by Rhett Davis
Not too far from here, on the shore of a treeless island, what looks to be an enormous wooden table is partially buried in the sand. It has been there a long time. Centuries, the locals say, but would they really know? Generations distort the facts and water becomes wine. It’s enough to say that the structure has been there for as long as people remember, stuck in the dunes, taller than the nearby buildings, waiting, it seems, for the return of its gargantuan chairs, their monstrous occupants and their bloody feasts.
No one knows what it is for sure. For a long time the islanders traded theories and far-fetched stories. It was said that the crew of a merchant vessel once sailed past a huge chair floating just under the waves, but when they turned back for a closer look it had gone. There was a rumour that a farmer had uncovered evidence of a forest on her pastures, seemingly cleared many years before people had arrived on the island. A group of fishermen once claimed they spied a vessel on the horizon so large it touched the bilious cumulonimbus. The vessel sped away with a pace that cannot be matched by any ship, car, or plane. But then, the islanders used to make grappa in their sheds. It was always very strong, and they used to make a lot of it.
Some said it was not a table at all. They suggested it might be the ruins of a dock built to transport immense cargoes by an ancient civilisation, or the remnants of an arcane defence against something prehistoric and terrible. Some declared it evidence of God; others that the structure was formed naturally over time by erosion. When pressed, these people admitted they were not scientists but insisted that did not make their opinion any less valid, demanding equal air time in any television interviews. Archaeologists called it a monument; anthropologists a deity; botanists classified it as dead quercus; and chemists a mix of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and other trace elements. No one who has ever written a paper in a reputable scientific journal has ever called it a table – but that is what the islanders call it now. It was difficult to live next to something they couldn’t name.
There used to be as much speculation about the nature of the alleged table and its origins as there were people on the island. But the islanders these days are the sort of people who have chosen to turn its legs into boutique seaside condominiums. They charge people to take pictures of it and climb it and jump from it with elastic cords attached to their ankles. They promote it in glossy brochures alongside expensive real estate and local wineries with their shabby pinot noir. They sell plastic souvenirs from market stalls and self-publish bullshit stories about the giants who used to roam the shores. They walk past it each day and pretend they don’t stand in its heavy shadow. They don’t speculate on its nature unless it’s to make money. They have decided it is a table, and its name is now its truth. They have become the sort of people who look at something they do not understand and do not wonder about how strange and extraordinary it is but worry about how small it makes them feel. They are not the sort of people we should be listening to.