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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Joxe "Bikila" Iriarte Zabaleta > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)


The Other Side

I. I know the gods exert no influence on our post-industrial society, and we have made nature itself so poor and mediocre that we do not seem to be in it; at least, we do not appear to be in the mythical sea, forest or mountains of the time of Captain Ahab.

In our world everything is grey, devoid of attraction, but not without danger. Indeed, we human beings have shown a tremendous ability to turn dreams into nightmares and struggles into massacres in this deadly forest full of iron, cement and silicon.

Perhaps it is precisely that contradiction which makes human beings human.

Like Ahab, like myself.

II. The Story of Captain Ahab. He spent years tirelessly going from one ocean to the next, from north to south and from east to west in his passion to catch the killer whale Moby Dick, but in the end got involved with his enemy to become immersed for ever in the oblivion of the blue sea which turns black.

Why? (...) We cannot know, because Captain Ahab took the reason with him to the grave. So, the hypothesis I am putting forward on these pages is not based on rational proof obtained through research. It will have a different starting point.

III. Initially, Captain Ahab's life was guided by his passion for the sea. He dearly loved the sea, just like many other sailors, no matter what situation he was in. He was happy in the becalmed, still sea, in the gentle rocking of the waves and in the peace of mind; whereas, when faced with fear, he used to regain all his powers in the midst of the danger of being swallowed up in a whirlpool; on the brightest of days with a southerly wind, as he held firmly onto the rudder in the speed of the full sails he used to think he could catch the horizon with his hands and that was when he felt light and free. Yet, he became nervous whenever he experienced the fear of getting lost, half blinded, surrounded by thick fog; but then he proved that he had been born of good stock as he kept his eyes wide open and fought off the drowsiness and fatigue and swore to himself he would reach the finishing post, come what may.

He adored the sea, whatever conditions and circumstances he was in.

Nevertheless, his passion for catching whales almost imperceptibly replaced his passion for the sea. Even hunting. Because that was exactly what it was, true hunting (...). As time went by his enthusiasm for hunting absorbed all else. He regarded himself as a hunter more than a captain and when the lookout on the main mast shouted `thar she blows!' he would go down to the boats with the other whale hunters.

With his hand on the rudder he would focus all his attention on guiding the boat. (...) He would sit as stiff as a board in the bows, as the waves danced and as the sea's roar swallowed up his own. Then he would muster every ounce of strength from the depths of his being and launch the harpoon in search of whale flesh. After that he would hang on to the boat waiting for the rocking movement when the whale submerged and pulled the rope attached to the boat taut.

After the boat had rocked he would release yards of rope to increase the distance between the boat and the whale, so that when the whale submerged, it would not take the boat with it; this would go on until it gave up trying to escape either tired out by the race or overcome by death.


Yet when he met Moby Dick, his life changed. The monster's iceberg whiteness provoked his daring. He would overpower it! Yet what he saw reflected in his black eyes filled him with fear. The most perverse side of his nature, the true nature of the predator, the other side that we attempt to conceal! Once we have seen that side, we inevitably end up bound to it, as light is to shadow and as day is to night.

Some call that seeing the devil. I do not believe in the devil in hell, but I do believe in that other one that lies hidden in the folds of our being. It is much more frightening that the demon in the stories. But more of that in due course.

Moby Dick turned into a symbol of hate for Captain Ahab. In today's language we would say that it was what made him see the "alien" he had inside him.

The alien. Contracted from outside or created inside, it did not matter a damn. Because when it becomes one with our organism, it turns into a part of us and in the end we turn into a part of it. And to overcome it, the only thing we can do is commit suicide.

Nevertheless, it cannot be overcome just any old how. It is no use shooting ourselves or hurling ourselves from the highest mast of the ship into the water so that we turn into shark fodder. An absolute struggle has to be staged in which the two opponents, by colliding with each other, have to kill each other in the heat of the battle.

That is why I have left all this in writing, so that someone will understand when I die...

IV. I have got together a wonderful group so that I can carry out my final act. My friends believe that it will be a clean act, and that when the enemy has been defeated we will succeed in escaping. I am the only one who knows that it will not turn out like that, because the enemy is too perverse to be killed that way. There will be a massacre and I will not come out of it alive.

Moreover, unlike my friends, I do not believe that we will make the pain, hurt and afflictions of our people any easier through this act. One bastard less, but the dictatorship will find someone to take his place immediately. As far as I am concerned, I shall achieve the rest that I have been yearning during the last few months, in the way of my choosing.

How did I get to this situation?

From a very young age I have had the tendency to go beyond strength. As the north pole attracts the compass needle, I am attracted by stories and adventures of the people who, by risking their lives, overcome the bounds of impossibility; I am particularly drawn to the stories and adventures based on an ethical driving force and which aim to do good. I was not keen on the adventurers who work for empires or commercial ventures, nor am I now.

That is why I became involved in the underground struggle against tyranny.

For many years I have been in my element involved in activities that I have found both exciting and gratifying in equal measure. You know, just like when sailors find themselves in tight spots on ships, we, too, had our own, but I also felt free even in the toughest life underground.

Free and eager. Indeed the day before you have to strike the enemy, the tension that fills your breast dissolves all the other worries and fatigue, and the eagerness to attack gnaws away at your guts. Especially when the enemy is a cruel predator.

Striking the enemy. The first time you are overcome by dizziness, and in front of the spilled blood it is difficult not to throw up. But very gradually the habit hardens you and even if you are very near the target, it seems to you that it is very far away, so far away that you are not aware that he is a person; he becomes a simple bulls-eye, the same thing that happens to those who drop bombs from a high altitude or launch missiles from a great distance. From time to time there are innocent victims or ones who have nothing directly to do with the conflict, and that affects you profoundly. In the end you say to yourself: regrettable, but unavoidable errors. Collateral damage, the pitiful victims of all struggles. You feed off the struggle.

On such an occasion you come face to face with your own private Moby Dick and then everything changes for you. When I saw the enemy who we regard as our main opponent, the supreme symbol of tyranny, in the sights of our weapons, I realised that what happened to Captain Ahab could happen to me.

What a massacre! I, unlike my comrades, got out severely disabled but alive. As did the principle enemy. However, my wounds were very superficial compared with my interior lacerations. Because that was when I realised that my fury was making me capable of doing anything to kill the enemy, if it were up to me. Anything at all!

I saw the other side, my darkest side. That terrifies me!


I am aware that taking out the enemy (and not so much the dictatorship which makes his presence possible) has become my objective more than anything else. I know I shall not give up, even if it is clear that I will go down into the black sea or down into the fires of hell together with him.

And I know that I will rest at that moment. The fact is I am very, very weary!

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