Billy Babcock, aged 12
I spy you, wee Billy, in your safe middle-class home, sleeping in your safe middle class bed, in your safe middle class footsie-jumper. You are so cozy now, your eyes wide and your cheeks flushed a healthy and happy pink. The meaty flesh inside of this gaping maw of mine slickens in wanton desire. I would carve hunks of your supple flesh out like dainty spoonfuls of Cream Iced and Flavored, save you have asked of me a very interesting question that has sent me back along those tendrilled paths of memory and I cannot look away.
You are right, I do indeed despise the vicious and souless thug of the sea your kind knows as the Sperm Whale, but which my kind can only adequately describe as a combination of pungent rot-smells and the flickering of my many-hued mantle a deep and angry green-red, which fluctuates between the chromatic extremes producing a kind of pulsating, roiling brown death-color.
Why I Hate the Sperm Whales
I hate the sperm whale. And I do, on as many occasions as present themselves, attempt to "beat them up." But these prejudices are not come by casually, or with unjustified whim. My anger toward the sperm whale is long and well earned, and it would do to briefly explain. The cetacean kind and mine, the - Architeuthic Race of the deep, have been forever entangled in a race war that has lasted many millennia. A Race War instigated by the hated surface floaters, the sperm whale, who gather in there death squads, the "pod" and circle above like a horrible cross-breeding of vultures and zeppelim. They pierce down deep through the blue-black waves with their pitching, screaming sonar, seeking out the meaty and the tender of my kind. Once a target is located they swoop down like and unto like jack-booted surface stormers, and beat the prospective squid-meal again and again and again. A lone squid may struggle and tear with his or her tentacles, the toothy suckers clawing and tearing as they will, but often the struggle is to no avail and the hated mammal-beasts come away unharmed to the searing surface, their limp prey— my kin!— in mouth.
They for too long lorded over us with their maws and their ability to pass from the blood-boiling surface water to the tight and soothing embrace of the benthic-deep. For a million years they roamed the waves unchallenged. They were an overclass, like unto a superior race . . . or so they fancied. But in the deep I and my kind lurked, ghettoized but not vanquished. The crux of our oppression was this: there was no venue upon which an equal combat 'twixt Whale and Squid might be waged. At their whim hated Whale-beasts could dive down into our world and, unsuspected, they could strike in a time and manner of their own choosing. The limitations of our bodies, tempered as they are by the immense pressures of the deep, prevented us from living long on that surface of yours, quickly succumbing to dementia as our blood boiled in the thin pressure of the hated upspace.
But I was committed, thousands of years ago, to turn this hated current away.
A Neptunian Vision of the Future
Ah, Billy, you cannot imagine what the seas were before the hated invasion of man. Even with the whales circling overhead, ready for a death-dive at any moment, there was a blessed serenity to the waves. But that serenity, especially in the deep, was unto a tomb. Men, on the dry-dirt-scape, I had already heard, had similar problems between one and another of their own kind as we squid did against the hated Whale-beasts. There was war there, and conflict between those above and those below in human society, and in general, strife was the way of the life of the ape-creatures with their clubs and their temples and their fancy "hairstyles." And much, I understood, had been learned by the distant, and usually foolish ape-bags. So, in the interest of inter-species peace, I endeavored to journey to the land of men so that I might learn what advances the simian creatures with their much vaunted opposable thumbs had made in the area of "conflict resolution."
Certainly it was not possible for an army of squid to rise and fight the Whales on their own terms, but there surely must have been a way for a lone squid to venture forth on an errand of educational value? I sank deep to the hot vents of the lower African continental shelf and approached a monastery of Neptune worshiping Tube Worms so that I could seek my answer.
The thinnest and most lovely of the sea worms, a tender female named Noleelee, guided me into the towering heat cone of one of the oldest of the vents. The Sulfurous water was flesh-scalding and brain-addling, but I suffered through it as glittering plankton, ethereal and free from the domineering sun, clustered about my many orifices and my huge, optically perfect eyes.
It was there, as the love priestess writhed about my mantle in the hot, cooking solution, that Neptune, the multi-armed and magnificent, appeared before me. He had ten tridents in his ten tentacles, and his twenty eyes stared ahead into my soul. His skin fluttered with more colors and lights then the deep black sea had ever witnessed, and his maw gaped deeper and wider then the great abyss itself. In a flash I saw all that I would ever be or know, though it did not at the time fully make sense. There were objects I could not at the time conceive, and sensations I would not know until many centuries hence. There are still images even now which I remember vividly, but which must still predict a much stranger future than I can now comprehend. What was useful at the time was a vision of a deep cavern under the Horn of Africa where Vulcan himself, the great maker and fabricator, his many sea-machinations forged.
I slipped free of the boiling cone and lay for many weeks in a hidden grotto, recovering from my vision. Noleelee and I meditated together, and I forged a permanent memory of all of the visions that great Poseidon revealed. Poseidon, who is Neptune, who is Cthulhu, who is Dagon, who is the great mind of the deep itself.
Then, my strength secured, and further fortified by the news that my brother had been devoured by a pod of twenty whales in the North Atlantic, I made ready for my journey to the deep-sea workshop of Vulcan.
My First Bargain with Vulcan
The cavern opening to the deep sea workshop of Vulcan, the great forger and worker of metal and fire, was fashioned in marble even beneath the sea. Across the great and monumental pediment was a frieze which told the entire history of the many-faced Gods from the division of the waters of Chaos to the present time, which at that point in your ape calendar was about 800 years before the birth of that little Ape-Teacher named Joshua. The Frieze had open space for many many yards where the future was to be written, and as I floated there, supple in the warm waters of the Horn, I saw my own visage being etched by invisible tools upon the pediment.
