Greenland Shark


(NOAA Photo Library [CC / Flickr])

A peristaltic spasm threw her from a cold place to a colder place. The change in the cold registered less than the disappearance of the electrical impulses around her snout. She had no name for what she was detecting or how she detected it. She had no names for anything. All she had was an impulse to wave her tail and part company with the disturbance in the darkness that had thrown her into it.

There would be a name for that sense, but she’d never know it because it would only exist in minds alien to her own who lived where the floor of the darkness reached up into the light. The name would first occur where the floor reached up to make the continent the aliens called Europe, but not while any alien alive now was alive to hear it. As she explored the darkness for the first time, the aliens who lived there were more concerned with what was in the mind of a greater alien that none of them had ever seen..

She was, coincidentally, thrown into the darkness at the same time as an alien who would have very strong views on the greater alien was thrown into the light. In time, that alien’s views would earn the name of Bloody Mary. In another part of Europe, an alien whose mind may have been able to encompass her senses looked his last on the place where he was born, which the aliens called Vinci, and crossed Europe to a place the aliens called France. He would die there three turns later without ever having turned his superb mind to the problem of how her snout felt things it did not touch.

The names of Vinci, France and Bloody Mary meant nothing in the darkness but it had circled the light another hundred times, she discovered that blood could lead her to an injured seal pup. As she felt the pup’s last flare before her snout and the warmth of it in her maw, the aliens were still disputing the intentions of the greater alien they had never seen.

That was how she learned to like blood.

That year, two of the best known names among the aliens, one from each side of the dispute, would breathe their last. The names of Cervantes and Shakespeare meant nothing to her. She was concerned with what she smelled as she was digesting the seal. She followed the smell, as she had followed the seal’s blood, to the hulk of a dead whale sinking through the darkness. She wouldn’t need to chase seals or fish for some time.

Another fifty revolutions of darkness around light and the claspers of another of her kind gripped her for the first time. She gave it less thought than the pressure wave of a fish she detected when she broke the embrace, but cells were fusing within her.

The aliens still hadn’t put a name to how she felt that fish before her jaws closed around it, but they were realising they would never agree about what the greater alien wanted unless it deigned to explain it to them, which it showed no inclination to do. As they spent less of the power of their minds in fighting over him, one of the aliens enjoyed a contemplative moment to watch an apple fall from a tree, and wonder at the unfalling moon above him.

Her fused cells divided into two, then four, and as they became eight, that same alien had spilt white light into colours she had never seen. He named it his annus mirabilis without knowing he had set the aliens on the path to understanding how she felt her fish. She found another dead whale.

Another hundred and fifty revolutions and she was finding familiarity in the sense of peristalsis. It was the tenth time she had thrown clusters of cells into the darkness, although she didn’t know why she felt no urge to eat what she expelled, however enticingly they stirred the darkness and sparkled with electricity. She let them fade away from her, even though there was less to eat that year than usual.

At the other side of the darkness, a mountain the aliens called Tambora had belched so much dust into the atmosphere that it was blocking the light that brought life when it touched the edge of the darkness.

The aliens had a name for the senses in her snout now. The called it her ampullae of Lorenzini and they named what they felt electricity, but they did not understand that the one used the other to feel her prey. One of the younger aliens, confined by the shroud of dust, would tell a story of electricity and life and terror that would enthral the few aliens who knew her and millions who did not.

Aliens liked stories.

A hundred turns later, that alien was long dead but the story lived on among aliens who had found new reasons to kill each other. Tens of thousands would die by steel, flame, lead and gas in the time it took her to follow a scent to a sinking whale. There were less whales now than there had been, so she had to spend more time pursuing fish and seals. She didn’t connect it to the aliens.

A hundred turns later and the darkness vibrated with something she’d never experienced in her five hundred turns. She didn’t know whether to turn toward or away from it, so she did neither. She continued her patrol of the darkness, alert for the twitch of a sense that would lead her to a flare of electricity and the feel of food in her gullet.

The agitation grew stronger until it vanquished the darkness in a blaze of light and more electricity than she had ever felt before.

She didn’t like it.

She flicked her tail to turn away from it and surround herself with darkness.

She had met the aliens who called her a shark. But she had no name for them.

Inspired by the recent finding that Greenland sharks live for more than 500 years, reaching sexual maturity at around the age of 150.

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Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

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