It emerges from behind a great tower of cloud and exhales precipitation in a heavy atmospheric gust. The fine mist coats everything in deep ocean lace. Carving the sky with its great fins, it rolls, rearing its fluke, and dives to gaze at the people below, tucked beneath their red and black umbrellas. Sound travels for mile through water, deeper and sweeter for the dense molecular dance. But in air, the song of the humpback makes the ground shake and small children cry.
They are coming today, with the only means they know, to bring the great barnacled beast down from the sky. Harpoons and nylon ropes and heavy chains and huge vices and machetes the length of a man’s arm; nets and hooks and stakes with hammers, barrels and knives and electrified prods and tarpaulin; scales and tape measures and vials and spectrometers and chemistry labs packed and mounted onto flat-back trucks; a white tent is set up a huge sail rising from the ground and inside, cameras and monitors transport the high definition feeds of the arena into comfortable homes. They will discover how the whale ascended and why.
They begin at eight, grappling and hauling. By noon, the humpback is spread over concrete and groaning as its organs crush one another. Preliminary observation: the whale is a young bull. Blood and a clear viscous fluid weep from where sharp objects have punctured his thick black skin, revealing the creamy fat beneath. Everything stinks of decaying shore-front, the same bladder-wrack, mussel-ruptured stench from back-alley bays at the height of summer. The whale bares his baleen and huffs. The spray of breath he releases, scatters and dries around his blow hole. His giant tail lifts and falls with a thunderous, grief-stricken slap onto the concrete, where it comes to rest and the team of experts begin their work.
In the erected tent, halogen lamps blaze white and blind as the night closes in. The veterinarians, biologists, chemists, lab assistants, news crews, police and politicians are, if not covered in the fluids of the dead mammal, imbued with a trace scent that will never wash out.
People returning home from their long day of spreadsheets and video streams fold their red and black umbrellas and search the sky for the evening song. Some listeners swear that the music can be heard over the horizon; some cluster together and speculate at the ringing in their ears. Most only recognize the harmonies in their memory.
FlashFlood is brought to you by National Flash-Fiction Day UK, happening this year on 27th June 2015.
In the build up to the day we have now launched our Micro-Fiction Competition (stories up to 100 words) and also our annual Anthology (stories up to 500 words). So if you have enjoyed FlashFlood, why not send us your stories?More information about these and the Day itself available at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk.