Endings

seside

A fish bobbed its head above the swaying waterline. Up there, all whispered or maintained a silence. The nearby shore was empty save for one aimlessly waddling gull. The vegetation beyond held fast.

The fish dove back down into the salts, reflected upon this dry world. “They must have destroyed themselves,” it concluded. “No threat in their midst could’ve been enough. Not like the sea. Fear swims with everything here.”

Of course, the fish knew nothing beyond the bare minimum of history and mythology. Yet like so many of the living, its mind imposed a definitive narrative on the universe and one quite cynical in explaining the nature of others. Know-nothing becomes Know-it-all via hubris: the oldest story in existence.

“Why of course,” the fish’s thoughts ambled onward. “The atmosphere is so thin and wispy up there. What they must have subjected themselves to in order to survive . . . ”

Perhaps the urgent impulse toward self-preservation is the most potent form of self-destruction? Whatever the case, the mass extinction of humankind came and went without a tear shed from the creatures of the deep. Neither from shell nor scale did empathy emanate.

“Such wasted lives.” The fish continued its descent, slow and light, true toward the wavering sands.

This is right. To be here. Swallowing the brine. The intensity of the plunge farther and farther behind–

* * *

A fish bobbed its head above the swaying waterline. The slosh of the surface undulations startled it momentarily. Its eyes fixed upon a mother and her two children out for a walk along the nearby shore. The middle-aged woman seemed intent on the journey. Her progeny however kept halting their progress to marvel at some feature in the sand or half-remnant of buoyant plantlife. “Keep up,” she admonished them.

Yet the fish perceived none of this nuance, only the smear of light across its vision. Then, the intimacy of color dissipated, and nothing remained to displace it.

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