The early morning is cold.
A bone freezing cold that bites slowly, gnawing into marrow. A mound of sleet sodden fur struggles up a wet sand ridge; far above a solitary gull screeches into the wind, unsure from its high perch if that which moves below is man or beast. It loses interest and wheels away, missing the moment the creature reaches the crest and pulls back its hood. Misses the sight of the man thing standing still in the gusting, ozone heavy wind that brings ancient memories of the sea; brings with it, also, air turned semi solid. Ice, yet not ice, snow yet not snow.
The man turns his head slowly, his lashes and beard heavy from the weight of water pearls that cling tenuously to their host. He blinks; Despite the cold, his eyes are watery, chaffed red sore by the angry, freezing wind that has pressed against him for days. Days given over to slow trudging, head down, muscles draining power with each troubled step forward.
A sharp gust attacks his bulk, its pressure tearing at his fur covering, pushing his tainted breath back into his lungs. He sways. He fights back, places one leg behind him, pushes forward, feet digging into the crusted sand. He staggers but holds firm. Head tilting back, he screams into the overcast sky but the sound, heavy with fear, with anger and weariness, is whipped away from his lips before it can make its presence felt. He blinks again. The winds constant pressure evaporates as if some unseen part of nature has decided to switch it off.
The bitter cold remains his companion. Undeterred, he removes one heavy mitten, hearing its ice crust crunch and fall away in minute glitter shards. His hand chills instantly once removed from its warm covering. He ignores the discomfort to wipe ice and frozen snot from his face. He blinks again, turning his head left and right, scanning the beach for any sign of life but all he sees is a wave worn jumble of pebbles, seaweed, human debris and water moving in sluggish treacly waves that look as tired as he is.
His stomach churns. He feels stabs of pain and knows it’s is hunger and fear fighting for dominance. He struggles to remember when he last ate and cannot. Neither can he shed the fear that is eating him. He sighs, though if someone was listening it sounds more like a sob. He falls onto his knees, his bare hand clutching at a small clump of sea grass, fingers digging into the sand covered roots to hold him steady. Ammophila! His dulled mind recalls the genus, grass not wasp. Why he recalls he has no idea and cares even less. He lifts his head, tired eyes straining out to sea.
He has followed the pathways. Followed the calling. He is here, where he should be, where he must be. Drawn by some primal calling to return to the wet place his ancestors crawled from when the Earth was first birthing life.
He doesn’t yet know what or who called him, drawing him to this desolate and icy shoreline but it’s power immersed him, overwhelmed him until he threw off his comforts, his work, his ties and ventured, poorly prepared and ill equipped, on the journey he has just made. He is tired enough to lie down here, right where he is knelling. Lie down and let the cold and hunger embrace him into eternal sleep. His eyes close. The heaviness of despair covers him like an unwelcome blanket that he aches to pull around him and give himself to the ground.
A breeze stirs, caressing his exposed skin. And with it comes a new sound. The sound of the sea stirring from its languid motions. Water breaking, dripping, splashing as it gives way to a presence that wishes to be free of its liquid embrace. He rubs his eyes, ignoring the pain and stares towards the shoreline. He squeezes his eyes tight and refocuses, seeing the source of the seas parting.
The man lifts himself up. He sees a walrus, a giant male, pulling himself up, rolls of blubber shuddering clear of the water, pebbles crunching and cracking under its enormous weight.
Odobenus rosmarus, Pacific sub species, springs into the man’s mind unannounced. Be-whiskered, tusked, and struggling to support its bulk on its two front flippers. The man’s spits bile and blood, coughs, and feels the ice crystals in his lungs shift painfully. He steps down onto the pebbles, sand slithering in small avalanches behind him. For a few seconds he wobbles precariously on the uneven and slippery stone surfaces and then recovers and stands taller than he has in weeks. The walrus is no more than ten paces away, its rear flippers twitching lethargically in the still water. Even at the distance that parts them, the man has to look up at the creature’s head, which is turned slightly to one side, one thick lashed eye appraising him balefully. Water trickling off its whiskers and down its brown stained tusks. When it exhales, the man catches the stench of the dying sea that is its home.
The walrus snorts more stench, adjusting its position and posture. Pebbles groaning and sliding as it settled down again. “Good luck with that!” the man thinks, imagining himself trying to find comfort for a 2000kg body on rough ground. He tires of straining his neck and sits down, leaning back, his arms supporting him.
‘Well here I am,’ he says, his voice a hoarse crock from the cold and lack of use. ‘It’s you that called. It’s me that answered.’
He wonders how he knows this. But he just knows.
