I dreamt that the friend of a friend had died.
His body floated lifeless on the surface of the Pacific,
tossed about between the Bering Sea whitecaps
like an orca’s seal-pup plaything
while the Arctic wind whipped
and beat the freezing cold water
across his pallid face and through his chestnut hair.
Then his body
began to sink,
its silhouette appearing
against various monotone
canvases of blue
on its trip downward:
a vivid cornflower,
a pelagic cerulean,
a chasm of cold cobalt,
a starless twilight,
a forest of indigo,
a velvet curtain of navy.
as it reached the deepest possible shade of midnight—
only a quantum away from black—
it stopped sinking.
There, in that void,
where daylight and color are considered but outlandish theories,
strange fish of all and shapes and sizes
began to surround the decomposing corpse:
Greenland sharks hailing from the frozen arctic,
mantis shrimp from the mangrove labyrinths,
eyeless electric eels from undersea caves near the Galápagos,
vampire squid rising cautiously up out of their World War One trenches,
scores of spindly ***** and pale worms that had ventured far beyond
the safe familiarity of their alien geothermal worlds.
At first, they approached the corpse gingerly,
nibbling only the tips of its hair and fingernails,
and then suddenly, voraciously,
they consumed it—until not even a skeleton remained.
Now, only a single point of light was left
there floating in the void.
And from this single point of light,
where just a moment before the corpse had floated,
a brilliant white lattice structure emerged,
unfurling as would a fern across a forest floor.
It fanned out onto the seabed
and then swept upward, upward
back toward those reaches of sea
where color is known
and fresh air gleefully permeates
that foamy outer membrane that skirts the base of the sky.
Scores of familiar fish began to lift up the crystalline structure—
schools of shimmering sardines,
stately, dignified manta rays,
skipjacks, bluefins, and white-tips,
brilliant cuttlefish, humble pufferfish,
shifty barracuda, gargantuan whale sharks,
all of them
beating their tails in concert
to carry this lattice away,
this measure of a life,
this husk of a soul
at last freed from its earthly bindings.
The fish were carrying it somewhere deeper,
to a place that I understood—
even from the inky depths
of my dreaming mind—
that I could not enter.
But then again,
I knew that someday