Sea Eyes Chapter 8

9 08 2007

‘In whatever quarter of the world the orcas are found they seem always

intent upon seeking to destroy or devour.’

Captain Charles Scamman, Whaler 1874

 


 

 


 

Chapter Eight

           

 

 

 

 

 

One hundred thousand samples of the dolphin’s sonic repertoire were contained within the sound analysis database. That was excluding the Killer whale dialects used for Lily’s research. Ben had spent the past two days sequestered in the sound lab, engaged in comparative sound analysis and research of frequencies that only the spectrograph had been programmed to hear. The computer had been programmed not just to measure the frequency and intensity of the emissions, but also the time lapse between their transmission and their reception back at their source. Given that humans emit sounds between 85 – 1,100 Hertz or cycles per second, and can only hear sounds between 20 – 20,000 Hertz and that the dolphins sonic repertoire included sounds between 7,000 – 120,000 Hertz, as well as being able to receive vibrations anywhere from 150 – 150,000 cycles per second, Ben had his work cut out for him to produce a microprocessor that could not only transduce the vibrations back down to what amounted to an infrasound, but could construct a virtual image from their components. These transmissions would then be broken down into separate components. By doing do if was hoped that a three-dimensional holographic acoustic picture could be created, the very essence of how the Eye would work.  In turn, the microprocessor contained within the Eye would replicate this process, feeding the digital image to the brain via direct neural contact. It was simple enough in theory, the practice was something else entirely, as Ben was in the process of explaining to McHugh.

 

                “The problem as I see it is that sound travels almost four times faster underwater than it does through air. My main concern is the lag between transmission and signal return. Will Bethany have the time necessary to be able to react to avoid a collision with a moving object, for example?”

 

            “I take your point, Ben but I really don’t think it’s a variable. Sound travels at 340 meters per second although the speed varies with altitude and temperature, but I think we can safely use sea level as the median term here. If the information was hitting her any faster she just wouldn’t be able to process it. The human brain just isn’t designed to work at that speed. Not as far as we know.”

 

                “So you’re saying that a dolphin’s brain is in fact superior to ours, is that it?” Ben asked. It was a burning question. One that had been gnawing at him ever since he had come on board.

 

            “They’ve had a thirty million year or so head start in which to prefect the process. When you stop to think about it we’re nothing but a Johnny-come-lately on the evolutionary scale,” was Conor’s response.

 

            “Are you saying they could be as intelligent, if not more intelligent than we are?” Ben persisted.

 

                “It’s a possibility. One that so far on one has been able to prove one way or the other, and God knows, enough of us have tried. Look, I’ve spent almost thirty years of my life studying these animals and I’m no closer now to forming a conclusion than I was when I first started.”

 

            “That doesn’t bode well for what we’re trying to achieve here,” Ben replied.

 

            “Not necessarily. Unlike intelligence, echolocation frequency is something we can quantify and measure.”

 

                “What about I.Q. tests?”

 

            “Inapplicable in this instance. There’s something known as E.Q. – or ‘encephalization quotient’, which reduced to it’s most simple terms is the ratio or brain mass to body mass. There’s a tendency for brain size to increase with body size, however an EQ rating still doesn’t provide us with a direct measure of intelligence. Personally, and this is just my opinion, in evolutionary terms one must assume dolphins and other cetaceans have evolved large, complex brains for a reason. Nature, as we all know, abhors a vacuum.”

 

                Ben picked up the Eye that was hooked up to the computer and turned it over in his hands as if he half expected it to answer his questions. “What if dolphins have evolved large brains merely to process the massive amount of sensory information needed to define their environment? We’re just assuming that a large brain would be utilized intellectually. In other words, a dolphin’s brain is just a more sophisticated version of this computer which at the moment is programmed to do one thing and one thing only – analyze sonic frequencies.”

