The human consciousness is an immense body of water, an ocean of immeasurable depth. We carry billions of tide pools in the delicate bowls of our skulls.
At night, if you put your ear to your lover’s head, you can hear the sound of foghorns blowing, of waves lapping at a distant shore. You can hear the crackle of a ship’s radio sending signals of distress, of hope, of expectation, of faith out across vast stretches of uncharted space. Look closely at your lover’s skin, and you will see an almost invisible tattoo of a serpent or a rose?a seagoing history of places you didn’t know they had been.
Out on this ocean is a terrible ghost ship, a factory ship, a floating processing plant equipped for ripping and boiling the sweet blubber of things that are vaster and more wonderful than we can conceive. The hull is rusty, the colour of bone and dried blood. The boiler room is filled with industrial light, infernal fire. It looms up and up out of the water, big beyond description. Big as a school, big as a cathedral, big as an office tower, big as a parent’s hand. There is a never-ending fine-mesh net trailing lazily through the green waters. Weird dreams we can’t explain are trapped like dolphins, like flying fish in the strangling threads. Every day the ocean has fewer and fewer magnificent things living within it.
Every now and then, though, a manatee or a swordfish slips through the rips and tears. There are seismic shocks emanating from tectonic plates a billion miles beneath the surface of our waking thoughts, causing mysterious miniature tsunamis in the bloodstream. There is the magnetic witchcraft of an invisible moon creating flood tides that spill out from the canals of our ears, filling the streets of our workaday sinking cities.
Every now and then, someone we know sets out to sea in a flimsy boat made of paper and wood. We watch the lantern suspended from its prow until it disappears at the gathering point of the horizon, a tiny spark of bioluminescence merging with the stars. After that, the person’s life becomes the subject matter of bawdy shanties and ill-conceived legends. Some say that their lungs are long ago filled with water. Others that they have slipped off the edge of the world, or been shredded by dragons. Some of us, the more hopeful, like to imagine that they’ve been shipwrecked on some weird shore, a place where the rocks are shaped like awful, beautiful gods, a lost Galapagos of near-impossible things.