Great crabs guarded the gates of the workshop, and within there were cavalries of giant sea horses and platoons, whole platoons, of brine shrimp. As I passed each battalion, each force, their eyes turned down before me and I knew that I was expected.
Vulcan was there, at his forge, working the bellows, feeding a huge fire that burned through great bricks of magnesium. He had upon his frame the cloaked form of a surface primate, his chest broad and slick with sweat, and while he worked, a cloud of oil floated in the water about his head as sweat soaked out from his pores into the flowing sea. Tools from the distant past and the far future hung, one after the other, along the walls of the cavern. Statues of Aphrodite, half finished, some smashed, leaned against distant walls in shadows beneath the fluttering cloaks of dust covers. Striking up sparks with an extremely tiny hammer and chisel, I saw a most strange and wonderful thing. He was manufacturing a device of such precision and minuteness that at the time I had no clear idea what it could be for. It was black and green and gold and filled a space no larger than two of his massive fingers held together. Only now, inspecting the image in my memory, do I realize that he was making one of the Cellular Telephones so popular, I am sure, with your peers, Dear Billy.
As Vulcan worked, sweating, over his tiny triumph, I floated in the entry way of the workshop, my tentacles drawn in, my mantle a shy pale pink. With exasperation he drew one hand away from his work and, without turning to look or to really stop in his labors, he pointed sternly to a large clam shell with a crystal eye. I bowed, and with a jet-spray that barely disturbed the waters, I was upon the shell quickly, drawing it out into the cooler waters of the gaping opening.
There, on the frieze, as I set the shell in place on an outcropping of stones looking out and down into a monstrous crevice, a second image began to appear. It was of me in the shell, bobbing along the waves of the surface sea, watching ape-men fighting, their fists outstretched.
My Early Time in the Sport of Tenta-Cuffs
Ah, Billy, I alone had been blessed so by the gods of the deep. I was granted access to the terrible, wonderful, hated and loved surface world, and to the culture of those magnificent vermin-beasts that are the Men of the world. By way of the Anti-Bathosphere, Vulcan forged and equipped, I was able to observe the many hued-relations of the creatures of the land. And in many ways, it was too ugly a sight to be believed.
For the most part, the reports were entirely false. No great progress had been made regarding the relations of the oppressed to his oppressor. When anger struck one man, another fell down dead. When hunger struck one man, another fell dead. When passion-lust struck one man, another fell dead. Frequently, it was just the same as it had been with the whales and the squid, those who sat up high took what they wished from those who through no fault of their own lived and worked below. Often it was life-taking by whim alone. These men were but stupid and over-fertile images of the hated whales that I sought to overtopple.
It was a woeful time that almost made me curse Vulcan for allowing me to see hope so easily ripped away.
But, in 688 BC, outside of Athens, at the 23rd Olympiad, I witnessed something quite miraculous. Atroklos of Athens was a wealthy boy, raised in the Gymnasium and educated as the finest specimen of privileged manhood. His Athenian upbringing had brought him opulence, ease and a healthy rose to his cheek. He was not unlike you, young Billy. His muscles were supple and newly formed, fresh was his breath and firm his skin. And like so many other of his Olympic comrades, his nude form graced the field as carefully and beautifully as a light laurel resting on the brow of a risen god.
But then, in the ring of combat, things changed. For the first time, fisticuffs were introduced into the Olympiad. Unlike the rarefied events of past Olympiads, the sprinting, the discus, the swimming, which necessitated a focused and therefore expensive course of training to perfect, pugilism stood forth as a skill all Greeks knew by nature of their manhood. And in fact, the greater the adversity a Greek faced in youth, the more likely he was to be "blessed" with impromptu sparring partners. In that spirit, the qualifying matches of Olympic pugilism were open to a broader section of the male populace because the training required to become an excellent fist-fighter did not require the seclusion from the world, but rather encouraged and rewarded a more direct participation in the world.
And so it came to pass that I witnessed as golden Atroklos, not unlike a well-bread horse or a glossy and oiled Adonis, was pummeled to death by the greasy, hairy fists of Lycaon of Sparta, son of a fishmonger and first time Olympian.
That brief glimmer of hope was all that I would witness for many centuries to come. In one quick jab, I saw low, mean Lycaon, as wooly and wolfen as his namesake of old, swipe the imperious though bloody grin off of Atroklos' pink and polished face. But as quickly as that glory whipped through my being, by the next year it was destroyed. Because of Atroklos' death at the hands of such a low fiend as the poor Lycaon, open competition in boxing was ended the following year. The Olympics lasted many more centuries, well into the modern period, but it was a pusillanimous series of events between wealthy combatants, and not a roustabout glory palace as it had been for that one fair day in the summer of 688.
From there, real blood sporting was left to the common classes. And they fought each other then, for the amusement of the middle classes and the rich. For centuries afterwards I searched the surface world for another moment like I had seen on the Olympian plains. I saw it other places, briefly, a flicker, but not until one London summer came along did my world again change, and my ageless quest for an ennobling inter-species combat venue was nearing an end.
Ah, but I wax long and hard, do I not, Charming Billy? And I have yet to answer your simply query: How many whales have I "beat up"? Read again, next week, young pup! And, in the meantime, pummel your cohort freely! Glory! Glory!
The Giant Squid
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