Over the island the build-up of clouds continued. A steady current of heated air rose all day from the mountain and was thrust to ten thousand feet; revolving masses of gas piled up the static until the air was ready to explode. By early evening the sun had gone and a brassy glare had taken the place of clear daylight. Even the air that pushed in from the sea was hot ana held no refreshment. Colors drained from water and trees and pink surfaces of rock, and the white and brown clouds brooded, Nothing prospered but the flies who blackened their lord and made the spilt guts look like a heap of glistening coal Even when the vessel broke in Simon’s nose and the blood gushed out they left him alone, preferring the pig’s high flavor.
With the running of the blood Simon’s fit passed into the weariness of sleep. He lay in the mat of creepers while the evening advanced and the cannon continued to play. At last he woke and saw dimly the dark earth close by his cheek. Still he did not move but lay there, his face side-ways on the earth, his eyes looking dully before him. Then he turned over, drew his feet under him and laid hold of the creepers to pull himself up. When the creepers shook the flies exploded from the guts with a vicious note and clamped back on again. Simon got to his feet. The light was unearthly. The Lord of the Flies hung on his stick like a black ball.
Simon spoke aloud to the clearing.
“What else is there to do?”
Nothing replied. Simon turned away from the open space and crawled through the creepers till he was in the dusk of the forest. He walked drearily between the trunks, his face empty of expression, and the blood was dry round his mouth and chin. Only sometimes as he lifted the ropes of creeper aside and chose his direction from the trend of the land, he mouthed words that did not reach the air.
Presently the creepers festooned the trees less frequently and there was a scatter of pearly light from the sky down through the trees. This was the backbone of the island, the slightly higher land that lay beneath the mountain where the forest was no longer deep Jungle. Here there were wide spaces interspersed with thickets and huge trees and the trend of the ground led him up as the forest opened. He pushed on, staggering sometimes with his weariness but never stopping. The usual brightness was gone from his eyes and he walked with a sort of glum determination like an old man.
A buffet of wind made him stagger and he saw that he was out in the open, on rock, under a brassy sky. He found his legs were weak and his tongue gave him pain all the time. When the wind reached the mountain-top he could see something happen, a flicker of blue stuff against brown clouds. He pushed himself forward and the wind came again, stronger now, cuffing the forest heads till they ducked and roared. Simon saw a humped thing suddenly sit up on the top and look down at him. He hid his face, and toiled on.
The flies had found the figure too. The life-like movement would scare them off for a moment so that they made a dark cloud round the head. Then as the blue material of the parachute collapsed the corpulent figure would bow forward, sighing, and the flies settle once more.
Simon felt his knees smack the rock. He crawled forward and soon he understood. The tangle of lines showed him the mechanics of this parody; he examined the white nasal bones, the teeth, the colors of corruption. He saw how pitilessly the layers of rubber and canvas held together the poor body that should be rotting away. Then the wind blew again and the figure lifted, bowed, and breathed foully at him. Simon knelt on all fours and was sick till his stomach was empty. Then he took the lines in his hands; he freed them from the rocks and the figure from the wind’s indignity.
At last he turned away and looked down at the beaches. The fire by the platform appeared to be out, or at least making no smoke. Further along the beach, beyond the little river and near a great slab of rock, a thin trickle of smoke was climbing into the sky. Simon, forgetful of the lies, shaded his eyes with both hands and peered at the smoke. Even at that distance it was possible to see most of the boys—perhaps all the boys—were there. So they had shifted camp then, away from the beast. As Simon thought this, he turned to the poor broken thing that sat stinking by his side. The beast was harmless and horrible; and the news must reach the others as soon as possible. He started down the mountain and his legs gave beneath him. Even with great care the best he could do was a stagger.
“Bathing,” said Ralph, “that’s the only thing to do.”
Piggy was inspecting the looming sky through his glass.
“I don’t like them clouds. Remember how it rained just after we landed?”
“Going to rain again.”
Ralph dived into the pool. A couple of littluns were playing at the edge, trying to extract comfort from a wetness warmer than blood. Piggy took off his glasses, stepped primly into the water and then put them on again. Ralph came to the surface and squirted a jet of water at him.
“Mind my specs,” said Piggy. “If I get water on the glass I got to get out and clean ‘em.”
Ralph squirted again and missed. He laughed at Piggys expecting him to retire meekly as usual and in pained silence. Instead, Piggy beat the water with his hands.
“Stop it!” he shouted. “D’you hear?”
Furiously he drove the water into Ralph’s face.
“All right, all right,” said Ralph. “Keep your hair on.”
Piggy stopped beating the water.
“I got a pain in my head. I wish the air was cooler.”
