Thursday, July 22, 2010

The World in Miniature: The Inky Deep

by Bryan Russell

The Inky Deep

the stone whale returns to my waters

its whirring and clanking sounds sharp as a sharks fin and leaving echoes like the wash of polar waters through the dark depths

an eye like the forbidden sun breaking the blackness

i shift through the water hovering and rising and my tentacles push and i move forward baiting the waters with froth and hoping the stone whale will leave and yet hoping the stone whale will stay so that i can wrap myself around it and crush it with my limbs for its invasion and for the light it sheds and the hurt in my eyes and for the grit of its sound against my skin for i have killed many whales who have trespassed too deeply

the stone whale was here before and its presence was like a glowing sickness in the dark depths and i pushed close through the water and yet hesitated as my bulk drew close and thought i might let it flee if it was merely passing through in its ignorance but i did not like its bitter eye or the rockskin which i touched with the tip of one tentacle while its eye sought me and there was an echo of voices like the tiny fractured voices of dolphins

as if the stone whale had swallowed them and they whispered deep in its belly with their sharp voices bouncing between its ribs

i hovered behind it in the darkness waiting and hesitant and yet with a pain that grew within me as the stone whale whirred along as if oblivious to the shape and shift and taste of the ocean and full with an ignorance so great that it was as if it were dead

it followed a school of white sharks for a time but the toothy ghosts fled before it as if scared of the strange stone whale and scared too of me for my tentacles snapped and writhed almost as if they were not mine

it rose through a drift of jellyfish alight in the blackness and the jellyfish whisked around it and slid from the skin of the stone whale as if it were tasteless and translucent to the sense of touch

i wanted it to leave and yet it persisted and pushed snubnosed through the endless vast dark of the sea

the depths were mine and the alien had to leave the deep bottom of the ocean so ripe with warm sulfur vents and with the blind albino crabs that danced ascuttle across the barked surface of the earth

the depths were mine with their heavy waters that cocooned the skin and held all things together

the bitter eye of the stone whale was like the bite of the great shark when i was small and young and yet now i was not small and young and the bite was long ago and i had grown vast to fill the vastness of the abyss and so i pushed against and through the water and drew up close behind the stone whale and it was like bright starlit teeth in my flesh and i brushed the hard skin of the stone whale with many arms and it was slow and dumb to my touch and i vented my ink upon it in a great pool that even a whale could not see through

the broken dolphins sang inside the beast and grew louder and there were new clanks and shivers and little eyes sprang up all around it

a whale whose eyes burned my pale skin

i would drive it and its baleful and searching ignorance away and i vented ink upon it to dull those fierce eyes and i struck it with a single arm and it shook a little but did not stop for it seemed as if movement were its only purpose and the voices bellowed amidst its ribs and i struck it again and again and it rang and shivered and once it vented like a sulfur rift and yet clearer and lighter and whiter in its bubbling froth

still it did not rise or flee but continued on its callous way and i clutched myself to it and wrapped many arms around it and i squeezed and squeezed and felt its stone skin shiver coldly in my arms and i crushed it

there were clanks and vents and the dolphins screamed and i tasted their fear amidst my black ink and finally the whirring stopped and the stone whale shuddered and grew still and its impetuous onwardness was halted

my arms released and it seemed to hover and could not swim and its sides were folded in and rent and there were bleeding wounds on my arms but i had no fear for the sharks would not approach me for my blood was more peril than feast to them

the stone whale started to sink slowly and grimly and without motion of its own for it seemed as if i had torn all movement from it and it was too heavy with stillness to float or swim or even hover and it fell through the blackness and the voices grew quiet in its belly even as its skin began to shriek and groan as it sank down through the endless waters with the weight of the sea growing ever greater upon its battered back

the stone whale caved upon itself and its skin collapsed and crumpled like a punctured blowfish as it drifted downward until it found the dusty floor of the sea and hit with a thump on its snub nose and came to rest on its side as a cloud of silt puffed up around it and shrouded the dull carcass and left it only as a vague shape like an outline of a rock

as if it were no more now than one of the rocks whose skin it had stolen

i pushed against the water and swam upward leaving the stone whale where it lay and i was contented again with all the vast and lonely dark of the sea but even so i thought again of the bright and searching eyes and the voices of the swallowed dolphins and the ignorance and curiosity and cold pride of the stone whale and i wondered why it had come here even as i looked about at the vast emptiness of the surrounding depths and at everything which was mine and mine alone


Matthew MacNish said...

Oh man Bryan you've outdone yourself. The lack of punctuation and capitalization feels so appropriate for the voice of this somewhat simple minded beast.

Every time I read another piece of your original fiction I see more and more how skilled you are with diction, rhythm and all around sentence structure. There are MANY good lines in this little tale but my favorite is:

danced ascuttle across the barked surface of the earth

I mean technically that's not even a correct use of the word barked ... and yet, somehow, it sounds more perfect than anything else I've ever read describing the ocean floor.

