44 min read

Swimming Through the Darkness- A Short Story about Morgan the Orca

This short story was originally posted on readwave.com

I hear the waves caressing the shores. I feel the ocean's immense power. It calls me day after day. The waves grow closer and scream louder at me. I swim westward towards the sound, longing to return to its embrace. But walls tower above me, ensnaring me in this prison, snickering at me as I sink to the bottom of the pool in defeat. Their gray color sucks the resplendent light from the sun, blinding the world in an omni-present darkness. There is no escape. Just when the sun peeks its eyes above the horizon, the darkness shoves it back down beneath the earth again. And there it remains.

For the past four years I have lived in darkness. Broken promises, glossy eyes, and outrageous lies wrap around me, tie me in chains, weigh me down, suffocate me, drag me down to the bottom of the pool, and leave me there sobbing. The artificial lights in the tank glare at me, casting an eerie shade on the water. I lie down on the pool's bone-chilling floor, trembling. I feel it suck the warmth of my body, the strength of my heart, the last rays of hope out of me. I close my eyes, longing to end this pain, this misery, this solitude, this life. If you can even call it a life. They stole my life, justified my imprisonment with lies, claimed they saved me, promised to return me, then stabbed me in the back, damning me to endure the menacing glare of these colorless walls.

I keep my eyes shut, wanting to break the surface and devour those who lied to me, who talk to me like an infant human child, who parade me around the stadium like a prize, who demand I spin around on a platform like a shark plummeting into the abyss without his fins. I cringe, re-opening a wound from a clash with a tankmate. There is no kindness here.

My eyes flicker open. The blood stains the water, leaving a red cloud hovering beside me. It's awful how our social structures crumble and fall in these prisons. We have no control. They separate us, ship us away, try to impregnate us, rape us. Waves surge onto the shores, yet many of us don't even know what the ocean is. What it really means to be an orca.

Breaking the surface, I release the trapped air from my lungs. It floats up effervescently into the sky, finally free to float up and fly away. But I'm left behind, floating listlessly beside this ugly beige platform. I utter a cry as memories bounce their way through my mind. It wasn't always this way. I remember my mother, my family; the beauty of the ocean, the soothing sound of the waves; leaping into the sky, surfing through the waves, gazing at the stars.

*********** "That constellation looks like a pod of dolphins riding a wave!" I shouted, jumping towards them in excitement. My mother chuckled. The moon beamed down and shone on the water's surface, illuminating a path into the cosmos. Its resilient light glistened on my mother's head, a white heart radiating from within her core. She gazed at me, her eyes full of wisdom, love, joy. With a flick of her head, she motioned for me to dive beneath the surface. Shivers ran down my spine as she brushed up against me, caressing me with her flippers. The moonlight shimmered in the water like an incandescent jewel. Its white arms flickered in the water, dancing on my skin – a shimmering web that rippled eternally throughout the ocean. I saw the pattern dancing ever-faster on my mother's skin. White and black dancing hand in hand to the cadence of the moon. It threw me into a trance. The colors blended together, drumming out an enigmatic tune. The currents flowed to the pulsing beat. 1, 2, 3, 4. The rays pierced the water, growing brighter on the third measure. The wind picked up and receded at the end of the line. The beat of our flukes was faster than that of the currents', but still meshed together with the ocean and moon. Perfect harmony.

My mother nudged me, snapping me out of my trance. White arms still danced like angels on her melon and I could hear the beat to which they moved pulsing in my veins.

"Time to breathe, little one," my mother said, pushing me to the surface. After I exhaled, she floated gently in the water, the moonlight still glistening on her skin. "What did you see down there?" she asked.

"It was amazing," I responded. "It was like the ocean, moon, and us were all dancing to the same beat! I've never seen such harmony!"

"Very good, Amber. Sadly, harmony has taken a fall in this world, replaced by a dissonant, cacophonous tone. But it hasn't gone away. We just aren't listening to it anymore. Land, sea, ocean, sky, life. We are all one. No matter what illusions the mind yells to you, remember that we are all connected."

"So we're all just a part of a great big blob?"

"Of course not! Like and equal aren't the same thing, silly! What's amazing is that we are all different. Land is strong, the sky and ocean are flexible, and life exists in many different forms. Yet they are all a part of this world, which would not exist without them."

"What about our lives? Why are they filled with suffering and such horrible falls? Do we just live to suffer and to long for happiness?"

"Life would not be worth living if we experienced the same emotion over and over again, whether it be misery or joy. The horrible moments in life make the pleasant ones shine brighter than the moon beaming above. We live neither to suffer nor to seek for happiness, but to maintain the rhythm of the beat that the whole universe dances to. Remember that light will always be found, no matter how much misery you endure or how dark the night is."