 

                “What you’re referring to is the long loneliness of mankind,” Conor said. “This almost religious need of ours to find another intelligent life form with which we can communicate. This results in anthropomorphism and a host of other sins. It’s also this assumption that ‘intelligence’ if you will, is defined by an ability to equal or exceed our own development, that prevents us from seeing and appreciating dolphins for what they are. On the one hand you’ve got wishful thinking, on the other, over-rationalization.”

 

                “And where do you stand, Doctor? With the dreamers or the rationalists?”

 

            “I like to think I’m sitting on the fence. Mind you, working closely with dolphins does tend to make you kind of mystical. Look at it this way, a dolphin’s world is defined by sound. Our universe was created by sound. Even creationalism and science can agree on that. The Big Bang.”

 

            “In the beginning was The Word.”

 

                McHugh nodded, pleased to have found such a ready adept. “Right, and if that’s how things started you can bet it wasn’t written down. It was a sound that began the process of creation and that of life itself.”

 

            “Sound is energy and energy and matter are interchangeable,” Ben said.

 

                “Correct. Sound is the intermediary between the higher level of abstract ideas in the mind and concrete form. Sound is capable of molding the ethers into shapes and through these shapes, the corresponding power of the mind is able to make an impression on physical matter. This is an esoteric way of explaining how the Eye works of course. It’ll sound good on the talk-show circuit anyway.”

 

                “But making an impression on physical matter?”

 

            “Take the singer who hits a certain note and shatters glass. If we are to assume that all matter resonates to a certain frequency then once that frequency is discovered we would literally be able to re-shape our world. If one could concentrate that sound, focus it, very much like a dolphin does, one could literally have the sonic equivalent of a laser beam, which could disrupt matter on a sub-atomic level.  From what Lily’s already discovered working with Killer whales we suspect that the peculiar screams they utter when hunting may literally stun their prey.”

 

                Ben shook his head as if to dispel that vision. “If what you’re saying is true then like any other discovery, surely this could be somehow perverted and instead of being used to benefit mankind could be turned into some kind of weapon?”

 

            “Ben, relax. It’s just a theory, nothing more.”

 

            “So’s the theory of relativity and look what we managed to make out of that.”

           

“Besides, I’ve already told you, we have no affiliations with the military,” Conor reassured him.

 

                “Maybe not now,” he turned his attention back to the Eye. A harmless tangle of microchips and plastic, or so he’d thought. “But it’s my bet that if we get this baby to work they’re going to be mighty interested in its applications.”

 

            “Even so, it’s always been our intention to make the technology freely available. As scientists it’s our responsibility to disclose our findings. It’s not our responsibility to police their usage.”

 

                It was an agenda that made Ben suddenly feel nervous. An excuse that he somehow found an affront to responsibility. I just told them how to make the bomb, I didn’t actually build it.  Suddenly he found himself looking at McHugh in a different light. As if the outward benevolence concealed something more ruthless, and sinister. But then McHugh chuckled and the moment passed. “I bet I know what you were going to ask me next,” he said.

 

            “Take a punt,” Ben said, although he himself had no idea.

 

            “You were going to ask me if that was the only prototype,” Conor said, indicating the Eye in Ben’s hands.

 

            “Well, yeah. I mean, I know you don’t have an assembly line turning these things out yet but it would help if there were a couple more, especially as I’d like to experiment with the battery power. At the moment we’ve got a max of thirty-six hours battery life with four hours recharge time. I’d like to improve on that if I’m able, if nothing else to cut down on the number of battery packs you’d have to carry with each unit to ensure it remains operational. Another thing we need to think about is installing some kind of audio alarm which triggers automatically whenever the battery gets low. The last thing we want is the Eye winking out halfway across a busy street for example.”

 

                McHugh nodded. “That’s a good point and something we’d hitherto overlooked. Well, there’s good news and bad news I guess. The good news is that I have two more prototypes in my office safe. The bad news is that neither is anywhere near as operational as the one you’re currently holding. For some obscure reason the processors aren’t working.  We think it could be something to do with the manufacture of the chips although they all came from the same manufacturer and the same shipment.”

