trees growing on the shore as rodents climbed their roots and dived into their burrows by the waterline. Birds floated on the lake, their heads and long necks disappeared under the water before resurfacing with weeds in their beaks.

When the red evening sun started to set, they were finished fishing, and Itero paddled the canoe back to the shore. The Devourer jumped from the bow onto land, and Itero stayed seated while the canoe was pulled onto dry ground. Itero handed the basket of fish to the Devourer before climbing out off the canoe himself. The Devourer waited while Itero with a couple of quick movements with his hands tied the canoe to a stake in the ground. They brought the basket with them to the cabin where they cleaned the fish on the porch. Inside, they brought a pot of water to a simmer before adding the fish to it.

Salt and butter are all that’s needed for such fine fish, Itero said as he opened the cupboard.

Salt and butter, The Devourer repeated after him, stirring the water with a ladle.

Salt n’ butter, Itero said again as he took a pinch of salt between his fingers and put into the pot.

They ate in silence while a fire burned in the fireplace and kept the cold of the night away from them. Itero rose from the table and took the dishes with him. The Devourer also rose from the table and went over to the bookcase where he stopped and studied the spines of the books. There were more of them now than when he first lay his eyes upon them. Many more.

I was thinking, Itero said, Tomorrow we could go and try fishing by the outlet to the sea. It will take all day though, going there and back again.

Why not, The Devourer said still browsing the books.

You’ll be reading tonight?

Yeah. Think so.

Haven’t you gotten tired yet, reading them over and over again?

I feel every time I read them, those very same words, they grow on me, their meaning becomes more profound, The Devourer said and pulled out a book. I learn not only from them but also myself, about myself.

Good, good, Itero said and sat down in one out of two rocking chairs in front of the fireplace.

You know, old man, The Devourer said as he sat down in the other, I could teach you how to read someday.

Nah. I much rather listen to you doing it, Itero said, and closed his eyes.

This one I can’t make sense of, The Devourer said tapping the book’s cover. Its title is A Chronicle of Nothing. Who would write such a book? Its utter pointlessness.

Maybe that’s the point, Itero said and produced a pipe and some pipeweed which to stuff it. He got up from the chair and went to the fireplace and fished out an ember with the poker. His wrinkled face turned into an almost comical grimace of concentration as he picked it up between two sticks and dropped it into the bowl of the pipe. That’s it, that’s it, He mumbled to himself and took a deep drag and blew the smoke out his nose.

Well, I’ll read you the first page, The Devourer said and quoted, This is a chronicle of nothing. A paradox one might think, but no, there’s a lot to be said about nothing. It’s what created us, it’s what everything strives toward and inevitably will become. This chronicle stretches from the infinity of nothing before there was something to a new nothing. Inevitable, invisible, we can’t interact with it or study it. So we have to do with what is around it.

Some religious text maybe? Itero interjected and had another drag on the pipe.

I think it’s some textbook on how to understand the universe, The Devourer said and continued reading, First, there was nothing but quantum fluctuations in a great infinitely old and vast vacuum birthing matter and antimatter, annihilating each other in the same instant they were conceived. Then came that moment before time, 17.79 ± 0.021 billion years ago, when everything we’ve ever known sprung out of that nothingness. Not for any particular reasons but that of infinite time and infinite space equaling infinite possibilities. Until this day, nothing is integrated into everything as we know it. It’s between the smallest constituents of matter as well as the largest of stars. We are 99.999% nothing.

Sounds like religious nonsense to me, Itero said as he stuffed more weed into the pipe.

I believe there’s a name for it, the system of thought. Syence, I think it is.

Syence? Itero said.

Yes. Syence or something along that line. Nevertheless, should I continue?

Do continue young man, Itero said and closed his eyes as he puffed on the pipe and rocked in the chair.