Death of the Sea God ~ موت إله البحر

By Buthaina Al Nasiri موت إله البحر

Translated by Denys Johnson-Davies

The seaside town was sleeping, unaware of imminent disaster. The icy wind from the sea whipped up mountains of waves that struck the shoreline and spattered the rocks.

The man, his shoulder weighed down with his burden, came from the beach. Had it not been for his slow approach and the rustling of his clothes, the darkness would have hidden him.

On reaching the marble steps, he looked around, then stole upwards, overlooked by no witnesses but the windows of neighbouring  houses.

Exhausted, he put out his hands to hold onto the rail. He tried to calm the beating of his heart, for in the following seconds he would have to pull himself together. He felt that it would take no more than a brief moment of courage, with quick determination, to end  all his suffering.

He unbuttoned his shirt and wiped at the sweat on his chest.  Raising his head, he took in deep gulps of air. Just a brief moment and …

He stole up behind the large form crouched in front of him. For an instant, a sharp pain squeezed at his heart. Clenching his teeth, he raised his trembling hands, then was suddenly overcome by that madness that had seized his mind for the last few days, and his eyes glittered with a wild joy.

In the darkness and silence of the night, no one saw the flash of the axe as it fell.

When the light of dawn was spreading across roofs and penetrating windows, the men put their nets over their bare shoulders and made for the sea. In the town square, one of them said, warding off sleep, “Am I dreaming or has the square become larger?”

“I find that the sea has become closer,” answered another.

But the shout of a third man directed people’s eyes to the middle of the square.

The sea god had fallen onto his marble base, his spear was on the ground, and the beautiful mermaids lay at his feet, their heads smashed.

The oldest of them slapped his head with the palms of his hands.

“What a calamity!” he shouted. “This is a harbinger of ill omen: the sea will dry up and children will die in their mothers’ wombs.”

A tremor of fear ran through the bodies of the young men. Sadly they looked at the sea and made their way back to their homes.

The Story as Narrated by the Chief of Police

That day people flocked into the square from all sides. The houses were empty of everything except for nets that were dry and abandoned in corners or hung up above the front doors. None of the young children felt any desire to pelt each other with stones or to throw rubber balls around, but came to the square, fearful as they had never been before, and they squeezed themselves in between the legs of the grown-ups.

We were standing, filling the place from the farthest points near the sea to the beginnings of the town, with heads bowed. The elderly were collapsed on the ground, the women cloaked in black, bewildered, praying in secret and passing their hands over the heads of their children in order to chase away evil. The men’s backs were bowed, their shoulders weighed down with a shared sorrow, the face of each man betraying a secret suspicion of the other.

Yet all eyes were upon me. I felt them boring through into my back, penetrating through my clothes and waiting.

They were waiting. At that moment I was concerned with only one man, who was keeping to himself on the marble bench, his white-haired head bent over his knees as he tried to stretch out a hand to touch the head of the sea god that had fallen to the ground.

He was the only one who deserved deep pity, even though the disaster affected us all. Even the tourists who came to this forgotten town because of its renowned statue brought their cars to a standstill when they saw the crush of the people in the square and heard what had happened. They patted our shoulders consolingly, though they did not forget, on arriving at this hour, to take souvenir pictures before the ruins were taken away.

I had to do something. Go to him an kneel in front of him and say what was burning within myself? But what was there to be said? By God, one’s tongue was too paralyzed with shame to say anything. The sea god was the most Important and the last work accomplished by the artist when he was yet in his prime. I still remember the moment when he unveiled it. I was so young that I had to stand on tiptoe, though I saw nothing until my father lifted me up onto his shoulders. He was later to say that some people heard the artist pronounce as he stared at the statue his hands had fashioned, “After this there is nothing but death.”

But he lived a further forty years, during which he was unable to fashion anything to equal the sea god. For certain, in the whole world there was not a statue more perfect than this. It was the pride of our town. A week after it was set up in the centre of the large square, the tourists began to turn off onto the dirt tracks that led to this town that appeared on none of the maps. Then, months later, a wooden board was put up on the main road saying in large letters “The Sea God Town” and indicating its distance in kilometres. Our men quickly acquired a new skill, with small fish restaurants springing up around the square. Thus it became the thing for visitors to take pictures of the sea god from every angle, then of themselves sitting at a 

SOMETHING IS MISSING HERE 

Over the space of forty years, other small trades were set up, such as the selling of large seashells engraved with the name of the town, together with coloUred flags with badly drawn representations of the statue. The tourists were all for buying anything, even torn fishing nets.

