TIBER – PICTURE OF A DROWNED IMAGE – A SHORT STORY BY MAX EEVI
It was a crisp November morning when Tiberinus Silvius – ninth King of the Alba Longa – fell into the River Tiber.
Preceding Tiberinus’ fall, the river’s name rested naturally as “River” –
children tracing out its banks would point and, voices full of comfort, call out
By-and-by the river’s name would change, and before long the children would
exclaim, “There, Tiber’s River!” and presently (as one starts to worship the
familiar) “The River Tiber, loved one! Precious one!”
To Tiberinus it was a thing, and, as the water swallowed up his body he
thought of words and phrases like, “River!” “From the mountain!” “Full of
little things!” “Greedy River!”
Sense in which the word presents a thing:
“River – eaten me alive,”
as if to signify
a sign or
“water,” as in, “it’s an ocean,”
Ring of sentences as objects.
(‘Cold’ is a blunt and messy word – to be saved only for emergencies)
The water was cold.
The River hit Tiberinus with an unholy silence.
He slipped under splashlessly.
An embittered lover’s tooth pressed into his chin.
He let no sounds free.
It is understood that – under immense pressure – the brain triggers
information at rapid speeds. It is further understood that – in the case of
drowning – such information has a tendency to manifest itself as images.
Tiberinus’ brain recalled the following two images (revolving as if mounted in
Being, as it was, somewhere between the years 922BC – 914BC, Tiberinus
could have no possible recollection of such images, or any photographic image
whatsoever. Bio-historical experts have speculated explanations to the phenomena of hallucinations due to latent hypoxia, premonitions by
Bradycardia and prophecy of peripheral vasoconstriction. Tiberinus was
certain of his images.
As the bubbles floated up, hearing in his belly the unmistakable movement of
water on water, the drowning emperor considered the images that passed his
mind’s eye for what he understood to be a lifetime:
IMAGE 1 “Evil is a fragile notion… All that work sweetening some so-and-
so value, just to find a value (signified as ‘X’) amounting to the base evil of
said phenomena… Tbe value is redundant, even boring… is this river, (X),
evil or boring?… what is worse?… should I be apprehensive in the presence of
a ‘natural evil’, or, should (X) have made me spiritless?. Where is (X)? Am I
waiting for my (X)? Am I terrified of (X)?” Does (X) have a place in modern
rational thought? (X) as otherness…. (X) as uncertainty… (X) as undoing…”
IMAGE 2 I was little more than a boy when I was handed the throne. I
remember the look on my mother’s face when she told me in the Temple of
Vesta. I was preoccupied at the prospect of a late sunset on the Palatine Hill,
and didn’t register what she was saying. She must have known her words
would ruin something forever, for a solitary tear forged a path down her
cheek. I blinked and the tear stopped as if frozen.
Tiberinus reflected on his body in the river; how light ‑ refracted in the
water ‑ can morph a piece of clothing into forms, and many forms.
The drowning emperor: cape, tunic, helmet, scabbard, gauntlets, chest plate
and gloves. A snake? A rock? A plant? A shoal? A piece of wood? An island?
A spill of ink? A cloud? A chest? A mermaid? A dead sheep? A child? An
opening? A beast?
The water came in many different shades of blue.
Are you beside yourself?
In the forests, sometimes by the sea….
The water and the sky refused to separate.
The easy life –
The savage life –
A painter made his way along the reeds.
He sidled past hyacinths, duckweed and a little nest made from mud and dirty branches.
“Little nest for a little bird,” he remarked.
The painter spotted Tiberinus drowning.
Reaching into his satchel the young man freed some paper and a brush.
Tiberinus had stopped splashing.
Painting of the instant Tiberinus stopped splashing:
The painting fell into the water (like Tiberinus). The water carried the painting worlds away, where it would one day come to rest upon the shores of
a Germanic state.
Tiberinus had stopped breathing (finally).
The painter would be plagiarised.
Loneliness – Tiberinus never hit the bed.
Tiberinus’ last thought was of an image drowned, and the hum of a digital
radio playing softly from another room.
It was Tiber’s River then.