Interview with a Sea Monster by Charlie Cole

Interview with a Sea Monster
Charlie Cole

The dripping gorgon – What else would you call something so shocking it froze humans in their tracks? – stood just off-shore, hesitating, seemingly transfixed, as six-foot waves lapped over its scaly ankles, staring down at the ant-like swimmers and petrified beach-goers as if noticing them for the first time. You could say that they were at least somewhat intriguing where they had previously only been annoying pests at best.

When faced with a 100-foot tall, rampaging, bulletproof, upright sea-monster, one is required to think like scientists, outside of the dreaded oblong box.

The gently beeping transponder, dropped by remote-controlled drone, dangled loosely over one forehead-horn like a miniature party crown, forcing a second vision, overlaying the first, of a gray-bearded man in a white lab coat, staring into a floor-length mirror. The man modeled a matching crown, with several long cables drooping to the floor.

One moment the gorgon was prepared to wreak familiar havoc, while the next he was unexpectedly gazing through the eyes of a renowned, and strikingly punchy, behavioral biologist, as if at his own inner civilized reflection.

Hello there, my unusually big friend. Welcome to my office,” said the scientist. “That’s right, this is what we fleas look like up close. Notice any similarities?”

The scientist flipped a light switch on the wall and stepped closer toward the image in the mirror.

You, Mr. Gorgon, are now seeing through my eyes, hearing my words. It might surprise you to know that, for many centuries, we’ve been the dominant species on the planet, tiny compared to you, admittedly, but we are legion. Strength in numbers: we aren’t going anywhere. We can imagine tools with our puny minds and create them with our nimble hands and our immense forges. Compared to the rest of nature, we’re probably about average size. To you, we’re specks with legs, but we’re intelligent life.”

The gorgon snapped closed the scientist’s eyes a moment, hoping it was a dream, hoping to see the wide-open terrain of the beach again but, when he re-opened them, he was still in the small room, trapped in humble human form.

The gorgon raised his “new” hands, wiggled his fingers, turned his head from side to side, examining every detail.

You’re doing that, not me,” spoke the scientist. “Check me out. You’re inside me in a way, sharing my senses. More successfully, I might add, than ever anticipated. My name is Dr. Hayao Nakamura. I apologize for invading your personal space, probably a bit shockingly, but we needed to get your attention as soon as possible. To save lives. Can you speak, through me? Won’t you try? I believe it should work.”

Let! Me! Out!” the captive commanded, sounding like the desperate cry of the involuntarily committed.

There you are! We’re communicating! Man and beast! For the first time! Amazing! A grand day for the history books, indeed!”

Where am I? How did I get here? Who are you? Why do I sound like this?”

Technically, you’re still in the water on the beach but, temporarily, seeing through my eyes, in a lab many miles away. Trust me, you don’t want to be techno-babbled to death.”

What are you?”

I’m one of those little panicking things you tend to squish between your toes, seen up close.”

One of those crawling insects? How? You’re so much bigger.”

Actually, for the purpose of this demonstration, you’re smaller, while I’m the same size as always. This is what I look like when you’re reduced to my size and can see me, nose to nose.”

You made something that allows us to talk and that lets me see you? Why?”

So, maybe, you would hesitate in future when given the chance to smite us or to philanthropically walk away in a crowd-free direction. You might choose to see us as families, fellow travelers, peers, distant cousins. You can continue to be king of the sea. There’s a lot of it. We won’t argue the point. We just want to be kings of the land, more or less, and not every bit at that.”

You look like me, but without scales or horns or fangs or tail or claws.”

Close enough: that’s the point. Two eyes, two arms, two legs, and a shared passion for wandering. Of course, you’re admittedly all-powerful, while we’re merely clever and innumerable. Face it, we’re very good at procreating.”

Are we agreeing to avoid each other, then? Is that what you’re after?”

We’ll give you a wide berth, and you’ll let us clutter up the coastlines with our wobbly steel-and-glass skyscrapers.”

I’ve seen those shiny towers! I like the term you use. I’m a ‘skyscraper’, too. Aren’t I?”

A very impressive one, a living one that moves and swims and pretty much knocks over all obstacles without breaking a sweat.”

I am pretty amazing when you think about it! And I’m huge!”

And one of a kind, hopefully.”

Hopefully? Have you seen more? Are there others?”

Not that I know of. Would you really like that? I just meant it would be too much to ask you to share the oceans with another one of your kind. You deserve a kingdom of your own.”

Yes, I do. I like it that way.”

And we intend on letting you have it.”

And you’ll let me go back into my giant body?”

Of course. This was just to get your attention, to show what we can do.”

But I shouldn’t be so destructive?”

If you can at all help it.”

And we’ll talk again? I want to learn more. Nobody ever talks to me.”

Whenever you want to chat, come back to this beach. We’ll find you.”

But under the ocean’s mine?”

Deeper the better.”

One question.”

Ask.”

About the sky? Can that be my kingdom, too?”

Well, what good would it do you, since you can’t fly?”

It’s more like jumping real high and, sometimes, belly-flopping.”

Sounds dangerous. Can we talk about that next time?”

Till next time.”

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