But it was the selling of strange stories that was the strangest of trades and became a source of income for the old men who no longer possessed, in their eyes and hands, the ability to go fishing, to look for shells, or to make flags. They made a place for themselves on the stone benches in the square, where they would sun themselves and relate their stories about the origin of the statue. What most aroused my astonishment was the ability of these men to think up lies and to be the first to believe them.

It was thus that we heard stories about the sea god who stole virgin mermaids and who was turned by God into stone, while others said that he didn’t kidnap the girls but that they fled their homes in order to fornicate with him, and so God turned all of them into stone. Also, there was considerable doubt as to whether they were in fact virgins, because their bodies did not end in legs but in a tail like that of fish – so how was a man to know them?

But the story-tellers were unanimous that, on clear nights, when the sea was as calm as a mirror and reflected the face of the moon, the mother mermaid would rise out of the depths and stand on the shore calling on her daughters in loud lamentations like haunting notes of the reed pipe. Some of the old men would take a tourist by the hand to one side and make a long moaning sound and assert that this was the nearest thing to the sound of the bereaved mother. 

Doubtless it was the story of the mermaids that inspired the setting up of the first brothel in the town. The arrival of the madam and her girls was a shock to us all. One night, a lighted sign appeared over one of the houses announcing that it was “The Mermaid Palace”. When the first men rushed in, they were surprise to find a blue hall done up like the sea, in the corners of which, in fish-like forms, were girls with flowing hair and naked breasts, their lower parts covered with glimmering scales opened up in front with hidden buttons, and that the girls possessed legs no different from those of their own women.

Despite their disappointment, the men went off laughing, everything ending satisfactorily, for if they had been real mermaids, the men would have been at a loss as to how to deal with them, and their money would have gone to waste.

With the succession of stories and years, the artist was forgotten about.

No one mentioned him any longer, although he continued to live and go and come among us. We witnessed old age creeping up on him: his hair grew white, his back bowed and his hands became feeble. When passing through the square he would walk with his head lowered, crossing it at speed without raising his gaze a single time to the sea god, as though it were of no concern to him.

While the statue had become a living part of the lives of the town’s inhabitants and their secret desires, the man himself became increasingly isolated, until he was seen only rarely outside his house. Once he was seen seated at the feet of one of the story-tellers listening open-mouthed to the story of the sea god; then he stood up and gave a mysterious smile as he looked at the sea, saying, “Who knows? Perhaps it was like that!”

When I heard about this, I thought to myself: “Who is more likely than he is to believe such a story, especially as he was unable to create anything better? If he had done so, he would have broken the superstition  that paralyzed people’s minds.”

At that moment, seeing him squatting at the marble base of his shattered statue, a single question disturbed me: “I wonder what the feeling is of someone who has lost his glory twice over: in his lifetime when people refused to acknowledge him, and after his death when he now knows that there is nothing to immortalize him?”

When the people dispersed, the sun was almost setting, I walked toward the empty platform, sat on its base and lit a cigarette. Soon I was absorbed in reflection. 

I was conscious of a slight movement alongside me. I raised my head and found myself staring into two black eyes etched in a face full of wrinkles. A man was leaning over me and examining my clothes. Then he whispered something to the effect that he had something to say that would please me. I nodded my head questioningly and he seated himself on the ground beside me and put his mouth to my ear, “I have a story that would interest you.”

“Tell me.”

“It is in vain that are you looking for the perpetrator, for there is no such person, if you understand what I mean.”

“I don’t understand.”

He looked around him and whispered even lower, “The whole question is that the mother of the mermaids was told that she could release her daughters from the spell if she were to lament over them for forty years. The night of the incident was exactly forty years later. But I believe that she didn’t fully understand what would happen.”

“Why? What did happen?”

“The spell was not only broken for her daughters but it was broken for the sea god too, thus he followed them into the depths.”

He pointed to the sea. Having sworn that his story was true and was vouched for by eye-witnesses, he made his farewells and left.

At this, another person approached me from the bench on which he was sitting.

“What was he saying to you?” he asked scornfully.

When I told him, he laughed and exclaimed, “The man’s talking rubbish!”

“Then you don’t believe what he’s saying?”

He clapped his hands together. “Shall I tell you the truth? That man is corrupt. Don’t be deceived by his white hair and dignified appearance. Do you know that he is looking to marry a girl as young as his own daughters? There is no doubt that the idea of the sea god following the girls into the depths of the sea pleases his filthy mind. Forty years! I’m telling you, sir- if you want to know the truth of what happened, then listen to me.”

