To Sing Death as Life

by Brett Anningson © 2002

Incandescent bubbles of air crawled eerily over the inky flesh of the creature that swam before her. Breaking free with startling regularity they ascended out of the darkness towards the glow above. It was hard not to get caught up in their journey, to allow the eyes, the mind, the soul to break stride and float ever upward, ever on, into death.

But Nchi had a purpose, a vision which kept her driven in the wake of Ktal. She was singing harmony to his call, swimming in and out of the wave notes as easily as the currents slid past her gray skein. It was effortless. Ktal sung of glory, of grace, of hope for the future and it was to this siren call she was drawn.

It had been months since she had been this close to the surface. They had swum upwards through three barriers to arrive here. Here, where the water glowed its unfriendly presence and the heat pressed against gill, warning of danger and doom.

How could the song continue in such harmonious delight when all around them danger echoed sharp and reverberated tonelessly? Nchi didnıt understand, but she was young, and the ways of her elders had always seemed strange; even if these days brought actions stranger still.

The world was dying. She had fought long and hard against those who sang its death nell, refusing to accept the clamorous wailing of the mournful pod. Itıs heaviness pressed on all sides as surely as the heat, raging now, continued to descend and threaten the safety that was this world.

She was daydreaming, she knew, for Ktal had paused to check on her safety, if not her presence. It was the only time that he had acknowledged her faithful vocalization in two days and it drew her instantly back to the here and now. The sea bottom, and its beautiful coolness, the mirky stillness of their home was forever changing and Ktal alone sang of hope. She knew not why, but she followed and gave voice to her own secret wishes of salvation.

Silver fish darted past her peripheral vision. They moved with grace and coordination, screaming out their humanity, even though they could not sing. Oraka, the mean old grump had always taught that a creature without voice is a creature without purpose, a source of food only. In this too she had rebelled, searching out and embracing other forms of intelligence. She wished to harmonize this with others amongst her pod, but alas it was too late. The world was ending.

Or was it? Taking up the song once more she sang in the freedom of the here and now. Rising heat creating turbulent cascading underwater streams in which to frolic as they swam. But where was she being led? Would she find her way back? Would the journey ever end?

Although time meant nothing, it had been forever that they coursed this route now. And over the weeks, months years? the song had changed. The singing so constant that she failed to even realize the change. So long had the notes cascaded through the sparkling waves between them that her vocal tones had become natural, rhythmic, lost as she was in thought while swimming ever on. But this was different. Hope still sounded forth, but something else, something she could not quite identify was skirting the edges of the song, looking for a bar, a phrase on which to land.

This new tone was one that spoke of a dark future. A future beyond imagining. A future with no medium through which to swim, no force to ride from place to place, an empty future of desolate air. A future in which the song would be silent forever... and yet... hope remained.

It was to this hope she clung fervently. NChi had come so far, endured so much; what gave hope could not be an empty promise. Ktal was a prophet, a dreamer, the shaman of her desire for life to continue on. In his wake she was safe, no matter what ominous discord sought its rightful place in the space between the phrases.

It was warmer now, and lighter still. The pressure remained constant though, they had neither risen or fallen but the water had changed. Fear was the master now, edging out what little peace and solace Nchi gained within the song. But then, did the song really offer her solace at all? Was the hope one in which she took part. Where were these thought coming from?

Death swam nearer now. Rocks and gravel filled the warm coastal sea erasing the coolness of her home from all but distant memory. ŒA world which diedı she dared sing forward to Ktal Œis a world gone madı but he did not hear, or failed to listen.

Strange creatures lurked in the waters that gathered here in coalescing pools. Dark claws of uncertainty grasped at her being. This was the end. Ktal was the heretic others claimed and this foreign land would be her tomb. There was no future. The water was too hot now to think, Ktal hung, lifeless, just below here, the song having ended in exhaustion or failure.

The years of singing had come to this, and she cried out in failure and remorse. The song had taken its toll on both spirit and body, for her fins were no longer soft and pliable, constant swimming had made them hard, immobile seeming even in this water like gel. There was no returning, and no going on. death was welcome for Kıtal had failed to stem the coming tide.

Curious that she still felt the echoes of hope; the wavenotes of a future uncertain. What could be more certain than death on a lonely shore. But as she lay exhausted, curious, she watched the myriad of unknown beings which surrounded her. Some were rising to the surface and some were... some were leaving the protective glory of the water all together to walk upright on stilted fins.

The migrant note of discord found a home within her song. It was not their future they had been singing, Ktal had taught her of the future of the planet, where life continued, but not as it had once been. She sang with joy and triumph. For as surely as her kind would die off, others would take their place, and the song would not be lost. She sang till she could breath no more and silently drifted into the mud. They say her song lives still, but I canıt remember how it goes.

x x x

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