short stories

The Ocean

Three men hike to the summit of a long and winding mountain. At this apex of the Earth, sits His Holiness the Honorable Shinrashanrakar, surrounded in a marble shrine that puts the Taj Mahal to shame. After several moments of standing in awe of the giant arching oak doors, Victor the largest of the three, a towering 6’7″ and 250 lbs. of solid muscle, steps ahead to heave them open. On the other side, a mile-long hand-woven red carpet lies before the gentlemen. And they begin to walk it, barefoot. They can feel the finely fashioned threads between their toes, which brush over the varying designs painting pictures in their minds’ eyes. Finally, they approach HH Shinrashanrakar. He can only pick one to bestow the wealth of knowledge he has sustained for nearly 80 years. He, therefore, asks them a question.

“What do you wish to be?”

Alan the shrewdest, suavest of the three speaks. He figures acting first could be strategic.

“I want to be a shark, a Great White, nature’s perfect hunter. They’ve evolved over millions of years to thrive and thrash toward exacting their goal. If you pick me, I will attack the task with the determination and precision of the Great White.”

HH peers deeply into Alan’s eyes. He sees only truth and nods slowly and gently. His eyes blink ever so slightly.

Victor, ever the competitor, wastes no time and seizes the opportunity to top the clever Alan.

“Well I would embody an amazing Orca, the ‘Killer Whale.’ And I would hunt this supposed nature’s perfect hunter. I would find the Great White and I would eat him. I would then exist as an even greater being, having defeated that shark, its energy in my belly. Then only I would be have the power to carry out your task.”

HH receives Victor’s words in the same manner he had Alan’s, though he lingers for less time on Victor. Victor’s confident delivery requires less convincing.

Several minutes pass by in silence. At last, HH the Honorable Shinrashanrakar turns to the third man. He repeats his question.

The man pauses for effect and then figuratively and firmly holds the heavy marble floor.

“I apologize for the delay. Where I come from, it’s good form to wait until the host speaks to his guest. Although, in that time, I did have some time for reflection of my predecessors’ responses. And they added electricity to the brainstorm, which I will now detail to you, your Holiness.

“When I heard the Killer Whale’s response, I had a tough time imagining an animal or a force larger than that mighty sea mammoth. Sure there’s the Blue Whale. I suppose it could swallow the Orca whole, but what would that really prove? I doubt that it could more adequately carry out whatever you wish us to do. And then I thought of your question, which you just kindly repeated to me after the many moments from your original inquiry. You said ‘what,’ which doesn’t necessarily limit the options to animals. In fact, of all of the interrogative pronouns, what implies the most possibility. And that’s when I could smell the salty air and hear heavy waves crashing. I flew on the body of an impetuous underwater Tsunami. I crashed against mountains and roared tide in and tide out. I touched the seven continents simultaneously and felt the souls of every lifeform in me. I thought of the Great White Shark and the Orca swimming on my deepwater currents. If I wanted, I could swallow them in a downward funnel or I could whip and tumble them until they washed ashore. But then I realized I would exist whether they swam or not and I decided to let them be. They could even help me in the task at hand. This task that I would perform as the mighty Ocean.”

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