[Excerpt from a captain's deathbed memoires]
I tell you, the very sight of the animal is uplifting. Its size rivals the largest boats, and its songs resound across the Ocean. The great fins are as long as two men. A single fin is as black as the rocks at the bottom of the darkest waters, but the remainder of the animal is as white as Tyvian snow. Even the tentacles hanging beneath its face are the palest white, twisting and dragging in the cold depths. When the great whale breaks, everything else is lost from focus, distant and diminished, as if you were transported to a lost, lonely place that does not - cannot - exist.
My entire life, I ran after this dream, burned into my mind when I was but ten years old. Since my first year at sea, the apparition never left me. I have hunted its trace, following half-told rumors or the thinnest of clues: Part of a song, played by musicians in a Morley pub, at the edge of a town north of Caulkenny; once from a sketch, found among the belongings of a dead sailor. On rare occasion, I was guided by more substantial evidence: An evening's meal and conversation with a captain who had sighted the great whalea season past.
At 13, I was already well familiar with whaler foam, and by 16 years, I was second captain, sailing uncharted stretches of sea. When I got my own rickety boat at 20, I was already known as the bloodiest whale hunter in all the Isles, the most consumed; the maddest with frustration.
Hunting and killing hundreds of whales, I never saw it again. I drove my ship and my men like hounds in the worst winter. Over a lifetime, I carried my hopes of seeing it, touching the cool dead flesh once it was hoisted over the deck. I needed to hear its song again, to understand the effect it had over me, to immerse myself in its final moments of life.
Now, racing against my age and infirmity, my growing madness is killing this vision, this childhood dream, so that I wonder if it was ever real to begin with. My life seems already written and I have failed. I realize now that it was crazy, this dream. Did it really exist in this world? In mine, yes.