“I wish the rain would come.”
“I wish we could go home.”
Piggy lay back against the sloping sand side of the pool. His stomach protruded and the water dried on it Ralph squirted up at the sky. One could guess at the movement of the sun by the progress of a light patch among the clouds. He knelt in the water and looked round.
Piggy sat up.
“P’raps they’re lying in the shelter.”
Piggy pointed beyond the platform.
“That’s where they’ve gone. Jack’s parry.”
“Let them go,” said Ralph, uneasily, “I don’t care.”
“Just for some meat—”
“And for hunting,” said Ralph, wisely, “and for pretending to be a tribe, and putting on war-paint.”
Piggy stirred the sand under water and did not look at Ralph.
“P’raps we ought to go too.” Ralph looked at him quickly and Piggy blushed, “I mean—to make sure nothing happens.” Ralph squirted water again.
Long before Ralph and Piggy came up with Jack’s lot, they could hear the party. There was a stretch of grass in a place where the palms left a wide band of turf between the forest and the snore. Just one step down from the edge of the turf was the white, blown sand of above high water, warm, dry, trodden. Below that again was a rock that stretched away toward the lagoon. Beyond was a short stretch of sand and then the edge of the water. A fire burned on the rock and fat dripped from the roasting pig-meat into the invisible flames. All the boys of the island, except Piggy, Ralph, Simon, and the two tending the pig, were grouped on the turf. They were laughing, singing, lying, squatting, or standing on the grass, holding food in their hands. But to judge by the greasy faces, the meat eating was almost done; and some held coconut shells in their hands and were drinking from them. Before the party had started a great log had been dragged into the center of the lawn and Jack, painted and garlanded, sat there like an idol. There were piles of meat on green leaves near him, and fruit, and coconut shells full of drink.
Piggy and Ralph came to the edge of the grassy platform; and the boys, as they noticed them, fell silent one by one till only the boy next to Jack was talking. Then the silence intruded even there and Jack turned where he sat For a time he looked at them and the crackle of the fire was the loudest noise over the droning of the reef, Ralph looked away; and Sam, thinking that Ralph had turned to him accusingly, put down his gnawed bone with a nervous giggle. Ralph took an uncertain step, pointed to a palm tree, and whispered something inaudible to Piggy; and they both giggled like Sam. Lifting his feet high out of the sand, Ralph started to stroll past. Piggy tried to whistle.
At this moment the boys who were cooking at the fire suddenly hauled off a great chunk of meat and ran with it toward the grass. They bumped Piggy, who was burnt, and yelled and danced. Immediately, Ralph and the crowd of boys were united and relieved by a storm of laughter. Piggy once more was the center of social derision so that everyone felt cheerful and normal.
Jack stood up and waved his spear.
“Take them some meat.”
The boys with the spit gave Ralph and Piggy each a succulent chunk. They took the gift, dribbling. So they stood and ate beneath a sky of thunderous brass that rang with the storm-coming.
Jack waved his spear again.
“Has everybody eaten as much as they want?”
There was still food left, sizzling on the wooden spits, heaped on the green platters. Betrayed by his stomach, Piggy threw a picked bone down on the beach and stooped for more.
Jack spoke again, impatiently.
“Has everybody eaten as much as they want?”
His tone conveyed a warning, given out of the pride of ownership, and the boys ate faster while there was still time. Seeing there was no immediate likelihood of a pause. Jack rose from the log that was his throne and sauntered to the edge of the grass. He looked down from behind his paint at Ralph and Piggy. They moved a little farther off over the sand and Ralph watched the fire as he ate. He noticed, without understanding, how the flames were visible now against the dull light. Evening was come, not with calm beauty but with the threat of violence.
“Give me a drink.”
Henry brought him a shell and he drank, watching Piggy and Ralph over the jagged rim.. Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms: authority sat on his shoulder and chattered in his ear like an ape.
“All sit down.”
The boys ranged themselves in rows on the grass before him but Ralph and Piggy stayed a foot lower, standing on the soft sand. Jack ignored them for the moment, turned his mask down to the seated boys and pointed at them with the spear.
“Who is going to join my tribe?”
Ralph made a sudden movement that became a stumble. Some of the boys turned toward him.
“I gave you food,” said Jack, “and my hunters will protect you from the beast. Who will join my tribe?”
“I’m chief,” said Ralph, “because you chose me. And we were going to keep the fire going. Now you run after food—”
“You ran yourself !” shouted Jack. “Look at that bone in your hands!”
Ralph went crimson.
“I said you were hunters. That was your job.”
Jack ignored him again.
“Who’ll join my tribe and have fun?”
