For centuries, the teeming life beneath our seas has beguiled Man. From the bright and vibrant, to blind creeping feelers that scrounge and bite in its depths, to those part plant, part animal, creatures which feed on particulates strained from the flowing waters, to the unknown. And yet we ignore the waves themselves, the ocean’s heart and diffuse consciousness. Each current is a life that begets life that begets, a constant stream of creation. The sea that contains multitudes is itself multitudinous.
How limited our notions of life. Beings that breathe and photosynthesize, discrete units of carbon. How lovely is the sea? A drifting membrane of memory, where each soul rolls into another. It is over this cacophony of life, of birth and rebirth, that a storm raged, where a ship and its crew clung futilely to life. A ship where one on board, pre-disposed to the improbable and wondrous, would discover a world beyond life and transcend his prison of flesh.
After a while, in a raging typhoon, as the wind whips and howls, you and your fellow man cling to the deck, or hide in your bunks or tie your frail frames to the mast in a desperate battle with the rising, grappling waters. There’s nothing left but to pray to whatever God, or force, or Lady Luck you happen to believe in. Or, failing true belief, whoever’s name you have handy to invoke.
It was in such a situation a seaman, let’s call him Rogers, found himself that night. Drenched afresh with each buck and dip of the boat, deaf to all but his own fearful prayers and the roar of the wind and the sea. How many men were already lost he dared not guess, and he dared not acknowledge the fact that was becoming readily apparent to him, and anyone else left aboard and alive: the schooner would soon be lost with all hands.
A figure staggered over to him in the dark, falling out of the shadows like the hand of God. The captain. He screamed something unintelligible in his face. An order. Some sort of nonsense. Batten the hatches. Tie-down the sails. Like it served any purpose at this point. In the gale that had arrived upon them, visiting its deathly force with a sudden, unforeseeable vehemence. Taking them unawares before they took a single precaution. He was not yelling for long. The deck buckled beneath his feet and, unattached as he was, the captain sank from view, cursing his ill-luck.
How had he not foreseen this? With all his long years at sea, he was as surprised as all the rest. His charges, whom it was his duty to protect, now at the mercy of the merciless ocean. It seemed to mock him, batting aside his attempts to grab onto any flotsam, to stay afloat by any means necessary, like a bully mocking the attempts of some child to defend itself. His head resurfaced briefly and then disappeared beneath the waves for good. Legend has it Mother Ocean, this living goddess, reveals herself to every sailor that drowns in her, and binds their souls to her bosom, a tableau of life. Whether this was true for the poor captain remains unknown. After all, this is not his story.
Rogers was too preoccupied with his own fight for survival to mourn the captain’s passing. A fight he was rapidly losing, as the ship around him was torn apart. Water rushed in, flooding cabins, covering the deck, then his feet, his ankles, up to his waist in an instant. Then, with a SNAP! so loud that he heard it even over the wind’s dirge, the ship’s mast broke free, and he with it.
Up and up they flew, and then, as it always is with gravity, they fell back down and down. Back into the water, down into its depths. Rogers struggled to free himself from the mast, once a life-preserver, now a death sentence. Involuntarily he screamed, only no sound came out, only water rushed in. He choked, and flailed and-
What was that? A voice? No, a chorus of voices. All around him. Distracting him from death.
You will succumb.
Some claim that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes, times good and bad. But the truth is there’s rarely time for that. In the moment of transition, between existence and the lax stillness of the void, there is only time for fear, for futile rebellion, for some final thought of things left undone, for anger, for weakness, and finally, for embracing the shadows surrounding. Rogers experienced all this, but calmly, quickly.
Somehow he knew he had been chosen. He was to be transformed.
Welcome to Us.
After a while, he came to see himself floating in the water. He still wasn’t breathing. And yet he was no longer drowning, either. Rogers had died. Breath was superfluous. And yet, there he still was. Growing into his new awareness, he realized he could feel his own corpse drifting in his… his… what was this? What was he?
Hail, new mind.
Several voices, no several presences, buffeted up against him and into him and through him. And he realized it was the water. He. He was the water. Or the water was him. Or, in flowing through and over and by and by, there ceased to be a difference. He felt… peaceful. The storm quelled as quickly as it began, either that or time’s passing no longer meant to him what it used to. Rogers began to feel what could only be called eternal. Like he had always flowed this way, a voice in a sea of voices. He tried remembering what he was before he drifted and found it was gone. Lost to another wave he supposed.
He tried remembering his… name? What was a name? Why did that word hold such meaning to him? Him? The current let that go as well and turned to the wreckage within it. There it began to feel something resembling sorrow, for those poor lost souls who had braved its being and lost their way, their everything. It buoyed the bodies to the surface so that they might be found, that the land dwellers might dispense with their flesh. It swirled around the body of a man tied limply to a fractured piece of wood, wondering at its familiarity, before lifting it up and carrying on. Other currents would be by, to lift up, drag down, carry to shore or further out into the ocean. These were no longer this wave’s concern. It flowed onward and any sense of ‘I’ dissipated and only a voice, only rapidly diffusing memories, memories slowly spread out to every wave, remained. And, as mankind lost another mind…
…the sea? Its choir gained a voice.