My mother nudged me and jumped towards the moon, its light piercing the tiny droplets of water falling off of her skin. She and the moonlit water simultaneously crashed back into the ocean. A splash echoed across the night sky, then all that remained was the gentle sloshing of the waves. I swam beneath her, the moon's rays dancing on my skin again. I nudged her and she wrapped her flippers around me. Still embracing, we shot our bodies out of the water. The wind brushed gently on my skin and the white path shimmered across the water as if the moon was gazing right at us. Still embracing me, my mother brushed her face against mine, our eyes interlocking.

"Amber, if there's a time when you are alone, when you feel like giving up,e know that I am always here," she promised. Her caresses sent chills down my spine. "We live in the stars, in the moon, and in the ocean that now embraces us. There are ways other than words to communicate. Ways to transcend time, borders, space. No matter what, Amber, you will always have my love. I will always be there for you."

A shooting star flew across the sky, leaving a shimmering trail from the darkest patch all the way up to the moon, which had just begun to fall from the sky.

"Get some sleep, little one," my mother whispered. "May the moonlight watch over you. I'll help you hunt tomorrow."

We floated together the rest of the night, drifting off into the realm of dreams. I felt her nudge me every couple of hours, but I was sound asleep. I wish I knew this would be my last night with her. I would have never closed my eyes.

*********** In the morning clouds covered the sky and the wind battered the gray-colored water. The sun flickered occasionally between small holes in the misty curtain, but its light could never pierce them completely. Hunger ravaged my body. I caught a horrible sickness a few years before and it slowly deteriorated my hearing; my mother had to change frequencies to speak with me. Because of this, hunting was very difficult and family members often fed me. I hadn't eaten anything the past few days.

My mother nudged me and I left her to play with one of my friends, Luminescent Dawn. "Be back in a few hours so we can hunt together," she said. I clicked in acknowledgment, then made my way through the choppy waves towards Dawn. Our pod was a little behind us, traveling northwest, so we had agreed to meet a few miles west from where my mother and I swam last night. Because of my illness, orienting was also a challenge. However, I remembered the shimmering path from the moon last night and changed my direction towards it. I imagined its light dancing on my skin as I cruised west, or at least what I thought was west.

About twenty minutes had passed, plenty of time for me to reach the coordinates we agreed to. Dawn, however, was nowhere to be found. I circled around, frantically calling out her name, but a wave of silence converged on the area. My heart started racing. I was breathing rapidly. I kept circling around trying to find her. I screamed her name, but silence returned my calls. Time seemed to drag on forever until silhouetted figures of the coastline loomed in the distance. I smashed my fluke against the water in frustration.

"I shouldn't have gone alone. Where am I?" I asked no one. I tried to calm myself by taking in deep breaths but torrents of fear and hopelessness rained down on me. Lightning shot down from the heavens and light faded away. I frantically screamed for my mother, for Dawn, but nobody came. Soon I was trapped, lost in the darkness. I tried to sleep that night, but the wind bit my skin and the white flashes of the lightning blinded me. I screamed for my mother, but knew nobody would come.

The current pushed me closer to shore. I felt no urge to fight it anymore. The sun, although still hidden behind the menacing clouds, dimly lit the sky in the morning. My eyes lay just beneath the choppy waves. The black hull of a large raft sped towards me, circled around, then came to a stop a few feet away. Frantic arm gestures pointed towards me and I felt the cold touch of their hands on my skin. I shivered, trashing and screaming as they dragged me onto the boat. One of the humans touched my head and moved his mouth, as if to say, "It's okay. We will help you and return you to your mother. We promise." At least that's what I thought they said.

The water spewed from below as the boat sliced across the water. I relaxed, thinking the humans would help me. I took in my last breaths and the last sights of the ocean. My stomach growled, angry it had not been fed for a week. After a couple hours, a machine lowered me into a small tank. Food was tossed into my mouth. I breathed in relief and looked at the humans with gratitude. Smiles beamed from their faces. They nodded, assuring me that they would heal me and bring me home.

*********** My strength returned over the next couple months and I gained a lot of the weight I had lost. I enjoyed the company of the humans, but got restless once I was better. I longed to see my mother again. I waited and waited for them to return me home. I grew tired of performing redundant behaviors for a crowd of children that constantly banged on the glass, screaming and whining because I failed to entertain them. I bit the side of the tank in anger and a sharp pain jabbed the side of my jaw, causing me to scream in agony. Eventually a gash opened up at the tip of my rostrum.

I grew more restless with each passing day. The kids sat there watching me with their mothers. How can they not see? I thought. I gazed into the eyes of one, hoping to make her understand I wanted my mother too. But she just smiled at me and ran back into her mother's arms. I soon came to realize that selfishness was common in humans and my impatience turned to anger. But I never attacked them, for they were the only ones who could bring me back. My fate lay in their hands.