The walrus turns his head slowly until it is looking directly at him. It blows brine laden air in his direction and utters a rumbling, throat rattling, lip quivering roar, settles lower, ejecting a further stream of unpleasant fishy, ozone smells towards the man. The man scrambles backwards, sharp edged stones and pieces of shell lacerating his hands. He groans at the pain and stops. He feels anger raising and eases forward, never breaking eye contact.
‘You called me here,’ he screams, feeling his throats dryness close down his vocal chords.
‘I smell your fear human. It oozes from your pores.’
He knows the walrus hasn’t spoken. No lips moved, no whiskers twitched and yet the sounds are there, clear in his head. He smiles. He laughs. He feels his fear and hunger even more. How can this be? He finds he doesn’t care.
‘Why would I not be afraid. You are master on this beach.’ he says, amazed that he has found his voice.
‘You misunderstand, human. The fear I smell is not yours alone.’
The voice, not unpleasant yet not easily categorised, continues ‘you carry the fear of all humanity like an aura, just as I carry the rage of all other life not just my own’ With this said, the man tires of sitting. He rises, somewhat unsteadily, to his feet. If there is more to be said, he will converse upright, not lying down in tiredness and self-defeat.
‘Why me? Why you? Why here in this god forsaken place?’ he says, the effort doubling him over as a coughing fit takes hold. He tastes blood and phlegm.
The walrus speaks. The man accepts this without wonder. It speaks from its mind to his.
‘Indeed, there are many why’s to this meeting. I have no answers for you or me. Like you I felt the call, the urge to be here now but unlike you I was given a message.’
He shifts his bulk once more, trying find some find comfort from amongst the pebbles.
‘From who?’ the man says.
He is intrigued, interested and now strangely unafraid and is about to continue when the gull returns. Lower this time. Circling. Screeching, as if it wants to add its voice to their conversation. For some reason he can’t explain the gull’s reappearance unnerves him. The walrus twists his massive neck up and then back down. ‘
‘The gull intrudes. It has no voice here. Nothing to add to what I must say, so listen well, for you will be the one that tells your kind what is coming.’
At this, the man feels his guts churn, his body heat up and true fear awaken to probe its fingers into his mind. He remains quiet. What can he say? Nothing, of that he is certain.
The massive marine mammal exhales. Slowly, less directed. The smell less offensive. He continues.
‘Once, before your kind stood upright and your brains evolved into one much like your own, you were one of us. A creature of the wild, at one with nature and existence. We all lived. We all died. Our life force returning in new forms. We all sought to live with what the Earth provided for us. To mate, feed, breed, explore the world around us.’
He rolls partially on his side, pebbles and shell fragments sliding from his skin, leaving deep marks as reminders of their crushing imprisonment. The gull calls again and he emits a long hooting sound. The gull flies off screeching angrily and the walrus continues.
‘You left the trees, left us behind. Lost the bond that kept you at one with creation. Instead you found lust, gluttony, greed. Your found war, a pleasure in killing.’
He sweeps a giant flipper at the man accusingly.
‘The Earth, our home, has had its treasures torn from it. The sea, my home and once yours chokes on your waste. Species reduce others slip to extinction without humankind’s tears of shame to comfort their passing.’
‘Stop.’ the man shouts. ‘Much of what you say is true. But this is not an all-encompassing truth. Many of us would agree with what you say. Many of us fight to turn the tide of the abuses done to the planet and its creatures.’
He stops. He feels the weight of humanities crimes press down on him. He senses the scales have tipped under that weight and does not know how the good can outweigh the bad.
A tear traces a wandering line down his dirty face. He loosens his fur coat. The heat of fear and shame make feel afire. He doesn’t feel the cold air that rushes in, sapping away warmth. Somewhere deep in his consciousness he lets a snigger fly at the thought he is being lectured on humanities failings by a walrus. He damps it down quickly in case he loses all control. At a higher level he knows what is said to him is true. That the tipping point has come and gone unseen, unheard but more probably ignored. That the Earth and its flora and fauna have had enough of humankind’s rape and pillage of the wonders they were gifted long before they left the trees. Where there was Oneness there is now isolation and a reckoning to be had. He breathes in deeply, ignoring the pain in his lungs.
‘God speaks through you. I know that now.’
The walrus starts chuffing, it’s blubber rings wobbling, shaking in enormous ripples down its body.
‘We know of no God. Only you humans find the need to raise up gods, discard old ones and make newer better versions to suit your needs and salve your guilts and fears.’
He waves his flipper at the man.
‘Once, at the very beginning of our time, when the great Oneness exploded outwards into the vacuum darkness its matter eventually birthed galaxies, suns and planets just like this. And then the small things that, much later, became us? Where we stand now and everything that makes the Earth live is from and of this Oneness. All the flora and fauna of this world still share this connection to the singularity of the one time. All except you humans and now you must pay the price for turning your backs on creations Oneness’ he snorts, his breath once again of the dying sea.’
