I knew why we were out here. Everyone had seen it out there at night. We turned out the royals and top gallants to run after it but we never seemed to get closer.
It wasn’t just the horizon. I asked the old captain if he knew what the cloud was out there in the night, like a ghost.
"You know my purpose here," he said. "None doubt it, all could be said to have signed up for it themselves. But there’s something else," he said. He looked out at the sea, at the mist erupting from the ocean.The flower is there, again upon the horizon. Within the garden of the ocean whose far border we shall never reach.
"I’ve been here with you too long," I said. "The first time I saw it from the bow. Then in turn we all saw it, but it was something different for all of us."
"Phenomenology, the Ding an sich. Yes. You’ve told me about this all many times before. What is the word, the German word?"
"Vorstellung," I answered.
"That put before us." I said. "As though it were not us, yet we are bound to it and whatever it is beyond that—we can never reach. Why are you chasing it? I’m not going to say something stupid like ‘what did it ever do to you?’ I can see the prosthetic—hair of the dog as it where—but the intent? That’s the hard indictment."
"It is precisely because of what It did to me. You’re like the first mate. You think I’m taking revenge upon brute instinct. Neither of you understand that It hides behind ignorance and science, like some toddler who stands behind the potted plant. Yes, they knew better in the old days when they were stupid. They came walking naked into the world bearing the same fierceness, the same presence of mind, the same thirst for pain."
"Yet it could have a meaning beyond what we consider meaning, and even then, if this meaning glowed with purpose like the sunken phosphorus stink of half-eaten mollusk tentacles, could we even discern what that meaning was?"
"Are you speaking of Justice?"
"Is it not as much a fiction as Perfection?" I asked "Something we are told as children to believe in and yet we abandon the Trolls, the Elves, but we do seek Justice and the Perfect."
"I am chasing the Wrong, not the Perfect, for cannot a wrong become perfect? Especially this wrong. Everything from his tortured body. Do not the irons in his back and twisted, scars reflect the height of Wrong, like boys torturing frogs with firecrackers in their guts and why? Because the human animal is deeply twisted. Does the theory of that Galapagos-Englishman really account for that? What good does that all do for natural selection? Eh?"
I could say nothing.
"I am not seeking to right wrong, this wrong is right, almost too right and spare me your recursive gibberish about linguistic clarification obscuring reason’s investigation of emotional interrogation, getting to that which is most true and deep at the core secret—the graveyard of Leviathan."
"So it’s there, before you always and out of reach. Not the Perfect, but the Wrong."
"Yes, it’s unassailable, more perfect than perfection for from the wrong this entire bloated, chaotic, worm-eaten unfolds like an asymmetrical albino tiger lily," he said and put down the spyglass.