I’m chief,” said Ralph tremulously. “And what about the fire? And I’ve got the conch—”
“You haven’t got it with you,” said Jack, sneering. “You left it behind. See, clever? And the conch doesn’t count at this end of the island—”
All at once the thunder struck. Instead of the dull boom there was a point of impact in the explosion.
“The conch counts here too,” said Ralph, “and all over the island.”
“What are you going to do about it then?”
Ralph examined the ranks of boys. There was no help in them and he looked away, confused and sweating. Piggy whispered.
“Who’ll join my tribe?”
“I’ll blow the conch,” said Ralph breathlessly, “and call an assembly.”
“We shan’t hear it.”
“Come away. There’s going to be trouble. And we’ve had our meat.”
There was a blink of bright light beyond the forest and the thunder exploded again so that a littlun started to whine. Big drops of rain fell among them making individual sounds when they struck.
“Going to be a storm,” said Ralph, “and you’ll have rain like when we dropped here. Who’s clever now? Where are your shelters? What are you going to do about that?”
The hunters were looking uneasily at the sky, flinching from the stroke of the drops. A wave of restlessness set the boys swaying and moving aimlessly. The flickering light became brighter and the blows of the thunder were only just bearable. The littluns began to run about, screaming.
Jack leapt on to the sand.
“Do our dance! Come on! Dance!”
He ran stumbling through the thick sand to the open space of rock beyond the fire. Between the flashes of lightning the air was dark and terrible; and the boys followed him, clamorously. Roger became the pig, grunting and charging at Jack, who side-stepped. The hunters took their spears, the cooks took spits, and the rest clubs of firewood, A circling movement developed and a chant While Roger mimed the terror of the pig, the littluns ran and jumped ob the outside of the circle. Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it governable.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
The movement became regular while the chant lost its first superficial excitement and began to beat like a steady pulse. Roger ceased to be a pig and became a hunter, so that the center of the ring yawned emptily. Some of the littluns started a ring on their own; and the complementary circles went round and round as though repetition would achieve safety of itself. There was tie throb and stamp of a single organism.
The dark sky was shattered by a blue-white scar. An instant later the noise was on them like the blow of a gigantic whip. The chant rose a tone in agony.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!
Now out of the terror rose another desire, thick, urgent, blind.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
Again the blue-white scar Jagged above them and the sulphurous explosion beat down. The littluns screamed and blundered about, fleeing from the edge of the forest, and one of them broke the ring of biguns in his terror.
The circle became a horseshoe. A thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
The blue-white scar was constant, the noise unendurable. Simon was crying out something about a dead man on a hill.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!”
The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, it’s arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.
Then the clouds opened and let down the rain like a waterfall. The water bounded from the mountain-top, tore leaves and branches from the trees, poured like a cold shower over the straggling heap on the sand. Presently the heap broke up and figures staggered away. Only the beast lay still, a few yards from the sea. Even in the rain they could see how small a beast it was; and already its blood was stain-log the sand.
Now a great wind blew the rain sideways, cascading the water from the forest trees. On the mountain-top the parachute filled and moved; the figure slid, rose to its feet, spun, swayed down through a vastness of wet air and trod with ungainly feet the tops of the high trees; falling, still falling, it sank toward the beach and the boys rushed screaming into the darkness. The parachute took the figure forward, furrowing the lagoon, and bumped it over the reef and out to sea.
Toward midnight the rain ceased and the clouds drifted away, so that the sky was scattered once more with the incredible lamps of stars. Then the breeze died too and there was no noise save the drip and trickle of water that ran out of clefts and spilled down, leaf by leaf, to the brown earth of the island. The air was cool, moist, and clear; and presently even the sound of the water was still. The beast lay huddled on the pale beach and the stains spread, inch by inch.
The edge of the lagoon became a streak of phosphorescence which advanced minutely, as the great wave of the tide flowed. The clear water mirrored the clear sky and the angular bright constellations. The line of phosphorescence bulged about the sand grains and little pebbles; it held them each in a dimple of tension, then suddenly accepted them with an inaudible syllable and moved on.
Along the shoreward edge of the shallows the advancing clearness was full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes. Here and there a larger pebble clung to its own air and was covered with a coat of pearls. The tide swelled in over” the rain-pitted sand and smoothed everything with a layer of silver. Now it touched the first of the stains that seeped from the broken body and the creatures made a moving patch of light as they gathered at the edge. The water rose farther and dressed Simon’s coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble. The strange attendant creatures, with their fiery eyes and trailing vapors, busied themselves round his head. The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop. Then it turned gently in the water.
Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling, and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved farther along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon’s dead body moved out toward the open sea.