Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Big Blue

 “I want to move into this area, and this is where people like you come in – because artists and writers aren't constrained by the scientific processes. You can speculate, imagine yourself in the world of the whale. And then open-minded scientists, by looking at what artists produce, may make hypotheses that will lead us onto paths that will begin to crack these great mysteries.”  Philip Hoare
The scientists can give us the facts and without those facts I couldn’t write this story let alone make it in any way authentic. I choose however to write the heart of the story.  

He glides through the deep blue water. He maintains a pace of about five miles an hour.  This is the speed he likes. It isn’t hurried. Every so often he comes to the surface to breathe, pushing out a huge jet of water. Then back down in to the silky wetness that is his home.
The cold doesn’t bother him. It never has. It’s what he knows. He notices it though. He feels as well the sun that warms him as he lingers a short while on the surface.
Then down to the depths, mouth open, then closed and pushing out the water, leaving the krill behind. His belly feels empty and will take a while to fill yet. Still he punctuates his time in the depths with trips up to the surface. Pull in, push out, pull in, push out then push up and push out again. Now dive down into the cold depths. Until, at last, he is satisfied and can linger for longer just below the surface.
The sun invites him to play. He jumps high out of the water and anyone watching must assume he is full of joy. Yes, a true jump for joy, a leap of faith, as his tail flicks off water. Three times, he repeats this, twirling his whole body round the final time, slapping the surface hard as he lands. His skin now feels fresh and parasite-free.  
He is fed. He is clean. He has exercised. Sleepy and relaxed he floats like a log with the water just covering him.  
He dozes but something comes through the deep, penetrates his dreams and now he is alert. “Wohm, wohm, wohm.” With a higher-pitched echo. He recognises at once the call of the calf and its mother. He turns himself to be in a vertical position, pushes his head out of the water and looks around but sees nothing.
“Wohm, wohm, wohm,” he hears again. He puts his head back under the water and can feel the direction of the call.      
Now he is fully alert and begins to swim towards the sound with all of his strength. He accelerates up to and beyond his earlier five miles an hour. Soon he is charging along at twenty, anxious to meet them.     
A squeaker-whistler joins him. Normally he wouldn’t mind. They’re company of a sort and often help to pick out a sensible route through the waves. This one, though, is irritating. She squeaks at him constantly, jabs at his head and seems to want to push him away. She’s no match for him of course. One flick and he could crush her but some instinct stops him from doing that. Then every so often she lets out one of her piercing whistles. It sounds like a warning. If only he could understand her language.
She will not let him alone.
She nudges him again with her nose. He turns slightly. 
A shadow falls across the water. Something is not right. His mate’s call is nearer but not so near for this to be her. What other animal could be so big to cast such a shadow? 
Now the squeaker-whistler is actually nipping his side, forcing him to turn. Now she is jabbering away even more ferociously. He can no longer hear his mate easily.
Almost too late he recognizes what causes the shadow. It is the machine that humans use because they’re not so good at swimming. He tries to turn away from it but it’s a struggle. He hears the human voices. They are just as frenetic as the squeaker-whistler. They seem to have as much difficult turning as he does. The machine’s roar drowns out his mate’s call altogether.
Somehow they manage to avoid each other. There is the smallest gap between them and the squeaker would have been crushed if she had not jumped so expertly out of the way. He’d encountered one of these machines before and had not been so lucky with no squeaker to help. The machine had turned over that time, spilling its human riders into the ocean and he’d grazed his side badly. The scar still throbbed sometimes in the cold depths.  
His heart races. He can still hear them coming towards them. They will run into the machine, too, if he doesn’t warn them. He lifts his great tail and slaps it down on to the surface of the water.  Several times rapidly. He utters a warning, to them and others of his kind.
The squeaker whistles. She’s probably sending a message as well to her kind. Just as urgently by the sounds of it.
The mother and calf return his call. They understand, it seems. They are heading north. The human machine is travelling now towards the south. The danger is over. For the moment at least. He sends a confirmation message. 
The squeaker jumps over his nose and dives beneath him. She squeaks quietly then nudges him gently. He needs to surface and as he does she jumps again, landing on his nose. He dives again and she swims in front to him. She seems to sense when he is going to surface and three times comes up with him, lying on his nose. He tosses her gently into the air. She swims round him and under him and then jumps across him. He lines himself up a little beyond where she lands.
They travel along swiftly now but not urgently.
She gives him one more nudge and then turns west, squeaking and whistling as she goes.
Big Blue turns a little more to the north. A mother and child are waiting for him there. He relishes the sun each time he surfaces. He will be there soon. He accelerates up to twenty miles an hour again.                      

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