He had been the lonely king of this island before the Enemy came. All alone, the only one of his kind, but master of all that he surveyed.
The island met his every need, fed him, provided him with drinking water, gave him shelter and comfort. And it fed his inner needs as well, for the island was beautiful, and full of birdsong.
But he had been alone. Never hearing another human voice, never seeing another human face. Sometimes he imagined faces in the rocks, or in the trunks of trees, but they never spoke to him, unless it was in the splash of the waves or the creaking of tree boughs in the wind, a language he could not comprehend.
There once had been a human face: his mother’s. He remembered her, but not well, for she was now long dead. Most of all he remembered her bitterness, remembered how often she had told him of the treatment she had received at the hands of her country-folk. Wise in herbal lore, knowledgeable in the ways of the human body, all she had tried to do was help others, help them heal, to gain strength. Oh, and for the young girls in trouble, she had often given special relief. And for that she had been called a witch, banished — for they dared not kill her — marooned on this foreign shore, this island in the midst of a vast empty sea.
In lonely travail she had given birth to him, raised him as a child for a handful of years. Then she in turn marooned her child in loneliness by dying. Since then, there had only been himself.
Until the Enemy came.
They should have been alike, he and the Enemy. Like his long-dead mother, the Enemy too had been banished and cast adrift at sea.
He remembered only too well the joy he had felt when he had first seen that boat at sea, coming closer to the shore. Barely afloat, with no mast or oar, it drifted helplessly. He had run along the shore, hopping from rock to rock to keep pace with the boat. Lying inside, there was a man, holding close some kind of bundle wrapped in cloth.
When the boat had inevitably shattered on the rocks, it was he who had waded out and dragged the man and what he carried to shore. Inside the bundle, amazingly, had been a child, barely more than a baby. Unsure what to do with such a thing, he had put it down on the shore high above the waves and then waded out to fetch, one by one, the chests now floating near the wreck of the boat.
He had expected thanks. Had been full of joy at the presence of another human being — a real human face at last! Here would be a friend, a companion, someone to relieve his lonely existence.
But that was not the Enemy’s way.
He had brought food and water to the castaway, tended his wounds, made a safe place for him and the child, tried to speak to him, but was not understood. Still, he had persevered, used signs to show them the isle and all its resources, done his best to help him, make of him a friend.
Yet it was not to be. Once the man had recovered his strength, he had become cold, harsh. He became the Enemy.
The Enemy had carved himself a strange staff from a tree branch. And one day the Enemy had raised the staff at him and spoken a powerful command: from that moment he had been the Enemy’s slave.
In the long weary years since, he had seen the child grow, and grow. He had never seen a girl child before, seen no woman other than his long-distant mother. Now the girl, growing older, achieved a shape, a look, which threw him into vast confusion. What longing he felt!
He could not be blamed. It was not his fault that he felt this way, how could it be? Always under the Enemy’s lash, forced to fetch and carry and clean, with never a friendly word. Except from her. How could he help from feeling the way he did when she spoke even a single kindly word to him?
How could he have stopped himself from reaching out…?
The Old Man
The old man looked suspiciously at the shambling figure coming up the path through the forest. He should have killed him years ago, put an end to the danger instead of trying to raise the creature and make him useful. Was it pity that had stayed his hand, or something else? The old man shook his head, trying to dismiss the unwelcome thought.
From the moment he had opened his eyes on the shore and seen the ugly dark face bending over him, he had been alert to the danger. He had heard stories enough of the horrors perpetrated by the natives of foreign lands on unwary strangers.
From the very first, then, he had seen the need to keep the savage under his strict control. Because, after all, there was his child to consider, his little daughter. She was all he had of his former life. Cast away on this vile shore, full of despair and anger, his child was all that kept him rooted in civilisation, all that stopped him from dashing himself from the highest peak he could find.
He had raised her as best he could in this remote place, taught her her letters, passed on what knowledge he could from his precious books.
If it hadn’t been for the arts he had learned during his long studies he would never been able to supply their needs. Never been able to bend the brutish savage to his will.
Now his daughter was grown. Grown into a lovely young woman, almost the image of his long-dead wife. And he had seen the growing lust in the savage’s eye, seen him turn again and again towards the girl, gaping slack-jawed at her beauty.
And then had come the attempted rape.
He should have killed the brute at that moment, he thought. If not at the start, then certainly then, when he found him pawing at his daughter.
Why had he not? The old man’s hand twitched on the staff he held. There was a reason, he knew… a reason he did not want to admit, even to himself. Something he knew he enjoyed too much. No matter how hard to tried to hide it, to deny it, deep inside he knew that could not resist it.
It was the joy of having another creature completely at his command, abject.
“Caliban!” he called out, in secret pleasure. “Come here!”