Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Sergei Tokmakov
Most think I’m empty, but I’m far from that. In actuality, I’m quite full—filled right up to my jagged cliffs and smooth shore edges. The vast majority of the living reside within me. I encompass most entities on this planet. I cover most areas on this planet. Parts of me run deep, deep towards the core. In some places, near the sandy bottom, the core oozes through cracks, burning me, but my frigidity solidifies it. Parts of me run shallow, shallow towards the surface. In some places, near sandy beaches, surface dwellers enter, disrupting my tranquility, stealing species from me. They slip right through my white-capped fingers.
Despite superficial separation drawn onto maps, I am one. I am one, yet I am not a monolith. Every piece varies, every partition holds new happenings. The top of my head and the soles of my feet remain perpetually frozen—iced skin with borderline frostbite. I like it that way. It balances my eternally sweltering belly, where an imaginary belt marks the exact middle. Here, sun rays beat down year-round—surface water warm to the touch, and summer isn’t seasonal, but everlasting. My shoulders and my knees fall somewhere in between, depending on the angle of this planetary entity.
My behavior is highly dependent on the weather. Storms ravage pinpoints of me that touch air. Whirling winds throw me everywhere, cause rolls to swell, spinning me (tornado equivalency) up into the sky until my water spouts far away from me, to altitudes I don’t like. I prefer zero altitude. After all, I am sea level.
I’ve got veins and arteries, carrying my blood around, across, down, and through—capillary currents like a conveyor belt, transporting dissolved needs.
Life’s constantly teeming. Microscopics and megafauna swim, skitter, and slither from epipelagic to benthic zones, thriving throughout my water column. Meters deep within me, light begins to lag: it can’t pierce my density. Rich blues fade to black, a dark gradient into full absence of light. Unless you’re crafted by evolution for this particular ecological niche, you won’t survive. My depths are merciless. They disorient and use pressure to crush. Lurking always are beautiful monsters accustomed to the bleak, and they’ll strike as soon as they see you because sustenance stays sparse.
Existence, as you understand it, began within me. First organisms flourished here, all alive in a single cell. Proterozoic proliferation. The biodiversity today was billions of years in the making, a time scale very few can fathom. Every strand of DNA carefully crafted over extensive time. Your flesh is an extension of me, your bones an expansion of me, your lungs an extravascular version of mine. You’re an externalization, but you’re nevertheless me.
We are the same. With such a limited number of elements on this Earth, we are all bound to be the same. You need every piece of me to survive. And yet you steal from me without returning. No give, just take. There’s no balance in what you’ve become. My equilibrium interrupted, skewed, severed. I’m trashed, polluted, drowned in oil. You can’t even survive in me, yet your debris has infiltrated even the parts of me you’ve never seen. Man-made manufactured abominations sink to trenches that should be left untouched. I’m littered with your residue, choked by your unbothered hands, massacred over and over by your machines.
For such a small species, you really pack a poisonous punch. I thought the most intelligent breed would be smart. What a stupid thought of mine. You’re unable to exist in harmony with what created you, with what allows you to live. You’re a parasite. Feeding selfishly. The detrimental effects of your existence are omnipresent, continuing to flaunt your artificial omnipotence, under the false impression you’re omniscient.
Do you think it is wise to destroy the very thing that keeps you alive? You believe you’ve been gifted profound wisdom from the divine, imparting you unrestricted access to exploit Earth in its entirety. You think your creations are beautiful, but you’re just constructing monsters. You think I hold the beasts, the freaks, the horrors within my depths. Down in the darkness you’re so afraid of, the darkness you try so hard to eliminate with fake illumination. You think I contain the monsters. The real monstrosity is right where you stand. Look down into your depths—that’s where true darkness lives.
I am decaying from your needless alterations. I am with one foot in the grave you dug. I am in extremis, repeatedly brutally beaten by you, as if my blood dripping is beautiful to you. I am in anguish, the misery you’ve so misfortunately inflicted on me has led me to a petrifying point of no return. I am damned, and you are the cause. I am the ocean, and you are killing me.