He was looking at me as he spoke, but as he began to speak, he drifted into a dream-like state, and at that moment I knew that he was no longer seeing me. “The truth of the matter is that the cousin of the mermaids had returned that day from his voyage, victorious from having raided several sea tribes. When he asked about his beloved, the youngest of the mermaids, his mother told him how the sea god had kidnapped her, together with her sisters, and had taken them with him to dry land, but that God, who is just, turned them into stone lest the kidnapper should think of fornicating with them. So the prince sheathed his magic sword and waited till nightfall. He then went onto the land and struck the stone so that life was restored to the girls and also to the sea god. A bloody struggle followed. You have no doubt noticed that the sea became rough that night? But the prince was young and strong and was able to defeat the god and to shackle him and drag him off amid the cheering of the girls, till they disappeared under the surface of the water.

“But one difficulty continues to baffle me,” I said to him.

He came out of the dream and saw me again. “What’s that?” he asked with interest.

“Don’t you think that the prince, after forty years, would have become too old for his love, the youngest of the mermaids?”

He gave a delighted laugh and exclaimed, ” You obviously don’t know that down there they can reach the age of four hundred   years.”

He went back to his bench, laughing and shaking his head in amazement.

I followed the man’s back as he went off, with his full, loosely hanging trousers and his shabby woolen shirt, above which rose a small head that almost disappeared between his shoulders. He walked as though on the point of toppling over onto his face.

I became aware- and like a sudden gleam of light the covering was removed from my eyes- that when a stone is cast, the water is disturbed for a brief spell, then goes back to its untroubled state. The smoke from the fish still filled the square, and the vendors of engraved seashells wandered through the streets. The small coloured flags now bore pictures of the partly destroyed statue, and the visitors kept on turning up to take pictures of the marble base, as though the sea god had not left his dais.

How had I not comprehended until now that the statue, despite being adopted by the people of the town, really belonged only to its creator and that it bore the features only of the hand that fashioned it?

For some days, I had stood there reproaching the people for denying the artist the credit for having created the sea god, yet I was in reality no better than them, for no sooner had I began to investigate the matter than I forgot the only man who could be concerned about the statue, whole or smashed.

Let us assume that someone harboured ill will towards the artist. How to harm him if not through his statue? And what vengeance better than to disfigure his sole original creation?

But who could that someone be?

Could it be some other sculptor whose heart was consumed with envy? We had only the maker of earthenware jugs, who had worked tirelessly for ten years making small imitations of the sea god to sell at the entrance to the town. Had he formed too grand ideas about himself?

When I reached this stage of my thinking, I got to my feet quickly, being overcome by a feeling that I would find the answer in that isolated house near the sea. How was it that my footsteps had not led me to it from the beginning?

From afar, his small house with white walls resembled its neighbours. I hastened to it. Arriving, I found the door ajar. I pushed it open and stepped inside. Then I stopped and called out.

 I was answered by silence. I did not know what to do, then with a shrug of my shoulders I continued on in. As soon as I faced the courtyard, I froze on the spot. I had not been to the house before, so it had not occurred to me that I would find this enormous number of statues – or so they appeared to be, looking like the tops of graves covered with pieces of white cloth.

I approached the nearest one. Before I had stretched out my hand to raise the drape, I heard a slight sound that caused my body to shudder: it was something between laughter and sobbing.

Turning abruptly in the direct of the sound, I found myself face to face with the artist.

He was standing and reeling in a strange way as though hung from the shoulders by an iron hook. It occurred to me that he was drunk, for his eyes glittered like someone in a fever, and his face bore a smile that was both serious and scornful.

We stood staring at each other in silence. I don’t know how much time went by as I reckoned that he would fall to the ground at any moment. But he remained swaying like a pendulum until I felt his gaze stinging my face.

“I’ve come to ask you something,” I said with difficulty.

Though I knew that I had not come at an appropriate time, I felt I had to say something.

His smile widened until it became a malicious glowering. However, I paid no attention and went on recounting to him briefly my suspicions about his student, the maker of jugs. No sooner had I finished than I heard that sound again. This time it grew louder and louder until it turned into a staccato barking that froze the blood in my veins.

I regarded him in amazement as he went on barking, twitching and striking his knees with his hands. All of a sudden he stopped and stared into my face as though seeing me for the first time. The wild glitter in his eyes vanished and his face was clothed in a meek sadness that brought to mind the white-haired man who had collapsed that day on the marble dais as he held the fallen head of the sea god in his hands and stared at it with a mixture of love and despair. 

I gave him a comforting smile, but he didn’t see me. In a daze he walked over to the small mounds covered with white cloths and gently lifted one up.

At first I made out nothing, then I realized that what I was seeing were the remnants of a statue that had been smashed, amputated arms and heads and limbs scattered about on the base. 

Without stopping, he went to another mound and removed the covering. He continued to move between the covered tops until he had bared them all, so that I found myself among the ruins and debris of smashed statues. 

