Originally published in Third Point Press issue 9. https://www.thirdpointpress.com/2018/02/from-the-water/
It was about 38 degrees but with the spray from the water it felt even colder. I couldn’t see my breath though, which I thought was odd but maybe it isn’t. It was on a northern beach in Washington State. Most of us got there that morning. The sky was dark grey, of course.
Though we’ve all heard the stories from everywhere for some reason it hasn’t become a phenomena, or a string, if you will. It’s all connected, of course, but each time it happens it remains an individual event, investigated on its own. Or at least that’s how it seems. It’s some subconscious delusion I heard a man on the beach say. It’s too serious to try to fully comprehend, so long as you still want to act normal when you get home he said. He was talking to a young woman in glasses and a rain jacket. She was probably a college student. She just shivered.
I passed an older woman also in glasses standing knee deep in the water, looking out. She wasn’t shivering. I heard her asking no one in particular what is going on? Mist covered her glasses, so I can’t imagine she could really see. I remember just thinking there were so many people in the water, and it was so dark blue.
My boots kept sinking deep into the sand. I remember I had no idea what to wear when they called us out, so I just put boots on. They’re still soaked in the corner of the garage, ruined, I think.
When I came back that night still soaking wet my wife asked what it was like, and I remember my daughter, she’s barely a teenager, looking up at me from the table too, wondering. I don’t know I said. I don’t know. It was bad I realize now. I should have said something different. My daughter is still scared, I think, and I think so am I. My wife tried to play it off.
It’s just too wrong, everything about it. The smell was wrong, the wind was wrong, the amount of people circling the enormous, dark bodies was wrong. The pictures from above that were most likely shown on the news I can imagine were wrong. I avoided seeing them. You just know it’s something we shouldn’t have to do. The signal is almost too clear, as shocking to your system as a fire alarm. You don’t even want to ask what is wrong with the oceans? Why do they keep coming? What are they trying to tell us? You just want to run. You want to get out of there. And plenty of people that day did.
But they are talking to us. They are desperately, desperately talking to us, in a language so primal it’s terrifying. Those who stayed seemed to just mill about in the cold water looking like they were trying to take it all in, the scene and the message, but when I looked in peoples’ eyes they were blank, they were not looking. Some people even seemed to forget where they were until they drifted out shoulder deep. Finally after hours it seemed someone with a megaphone began directing us, and one by one we started pushing the enormous whales back into the ocean. Just with our hands. Hundreds of humans just pushing the whales back into the ocean. You could see in the face of the person beside you the pit we all had in our stomachs. And when we were done we just all went home. It was getting dark already. Everyone was silent as we walked out of the ocean, and for half an hour headlights shined over the beach into the dark water, and you could still see the enormous shadows swimming underneath.