 

                “It would be unusual for only part of the shipment to be corrupted although it can happen I guess,” Ben conceded thoughtfully. “How far off are they from being operational?”

 

            “You tell me. You’re the systems expert.”

 

                Less and less a sound technician, more and more resigned to the role of resident tech-head. News of Ben’s expertise had spread to the point that now he was called in to fix everything from a systems failure on the accounts departments mainframe to the cash register in the park gift shop, mainly owing to the fact that Seabourne’s systems manager seemed to be absent more than present. In fact, Ben had yet to meet him.  So he’d taken on the task of troubleshooter along with sorting out the Eye’s teething troubles. Only this morning Lily had summoned him into her office, concerned she hadn’t received any email and demanding to know if the server was down. A cursory examination of her outbox had revealed she’d somehow managed to turn off the ‘Display New Messages’ option. Her messages both old and new were still safely stored on the server, Ben explained. Also, the server had a failsafe back-up that instantly went on-line if there was a drop-on on the main, he’d added.

 

            “Don’t blind me with computer science, Ben Galloway,” Lily had admonished. “When it comes to these things I’m a total luddite. I just want to know I can retrieve my email and exchange pornography with the other pathetic sex-starved, peri-menopausal women that I count as my friends.”

 

            “Dick flicks?”

 

            “For chicks.”

 

            Ben waited while Lily’s new mail downloaded, noticing the amount of exe files she kept in her mailbox. “You might want to transfer some of these exe’s onto your hard drive instead of leaving them on the server,” he’d suggested. “I can create a folder you can keep on your desktop named ‘Porn’ if you like. Make the download even faster,” he added wickedly.

 

            She shook her head. “It’s all in the delivery, not the speed. I think we’ll leave it right where it is. If its mail, it stays in the box by the same name, okay? All this accessing different folders and servers is far too confusing for me.”

 

            However, when it came to the job of child technician, Lily had both Ben and Conor beaten hands down.

 

            “There’s another problem the two of you have overlooked,” she volunteered the following day. “Did you know Bethany can’t swim?”

 

            “Jesus Christ and all His Saints and Angels!” Conor exclaimed.

 

            Ben realized to his horror he hadn’t even thought to ask her. “When did you discover this?”

 

            “The other day when I had her with me down by Saamri’s pool. I asked her if she wanted to go swim with the dolphins later.  It’s madness having a child wandering around a marine facility with no water skills whatsoever, especially one as essentially helpless as Beth. Because no matter how well supervised she is we have to accept the fact that accidents can and do happen. If she takes a tumble she has to at least be able to stay afloat until someone gets to her.”

 

                “We can fix that particular problem almost immediately. I’ll take her into Anacortes this afternoon and buy her a couple of wetsuits. If we make sure she wears a suit every time she goes down near the water we at least know that if she does fall in the suit will provide enough buoyancy for her to stay afloat,” Ben suggested.

 

            “Good idea,” Conor said. “In the meantime I’ll have a word with Flip. He can give her swimming lessons. We’ll use the isolation tank. As well as being shallower than the other pens, as it’s separate from the rest of the lagoon and covered the water temperature tends to be warmer.”

           

Ben and Bethany made their way down from the research building towards the parking lot. As usual, Ben found himself picking up the pace as they drew level with the killer whale pen. Despite Conor and Lily’s assurance, the big orca made him nervous. Worse still, the animal seemed to know it. As they walked past, he spy-hopped, raising his body half out of the water to watch the man and child as they walked past his lagoon and on towards the main entrance. He watched as the animal lowered itself back down below the surface of the water and began to swim in the same direction he was headed, keeping pace with them, its high-backed fin and markings like the camouflage of a solitary predator exuded menace. Even though he was separated from the animal by a high fence and at least twenty feet of dry land, Ben couldn’t help feel relief when they passed the limits of the lagoon and the animal turned and swam back. Wolves of the Sea. Ben recalled the term with a barely suppressed shudder. But wolves weren’t the vicious predators we once vilified, he reminded himself.  Then he remembered the stories Conor had told him. Of Killer whales attacking porpoises, dolphins, even other whales as large as a Blue. What kind of creature was it that preyed on its own kind? One too like you for comfort the inner voice inside him chided. He pushed it aside.  The other day he’d logged on to Seabourne’s Marine Biology database. At first all he’d wanted to do was to learn more about the dolphins. Eventually, after he’d read through paper after paper on dolphin behavior, physiology and communication, he’d turned his attention to his bete noir. The Orca.  One piece of information amongst the plethora stood out. Maybe because all he was looking for was validation for his fear. Until 1860, the Oricinus orca had been known as Delphinus orca, or more literally the ‘demon dolphin’. Orcus. Latin for the underworld. Hades realm. The Devil’s dolphin. A black beast indeed. All in all he knew he was right to avoid the Orca.