The walrus raises his giant head too look over the man’s shoulder
The man turns as well. Sees nothing and returns himself and his gaze to the walrus.
The walrus has moved closer. Much closer.
The man flinches. Takes a step back.
The walrus lowers its head. Whiskers quiver, breaths come low and slow, now tainted with something new. Something undefinable. Neither pleasant or unpleasant. Each breath wafts gently over the man’s face, caressing his skin, drifting through his hair. Eyes lock. The man feels an overwhelming urge to stroke the browning Ivory tusks. He holds the urge in check and then blackness envelopes him.
He is the walrus.
He is bone, muscle, blood. Every molecule. Something else beckons inside the creature. Something shimmering, spherical and so small it defies his understanding. Mesh like, web like, it seems to spin slowly, radiating light. Light that seems to slip away as if sucked into the centred singularity of a black hole. He fells himself, whatever he now is, being drawn into the incorporeal essence. The soul of the walrus. He slides frictionlessly into the enveloping black. He has no fear. He goes without a fight.
Now he is everywhere, everything. Every minute particle of each. Fish, tree, grass, rock, comet and on and on. Finding the radiating light within each and then sliding through the blackness and into the next. He feels as if he is a grain of sand on a vast beach. He flows through one to the next, to the next and on and on until he has travelled through every other grain on the beach. Until he has understood the makeup of each one. He is each of them as much as he is himself. He has found their core, their interconnection, each different but each having their own sense of creation and shared incorporeal essence of the cosmic intelligence that flows into all matter. He has touched dark matter and antimatter. He prefers to forget those experiences, regardless of their connection to the originator from which all existence sprung.
The man awakes. Awakes from what? Death? Sleep? Trance? He has no idea. He stays silent, traumatised. Silent for minutes? hours? days? He finds he doesn’t know or care. Eventually, his mind reorders and he is himself once more. He thinks he might be, perhaps, more than he was. He certainly knows more than he ever knew was possible. Perhaps more than any human since body and brain evolved to the point where mankind forgot its roots in Oneness.
His lungs suck in chilled air, their pain returns. He ignores it. He swallows to lubricate his dry throat and speaks, his voice trembling, sounds hurried into words.
‘What can I, one man, say to my kind that will make amends. How can I convince billions of humans to find a way to return to the Oneness?’
He lowers his head; sobs slide from his mouth.
‘I am sorry for all we have done that has wronged this Earth’’
‘Too late’ the voice says. The walrus says, although his lips are still ‘as I’ve already said, the time for saying sorry is long past. We of the Oneness have passed judgement on humanity. You are not alone. There are other worlds, other life forms. Always there is one species that turns its back on the Oneness and they too are or have been judged and sentenced’
The man knows true, pure fear. No matter that he is one of billions on Earth who are to be judged. His fear comes from a deep primordial drive, buried, locked away in every human. From a long past time when humanities precursors formed and reformed in Earths warm shallow oceans. Knowing they are. Knowing the must be. Knowing they must survive. Knowing they are joined in the cosmic Oneness and must remain so or be lost.
The man tilts his head back and screams. Screams till his throat bleeds, red raw. Screams with a voice of billions of years of evolution. He stops, exhausted, defeated, accepting his and humankind’s end. Accepting oblivion.
He feels a softness on his cheek, a noise. The manic vibration of tiny wings. A fly. It tiptoes up his face, resting just below his left eye. He rolls his eyes but cannot see it. He does, however, see the walrus looking hard at him, steel cold eyes unblinking.
A leg reaches up and gently strokes his eyeball. He flinches. He can’t help it. Another leg does the same. He opens his mouth to scream again. Nothing ventures forth. The fly now sits fully across his pupil, it’s underbelly and feet casting a shadow over his sight. He barely registers its touch as it floats on the wetness of his eye. A desperation to scream, to vomit, to tear out his eyeball envelopes him but he finds he cannot muster the energy to do any of them. He is frozen in time and space. There is nothing to be done except let the fly do what it wishes. The fly wishes to crawl under his eyelid, find a way into his brain. It wishes this and does so.
The man can still think. He pictures Beelzebub, Lord of the flies. He pictures flies as scavengers, de composers, parasites. Lovers of the dead and dying. Of shit and things rotting. Carriers of diseases. Passers-on of many ways to death. He resigns himself to what he now knows is coming to him and from him to others when he returns to the world of humans.
Job done, the fly dies. The walrus chuffs a long soulful sigh, turns and shuffles down the beach. Down to his dying sea.