What sacrifice could you make in the name of love?
We are, of course, dedicated to bringing recognition to unknown writers and their manuscripts–but none so strange as this…
The Third Whale
Telepathy and dolphins. A lot has been made of that in recent years, especially because of our discovery that all that clicking and clacking is not random sound, but is actually a language. And so, if they have language, it means they have thoughts. While we may not be able to decipher the language completely, there is speculation that they may be trying to communicate with us humans telepathically. Maybe we could do that, if only we were as intelligent as they. Could they be waiting for us to evolve to the point where we can communicate as they do, without the need of words to communicate complex thoughts? And if this is true of dolphins, it must certainly be true of the gray whales.
In 1951, in a cave in Baja California, a curious manuscript was discovered sealed in a clay urn. It was written in an indigenous Indian language, and only recently translated into Spanish and English. In a preamble the scribe’s claim was that the story was dictated to him telepathically by a gray whale. Who are we to doubt its authenticity?
Here is the story of The Third Whale, as told by the creature itself to an anonymous shaman.
The Bering Sea is so wonderfully cold and invigorating, and it is here that we feed and become enormous, and live our lives, and raise our children. But it is to the very warm waters of Scammon’s Lagoon in Baja, California, that we return again and again for our love-making, and to introduce our calves into the world, not wishing to be so vulnerable for either of these events as we are in the northern ocean, when winter pock-marks the surface of our domain with white-caps, and freezes parts of a delaminating sky that falls dangerously upon us, like the dagger sheets of ice that fall a cliff at a time from the glass-water mountains.
The sun, so muscular and youthful in Mexico, ages and atrophies at these northern latitudes, and the sky loses its passion and becomes colorless. When that happens, it becomes the time we need warm water, and we need to suspend our thick-water struggles, so we make the trek en-mass down the California coast.
Somewhere along the way the women decide which of us they want to bed (and they generally don’t disclose this until we are well into Mexican waters, away from the curious Californians who pay sport fishing boats to watch our migration, imagining they are one of us).
As is our custom, two males pursue one woman. Invariably, she will choose one—only one of us—to bed. I do my best to reveal my virtues and my manliness along the way. I want so much to be chosen, by the one I have chosen to pursue.
As we make our way south and the waters begin to warm up, I feel my beloved, who must surely know of my desire for her, become intoxicated with anticipation of the raw power of coupling. The motion of swimming arouses all of us now. We move the water in subtle ways to ripple and tease the very sensuous skin of our hoped-for lovers as we swim alongside each woman. We bend and curve our torsos with unmistakable intent, and we become more limber in the warmer waters. Our breaths are fuller, and our dives of greater duration as less of our energy must be diverted to the ramparts to resist the siege of cold water, the thick water, we have left for all this.
I have been watching several others in the pod (one in particular) flirt with my intended one, and I have watched her tease them all in return, suggesting possibilities that frenzy their desires, but I know that she is merely obeying the nature of our species, and considers seriously the attentions of only two, and that I am one of those two, and she will unquestionably choose me over him. I can feel the truth of this in my hips.
We are well into Mexican waters. I see my young competitor breach the water three times in succession, shattering the blue-glass surface and scattering sea gulls as he falls upon his back. When we obey the laws of gravity, as we know them, staying within our water element to which we have returned, we are rewarded with grace of motion, but breaching is a difficult maneuver for us, propelling so much of ourselves out of water, and it is done sparingly, and usually with good cause.
He swears he is merely breaking the barnacles that have become encrusted on his back, but of course, I see through this and it is clear he is demonstrating his virility, fixing in my beloved’s imagination the strength of his thrust. But she is truly my beloved, and she will choose me. I can feel the truth of this in my heart.
And has she not seen the slow and powerful way that I part the water? And has she not heard the deep resonance of my song? And will she not remember how I broke unexpected layers of early ice with the hammer-fall of my own flesh, bleeding and paining so that the entire pod could escape to open water? Knowing what I know of sharks, I led my blood trail away from them all, when I needed them most, until I healed, re-engaging them further south. These things, these remembrances, will not be lost upon her when we enter Scammon’s Lagoon and the moment of our passion is upon us.
We are victims of a ritual we accept but don’t understand. It makes me feel a thick-water sadness for Michael, the young man trying so pathetically to impress her, for when she has chosen me, he will become the third whale, the one whose passions are refused, and yet is not free to brood, or even find another. He will have his part to play in our love-making, and it is for this that she has sustained and even encouraged his flirtations the long way south.
He is young, a dragoon. And he looks so dashing astride his mount in his bold red uniform with its brass buttons. He points his revolver at imaginary and distant enemies and fires the gun for her in mock battle, and he turns to her and grins, anticipating her approval, a blush perhaps. How can she fail to be impressed?
I am a rag-tag soldier, a partisan, and though I wear no uniform, it is I who fought the wars and have earned the right to soldier in her desires, for while he may point and fire the gun, and even kill for her, it is I who would intercept a bullet intended for her with my own body.
When we are safely within Scammon’s Lagoon, our women rotate upon their backs to accept the flesh and passion of their chosen one, and the third whale must swim beneath her, taking her shoulders upon his shoulders like a yoke, using the muscles honed on the long trek south that could have been contracting to release his own desires instead of keeping his beloved in surface water, to keep her from sinking and drowning from the weight of her chosen one, who becomes oblivious to her own needs as he becomes obsessed with the private nature of his own passion and is consumed by the unstoppable urge to release himself in her.
The third whale can feel his woman tremble, but not for him. The third whale can feel his woman penetrated, but not by him. And the third whale can feel the slow rhythm of their motion, becoming harder and stronger, and can feel the quickening, and can feel his woman moan, and knows with terrifying certainty that sometime, during all this, he will be displaced and forgotten by each of them.
The third whale, with the sweat of his woman on his back and the scent of her passion in his nostrils, and the grunt of her lover erupting in his head and starting outrageous brushfires in the dry timber of his heart must now finish the ritual that the lovers have become too exhausted to complete themselves. He must bring his woman to the surface, carry her to the sunlight, and nudge her over so that she may breathe. So complete has been her passion that she would sink if he abandoned her now, so weak is she from moving her hips for another man. It is a test of his love that he does all this for the woman who has discarded him. He must turn off the dim light and without drawing attention to himself find his way into the deep waters on the other side of their bedroom, and he must do all this while radiating the illusion of painlessness.
And for these reasons I cannot help but feel a certain sadness for Michael, who will not be chosen, whose attentions will be thwarted in such a cruel way, and then must be made to witness my passion for the woman, who, but for me, would be his, and his alone.
He is, in truth, not a bad young man, though flawed, and I would pity him. I would pity him except that the most remarkable thing has happened, most unexpectedly. As we enter Scammon’s Lagoon, my beloved has kissed and made firm the flesh of his hips, and I have become the third whale.