               

They were on their way into Anacortes to get Bethany fitted out for some wetsuits when she finally asked the question he’d been anticipating.

 

“Ben, do you have a girlfriend?”

 

            It had been inevitable really, Ben thought. “No honey, I don’t,” he replied.

 

            “Are you married?”

 

                He laughed. “No honey, I’m not married either.”

 

            “Why not?”

 

            Ben thought carefully before replying. “Well,” he said after a pause, “that’s because I live with someone. I don’t need to be married.”

 

            “What’s she like, is she pretty?”

 

            Oh boy, Ben thought, here we go. He hesitated before going on. He wasn’t sure what Bethany knew with regards to the facts of life or sexuality. Let alone homosexuality. One thing he was sure of however, was that children appreciated the truth and he certainly wasn’t going to lie to Bethany about something as important as this. He had to find the words that conveyed the truth but in a way a child could understand. “She’s a he honey, and his name is Zed.”

 

                “I see,” she said thoughtfully after a while.

 

            But did she? Ben wondered. Or did he really for that matter? After all, he’d never ‘come out’ in the strict sense of the term. Even at home there had existed an unspoken acceptance between him and his parents of his sexual orientation which was neither hidden nor openly discussed. The closest his father had ever come to raising the subject had been to admonish him to ‘be safe’, something that, with the rising spectre of AIDS he would have undoubtedly advised regardless of Ben’s preferences.

 

                His mother of course had known all along. Something she seemed to divine in that way mothers often do. At first he had feared the withdrawal of her love, but soon he came to realize that her reluctance to talk about his homosexuality came neither from embarrassment nor condemnation, but from a desire to respect his privacy and his right to live his life as he saw fit. The only time she had ever referred to it had been when he was seventeen, the year before he’d left for college and had fallen hopelessly in love with Steven Paxson, the school’s star quarterback. To say Steven had led him on had been the understatement of the century. His bisexuality hidden safely in the closet along with the rest of the family skeletons. For Ben, who had only just found the courage to admit to himself what he was, this was first love in all its fumbling pain and intensity.  For Steven, who would nail anything that moved, Ben was part of an adolescent experiment to determine his sexual preferences, which predictably enough leaned towards straight the moment he was awarded a sports scholarship to the University of Illinois. Ben was unceremoniously dumped and their furtive locker-room encounters replaced by a very public steady relationship with Cyndi Woods, one of the high school cheerleaders.

 

                He recalled locking himself in his room for weeks on end, sure back then he would die of heartbreak.  Finally his mother had knocked on the door one evening. Ben remembered dashing away the tears as she entered. His mother sat down next to him. She was holding something in her lap. At first he had thought she had brought up some mending to do while she talked to him. Instead she unrolled the school football jersey he’d outgrown the previous year, some wax, some pins and a picture of Steven culled from an old yearbook.

 

                “We can keep in touch with him if you want. That is, if you still think he’s worth it,” was all she’d said.

 

            Up until that point he’d had no idea his mother had an inkling where her son’s true sexual orientation lay, although in retrospect the fact that her good-looking, strapping son had never once brought a girl home throughout high school might have provided her with a few clues.