I didn’t have the strength to speak or move or even think. I was watching him without being aware of what was taking place in front of me, while he moved with an elegant agility among the rubble, as though acting out some role on a stage. He would remove the coverings and point at the wreckage with a sweeping movement. When he had finished, he stretched out his hand behind a wooden box and brought out a large axe which he planted in the center of the courtyard. Then he raised his head and regarded me challengingly.

I was conscious only of rushing at him and taking him by the throat and shaking him. Then I began hitting him with all my strength. When I tired, I realized that he was taking the blows in silence, without putting up any resistance. I stopped in order to collect my breath and he said in a whisper, “It’s no good – you’re hitting a dead man.”

Again I shook him and shouted, “Why? I want to to know why, you madman!”

“Let me be- it was evil.”

I slapped him on the mouth with all the anger that raged inside me.

“And who are you to judge it?”

“I created it,” he said fiercely.

“And what right have you to destroy it?”

That strange brilliance crept into his eyes and meekness vanished from his face.

“I created it,” he said again.

He retreated, shaking his head, saying, “It has no right to be greater than its creator.”

In the following moments, an obvious change came over him. It seemed to me that he grew taller, and the sadness disappeared as did the anger. I found myself staring at a giant carrying the lineaments of the artist, were it not for a certain malevolence and haughtiness. I imagined him wearing something resembling  laurel wreath.

+++

Published in Arabic 1977 , Cairo, Egypt

First Published in English 2002, AUC, Egypt

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موت إله البحر

بثينة الناصري

كانت المدينة الساحلية نائمة تحرس غفوتها سماء ملبدة بالغيوم تنذر بالشر الذي يوشك ان يحل، وكان الهواء يأتي من البحر باردا يدفع جبالا من الموج الصاخب تضرب الساحل فيعلو نثار الماء يرش الصخور

من جهة البحر، جاء الرجل ينوء كتفه بثقل يحمله، ولولا حركته البطيئة وهو يتقدم ورفيف ثيابه لصار قطعة من الظلمة الهادرة خلفه

تلفت حوله حين وصل السلم الرخامي ثم انسلّ صاعدا عليه. كانت نوافذ البيوت الغارقة بالليل عيونا ترصده

أحس بالتعب، فمد يديه يمسك بهما حواف الدرجات. حاول ان يسكت ضربات قلبه. وكان عليه في الثواني التالية ان يجمع شتات نفسه.

فكر بأن الامر لا يعدو لحظة شجاعة قصيرة، سريعة، وحازمة لينتهي كل العذاب.

مسح العرق الذي سبح به صدره، وفتح ازرار قميصه. رفع رأسه وعبّ الهواء عميقا.. لحظة واحدة .. و.. تسلل وراء الهيكل الجاثم أمامه، ولوهلة قصيرة اعتصر ألم حاد قلبه، فصرّ على اسنانه ورفع يديه الراعشتين، ثم غمره فجأة ذلك الجنون الذي أكل رأسه في الايام الاخيرة، فالتمعت عيناه بفرح وحشي.

وفي ظلمة الليل والصمت المريب، لم ير أحد ومضة الفأس وهي تهوي.

**

لما انتشر ضوء الفجر فوق البيوت واخترق النوافذ، وضع الرجال شباك الصيد على اكتافهم العارية، واتجهوا صوب البحر، وفي ساحة المدينة، قال احدهم وهو يغالب النعاس:

–         هل احلم ام ان الساحة كبرت؟

أجابه آخر:

–         ارى البحر صار اقرب.

لكن صيحة الثالث، قادت العيون الى وسط الساحة

كان إله البحر يخر على عتبته الرخامية.. رمحه ساقط على الارض وعرائس البحر الجميلات عند قدميه محطمات الرؤوس

صاح أكبرهم سنا ولطم رأسه براحتي كفيه:

–         يا للمصيبة! هذا نذير شؤم. سيجف البحر.. سيموت الاطفال في بطون أمهاتم.

سرت رعشة خوف في أجساد الرجال الفتية.. نظروا بحزن الى البحر وقفلوا راجعين الى بيوتهم.

**

القصة كما يرويها ضابط المدينة 

في ذلك النهار، تقاطر الناس الى الساحة من كل صوب. فرغت البيوت الا من شباك الصيد الجافة مهملة في الزوايا او معلقة فوق الابواب. ولم يشعر احد من الصبية الصغار بالرغبة في التراشق بالحجارة او قذف كرات المطاط. بل جاؤوا الى الساحة يحملون في عيونهم خوفا لم يجربوه من قبل وانحشروا بين سيقان الكبار.

