The Dream Archipelago Week 14: The Discharge, conclusion
- Our protagonist completes his journey southward. Along the way, his belongings are searched and his map of the islands is confiscated and destroyed. He's docked some pay and his name is given over to the Black Caps (presumably as a warning). They don't find his diary, however, and anyway the names of the islands are the map are ingrained in his memory.
- He arrives on the southern continent, trains for a bit, then embarks on a train to travel to his new unit.
- After a lonely journey (despite there being other people) he eventually joins his unit - a grenade launcher unit.
- There is some faffing about with new equipment... new training... and purposeless and constant movement.
- Eventually it seems like the big push is imminent, and he decides that this is the time he must discharge himself if he ever will. He flees cross country and shelters in a brothel, where they feed and dress him rakishly in civilian clothing.
- After a time, he's taken out to a dark motor launch on the sea, along with other escapees (also in rakish clothing). The launch heads north.
- He jumps off the boat at the first inhabited island, named Keeilin. Someone calls him a 'Steffer' - which seems to mean 'deserter'.
- Gradually, he makes his way north: Fellenstel, Manlayl, Meequa, Emmeret, Sentier. He learns how to cope, to be self sufficient and travel slow.
- After another year he reaches Mesterline and stays for a while, but when some black-caps arrive he once again moves on.
- Another year, travelling, living off his wits, assisted by a network of well-meaning whores. He practices drawing, painting.
- Eventually, he gets to Muriseay and settles down. He makes a living selling pictures of sea-scapes and harbour scenes to the tourists on the street. He spends his spare time in the studio and at the museum, experimenting and learning about tactilism. Eventually, he purchases a space where he can make a private gallery of his work.... and five years pass.
- Then one day, while he's alone in his gallery, the black-caps arrive. They tell him he's been discharged and zap him with synaptic batons. But one of the black-caps gets stuck to a tactilist painting after he zaps it. And he can't free himself.
- Though he is injured by one of the batons, he manages to get downstairs in the confusion and lose himself in the maze or rooms. The other black-caps chase him, but they also get stuck to paintings, like flies to fly paper.
- Smoke rises from the interaction between the batons and the paintings. The place catches fire. Our soldier flees into the night streets.
- The next morning, he was aboard the first ferry of the day, heading for other islands. Their names chimed in his mind, urging him on.
So, what do you make of it? Lots of innuendo - as an ex soldier, he's a discharge. He discharged himself. The black-caps use synaptic batons, that cause them to stick to... artwork? Tactilist paintings? The painting are art - expressive, interactive art.
One of them shouted at me to help them.
'What is this stuff? What's holding him against the board?'
The man started screaming as the smouldering pigments reached his hands, but still he could not release himself. His pain, my agonies, contorted his boy.
'His dreams!' I cried boldly. 'He is a captive of his own vile dreams!'
He discharges twice in the story (in two different contexts), and both times he flees immediately afterward.
Again, does the litany of islands suggest a conclusion to the work? What about the last line - 'their names chimed in his mind, urging him on'. This reminds me again of the notion that islands are people - like characters in a novel, whose names chime in the mind of the author (or the reader). Can we, I wonder, read the 'discharging' as being akin to an author completing a novel? He puts it out there - by himself. Sometimes he's embarrassed by it. sometimes it's an escape. When done, he has to move on, looking for new places, new characters.