 

            He’s seen the funny side of it then. “Mom, you are too much,” and he’d kissed her on the cheek, torn up the picture, tossed away the wax and the pins and gone downstairs to eat supper with his parents for the first time in a month. Since then he’d all but forgotten Steven Paxson but never the pain of first love. Yeah, his parents had been great. Other people over the years hadn’t been so tolerant. He glanced at Bethany and wondered what she was thinking. Had anyone even explained the facts of life to her, let alone homosexuality?  Ben realized he had no idea what was appropriate for a child of her age to be told, especially one as isolated as Bethany had been.

 

                “Well, all that matters is that you love each other, I guess,” Bethany said, before he could think of anything even vaguely appropriate to say.

 

            Ben could have hugged her. This funny, solemn little girl whom he felt more and more protective of every day. She was right he thought, she did see things clearer than a lot of sighted folks.

 

                “I think Lily has a boyfriend,” Bethany said after a while. “Sometimes he comes round the house late at night. I can hear them talking when I’m in bed.”

 

            “Well, that’s good isn’t it? We don’t want Lily to be lonely, do we?” Ben said.

 

            “I guess not,” Bethany replied. “But I’d rather be lonely than unhappy,” she added somewhat pensively.

 

            Somehow Ben knew that despite being blind, she spoke from acute observation. The thought made him sad that at seven she would have had first-hand experience to acquire such wisdom.

 

                       

“Leigh Carson. I have an appointment to see Kyle Raitt.”

 

            “One moment please.”

 

            This time Leigh was clearly expected. After a brief examination by the camera, with a buzz the bunker door swung open and Leigh stepped within and almost immediately recoiled backwards out of it with horror. The man who’d opened it for her was tall, his long dark hair secured in a ponytail. His perfect, patrician features marred by the glass eye, which rather than conceal his disfigurement emphasized it. The artificial eye was black and it appeared in the half-light of the hallway like a void into the back of his head filled with darkness. All that he needed to complete the picture of Hades guarding the gateway to the underworld was a three-headed dog.

 

                He held out his hand. “Leigh Carson? Kyle Raitt. Thanks for coming in at such short notice.”

 

            She recovered sufficiently to return his handshake. Now that the initial shock at his appearance had work off she took in the rest of him. Tall, well over six foot he topped her by a good four inches. He wore a T-short emblazoned with the legend ‘Save the Whales – Collect the Whole Set’, although this apparent disrespect for all he stood for was belied by his sincerity. Like a religious martyr he exuded the ruthless fanaticism of one prepared to die for a cause.

 

                He led her over to the elevator and swiped a key card through an electronic reader. The doors opened. Leigh was struck how the almost bunker-like appearance of the exterior was matched within. She felt she was entering military headquarters and, as the elevator rose upward, could not help voicing her thoughts.

 

            “Yeah,” Raitt replied. “I know it seems intimidating at first but there’s one thing you’ve for to remember, we’re fighting a war out there.”

 

                “It just all seems a trifle extreme,” Leigh said as the car stopped and she stepped out into a huge windowless room filled with computer stations. So much for green and friendly, she thought.

 

            “Tell that to the photographer who died on the Rainbow Warrior,” Kyle answered. Tell that to Connie Chai, he added privately.

 

                He showed her into his office, a cubicle dominated by the computer on his desk, the only distraction provided by a framed photograph of a dolphin riding the bow wave of a ship Leigh recognized at the Crystal Voyager, the organizations flagship.

 

                Leigh hadn’t been sure what to bring with her. After all, this wasn’t the usual kind of interview situation, or the usual kind of job that she was used to being interviewed for. She had omitted bringing her reel. Somehow she thought Freeseas would hardly be interested in commercials for cosmetics and floor cleaners and even less in the infamous Dapple campaign. She had however brought her book and resume with her. “I’m not sure what you want to see. I brought a few examples of my work and a copy of my resume.” He gave her resume the briefest glance then tossed it aside. Great, thought Leigh. I’m glad you’re impressed.