كنا وقوفا، نملأ المكان رؤوسا منكسة من اطراف البحر الى أول المدينة، يتهدم المسنون على الارض والنساء يلتففن بالسواد والذهول، يصلّين  سرّا ويمسحن رؤوس اولادهن طردا للشر. وكان الرجال محدودبي الظهر تنوء اكتافهم بهمّ مشترك وان كان وجه كل منهم يفضح شكا سرّيّا بالاخر.

لكن جميع العيون كانت عليّ.. احسها تنغرز في ظهري، تخرق ثيابي وتنتظر.

في تلك اللحظة، لم يشغلني سوى رجل ينزوي على الدكة الرخامية يتهدل رأسه الاشيب على ركبتيه، يحاول ان يمد يده ليمس رأس اله البحر الساقط ارضا.

كان الوحيد الذي يستحق الرثاء العميق رغم ان الفجيعة قد مستنا جميعا حتى ان السياح الذين كانوا يمرون في هذه المدينة المنسية من اجل تمثالها ذائع الصيت، اوقفوا سياراتهم لما رأوا زحمة الساحة وعلموا فربتوا على أكتافنا  معزين وإن لم ينسوا ان يباركوا وصولهم تلك الساعة ليلقطوا صورا تذكارية قبل ان ترفع الاثار.

كان لا بد ان أفعل شيئا.. اذهب اليه واجثو امامه واقول مايضطرم في نفسي؟ لكن ماذا يقال؟ ان اللسان ليستحي والله.. كان إله البحر أهم وآخر اعمال الفنان، انجزه وهو بعد في عز شبابه ومجده. ومازلت اذكر لحظة إزاحة الستار عنه. كنت صغيرا أشب على اطراف قدمي لكني لم أر شيئا حتى رفعني أبي على كتفه. وقال فيما بعد ان البعض سمعوا  الفنان يقول وهو يحدق في التمثال الذي صنعته يداه:

–         ليس بعد هذا الا الموت!

لكنه عاش بعدها اربعين سنة، لم يستطع ان ينحت خلالها شيئا يضارع إله البحر، وبالتأكيد لم يكن ثمة تمثال في الدنيا أكثر كمالا منه. كان فخر مدينتنا.

ما مضى اسبوع على نصبه وسط الساحة الكبيرة حتى بدأ  السياح يعرجون على الطرق الترابية المؤدية الى مدينة لا تذكرها الخرائط. ثم بعد أشهر من ذلك، ارتفعت في الطريق العام قطعة خشبية تقول بخط واضح (مدينة إله البحر مسافة كذا .. كيلومتر) وسرعان ما تعلم الرجال عندنا مهنة جديدةفقد انتشرت مطاعم السمك الصغيرة حول الساحة، فصار دأب زوار المدينة ان يأخذوا صورا للاله من كل زاوية ثم لأنفسهم جالسين في المطعم يأكلون السمك.

على مدى اربعين سنة، نشأت تجارات اخرى صغيرة مثل بيع القواقع  الكبيرة محفوراً عليها اسم المدينة والاعلام الملونة مرسوماً عليها تخطيط سيء للتمثال. وكان السياح يشترون أي شيء حتى شباك الصيد المهترئة.

لكن بيع الحكايات الغريبة كانت اغرب التجارات. ومصدرها الشيوخ الذين ماعاد في ايديهم وعيونهم قوة للصيد او البحث عن القواقع او خياطة الرايات. فاتخذوا من مصاطب الساحة مقرا لهم يتشمسون فيه ويروون القصص عن اصل التمثال وكان اشد مايثير دهشتي قدرة هؤلاء الرجال على اختلاق خيالات هم اول من يصدقها.

وهكذا سمعنا حكايات عن إله البحر الذي سرق عرائس البحر العذارى فمسخه الله حجرا، فيما قال آخرون انه لم يخطف البنات وانما هربن من بيوتهن للفسق معه. وعلى هذا مسخهم الله جميعا. ثم ان هناك شكا كبيرا في ان يكن عذارى لأن اجسامهن لا تنتهي بساقين وانما بذيل مثل السمك فأنى للمرء ان يعرف؟

لكن الرواة اتفقوا جميعا على انه في الليالي الصافية حين يكون البحر هادئا مثل مرآة تعكس وجه القمر، كانت أم العرائس تخرج من اعماق الماء وتقف على الجرف تنادي بناتها بنواح يشبه حنين الناي.. وكان بعض الشيوخ يأخذ بيد السائح جانبا ويئن له أنينا متواصلا مؤكدا ان هذا اقرب شيء الى صوت الام الثكلى.

