“My Ocean and Me” (The Winning Article Of The Storytelling Challenge)
A whale falls in love with a submarine….Perhaps it was the reflection of shimmering blue in the otherwise murky depths. Or the way that the song he sung caused the outer rivets to shake just so slightly. Maybe a mix of both because what in life wasn’t a mix of misunderstood intentions? Whatever the cause, it still rang true.
The scientist would look out from the small curved window 7 times a day. 7 different times at any given day- neatly, strategically- erratically. And no matter if her eyes were still half-lidded from sleep, or glancing from behind reading glasses with too many smudges, there he was.
Shrouded under the shadows that the ocean somehow still found, his eye- almost as large as the window itself- would be focused on her. She tried to wave a few times- made faces, laughed, growled- but he never left. Not for long anyway. Enough time to slip away for a smidge of air or a nibble to eat. He cried, at first, when he pushed the half-eaten seal towards the nose of the submarine- but no bites were taken. Now he ate them entirely- almost smugly, without offering so much as a flipper. The scientist chewed her jerky a bit reproachfully, settling into the driver’s seat as her fingers danced over buttons she memorized.
Her journey was coming close to an end now- weeks at sea, scribbling away data that she could only dream of. And now, as she slowly began the hours and hours of upward ascension- the pangs of guilt settled neatly into her stomach.
How do I say goodbye?
The question hung in the air. She flipped the autopilot switches on begrudgingly, and curled onto her cot. Slowly drifting away into a troubled sleep.
The sudden lurch of the sub sent her against the panels. She whipped around, confusion and sleep clouding her eyes. She wasn’t prepared for the sound of the cabin pressure hissing away, or the first human hands she were to feel be calloused hands yanking her from her now surfaced submarine.
“Dr. McDaniel- thank gods. We needed to get ya out before-“
His keening mourning song cut her researcher off. The scientist blocked the light from her eyes as she looked for her friend.
The docks shook as her whale rammed against his suddenly still and quiet mechanical love.
“I’ve never seen anythin’ like it!” The researcher gasped, getting his footing under him again. The scientist focused her eyes on the waterline, watching his fin weave frantically in distress. The knot of guilt she was holding so long finally became a plan.
She knew what to do.
Before her researcher could argue, she flung her body back into the opening of the submarine- searching for the settings. The right combination-
Her entire body lurched. The song making her head vibrate with its pitch. Her hands fumbled for the buttons she placed- that she had decided to install. She never knew why- but she knew it was needed.
“Doc, we gotta GO” he screeched, his hands trembling at the opening door.
The final switch found purchase under her fingers. She smiled, grabbing the pack full of notes, and yanking herself through the submarine’s hatch. Turning back, without a word, she sealed the hatch just in time to watch the submarine take one last dive.
“Where in God's name is it going?” He said, incredulously
She laughed. Deep- too loudly. Tears running down her face.
“It’s on autopilot. That battery will last for years. He was just lovesick. He wanted her to go home.”
And with the knowing that only comes from watching a great love unfurl, the scientist trained her eyes to the horizon, as she watched his fin dive below the water. She felt the edges of guilt finally slip away as she listened to the songs of relief that he sang- welcoming his love home.