The enclave of the dead, discovered in the deep-sea vents, has a line of dorms and an eight o’clock curfew. We take part in the kitchen rotas. Dead-tired propaganda posters line the walls of the dining hall. I hoped to see my family again, but the souls, covered in coral and fishbones, talk quietly in Moongrammar among themselves and have no business with us.
‘Liat,’ I say, ‘I’m sick of them, talk to me’.
We are deep under the whales and lanternfish, guarded by impossible suits.
Then my girlfriend pulls out an official report informing me she died on the way to the enclave.
‘A bit morbid,’ I say.
Then I realise I can’t see her face under the visor.
She shrugs: ‘I’ll barnacle this suit for corals’.
I can’t talk anymore.
I let a week pass, then I wade through the corals, broken seashells, glasses of tea with seaweed, the clink of cutlery, and the smell of dirty dishes, to talk to her.
‘Liat, why did you come on the mission?’
‘To ocean you undeeply in I.’
‘I know it’s not your fault, but I am so angry.’
‘Less lampreys on the southern shore, light wind, turbulence.’
‘I am so confused. I am talking to you, and you’re here, and you’re not here, and the past is eroded by the present. Will it ever be different?’
‘Squid through fingers this your wave, do and do not fathom it.’
‘Oh I am so angry at you. And I am so not angry at you. Do you even know.’
‘Yes- I- not’
We continue to meet, her suit slowly beginning to look like the prow of an old ship
Her newly acquired way of speaking blurs the distinctions between parts of speech, and I rest in the flow of her words.
‘Listen, I say, I have to rethink everything. Can I not impossible you back to life?’
I rethink death as a grammatical aspect and parting as a tense, and both conditional, as they should have always been. I rethink my life in non-linear waves. I talk to the dead and I forgive them their dull ways. I strain my imagination to dissolve the ceiling of the dining hall: creatures of the pelagic zone, and then dolphins, great whites, and flying fish pour in.
I stay adrift this way, but what to do with this thought: in another week our mission is over. She will stay here. I will sail with the crew. I imagine him in the darkness above: open your wise, gaping mouth, anglerfish, help me think.
Roppotucha’s microfiction can be found on Twitter. Longer pieces are on Adhoc Fiction (winners section), Evening Theatre, and on Amazon.