 

                “There’s some good stuff here. I remember seeing a lot of it,” he said after subjecting her book to the most cursory of inspections. She wondered if he was going to mention Dapple. Instead he leaned back in his chair and looked at her keenly. She found it hard to return his gaze without looking away. That black eye, like a window into the soul of a demon, unnerved her. She wondered if he guessed what she was thinking and having looked away managed to raise her eyes back up to his face once more. He gave her a smile that was almost feral. As if he had indeed guessed the destination of her thoughts. Embarrassed, she found her face reddening and at the same time, deep within her, a warming sympathy, that someone so extraordinarily good looking should have been marred by such tragedy.

 

                “The situation here is that we’ve been without anyone to coordinate our advertising and promotional activities for some time,” Kyle explained. “The results have been mixed to say the least. That’s why when you came knocking at our door it was a Godsend, so to speak. We could certainly use someone with your kind of background and expertise to fine-tune our campaigns and it’s pretty obvious from what you’ve shown me that you’re more than qualified. If you’re interested I’d like to suggest a trial run, you come in for a couple of days and we’ll see how we work together. How does that sound to you?”

 

What else was she going to do? At least it was better than staying home and worrying about paying the rent. This way at least she’d have something to take her mind of her current situation while she cast about for another job. She might even end up with a couple of interesting pieces for her book and it would look better on her resume than a protracted period of unemployment. Just as long as she understood the brief.  “Listen, I’m not sure what you’re expecting but I don’t have much experience in organizing protests.”

 

He looked at her keenly. Strangely it was the false eye, the black eye, which seemed to contain all his inner light. “That’s good. Because no protest ever saved the whales. Petitions don’t do much good either. It doesn’t matter if you have sixty signatures or sixty thousand. Public outcry never made any difference. And forget appealing to reason. Of course we know exploiting a resource to the point of extinction is insanity. But that doesn’t stop us doing it. Only two things make a difference. The law and economics. If they’re breaking the law we make sure we’ve got the best legal advice available. If they break the Environmental Protection Act or the Marine Mammal Protection Act, then we’ve got them.

“The only other way is to hit ‘em where it really hurts. Economically. Money talks. No one’s going to continue to make a product that nobody wants to buy. It’s economics, not emotions, that govern ecological change. I figure you of all people are in a unique position to help us with that.”

 

Dapple again. Strange that it should endow her in the end with the right qualifications. “I just wanted to be frank with you, that’s all,” she said.

 

“Frank is good. We do a lot of frank around here so you should fit right in. So, if you’re still interested, when can you start?”

 

                She took a punt. “Tomorrow?”

 

            “Tomorrow’s fine. Tomorrow’s great in fact. Shall we say nine o’clock?”

 

            “Bright and early, nine it is.”

 

He extended his hand.

 

            “Thanks for coming in Leigh and welcome to Freeseas.”

 

 

            Ben continued to avoid the orca despite Flip encouraging him to dive in the animal’s pool.  For Ben it was the equivalent of asking him to eat his lunch in  the lion’s den. Except in this instance, he was the lunch in question. No matter how much Lily, Conor and Flip himself went out of their way to reassure him, nothing could convince him that the big orca was harmless.

 

            He’d watch from a distance, sometimes from the dolphin lagoon where he had no objections to spending his time, other times from his office or, upon occasion, the underwater viewing window of the conference room, as the trainer put the whale through its paces.

 

             Most times, it seemed as obedient and docile as a lap dog. Obeying it’s instructions without hesitation or question. It was all very well for people to tell him nobody had ever been attacked by an orca in the wild. How many people went out there looking for them? Certainly nobody in their right mind would want to get close. It was only a matter of time and statistics until he was exonerated for his caution. In the interim, well, the history of wild animals being held in captivity was replete with instances of these newly ‘domesticated’ creatures turning on their jailers. The zoo keeper. The lion tamer. The killer whale trainer.

