alex thorley dreams of sushi.


rating: +71+x

Have you ever felt that the air was heavy, that it dragged on your limbs with every move you tried to make? A state where even the smallest step forward takes an immense amount of effort, like moving through jello or quicksand or water. Like drowning on dry land.

You sit down in a chair. There's a man across the desk from you. You think you recognize him. You might have gone fishing together once.

You must be Thorley

The name sounds somewhat right. You nod. Dr. Lawrence is written on a nameplate on his desk.

He starts talking about some odd artifacts that have been bubbling up from the seafloor. He isn't making a lot of sense, but it doesn't seem like anything too urgent or dangerous, just confusing.

He's looking at you expectantly. You blink.

Think you can help us get to the bottom of this?

You open and close my mouth. Then you nod. You don’t know what any of this is about, but you still have so many questions about the Department of Unreality. You don’t even know why you're here. This is as good a chance as any.

He smiles at you.

That’s good. Emma said you might be a good fit.

Emma. You remember that name. You definitely went fishing with her. You don’t remember what you talked about, but it’s good to know that someone is thinking of you.

You're not sure why Dr. Lawrence thinks you would be a good fit for this job, but you have no time to worry. You have to make it to your next meeting.

You sit down at a large round table. It's cold to the touch. Metal.

It’s dark. There aren’t any lights.

The thick smell of oxidization fills my knowledge, mingling with something mildewy and something briny. Your chair is cold through your pants.

You hear metal scrape against metal. Several others sit down. A single light in the center turns on. Their faces, cast in darkness. A Council.

The ceiling is a glass dome. The outside of the glass is black. If not for the scent of mold and the moisture of the air, it could be mistaken for deep space.

Something drifts past the window. It looks like a bathysphere.

You wave at it.

It looks at you, and then it vanishes.


“Don’t acknowledge the wildlife,” someone at the table says.

The meeting. You need to focus on the meeting. You don't know why you're here. What siren song has brought you forth.

The meeting isn’t very interesting. They're talking about the logistics. You don’t know how they get food and water so deep below the sea.

It must be a lonely existence, being down here, so deep and so far away from everyone else. It must be the solitary life of a dreamer, surrounded by the liquid darkness, just waiting for you to make a choice. To reach out and shape it.

There’s a human-axolotl hybrid sitting across from you. What might it taste like?

But there's so much pressure coming from the water. The weight of the ocean and the currents and the rain, cycled a thousand million times through the water cycle, every last drop having fallen, risen, and fallen once more. All of that tradition, all of that liquid, surrounding you. Crushing in. Pushing back, no matter how hard you try. Forcing you to be ever smaller and smaller.

How common is cannibalism in Foundation sites during times of crisis? Surely it isn't all that rare. Foundation food tastes the same everywhere you go.

You see them argue over nothing. You see them under pressure. You watch their meeting disorganize.

You're in the mood for sushi.

I don't remember my dreams.

When I blink, I wake up. When I close my eyes, I sleep. When I sleep, I wake.

I stand upon a distant shore and gaze upon quiet waters.

I'm crying. I don't know why, but I'm crying.

The light hurts your eyes, so you close them.

The air smells green and is moist on your skin. Your head hurts.

You open your eyes.


You are alone with plants and the light spritzing of hundreds of sprinklers running at once.

It’s a hydroponic farm. There must be a lot of viable crops here, ready to become food.

You look at one of the plants.

It’s green. It has a tuft of leaves at the very tip, curling from the stem. The stem is a pale yellow, and it terminates in a bundle of roots that dangle in the air. They don’t have any soil to root themselves in.

Your stomach lurchs.

The roots dangle in the air, twisting around themselves, with nothing to cling to except their own frames of reference. It must be a miserable existence, being a plant in a hydroponic farm, living only for one purpose, to be harvested at the prime of life, never getting to flower or fruit, never knowing anything other than the cycle of artificial lighting and the light spritzing of mist. You could reach out and pluck it right now, tear it from its place, and it would never know how or why its short and pathetic life came to an end, devour it, swallow it whole—

Will you? It’s not sushi.

The lights go out.

It might be nighttime.

The sun beams down from the black sky.

What am I looking at?

I can imagine words on the horizon. They say what I cannot.

How could they do this?

What a world we live in.

In this world, things happen. Things happen to people.

People do things. People do things to people.

I don't like to think about it. I never have the time. But it hurts all the same.

The sun reflects off of the waves, tiny ripples to the horizon.

You would expect an ocean this big to have actual waves, but it's just ripples. They're just there. They'll never crash onto the shore. There won't ever be a climax.

You are lost, again. Do you remember walking here, or is this where your investigation has taken you?

There's a gleaming white rotunda with ten or so exits. The roof is a dome, still made of glass.

There are so many people here. You think you recognize some of them from earlier. You consider saying hi. You don't.

The water is dark, while the rotunda is bright. It doesn't seem very safe, having such a thin layer of glass between life and the waters above.

Nobody else seems to care. They're all regulars at this site. They must all be used to it. Nobody else is even looking up. They're all talking to each other or walking past each other to their destinations. It's oppressive, being the only one who even seems to notice. Nobody else thinks anything is wrong, which makes sense. This is just a normal day for them.

The water is so dark that it could almost be mistaken for the void of space. Imagine the floodwalls breaking, hundreds of interlocked layers of glass shattering one by one, the immense pressure of water flooding in. A mass that doesn't belong filling a void that can't support it. Imagine the water pouring in through a hole smashed in the glass dome, and everyone running to get away from it, the day they feared but never expected having come. An underwater site would have training protocols, drills, redundancy upon redundancy to keep everyone from dying.

But of course nobody would expect it to happen to them. Death is something that happens to other people.

A sudden motion catches your eye. It seems like everyone else is running. There's a klaxon blaring, the deep flashing red of lockdown lights permeating the space.

Everyone's stopped moving. They're all gathered at the doors. They're pushing against each other, but not moving forward.

The airlocks have sealed. You are all trapped.

You look into the waters more closely.

There's nothing there.


The waters lap at the shore.

I have always known who I am and where I'm going.

I don't know.

I have a purpose.

I fill space.

How could humans do this? Why would they?

Nothing washes up on the shore.

There are thirteen fishbowls sitting on a table. One of them is empty.

You sit besides them.


They are fish.

You leave.

You can almost make sense of it. You can feel it, just at the edges of perception. You are beneath the waves, and I am on the shore.

There is nothing between us.

I look upon the waters, and they are still. I see no sign of you.

You are beneath the waves, and imagine them collapsing upon you. I am above them, and I see nothing but peace.

We are one and the same, you and I, Alex. We have nothing in common.

I know there is nothing beneath the waves.

I leave the shore, and you with it, Alex Thorley.

It's been a very long day. You are exhausted.

You sit down in the mess hall.

Dr. Lawrence walks up to your table.

Thanks for all the help, Alex. You really helped us get to the bottom of all that.

You don’t know what he’s talking about.

He pats you on the back, and then he leaves you alone with your dinner.

You look at your plate.

There’s a pink, slimy mass on it, cut into cute little strips. Each cube sits upon a perfect bed of immaculate white rice, bound together by a strip of dry black seaweed. You don’t recognize the cut of meat. It’s not tuna or salmon.

You don't feel hungry.

rating: +71+x
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