From the depths he could sense the girl’s presence and so he coasted gently toward her but far below, well beyond her realm of awareness, devoting eight of his nine senses to satisfying his curiosity. The sea is in constant change, it shifts and fractures and reconvenes and even those who dwell within it cannot help but investigate its subtle anomalies. As he approached her he acknowledged that despite her constitution as a land faring animal she was primarily made of water, and in so being, was not entirely foreign here in his neighborhood. But the whale knew with certainty that she didn’t belong here with any permanence, his home was no place for a creature of such profound vulnerability. And when he cautiously touched her soft skin his ninth sense displayed to him in a flash the girl’s essence, her purity, her unfortunate plight as the sole hunter for her kidnapped mother, who, through its unique clairvoyance, the whale knew was already dead. The whale knew all this about the stranger in one flashing instant, he learned about her dangerous journey through the city and then the woods, her attackers both there and here in the sea, he learned about her arrival at the waterfront and the construction there of a raft made from trees and he tried to envision what life would be like on land, how odd and surreal the experience would be, but our friend the whale did not associate knowledge or awareness or cognition with his sense of vision, but more or less his other combined senses, one of which was telepathy, and by nudging the girl with his upper rostrum he knew instantaneously what the poor girl had been through and how she’d ended up here, which, through a process much like deduction, revealed to him that the girl was in a perilous state. And though he knew he could not heal her wounds he did the next best thing for her, sliding her gently up between his eyes and rising to the surface so that she could breathe, for the whale knew inherently just as it knew other things that all land faring creatures need some type of air.
Once on the surface with him beneath her the whale knew the girl might have trouble catching the breath she needed and so he waited there in the moonlight just beneath the threshold of water and air and when he finally felt her stir and cough the water from her lungs he could sense her awareness returning. He began to coast slowly toward the place where the girl had been traveling though he knew the source of her infirmity was nearby. He imagined through her those creatures that had harmed her and their frailty was apparent enough. When she finally regained her faculties and became confused, alarmed, frightened as she moved through the water, he asked her both through his skin and hers if she could swim, did she have the strength. Without knowing it, Esperanza answered in the affirmative that yes, I can swim, and as they approached the two floating creatures waiting before them, the whale, without the girl feeling a thing, slipped her from his rostrum and dove far beneath the surface to a place deep and cold, a place where sound and light exist only in sharp concave bursts and where the alien nature of this planet is apparent only to those who find it so. Esperanza treaded water before the two floating creatures, one of whom asked her, its voice a shriek in the night, You don’t listen very well, do you?
Esperanza was afraid, confused, dizzy. She wanted something to eat. The two floating creatures began circling her and one of them produced a ball of white fire and reared back to heave it when Esperanza felt the water beneath and around her boiling and separating and sucking her downward and before she could describe the sensation to herself a giant black creature exploded impossibly from the water and crashed into the two floating creatures, sending them reeling up into the night sky, tumbling, end over end. The giant creature came crashing back down into the water like a bomb, sending the water all around her upward to the sky in a fountainous burst. It began raining then, for the splash created by the giant black creature was so large as to alter the atmosphere, and just as Esperanza began to feel frightened and alone again she felt the gentle touch of the rostrum at her legs and she spasmed from the touch only to be told in her mind that everything was okay, she had nothing to fear anymore.
Who are you, she spoke aloud, asking the creature and the air around her.
I am a whale, the whale said, for it knew not who it was, only what it was.
Esperanza scanned the surface of the sea for her two attackers, the floating creatures. The water boiled all around her with rainwater.
You won’t need to worry anymore about those two, the whale told her, listening to her thoughts, and Esperanza immediately believed the whale, not because she believed the floating creatures were dead or even because she trusted the whale, but because its tone of voice, if that’s what you could call it, possessed nothing of malice or distrust, it seemed to her transparent and honest and kind.
Thank you, she said to the whale, speaking to it through her skin and without her voice, feeling for the first time like crying, for her journey was not yet over and her fatigue and hunger had returned.
You’re going to see that evil man on the island, aren’t you, the whale asked her, and without waiting for her response, it asked, Would you like a ride?
And that’s how Esperanza rode the back of a giant killer whale through a starless night toward the island where her mother, captive of an immortal danger to this universe, desperately needed her help.