 

            But when it finally happened, Ben was unprepared. He was down at the isolation tanks with Beth. Her swimming lessons had gone well, so well that Ben had promised that when she could manage a couple of lengths of the tank without the aid of flotation devices, he’d personally take her out for a swim with Dottie and Oscar.  This seemed to give the little girl a real goal to reach for and she’d embraced her swimming lessons with the same dedication that she applied to her academic studies. As Lily had already been at pains to point out, there was nothing wrong with the little girl’s brain. In fact, she was like a sponge, absorbing any rivulet of knowledge, no matter how obscure the source.

 

            On this particular day, Lily had helped her change into her wetsuit and Ben had joined her in the water. The isolation tanks were for sick or injured animals. Mostly these came from the wild. Orphaned seal pups, the occasional sick dolphin, the beached pilot whale. Here they were kept until ready to be released back into the wild. The tanks were sealed off from the rest of the lagoon by a solid wall with the water fed through filtration units. The tanks were also covered and the ambient water temperature was usually maintained at least five degrees above that of the outside pens. With no sick or orphaned visitors currently in residence the unit made an ideal swimming pool.

 

            He’d got into the habit of keeping pace with Beth as she slowly breast-stroked her way down the length of the pool. For one thing, he needed to tell her when she was approaching the end. For another, he wanted to stay close just in case she suddenly felt out of her depth. Not that she could get into any real trouble in the wetsuit. He just didn’t want her panicking and losing her fragile confidence.

 

            “Okay honey, a couple of more strokes and you’re at the end,” he warned her. She put out a hand and touched the side then to his surprise, instead of resting for a few moments as she had done in the past, she flipped over in the water and started heading back in the opposite direction. “Don’t you want to rest a second?” he’d asked, turning to keep pace with her.

 

            “No, because if I can do two lengths then you’ll let me swim with Dottie and Oscar,” she’d answered, stoically.

 

            He admired her determination, but could see she was tiring. Another week and maybe she’d make it. But not today. However, he continued to encourage her.

 

            “Then when I can do that I can go swim in Saamri’s pool,” she’d added.

 

            On reflex he’d turned to look across to the performance lagoon where Flip was in the process of teaching the whale a new routine. This time it involved the trainer leaning out over the water from the tower platform, with the tail of a fish between his teeth. The whale would then leap from the water and take the fish, and hopefully not the man’s head along with it. Conor, Lily and Flip had gone to great pains to reassure him the trick was safe. “Call it a fitting testimony to the accuracy of echolocation,” Conor had said. “Combined with normal sight, Saamri has an image that is so precise, that he can accurately differentiate between the fish and the man holding it. Besides, what do we keep telling you? The whale is harmless.”

 

            Now Ben watched as Flip blew the whistle before placing the tail of the fish between his teeth. He watched the fin of the whale circle, then straighten as it came up from its final run. The great black and white projectile launched itself skyward and the teeth closed, not around the fish but the man’s arm. With a casual flick of its massive head, the whale flipped him off his perch as easily as if he had weighed no more than the herring he held, and he fell into the water below with a spectacular crash.

 

            Beth felt Ben stop dead in the water. She moved her head around, seeing nothing. “What is it? What’s wrong?” she cried.

 

            But no one answered. In the direction of what she knew to be the performance lagoon she heard Flip’s whistle. It blew once, like it normally did when Flip wanted any of the animals to do something. Then it blew, frantically, time after time, like an alarm until it was suddenly silenced by water that Bethany felt rather than saw.

 

            “What is it? What’s going on?” she asked Ben.

 

            “That’s enough for today. Let’s get out of here, honey.” Ben guided her swiftly to the side of the pool. Looking back towards the lagoon he could see the trainer breaking the surface even as personnel crowded the shore. One, someone far braver than he, Ben thought, dived in to render assistance. Beyond the killer lurked at the far end of the pool. Ben turned away, to help Bethany out of the water.

 

            That which I have most feared has come to pass.

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One response

15 10 2009
Ian Collins

Unbelievably your favourate English songwriter has a double album out very soon ! http://www.myspace.com/cioic
Message me !

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