The Whale’s Tale

First appeared in Flash in a Flash newsletter on November 24, 2020.

SongTeller: The watercraft that tried to kill me is back. It is responsible for my dilemma.

SadSinger: What dilemma?

SongTeller: I can never go home.

SadSinger:  Our home is the ocean world.

SongTeller: Your world, not mine.

SadSinger:  ?. [Interrogative]

SongTeller: I told you. I was not born here. My oceanhome is far, far from here.

SadSinger:  Is that why you’re white?

SongTeller:  It is. As I’ve told you many times. I found the whaleroad near the bottom of our Deepness. I entered it, hoping I had enough lifebreath to pass through. But as one of our elders had said, the way was long. I was almost out of lifebreath when I came out of the road on this end.

SadSinger:  I know where the end is. But I do not know where it leads.

SongTeller: It leads to another ocean with redder light from above. I was able to follow the whaleroad here. One of our elders told me that a part of my brain holds the key to the whaleroad. It was damaged and I cannot return. [Sigh]When  I came here through the whaleroad years ago I was young, looking for adventure.

SadSinger:  Did you find it?

SongTeller:  [complex interplay of emotional overtones] I did. I learned to hunt the Kraken. In my oceanhome we find no such worthy opponents. And I learned what it is to be hunted.

SadSinger: The surface swimmers hunt us. [duotone mixture of hate and fear] They killed my mate.

SongTeller:  Do you know why they hunt us?

SadSinger:  I do not. When my mate was taken they tied her body to their watercraft for three suns. I know she was dead but what they did to her body sickened me.

<I have heard this tale many times. My brother-of-this-world cannot remember many things for very long. The fact that he remembers this is telling.>

SadSinger: They took all the fluid-that-is-not-water from her head. Then they stripped off her skin and kept it. When they were finished they untied the rest of her and let her fall into the Deepness. [pause] You are wise, brother. Why would they do such a thing?

SongTeller: It is foolish to assign them motives. They are unable to survive under the waves, they do not seem to think, they cannot swim-travel the whaleroads. They cannot do other that what their nature impels. They are dumb brutes, nothing more.

SadSinger:  You say the watercraft that hunted you is back. Can you be sure it is the same?

<My brother is wiser than he knows. Those who think him a fool are fools themselves.>

SongTeller:  I can smell it, its sound-in-water is the same. I am sure.

SadSinger: What will you do?

SongTeller:  Nothing except avoid it. They cannot do us harm unless they are near.

<We paused to take a breath. That was when I heard a great clamor of noise and the watercraft turned in pursuit. I intended to dive deep and swim under them but my brother stayed just beneath the surface, increasing his speed and heading for the small watercraft  that even now were being put in the water.

SongTeller:  Brother do not!

SadSinger:   I will avenge the hurt they did you!

SongTeller: You cannot. The damage they did me prevents my returning home. It is done. You cannot undo it.

SadSinger:  All the more reason to seek revenge.

SongTeller: They are acting on instinct. They will kill you without remorse, which seems an unknown notion to them.

SadSinger: Nonetheless…

<My brother conserved life-breath for a final dash.>

SongTeller: Then let us die together. You are my only friend.

<We dashed at top speed toward the watercraft. >

<One of the small watercraft made a strange thumping sound like something hard  striking something flat. I saw a sting fly toward my brother and put on a burst of speed. The result was that the sting hit me and embedded itself in my side. It had, I perceived, a long narrow connector that led back to the watercraft pursuing me. When I turned to depart the sting pulled at my flesh. In a rage, now, from the pain, I rounded and swam toward the watercraft.>

SongTeller: Brother, are you safe?

SadSinger: Yes. Let us return to the Kraken hunt.

SongTeller: I cannot. I am made fast to the watercraft. I must break free.

<I increased my speed to the maximum. When I reached the small watercraft I went underneath it and with a flip of my tail destroyed it. Yet I was still tied to something. In a thoughtless frenzy I spun to dislodge it. It was then that the being who had thrown the sting bumped into my side. I spun twice before I could stop. At the end this creature was bound to my side as I had been bound to the watercraft. I could feel it along my side. It had a single large head with two eyes set to look forward. It also had four large appendages along its length. The two appendages close to the  head were built for grasping. The other two, like a fluke but divided nearer the body center, seemed ideal for swimming. Strangely, one of the two seemed to me like a club, but made of my-bone! Artificial! They were more than simple tool-users.  I wished only  that I could unwind from the creature, but the connector was tangled. We were bound together for life.>

SongTeller: Brother I am still caught fast. Escape while you can.

<But my brother did not escape. In his anger he chased the other small watercraft. The beings on the watercraft assaulted him with their sting. He was mortally injured. Trailing blood, he sounded and swam for the Deepness  to die properly.

SongTeller:   My friend, I am sorry for your lost life. May we met in the next.

<At last I found the end of the connector on the sting. I swam toward the watercraft from which the killing craft had launched. It had also turned toward me. Then a blind rage took me. I swam directly at the larger craft. To the credit of the beings who inhabited it, they showed no fear, if they were capable of such.  I smashed into the side of the craft. To my surprise, it crumpled.>

<After passing under the wreckage I  turned to examine it further. Crushed in on one side, it was filling with water. I thought this would be their salvation but they could not breathe water nor could they sound to take lifebreath from the air above. Soon all were gone save one. He clung to a floating box and invoked my pity. Perhaps I felt pity because my friend was even now on his death dive to the Deepness where he would breathe out his lifebreath and breathe in water-of-the-ocean. I felt great sorrow at the loss of his life and realized the floating being had suffered loss as well.>

<For the last time I returned to the entry into the whaleroad. For the last time I tried to open it to return to my world. Because of my injury I could not. After telling my tale to one of my brother’s family I abandoned my quest and swam toward the Deepness to share my brother’s end. His descendants in the future will sing of his courage and loyalty. Alas my descendants will never learn my fate. But perhaps when my brother’s tale is told, his descendants will think of me, his white brother.>