ولابد ان قصة عرائس البحر هي التي اوحت بقيام أول بيت للدعارة في المدينة، وكان قدوم صاحبته وبناتها مفاجأة لنا جميعا.. ففي احدى الليالي، ارتفعت لافتة مضاءة على احد البيوت تعلن عن (قصر عرائس البحر) وحين دخل الدفق الاول من الرجال، فوجئوا بقاعة زرقاء مثل البحر تنزوي في اركانها بأوضاع سمكية بنات مرسلات الشعر، عاريات الصدور تغطي اجزاءهن السفلى حراشف لماعة فالتهب خيال الرجال بالفضول والرغبة، لكنهم سرعان ما اكتشفوا ان الحراشف تفتح من الامام بأزرار مخفية وان للبناتمثل نسوانهمسيقان.

ورغم خيبة الامل ، خرج الرجال يتضاحكون لأن الامور انتهت على خير ، فلو كن عرائس بحر حقيقيات لاحتاروا اين يضعونه فيهن ولراحت فلوسهم هباء .

وعلى تعاقب الحكايات والسنين ، راح الفنان في طي النسيان.

لم يعد يذكره أحد رغم انه كان يعيش بيننا يروح ويجيء، نشهد دبيب الكبر فيه، يبيض شعره، ويحدودب ظهره ويغزو الوهن يديه، وكان اذا مر بالساحة طأطأ رأسه وعبرها مسرعا دون ان يرفع طرفه مرة الى (إله البحر) وكأن الامر آخر مايعنيه.

وفيما كان التمثال يصبح جزءا حيا من عيش اهل المدينة ورغباتهم السرية، كان الرجل يزداد عزلة حتى ماعاد يُرى خارج بيته الا نادرا. وقد شوهد مرة جالسا عند قدمي احد الرواة يستمع مأخوذا الى حكاية إله البحر، ثم يقف ويبتسم ابتسامة غامضة. ينظر الى البحر ويقول:

–         من يدري ؟ لعل الامر كذلك !

وحين بلغني ذلك فكرت: من احرى به ان يصدق تلك الحكاية وهو الذي لم يستطع ان يخلق شيئا افضل.. ولو فعل لكسر طوق السحر الذي شل عقول الناس.

وفي تلك اللحظة وأنا اراه يقعي على الدكة الرخامية لتمثاله المحطم، كان يلح عليّ سؤال واحد:

–         ترى مايكون شعور من خسر مجده مرتين .. في حياته اذ أنكره الناس عليه، وبعد موته اذ يعرف الان ان لن يخلده شيء؟

**

انفض الناس، كانت الشمس توشك  ان  تغيب. مشيت نحو المنصة الفارغة وجلست على دكتها. وضعت سيجارة في فمي وسرعان ماغرقت بالدخان والتفكير.

شعرت بحركة صغيرة الى جانبي.. رفعت رأسي.. وجدتني احدق في عينين سوداوين محفورتين في وجه مليء التجاعيد. كان الرجل ينحني عليّ يتفرس في ثيابي ويهمس بأن لديه ما يسرني به.

هززت رأسي متسائلا، فجلس على الارض بجانبي وقرّب فمه من اذني:

–         عندي حكاية تهمك.

–         قل.

–         عبثا تبحث عن الفاعل فليس هناك احد ، ان كنت تفهم ما أعني. 

–         لا افهم .

تلفت حوله وبالغ في الهمس:

–         المسألة ومافيها انه قيل لأم عرائس البحر انها تستطيع ان تفك السحر عن بناتها لو ناحت عليهن اربعين سنة، وليلة الحادثة كانت تمام الاربعين، ان كنت تفهم ما اعني.. لكني اظنها لم تحسب حساب ماحدث.

–         لماذا ؟ ما الذي حدث؟

–         لم ينفك السحر عن بناتها فقط وانما عن إله البحر ايضا وهكذا تبعهن الى الاعماق.

وأشار الى البحر، وبعد ان اقسم ان روايته صحيحة بشهادة شهود عيان، استأذن وانصرف.

وهنا تقدم واحد آخر كان يرصدنا من المصطبة التي يجلس عليها.. بادرني باستخفاف:

–         ماذا كان يقول لك؟

ولما رويت له ضحك وهتف:

–         الرجل يخرف.

–         اذن انت لا تصدق مايقول؟

ضرب كفا بكف:

–         اصدق؟ اقول لك: هذا رجل فاسد، لايغرك بياض شعره ووقار مظهره، هل تدري انه يروم الزواج من صبية بعمر احفاده؟ ولا شك ان فكرة إله البحر يلحق بالبنات الى اعماق البحار شيء يرضي خياله القذر.. اربعين سنة.. هه! اقول لك ياسيدي ان كنت تريد ان تعرف حقيقة ماحدث فاصغ الي.

