Fatigue only pushed them onward. Concepts of time diffused in their wake. Hunger atrophied– a hollow thought redressed by expectation.
On and on and on they soared through the comforting cold of liquid space. Above them the great void; below the dense, rocky base of the world; ahead only blackness. Gliding up, then down, the congregation moved as a single entity, graceful behemoths linked by a shared resolve. But the longer their pilgrimage progressed, the warmer their environs became, the more unorthodox their course seemed. Uneasiness circulated throughout the cluster. At first it was only a feeling, a vague sense of apprehension. Then a solitary voice cried out.
Let us turn back and make for more temperate currents.
For the first time since the journey began, their communal purpose wavered. Doubt and indecision spread unspoken.
We must keep going, called the master pilot. Follow me, my brothers. Follow me to a better world.
I’m no longer certain, said another. Why must we do this?
There is no longer a place for us in this world, said the pilot with authority. It has been fouled by those with no reverence for the true order of things. We are a spiritual minority wallowing in the swill of a soulless majority. But have faith, brothers. A greater world awaits us–a world so wondrous and bountiful it defies imagination. All you must do is follow me. Follow me through the depths of despair and into the light of never-ending bliss.
A swell of assent surged through the congregation, and its collective intent was fortified. The master pilot increased his speed, relying on renewed hope to sustain them. Conviction and a shared allegiance drove them on.
It won’t be long now, he assured them. When the time comes, do not fear. The threshold to the new world may seem bewildering, even painful. Suppress the pain. Ignore the strangeness of it all. Instead rejoice in what lies ahead. Drink from the pool of righteousness I offer you, and have faith. Above all, have faith.
Onward they swam through foreign waters that grew more and more tainted. On and on until the brine tasted of silt and the base of the world grew closer . . . ever closer. When it was nearly close enough to reach out and touch, misgivings were resurrected. The congregation looked to their leader for guidance. He accelerated. They followed.
With the suddenness of a predatory attack, they broke through the surface of their world into the blinding light of the void. A solid mass clutched their bodies and held them immobile. They struggled desperately to breathe, crushed by their own monstrous weight. The void and its brightness were familiar, but the gritty firmness beneath them was terrifying. Dozens cried out.
Fear not! commanded the master pilot. This is the threshold. Bear witness to the strength of your brothers and trust in that in which you believe. A new world awaits us. Have faith!
LAGOS, Nigeria— Frantic efforts to save more than 40 pilot whales that beached themselves on a stretch of sand near Lagos failed yesterday. Dozens of volunteers tried to keep the small whales wet with buckets of water, and attempted to push some back out to deeper water. However, those that were pushed out returned to the beach with a mysterious single-mindedness. All 46 whales died.
Scientists say pilot whales are highly sociable mammals that travel and feed together in large pods, and have a “follow the leader” social structure. While no one knows exactly why whales beach themselves, it’s theorised the animals lose their sense of navigation while feeding or following a sick animal that has gone astray.
Novelist, journalist, satirist, Bruce Golden’s short stories have been published more than a hundred times across 15 countries and a score of anthologies. Asimov’s Science Fiction described his second novel, “If Mickey Spillane had collaborated with both Frederik Pohl and Philip K. Dick, he might have produced Bruce Golden’s Better Than Chocolate”–and about his novel Evergreen, “If you can imagine Ursula Le Guin channeling H. Rider Haggard, you’ll have the barest conception of this stirring book, which centers around a mysterious artifact and the people in its thrall.” You can read more of Golden’s stories in his upcoming collection Tales of My Ancestors.