a short story – by Sha’Tara
His greatest remembered impression was of the sea, how it fascinated him. It was not only alive, but relative to the rest of his world, very big. It was always there and it had moods so deep, his heart was always touched by them: moods that frightened him when he stood on the rocky shore and it trembled as waves many times his height would rush at him raging, then sweep back hungrily sucking every loose particle of matter they could grasp; moods that calmed him when a silver moon rose slowly, painting a shimmering trail of soft-hued light over the waters of a windless night.
The sea had many other moods, not nearly as extreme in either terror or beauty, but moods he could identify with. He would strip and dive off a smoothly rounded stone and float among the debris, pretending to be but another piece of half-life the sea had found and tucked between her breasts to be put to sleep by the rising and falling of her tidal breath. He loved her deep laughter as she chased herself through crevices among the stones.
Yes, he loved the sea more than anything else he had discovered on his world. And he wondered why. What was it about the sea that attracted him so, even, and perhaps especially, in her madness? Who was the sea? He knew if he could answer that, he’d know who he was.
He wasn’t the only one who liked the sea. Many came, for as many reasons. They sat on the sand, swam in the cove, or took small crafts out when the weather was calm. He remembered once, asking another much like himself, what brought him to the sea. “My parents.” was the reply. “No, I mean, what brings you here?” “I told you.” “But, what do you like about it?” “I like watching other people, especially the girls sunbathing or swimming. I like looking for stuff in tidal pools; throwing sand at the anemones. And I like swimming when the water’s warm enough.”
He opened his mouth about to rephrase his question, then stopped, realizing he was not going to get the answer he was looking for. He wanted to ask, “What calls you here?” but understood intuitively the other had not been called. What he felt for the sea, these others did not feel. They came to get, and to take. He was alone on this shore. Only he could hear the music of the great oceans all the way around his world. Only he could hear sea birds who glided far away from land, for months on end, crying, calling to one another. Only he could hear the whales telling their sad story. For they too had found they were alone and the sea could not protect nor save them.
For a new sea had come forth and was covering his world. This was not a sea that gave life. It was full of feet that trampled everything; full of hands that grasped, choked and killed; full of mouths that ate and ate but were never sated. The pieces of this sea looked like him and he would wonder at times if he was of the same material, but when he saw the mouths open and eating their own children, he knew then it wasn’t so.
He knew the history of this new sea. It had begun as an accidental intrusion in a very recent past, had grown into an invasion and become a cancer, a destructive force without any sense of purpose. Nothing of his world was safe from the greedy motions of this chaotic mass. Not even the mass itself, for he saw it had no mind of its own, yet moved as if it was the only legitimate force on his world. It mindlessly absorbed everything it came in contact with, including parts of itself.
As he sat by the sea, he noticed the stars gradually fading from his sight. Less and less of them could be seen. They weren’t being extinguished, he knew that. But they were using the sad blanket of effluents created by the cancerous sea to hide their faces from his world. Even the greatest stars, with memories that spanned billions of years, would no longer look upon his world.
He noticed the songs of the deep changing year by year. The whales’ mourning was ending. The great birds no longer flew over the tossing waves for too many had died. And the stories brought forth from the oceans spoke of death; of rivers of poisonous waters draining from the lands, or oozing from broken ships. And the sea spoke of sands red with blood, of raging fires and billowing black smoke… and sometimes the fires burned over the skin of the sea and he felt her pain and it was his pain.
“What should I do?” he wondered. “What can I do? I have the language of the ancient sea, but not of this new sea. I do not feel its rhythm. I cannot enter into its moods, for they are savage, always at odds with one-another. I belong to the old way, yet have the form of the new. Why? Where are those like me? Are they all gone now? Am I the last? Or am I the first?”
The old sea, his mother, rose from her bed and extending a giant arm to his perch, swept him within herself and holding him firmly, cradled him to sleep.