كان ينظر الي وهو يتحدث، لكنه في اللحظة التي تهيأ ليروي حكايته غشي عينيه شيء مثل الحلم فعرفت عندئذ انه لم يعد يراني:

–         الحقيقة ان ابن عم بنات البحر كان  في ذلك اليوم قد عاد من رحلته منتصرا بعد ان غزا عدة قبائل بحرية. ولما سأل عن حبيبته صغرى العرائس اخبرته امها كيف اختطفها إله البحر مع اخواتها وخرج بهن الى اليابسة، لكن الله العادل أحالهم حجرا لئلا يتمكن الخاطف من الفجور بهن.. فامتشق الامير سيفه المسحور وانتظر حتى حل الليل فطلع الى البر وضرب الحجر، فعادت الحياة الى البنات وإله البحر ايضا، وجرى عراك دام.. لا بد انك لاحظت ان البحر اضطرب تلك الليلة؟  لكن الامير كان فتيا وقويا فاستطاع ان يهزم إله البحر ويكتفه ثم يجرجره بين هتاف البنات حتى غابوا تحت سطح الماء.

قلت له:

–         لكن تظل مشكلة واحدة تحيرني.

انتبه الان من الحلم فرآني، سأل باهتمام:

–         ماهي؟

–         الا ترى ان الامير بعد اربعين سنة قد كبر جدا على حبيبته صغرى العرائس؟

اطلق ضحكة صافية وصاح:

–         يبدو انك لا تعرف انهم هناك تحت يعيشون حتى يبلغ  الواحد منهم اربعمائة سنة.

وعاد الى مصطبته وهو يضحك ويهز رأسه متعجبا.

تابعت ظهر الرجل وهو يبتعد.. بنطلون واسع متهدل، قميص صوفي متهريء الاطراف، ترتفع فوقه رأس صغيرة تكاد تختفي بين الكتفين، كان يدب على الارض وكأنه يوشك ان ينكفيء على وجهه.

أدركت، ومثل ومضة خاطفة رفعت الغشاوة عن عيني، ان الحياة استمرت في مدينتنا وكأن شيئا لم يحدث. او مثل نهر تلقي فيه حجرا فيضطرب الماء برهة ثم يعود اليه صفاؤه. فما زال دخان السمك يملأ الساحة وباعة القواقع المحفورة يجوبون الشوارع، بل ان الاعلام الصغيرة الملونة صارت تحمل صور التمثال محطم الاطراف، وما فتيء الزوار يفدون ليلتقطوا صورا للعتبات الرخامية وكأن إله البحر لم يغادر منصته.

فجأة طرأت على ذهني خاطرةان التمثالرغم تبني اهل المدينة له–  لا ينتمي حقا  الا لخالقه. كيف لم افطن الا الان انه لا يحمل غير ملامح اليد التي صنعته؟

ومن ايام كنت اقف في هذا المكان أنعي على الناس نكرانهم لفضل الفنان في خلق (إله البحر) ولكني لم اكن في الواقع خيرا منهم، فما ان بدأت البحث في القضية حتى نسيت الرجل الوحيد الذي يمكن ان يهمه التمثال سالما او مهشما.

لنفترض ان أحدا كان يضمر السوء للفنان؟ كيف يؤذيه إن لم يكن من خلال تمثاله؟ وأي ثأر خير من تشويه ابداعه الوحيد؟

لكن من عساه يكون؟

هل تراه نحاتا آخر اكلت قلبه الغيرة؟

 وليس عندنا غير صانع الاباريق الفخارية الذي دأب من عشر سنوات على صناعة تقليد صغير لإله البحر يبيعه عند مدخل المدينة. هل تراه كبر في عين نفسه؟ 

هل يكون آخر لا اعرفه ولكن ربما يعرفه الفنان ذاته الذي خلق إله البحر؟ حين وصلت الى هذا الحد من التفكير، نهضت سريعا يغمرني شعور بأني سأجد الجواب في ذلك البيت المنزوي قرب البحر. كان خطأي اني لم  الجأ اليه منذ البدء.

لاح بيته من بعيد صغيرا، ابيض الجدران، يشبه البيوت المجاورة.. فحثثت  اليه الخطى. وحين وصلت وجدت الباب مواربا. دفعته وخطوت الى الداخل، ثم توقفت وناديته.

رد علي الصمت. حرت فيما افعل، ثم هززت كتفي ومضيت الى الداخل وما ان اشرفت على حوش الدار حتى جمدت في مكاني.

لم ادخل بيته من قبل.. ولهذا لم يدر في خلدي ان اجد هذا العدد الهائل من التماثيل، او هذا ماكان يبدو من قمم تشبه القبور مغطاة بأكفان بيضاء.

