By Benjamin Wexler
The sea monsters: these are the great fish in the sea, and in the legends, this refers to the Leviathan and its mate, for God created them male and female, and He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future, for if they would propagate, the world could not exist because of them. – Rashi, on Genesis 1:21
The leviathan was blue. As blue as the beach you would never go back to. Blue like the heavens imagined by a painter with pigment from a fancy Afghan rock. Blue as your mouth after eating those popsicles that come in unmarked, transparent plastic. The blue shone through the plastic of the tank.
The leviathan was thirty-five millimetres tall, or it had been the last time she measured it. At its shortest width it was two centimetres. However, trying to apply any accurate measurement to the creature was…complicated. It undulated in the water, tendrils curling and unfurling with lazy purposelessness. Of course, she was a biologist. She had no qualms about sticking a dead thing to a board with pins. In fact, some of her happiest childhood memories were of doing exactly that, and she had neatly colour-coded pins for the purpose. But whether the tendrils should be pinned with green for legs, grey for tentacles, or pink for phalluses seemed irrelevant, given that the creatures somehow kept wriggling. They did not respond to drugs, or oxygen deprivation, or any other banal method of assassination. They did not turn up desiccated on the shore. Some chucklef**k had even tried putting one under a hydraulic press, but the creature popped right back into shape once it could. Only those who were serious about killing had succeeded, and Josephine still suspected the shriveled grey corpses she had seen were just waiting to reanimate.
“I wish I wasn’t a scientist.” Jo pulled away from the tank.
“Hmm. Why is that?” Amy was busy on her notepad.
“Because it would be so easy to just look at that thing and say…‘you know what? I’ve got it. It’s the semen of some virile God who got horny over the sea and couldn’t bother to wait until land appeared.’ ”
“I think it would be unscientific of you to rule that out entirely,” said Amy.
“Well then scribble it down quick and we’ll pursue it tomorrow, because I’m sick of being a scientist.”
“You go ahead. My notes need patching up, and this is ten times quieter than the apartment. I was going to stay for another hour or so.”
“No you’re not,” said Jo, removing her lab coat and turning around with it neatly folded in her arms. “Come on, when was the last time you ate out?”
Amy blinked in the blue glow of the tank and did not move.
“Besides, I’m scared to leave you alone with that thing. Who knows what the fuck it’s going to do next.”
“No way! I’m doing this for your benefit!”
“Sure you are. At least you have a gainfully employed roommate.”
“Kat is already pulling way above her own weight. To be fair, that girl is tiny.”
Jo told the campus bus terminal to take them to the downtown water. Their shuttle would arrive in –five– minutes, bring them to their destination in only –fifteen– minutes, and compromise –zero– passenger’s journeys. A late time of night, so there wasn’t much competition.
They hopped out a block above sea level, and then walked up the nearest dock towards the long barge. A sign proudly proclaimed one-hundred years on the Halifax water and fifty floating, the best vegetarian food in the city. The meals bore little resemblance to any live organism, and happily, none to wriggling blue ones. Jo paid under the agreement that drinks were on Amy the next time they had a real night-out. If they ever had a real night-out.
“Why do you think we call them leviathans?” asked Amy, in between crunching on noodles.
“Probably because of the enormous amount of time and thought wasted on them.”
“Funny. Seriously, don’t you have any idea? This has been your focus for much longer. And then I’ll stop talking about them, promise.”
“I don’t know. I always figured it was ironic. Small thing. Call it leviathan. Funny.” She contemplated their pad thai. “The world is disappearing up its own ass.”
Jo took one fortune cookie on the way out, Amy two. Amy’s first recommended she Seize the day. You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For all the teasing in the world she would not open the second, which she always saved for home. Because, she explained, the fortune was hers but she did not know it yet. If she waited a few hours her future would still be hers, and she could enjoy its unexpectedness while being comforted by the assurance of an orderly universe.
Jo’s opened neatly in half. There’s always a bigger fish.
The city was darker than she had ever seen it, and the ocean glittered with dots of the bluest blue as it lapped at the shore. She remembered when the high tide still had beach to swallow. As they passed over the dock, they let the papers slip through their fingers and into the crack between plates, where the day’s fortunes clogged and trickled into the murky water.