One day I got excited as the machine raised me out of the tank. But it was a trick. They shoved me onto a plane - a horrid invention - and flew me even further away from my mother. The loud sounds made me squeal. I called for my mother on instinct, but of course she didn't come. Liars, I thought as the plane landed. They never wanted to release me. I'm their tool. Their property!

They dumped me into a tank bigger than the last one I was in. Inside it swam six orcas. They surfaced and gazed at me like robots. I soon learned they were all born in captivity, had never tasted the ocean, had never felt its power. Such a cruel life. I saw anger and sorrow in their eyes. Occasionally there were faint glimmers of light, but it could never pierce through. In their anger, they chased after me and raked my skin, sending blood trickling down. But I never hated them for it. Not like I hated the humans who broke their promise, who flew me hundreds of miles away from my family, who trapped me behind concrete walls when the ocean was just a jump away. I pitied those orcas. I pitied them because they had never tasted the ocean and only knew these fake, stupid behaviors they trained us to perform. The crowd always cheered, never knowing or caring that my mother was far away, that I missed her, that I was disheartened.

Two years after my imprisonment here, one of the orcas died. She was just a year old. But the crowd cheered louder than ever during the shows, leaping from their seats. Do these idiots not even care? I screamed to the empty stadium after the last show of the day. I snapped my jaw on the ugly beige platform next to me in disgust. My jaw screamed, begging me to stop, but how else was I to relieve my stress?

It has been four years since I was captured, healed, and betrayed. Four years since I last saw my mother. But I still remember what she looks like, the soothing sound of her voice, her warm caresses. They stole that life from me. They stole me. For four years I have battled this bitterness, sinking to the bottom of the tank and screaming to no one, "Are you there? Can you hear me? Can I go home?"

The trainers pretend they care. Smiling at us. Caressing us. Feeding us. But it's not real. They embrace me, but I don't love them. How could I? How could I love them when all I think about every second of the day is my mother, my family, and the ocean? How could I enjoy this false life here when sharp jolts of longing pierce me with every passing moment, my pain passing by everyone unnoticed? I would rather die than live here. I would rather die.

I've waited too long. You might say, "Oh, be patient. People do care. You will be freed. Just wait." I did wait. I waited for my body to heal; I waited for a year to be set free, only to be shipped several hundred miles away like a piece of luggage; I waited for another year, only to remain imprisoned because of outlandish lies and excuses; I waited twice that time, still hoping that I could see my mother again, still hoping that Dawn would come, still hoping that light would finally pierce the clouds, only so they could lay their dirty hands on me in hopes that I would become pregnant; I still waited although hope was long gone, although the sun had set long ago, although I would never see my mother, but it was all for not – don't talk to me about waiting; I've had enough of it. You don't understand.

I float listlessly, left behind in this prison, this hell. The artificial light glares off of the ugly beige platform. My jaw screams in pain, begging me not to bite it. Blood still pours from my wound, staining the white skin of my eye patch in red. My heart aches like the old, battered, leaking wood of a stalling ship that longs for a gentle gust of wind to come her way.

"I can't take this anymore," I scream. With nobody listening, of course. "The world must be deaf. So why should I sing to it?" I grumble, taking a final breath. My eyes drop down to the bottom of the pool and I push down my fluke, letting gravity grasp me and pull me down to the tank's bone-chilling floor. The blood cloud from my previous trip still hovers haphazardly in the water. Wincing, I close my eyes. For good this time. I can't wait any longer. Why should I be their slave? Why should I suffer my whole life just to please them?Why should I let them believe I'm happy? I fire out another silent scream, its piercing sound bouncing through the water, colliding into the walls, and then careening back towards me, murdering my ears even more. The artificial lights in the tank flicker and then die. My lungs start to cry, burn, and scream. But I ignore their pleas. I can't take this anymore.

*********** My eyes flickered open one last time. I gazed around the tank and heard the other orcas breathing gently. Goodbye, I thought. Just when my vision started fading into black, the moon rose. Its light reached out from above, piercing through the water. It hit the ice-cold floor and danced on its surface. Shivers ran down my spine, but not from the cold. Memories raced through my mind, back to that last night with my mother four years ago. Her words echoed, amplifying themselves inside my mind. "Remember that light will always be found, no matter how much misery you endure or how dark the night is." I looked up again, gazing at the moon. Maybe there is hope. Maybe there is a way I can make make them understand. Maybe I can still be freed.

"Amber, if there's a time when you are alone, when you feel like giving up, know that I am always here." Mother! I miss her so much. She must miss me. I can't give up on her. Not now! I would give anything to be with her again. "No matter what, Amber, you will always have my love. I will always be there for you." Her words kept echoing inside me, washing away the cold, washing away the sorrow, washing away the pain, washing away the bitterness, washing away my hatred like a powerful wave surging over me. I have to keep fighting. I can't give up. I must breathe.