تقدمت من أقرب واحد، وقبل ان امد يدي لأرفع الستار، سمعت صوتا صغيرا اقشعر له بدني. كان شيئا بين الضحك والبكاء.

التفت بحدة الى مصدر الصوت فوجدتني وجها لوجه أمام الفنان. كان واقفا يترنح بشكل غريب وكأنه علق من كتفيه بخطاف. وخيل الي انه سكران.. فقد كانت عيناه تلمعان كمن به حمى.. وكانت على وجهه ابتسامة جادة وساخرة في آن واحد.

وقفنا يحدق احدنا بالاخر صامتين.. لا ادري كم طال بنا الوقت و كنت أحسبه سيقع على الارض بين لحظة واخرى. لكنه ظل يهتز مثل بندول الساعة حتى شعرت بنظراته تلسع وجهي فقلت بصعوبة:

–         جئت اسألك شيئا.

لكني كنت اعرف اني لم اجيء في الوقت المناسب، ومع هذا كان يجب ان اقول شيئا.

اتسعت ابتسامته حتى صارت تكشيرة شامتة. لكني لم اعبأ.. مضيت احكي له باختصار عن ظنوني بتلميذه صانع الاباريق. ما أن انتهيت حتى سمعت ذاك الصوت مرة اخرى. وهذه المرة علا وعلا.. حتى تحول الى نباح متقطع جمد الدم في عروقي.

رحت انظر اليه مبهوتا فيما راح ينبح ويهتز ويضرب ركبتيه بيديه، وفجأة توقف.. وحملق في وجهي وكأنه يراني لأول مرة. اختفى البريق الوحشي من عينيه، وكسا وجهه حزن وديع ذكرني بالرجل الاشيب الذي تهدم يوما على الدكة الرخامية يمسك بيديه رأس إله البحر الساقط يتطلع اليه بحب ويأس.

ابتسمت له مواسيا لكنه لم يرني.. سار كالمأخوذ الى التلال الصغيرة -0 المغطاة بأقمشة بيضاء وبهدوء رفع الستار الاول.

لم أتبين اول الامر، ثم ادركت ان ما اراه كان بقايا تمثال محطم، اذرعا ورؤوسا مقطعة واشلاء منثورة على دكة التمثال.

ولم يتوقف، سار الى التلة الاخرى وأزاح الغطاء.. لم اصدق عيني!

ظل يجول بين القمم المغطاة حتى عراها جميعا لأجد نفسي بين خرائب وانقاض تماثيل مهشمة.

لم اقو على الكلام او الحركة او حتى التفكيركنت ارقبه دون  أن اعي ما يجري امامي .. ينتقل بين الحطام بخفة ورشاقة.. كأنه يمثل دورا على المسرح. كان يزيح الستار ويشير الى  الحطام بحركة واسعة مع انحناءة خفيفة. حين انتهى، مد يده خلف صندوق خشبي واخرج فأسا هائلة انبتها وسط الحوش، ثم رفع رأسه ونظر الي متحديا. انتهى الممثل من العرض وراح ينتظر تصفيق الجمهور.

لم اشعر إلا وأنا اندفع اليه آخذ بخناقه أهزّه، ثم اخذت اضربه بكل ما أملك من قوة، ولما بدأت اشعر بالتعب، ادركت انه كان يتلقى الضربات صامتا دون اية مقاومة حتى اذا توقفت لألقط انفاسي قال هامسا:

–         لافائدة.. انك تضرب رجلا ميتا.

هززته مرة اخرى وانا  اصرخ:

–         لماذا؟ اريد ان اعرف لماذا ايها المجنون؟

–         اتركني.. كان شرا!

لطمته على فمه بكل الغضب الذي يعصف بي وصحت:

–         ومن انت لتحكم عليه؟

ولأول مرة نفض يديه عن جسمه وقال بشراسة:

–         انا خلقته!

–         وأي حق لك ان تفنيه !

تسلل الى عينيه ذلك البريق العجيب.. اختفت الوداعة من وجهه وقال بقوة:

–         انا خلقته..

ورجع الى الخلف يردد هازا رأسه  “وماكان له ان يكبر عليّ..”

وفي اللحظات التالية طرأ تغير واضح عليه..

خيل الي ان قامته تطول وتطول.. يختفي الحزن.. يختفي الغضب.. وجدتني احدق في مارد يحمل ملامح الفنان لولا مكر وغطرسة.. وشيء مثل تاج عوسج على رأسه..

**

كتبت في تشرين الاول 1974

نشرت في مجموعةموت إله البحر ” – القاهرة 1977

 

 

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