Well done sir!

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, Matt!

Technically this piece is too long, but hey, this isn't a democracy. I'd be a great dictator, what with the random violations of my own laws. Some small island country should really look into hiring me.

And who else would publish such an oddity? Ha! But I kind of like this one.

R.S. Bohn said...

Wow. This is an amazing piece. So many phrases caught my attention, "the broken dolphins," "heavy with stillness," and so many more. The language is simple, and the lack of punctuation appropriate, and yet, it conveys such a sense of other and, somehow, sophistication.

Sometimes, writers get so caught up in that perfect phrase (guilty!) that their use of language distracts from the story. But this pushed ever onward, even as I noted word usage that I loved.

I also happen to love the subject matter, but my bias isn't forcing me to give this a good review.

Weird, man. Weird and beautiful. Well done, you.

Matthew MacNish said...

Yeah I did notice that this felt longer than the others, but I ended up liking that ... because for the first half of it for some reason I kept telling myself "crush the sub! I hope it crushes the sub" ...

I have no idea why I felt that way but I was quite excited to see that you listened.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

If you keep writing things like this, you might convert me over to literary fiction.

I like how the kraken (can I presume to call it that?) only wonders why they came after they are crushed and buried on the ocean floor.

Beautiful, and yet you still tell the story.

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks for the kind words, R.S.!

Bryan Russell said...

Lol, Susan, I don't know what to call this. I thought of submitting it somewhere, but what do I say? "Hi, I wrote this stream-of-consciousness prose poem without punctuation from the point of view of, um, a giant squid, who's, like, battling a submarine at the bottom of the ocean? I'm sure it's just right for your magazine."

Mira said...

Bryan - glorious.

Love it when you let your creativity fly. Wonderful, wonderful. Has an eerie, almost sci fi feel to it.

I'm not sure if this has a happy or a sad ending. I was surprised though. I thought the Squid/Kraken would end up dying. I was both pleasantly and sadly surprised.

And you'll publish it in your magazine or collection, of course! :)

p.s. Seriously. You should consider starting a journal or someting. It just felt right when I said that.

Bryan Russell said...

I've sometimes toyed with the idea of a magazine - I think The World in Miniature is sort of me dipping my toes in the water. But it's a lot of work doing a full magazine. Getting the word out, reading submissions... my wife might kill me. :) More time on the computer!

But maybe someday.

Though if someone wants to collect my works, that's okay. :)

Mira said...

Bryan, I keep telling you, you're completing missing the real reason for having children.

I know the newborn might be alittle young to type, but he can lick stamps. The others can collate and proofread. It's educational!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Hey, I've read a literary short that was from the POV of a tree (and far less cool than this). My impression of lit mags is that this would be right up their alley! Of course, I could be totally wrong about that. :)

The thing I love about your literary works is that they stand in contrast to the beef I have with most things literary, which is namely where's the story?. Lovely words are great, but they just don't move me the way a story does (hence my issues with poetry, in general). And some literary stuff seems to try too hard (shocking! gore! outrage!) or not hard enough (here are three random elements; please see if you can discern my genius), but yours is always perfectly pitched to telling the story, just wrapped up in beautiful prose that enhances the tale.

Ok, that exhausts all my literary analysis ability for the rest of the summer. :)

Bryan Russell said...


My five-year-old keeps getting ME to type for HER. Something's not right here. Some sort of subtle coup has taken place without my knowledge.

Bryan Russell said...


Yeah, I'm a story guy. I love pretty language as much as most word snobs, but I love me a good story. Trying to do both is the challenge.

And I had a short story published back in the winter about an extra-marital affair. From the point of view of a television set.


I do like the oddities, apparently.

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

Brilliant! And inspiring. I love your use of language, your confidence. Perfect.

I started out mildly puzzled, but I couldn't stop reading.

LOL, Matthew! I was saying, "I hope it doesn't crush the sub!"

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, Deb.

And maybe I should have killed them both! I like happy endings. :)

Mira said...

Kill them both! Bryan, what is your sweet little girl going to say when she realizes how bloodthirsty her Papa is?

Well, I don't know when you might do it, but I have to tell you: Literary magazine = Bryan just sounds really right to me.

dolorah said...

Cool. Awesome style, and I loved the monotonous voice of the Nautalis. Man, that was just creepy. I was rooting for the ocean critter all along.

Hey, I'm sadistic, and I was drawn in by its sense of violation.

Highly entertaining Sir.


Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, Donna!

Creepy is good. :)

StPMedic said...

Love the lack of punctuation - very fitting creates a great style.

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, E.M. Punctuation just seemed off for a giant squid. :) How many times have we heard someone say that, eh?