Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

In the Cold, Dark Sea

We didn’t ask you to come, not here, not now. Not into the deep, where we didn’t want you. Nor into our other waters, where we didn’t want you either. But you came anyway, with your ships and your harpoons and your chanting tunes. And we watched you slaughter our kin and dim their songs, and still, we did nothing.

Until their blood ran red, in the cold, dark sea, and our anger ran true. And then, we did the unthinkable and showed ourselves to you.

You stare at us—at all of us—and if we were different creatures, we might preen and swim under your admiring gaze. But we’ve come armed for battle, even if you don’t know it yet, and the circles we swim around you are reconnaissance as much as they’re a beauty display. We watch you, all of you, and see the lust on your faces; the way that our breasts gather you to the railings of your ships and the curtains of our hair both hide and entice. The sun is warm on the harbor rocks, and we lay ourselves out before you like a feast that you’ll never be able to have.

We slip back into the water when the sun slips past the horizon, and we make our reports to the generals that wait down below. This many ships, that many men; all of the details of your life on the island that butchers our kin with greed and efficiency. Too many men, too many deaths; an entire generation of whales that will never sing with us again. We plan and we plot and we wait.

• • • •

We gird ourselves for war with darkened lashes and reddened lips; we braid our hair with seashells and pearls that will shimmer in the light of the full moon. The greatest of our generals, whose hair and skin has already turned pale blue with age, goes from group to group, making sure we understand the plan. We all know to wait for the bells before we begin.

We swim in the deeps, following the path laid for us by the general’s scouts, concealing our movements in the black water. You don’t know that we’re there—why should you—and we wait underneath your wooden ships. We wait under those instruments of death and torture, and we delay your deaths for a minute more.

And then, the bells ring out across the ocean, three sets of two, and we swim to you.

• • • •

Three ships crowded with men that clog and congest our part of the whale-road. Three ships which do not belong here. Three ships full of meat and malice, unsuspecting and ripe for vengeance.

We surface around your ships, circling them in the dark, and we sing.

Quietly, at first—the sweet tunes, the haunting tunes, the ones designed to lure men from their beds. You stumble on deck, sleep-tossed from your hammocks, and stare at us with tired eyes.

We display ourselves for you—bared breasts, shining braids, and silvered scales. We cavort like dolphins and embarrass ourselves in the waves, and you stand there and cheer us on. We prance and we play, until we have your attention—all your attention.

And we sing, we sing, we sing.

Louder and louder, winding our sirens’ song through the lonely, lonely night, until you are all on deck, watching us with your desire-filled eyes. Until you start to push past each other in your haste, clambering and climbing over your companions, using their bodies as stepping-stones to reach the railings. Until you jump, and we welcome you with open arms into the ocean.

And you jump, you jump, you jump.

Man after man, you all jump, and now, our song changes. We sing for our kin, for ourselves, for everyone in the sea who you think to slaughter. We sing and you drown, to the songs that we sang with the whales and the songs that they should have sung.

And when we stop singing, you panic, and that is perhaps the sweetest thing of all. And then, you scream, when we smile at you, and you scream again, when we show you our teeth.

And we feast, we feast, we feast.

Jenny Rae Rappaport

Jenny Rae Rappaport. A middle-aged white woman, with dark purple hair and a plum-colored shirt, sitting outdoors at a table, resting her chin on her hand and smiling slightly

Jenny Rae Rappaport has been published in Lightspeed Magazine, Escape Pod, and Daily Science Fiction, among other magazines. She is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and holds a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. In the past, she has worked as a literary agent, a marine sciences field guide, and spent a semester observing monkeys as an intern with the Pittsburgh Zoo. Jenny lives in New Jersey with her family, where she divides most of her time between writing and herding small children. She can be found online at jennyrae.com and on Twitter at @jennyrae.