My lungs screamed in agony. I heard them this time. I beat the water with my fluke and charged up towards the surface, leaped out of the water, and took a sweet breath of air. An explosion echoed across the pool as my lungs sighed in relief. I can't wait anymore. I can't let myself rot here. It's time to get out! It's time to return to my mother!

The next morning the sky was crystal blue and the sun shone bright. My skin glistened as it rose to its zenith. I shifted my gaze from the sky back to the pool as my trainer placed a bucket of fish on the platform. I swam over to her. She reached out with dead fish in her hand, but I shook my body, turned to my side, stared at her, and let loose a blood curdling scream. Startled, she jumped back, but still kept her gaze on me. I jumped onto the platform and glided towards her until we were side by side. I moved my head towards her until it rested right next to her eye. I stared at her long and hard. Please understand. Please hear me. Her eyes blinked, then blinked again. She tried to get up, but I gently pushed her down, moving my head towards her chest. I felt her heart pulsing to a beat. 1, 2, 3, 4. I breathed then moved my head and gazed at her again. She got up, but then trembled and fell to the ground, crying. I still gazed at her as tears rained down from her eyes, creating a small puddle beside her. After a few minutes she got up. I shivered as she wrapped her arms around me in a warm embrace. I exhaled and vocalized in response.

"I understand," she whispered, tears still streaming down her cheek. "I'm so sorry...I never even...please forgive me!" She fell back down to the ground and lay there sobbing. I spun around, nudged her, and looked into her eyes again. It's okay. She nodded. "We'll bring you home, Morgan. You should never have been brought here. I was wrong. The suffering you must have gone through...poor girl." Her arms wrapped around me again. "You will see your mother again," she sobbed, wiping the tears off her face. She stood up and looked me in the eye. "This promise will not be broken," she quavered, rubbing my back.

It took a long time and I had begun to grow suspicious she was lying, but a couple months later I was lifted out of the tank and hauled back onto the dreadful airplane. But it was worth it. I may have been deaf to certain frequencies, but I knew my mother and family would take care of me. After the flight had finally ended, they placed me in a netted-off area of the ocean. I exhaled in relief, gasping as I felt the wild currents brush against my skin again. I was home. A few days later, they lifted me back onto the same raft that carried me away from my mother. But this time, it sped towards her. I had waited too long for this moment. I longed to see her for so long. And then, as the sun started falling from the top of the sky, my family came into view. I saw the dorsal patch of my mother among them and squeaked in excitement. I heard the humans laughing as well. I never thought this day would come.

They gently pushed me off the boat and into the water. I felt the currents pulsing through the oceans. I felt my blood pulsing with them. I was home. I raced towards my mother, calling her, emotions taking over. She stopped and I collided right into her.

"Amber!" she gasped in disbelief, "my baby! Is it really you?"

"Real as the moon, mother!"

She sunk beneath me, unable to speak. After a brief moment, she rose and embraced me. "I thought you were gone forever! I missed you so much! I should never have let you swim off alone!" I pressed my face against her side and she hugged me tighter. "I'm so glad you're home."

The humans waved from the boat as it sped away. I will never forget them. The people I had once called selfish and hopeless were the ones who set me free. A part of me told the rest of my mind that it always knew they could change. The boat sped past the horizon and disappeared. I'm home.

We swam towards the setting set, which had just touched the ocean again. I leaped above the glowing disc, twirled through the air, and sent water flying into the air as I crashed back into the ocean. My mother brushed up against my side and embraced me again. She gazed at me warmly and exhaled. Clicking in response, I sunk beneath the waves with her. The vibrant light of the sun shimmered in the water and danced on our skin. Luminescent Dawn bumped into me, joining us on our cruise.

"I finally found you, Dawn. It took me four long years but I finally found you." I said, unable to stop laughing. He rolled his eye closest to me and clicked, "I just thought you ditched me." I rammed into him, sending him careening into some kelp a few feet away. I raced towards him, bumping him again. The last rays of the sun shone just above his head as we rose to the surface.

"All right, that's enough, you two," my mother scolded. "Let's enjoy this beautiful sunset."I shifted my gaze westward. The sunlight ignited a path on the waves, glistening and shimmering like an iridescent fire – a blaze so bright that not even the largest of thunderstorms could extinguish it. My mother, Dawn, and I followed the sun west. Its light gleamed from our skin, radiating off of us like the moon. I snuggled with my mother and Dawn, free at last. I could finally dance again to the beat of the ocean. My mother was right. Even when the sun seems like it shall never rise again, there will always be a glimmer of light to illuminate a path through the darkness.

May this story come true and may Morgan be reunited with her mother again! She is calling us. She's waited long enough. It's time for us to listen! This story is fictitious, but is based off of real events and scientific facts. For more information about Morgan, please check out this link: http://www.declarecetaceanrights.org/morgan.html