May’s story was inspired by the trip I took in April. I was quite fascinated by the idea of the water hole and what that might seem like to the creatures living below. And then, of course, it turned strange, because that’s where my mind goes. Enjoy!
I can always tell by the sound of the thunder.
There’s thunder everyday, of course, when the ones from above come to poke and prod our waters. They take our fish with their rods and throw buckets through the roof of ice. They come and they take and they thunder.
But sometimes, the thunder on the ice is louder. Heavier.
Those are the days the others fear.
Those are the days we get something instead of something being taken.
My mother once told me it used to be different. The ones from above didn’t use to give anything back, just came and took from us until there was almost nothing left. And then they took more. We’d learned to hide back then, in the darkest depths of the waters. Curled up in the plants there, our bodies half buried in the dirt and our fish tucked around us, we’d stay until the ice was gone.
We’d managed to go without losing anyone or anything in quite a while, when one day the thunder had grown louder. It was half curiosity and half fear that one of us swam upwards to check on what they were doing. They don’t seem to be able to see us anyway.
It was the day they dropped something into our waters. Not something, though. Someone.
Theraus, the child from above.
The first one.
He’s next to me now, swimming awkwardly with his two tails, always slower than the rest of us. We’re the only ones here right now, just as we are most of the time. Although the thunder has surely woken up everyone, none of them dare to come up. The memories of the times before are deeply etched into their minds.
Theraus puts a finger to his lips, his way of telling me to stay at a safe distance from the hole. We’ve tried to teach him how to communicate with his mind, but he doesn’t seem to be able to. Neither are any of the others. But we’ve figured out a way, him and I. We’re a team.
Above the ice, everything is dark. He once explained to me that there is a ball on the roof above ours that makes the difference between light and dark. None of us have ever seen this ball, because I can’t stick my head above the roof the way Theraus can.
Theraus and the others.
There’s a scratching sound as they remove the top from the hole they’ve hammered into the ceiling. I can hear them shuffling around, making noise so loud that surely everyone is awake by now and then there’s the thump as the bundle tumbles downward.
I catch it and quickly press my mouth to its face the way I’ve been taught. It’s a tiny little thing. Its eyes are closed. I wonder briefly if it even knows what’s happening. How profoundly its life has been changed. It starts struggling then, but I manage to hold it tight in my arms without severing the connection.
It needs to be transformed to survive down here, that much we’ve learned from the first ones after Theraus.
Out of the corner of my eyes I see him now, his head close to the hole. They made it large enough to fit a bundle through, but not large enough that Theraus can crawl up. When the ice is gone though, he goes up all the time. Sometimes he won’t come back for a long time. During those days, we’re always busy and I’m certain that aside from me, nobody else has noticed.
But we have an agreement, him and I. I don’t ask any questions, he tells me no lies.
The thunder begins anew, moving away from us. They haven’t put the top onto the hole this time. I can see a small flicker of light through the hole. Theraus is still there, watching something, although I don’t know what.
When I turn to dive down to the bottom, I don’t call out for him.