In which The Author experiences yet another odd coincidence
I’ve just been browsing the news headlines and I came across this very peculiar story in Metro:
Mystery over ‘horned monster’ that washed up on Spanish beach
Mystery, and a terrible stench, surrounds the discovery of the rotting corpse of an unidentified sea creature on a Spanish beach. The horned head of the ‘monster’ was found detached from its 5m long body near Villaricos village in Almeria, with both in an advanced state of decomposition.
The coincidence is that just a couple of evenings ago I’d read J.G. Ballard’s 1964 short story ‘The Drowned Giant.’ The body of an enormous humanoid is washed up on an unnamed beach, and soon attracts hundreds of curious sightseers. Once they get over their initial fear, some people approach it, just the way you’d imagine they would a beached whale. One man even climbs onto the corpse, and this breaks the self-imposed cordon sanitaire which the crowd has been observing. Before long, the mysterious body is covered with people, like unconscious Gulliver staked out by the Lilliputians.
The narrator tells us how he himself investigates the mighty form, only to be driven back by the reek of putrefaction from within. Gradually, as days and weeks go by, parts of the body are removed – mainly by industrial concerns wanting to use the flesh for animal feed and the bones for fertilizer. Ballard offers no explanation for the giant’s appearance, and offers cold comfort as the body is systematically stripped of its substance. ‘This is what we would do,’ he seems to tell his readers. After all, once the people of the town have recovered from the shock of the drowned giant’s existence, it becomes just another natural resource to be exploited. Parts of it end up in the local museum; others are sold as novelty souvenirs, or paraded as freakish exhibits in the carnival.
The final paragraph is as stark and bleak as the rest of the story:
The remainder of the skeleton, stripped of all flesh, still rests on the sea shore, the clutter of bleached ribs like the timbers of a derelict ship. The contractor’s hut, the crane and the scaffolding have been removed, and the sand being driven into the bay along the coast has buried the pelvis and backbone. In the winter the high curved bones are deserted, battered by the breaking waves, but in the summer they provide an excellent perch for the sea-wearying gulls.
I wonder whether we’ll ever hear any more about the provenance of the ‘horned monster’ washed up on the shores of Spain. Or, like Ballard’s giant, will it simply be dismembered and scattered for commercial gain? Will it, too, turn out to be nothing more than a Nine Days’ Wonder, a welcome space-filling novelty during the Silly Season? After all, Celebrity Big Brother is back on our TV screens and the football season is under way. And they’re far more interesting, aren’t they?