Positions Of Power

Entry by: Octopoda

1st December 2017
The wave is like a wall of black water, blocking out the moon. The spray hits his face and momentarily blinds him. He knows it is madness to leave the bridge, even just for a second, but by now he is at peace with his particular kind of madness: he feels alive when he is most at risk, when he feels his own smallness against the world. Don’s dream had always been to steer a vessel through the elements that rage without caution, to meet the power of the sea with his own power as an individual.

He staggers back up the bridge ladder; gripping the handrail on both sides, head down bracing against the wind. If he makes it through the storm, he will return to the map. He will unfold the thin weather-worn paper and trace his journey through Kamchatka Peninsula. Tomorrow he will meet the Russian seaman Mikhail and his crew. Mikhail, a man of few words is happy to accompany him on his mission and he will be rewarded handsomely.

For Don nature was to be conquered, mastered, controlled. This journey will be no different. He feels a thrill when he imagines tracking down a pod of Orcas on their migration along the peninsula. His employers have offered him good money for a large female and he is eager to round up one of these imposing beasts. He anticipates the momentum of the capture and the power it will take. It feels like a prize to him, a prize he will earn through his skill and strength. He sips from his hip flask, clenching his teeth and sucking the fiery liquid down the back of his throat, he imagines the rush he will feel when he hauls in his catch.

On the morning of the capture, the water is eerily still, its glassy surface broken only by the dorsal fins of a female orca and her calf. The shiny black triangles cut through the water, a mere suggestion of the creatures beneath the surface. Don had been unprepared for the ease with which the animals approached his rusty trawler; they were inquisitive, playful even. The baby refused to leave the mother’s side. Mikhail was busy with the apparatus, debriefing his team, getting the herring ready. Don took a swig from his flask. As the purse seine net was lowered, a further two Orcas swam towards the boat, could this be an attempt to warn the mother and calf? Don wondered absently. He didn’t need more. He had to focus on the mother. It took surprisingly little time to haul the female onto the boat. The baby and the other two adults continued to circle the net, emitting noises that silenced Don and his men. The high-pitched squeals echoed around them, piercing their souls.

That night, Don left the bridge again, this time to walk down the steps into a night that was cold and still. It felt like the waves had been silenced and the sea was in mourning. The only sound Don could hear was the memory of the click and squeal of the baby whale pulsing in his temples. He approached the captured orca, now lying immobile on the ship’s deck in the inflatable sling. He ran his had along the hard smooth skin and bent down to look into the whale’s eye. The thin blue iris circled a pupil that seemed as big as a moon and as black as the night. He lay next to her and began to weep.