Whalefall
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rating: +40+x

Whalefall2.jpg

"State your name and position within the Foundation, please." The voice, distorted through a series of speakers, echoed throughout the room.

The thin man - seated upon a folding metal chair, his hands resting on the table before him - startled before responding to the one-way mirror.

"Uh, sorry. Miles Lykar, junior navigator of the SCPS Oro-, sorry, the Palma, ma'am."

An awkward moment passed as he sat waiting for the crackling voice to return.

"Please state, in your understanding, the nature of your assigned mission on 13/03/2021."

Miles swallowed, a lump having formed in his throat. He suspected why they'd called him in; he knew what he wrote on his after-action report. But it wasn't something he knew how to disclose.

"Yes, uhm, well, we had been told that the folks up in AA1 had been working with Archives and the Hazers2. They had been going through the sounding bones we nabbed from J&J3 when they noticed some concerns."

The silence continued, unresponding.

"Yeah, apparently there were a few that didn't fit the uh, the timeline: when we knew J&J was working and what they were working with. I know it made Director Barrett nervous, so that was our first clue something was off. He was the one who gave the order, ma'am. I suppose it wasn't just a seaman's superstition, to have kept the Palma wet-docked."

"Please state, in your understanding, the nature of your assigned mission on 13/03/2021," the voice repeated. Miles couldn't tell if it sounded more irritated.

"Sorry, right. We were to take one of those bones, ones they flagged as irregular, on a temporal jaunt. Best I understand it, the practice was still the same: Captain marks our destination with the nail in the bone, and off we go. That part went smoothly, but after a few hours, we realized things were weird."

The speaker crackled back to life. "Can you elaborate, please."

"Yeah, well right as we were expecting to get to our destination the instruments started acting up. The chronometer was throwing up errors left and right, and we couldn't make out land - some blasted fog had rolled in and -"

"Your vision of the coast was obscured," the voice inquired.

"No, well yes, but we wouldn't have been able to see it anyway. We were too far east. We had factored in higher water levels due to climate change, but our instruments couldn't find land at all. As far as we could tell it was just an endless ocean under the night sky. There must have been land somewhere though, right? Anyway, 'Capt left the command deck for a few minutes, then came rushing in. He was spooked, we could all tell. He told us to bring the boat about and head back. He was practically running along the deck to grab the nail and hammer it home. We were pushing ourselves along at full speed on the way back. That's when I saw, it."

"Please describe what you saw." Miles was suddenly, and violently aware of the ocean outside Site-184, the waves crashing, endlessly, rising up the beach as the tide shifted. He whipped something wet from the side of his ear before continuing.

"I'm not sure how best to describe it." He paused for a moment. "When I was a child, I loved whales. They were these bigger-than-life creatures that filled your imagination. I didn't see one until my parents took me up to St. John's4 on a whale-watching boat. One of the things that they told us as we were heading out on the boat was that most whales don't die on the shore. Sure there are strandings, but usually, the whale dies at sea. They bloat and float for a while as the gasses build-up, but then they rupture and start to sink."

"They call it a Whalefall, fitting name, you've got this massive, partially decomposed carcass that's no longer buoyant, so it starts to fall. And as it falls, it moves away from the light, from the air, all those things that whales need, same as us. And it descends, for miles, into this black abyss; eventually, you wouldn't be able to see it, but it's still there, falling."

"When it finally hits the seafloor though, that's when it becomes interesting. It becomes a banquet hall, a city of food, for all these deep-sea critters. I don't know where they come from, but they do. They start eating their way through it: carving it apart, bit by bit, bite by bite. It can take decades for them to strip the body clean, to work their way through the marrow of the bones. Eventually, it's all gone: the blubber, muscles, skin, all of it. Except for those bones."

"They just sit there, do you understand? Resting in that pitch-black darkness, in silence. Once all the creatures leave, when the bounty has been picked dry, they're abandoned to that unending night. That's what I saw, in the gap between the fog and the night sky, I -"

Miles bent forward as his abdomen was racked with pain. He stood, a hand on the table for support as he coughed. A slick mucus filled his mouth. He gagged as it splattered onto the floor, the taste of the salty bile lingered.

He took three breaths in and out. "That's what I saw there: impossible ivory towers, curving and rising out of the sea. I don't know how big they were, there was no frame of reference, but I could glimpse them through the fog, reflecting the moonlight. There must have been hundreds. I felt like one of those small, dark things, crawling along the seafloor to nibble away at the remains of something larger than I could comprehend."

The figure, hunched over, lowers himself back into the chair. He scans the room, finding his gaze unmet by the uniform walls, he settles on his reflection in the mirror for his revelation.

"But that wasn't the worst part. No, that happened when the fog crept inward, closing in on the boat. As it obscured the moonlight, I saw them move. They pitched forwards towards us, like something rising."

The silence hung in the near-empty room. Miles steadied his breathing. It felt as though a weight had been lifted; he had just come up for air.

"Thank you, that will be all," the voice responded.





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