Ocean Bestiary

Rainbow birth

She was a clone. Not unique, not original, unable to make a difference. Inside her… it was growing. The precious cargo released only once every year, at the same hour, on the same night. This time, she wanted to be creative. Disruptive. Revolutionary.

Searching for inspiration, she remembered the beauty she saw every night, after waking up. The flashing colors passing by her. Colors attached to creatures unknown.

When crafting her bundle, she thought: “I’ll pick one color, and I’ll make it mine”

But her thoughts were not private. She was connected to the other clones by the lifeline, so her thirst for change spread through the communal hive-like entity.

“Pick one color” said the hive mind “and make it yours”

At the same moon time, the entire coral reef spawned. In a sea of pink eggs, the clones of the fashion-conscious coral colony sent their little bundles of hope out into the wild: A swarm of aquamarines, fuchsias, tangerines, lavenders, indigos, neon yellows and electric greens. The spawn predators, startled by the rainbow birth, ignored the fashionista eggs, and ate the traditional colors.

Imagined rainbow coral spawn. Normal and iridescent oil pastels. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Imagined rainbow coral spawn. Normal and iridescent oil pastels. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Love Nest

He was in love.

She was coming to dinner tonight. He had rehearsed many times his proposal, a promise of love and a shared life. She arrived late: A wave of perfume capable of melting his heart.

They spoke of everything and nothing to break the ice during dinner. Afterwards, with a full belly, they moved into the serious business of love. He looked into her blue-violet eyes and felt his courage disappear. She was so beautiful, and he had so little.

In a whisper, he spoke his proposal:

“I don’t have much. But what is mine is yours. Stay here with me. Have our children. I will love you forever”

She listened to the same promises others have made before. When in love, they always say the same, she thought.  But this one was sincere.

“Yes”- she said-“I will love you forever. We’ll have children. But I don’t want to spend my days living inside the rectum of a sea cucumber. We should move to the new high rise condos at the reef crest.”

So he learned the hard way that the male proposes, and the female disposes the fancy headquarters where the proposal is consummated.

The newlyweds left the safety of the humble sea cucumber’s ass, and swam all the way to the promised luxury.

The pearlfishes never saw the moray eel ambushing their progress until it was too late to escape.

Pearlfish hiding in a sea cucumber. Iridescent oil pastels. Credit: Sarah Frias-torres

Pearlfish hiding in a sea cucumber. Iridescent oil pastels. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Light Show

The crowd was pleased with the show.

Hiding in the twilight, they could see the drama unfolding. One of them, the one who got the short end of the sea whip, was blinded by the light.

The big spherical eye was on it. Fixated. It moved around the blinded creature with strange noisy fins.

But what was this strange eye made of? One thousand meters deep, the white light coming out of that eye was spectacular

Cachalot says the eye has creatures inside called humans. He has seen them way up where the ocean meets the air. Architeuthis thinks Cachalot is full of it, because she has never seen such creatures herself. But being a giant squid, she prefers to say nothing and keep quiet while staying within tentacle distance of the sperm whale.

Then it happens. The eye has a transparent mouth. It sucks in the startled fish. The crowd roars with ten thousand different voices, each one from a unique creature unknown to the spherical invader.

The big eye jettisons to the far away ocean surface with its precious cargo.

Great news! the humans just discovered one new fish.

Imaginary (or yet to be discovered) deep sea octopus. Iridescent oil pastels on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Imaginary (or yet to be discovered) deep sea octopus. Iridescent oil pastels on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Auction

It shone under the halogen lights. An object of desire. A symbol of power and wealth. The must-have of the millennium.

Sotheby’s had never been so crowded. Forget Monet, Matisse and Picasso oil paintings. This one was unique. Deep frozen. Ice dust on its surface bounced light with diamond-like brilliance.

The forty million dollar mark was long past. The bids kept hitting the auction floor, waves upon waves, each one higher than the last one.

Until it was done.

The last Atlantic bluefin tuna was sold to a man unsure of his manhood. He was a filthy rich tycoon who used death to buy his self-esteem.

Now, the oceans were forever empty of the great predator. In this way, humankind lost its humanity.

 

Author’s note: the Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is endangered due to overfishing. You can stop the Auction fable from becoming a reality. Don’t eat sushi or sashimi made with this species. Use a Sustainable Seafood Guide to choose wisely. Support the conservation of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Learn more at the WWF bluefin tuna project

 

Bluefin tuna. Iridescent oil pastels on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Bluefin tuna. Iridescent oil pastels on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Home

Salty. No boundaries. No empty echoes bouncing into her lower jaw, but the complex image of the seafloor only her sophisticated echolocation can provide. Seeing with her voice, her birthright, denied to her in prison.

So many years performing circus tricks just to get a bunch of disgusting dead fish: up into the air, through the hoop, forward, backward. The endless laps she swam in that fish pond, trying to bring peace to her restless body. Dozing on and off from the drugs she was given by her trainers. The anguish, the torture, the solitude.

And one day, humans different from the ones who captured her as a baby, took her to cooler and cleaner waters. A bay up North, with a delicate barrier separating her from the Big Blue.

She has been listening to the songs of her long lost family. And what sweet voices they are! She sings them her name, as taught by her mother. And they reply: “Come to us, we are waiting for you”.

Now, the sea pen is open. The boundless ocean awaits.

Today, she is going home.

 

Author’s note: I dedicate this fable to all the captive orcas and dolphins worldwide. May humanity understand one day the atrocity of incarcerating these highly intelligent and social animals. Then, I hope we use science-based protocols to rehabilitate them back into the wild ocean.

Closeup orca (Orcinus orca). Iridescent oil pastels on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Closeup orca (Orcinus orca). Iridescent oil pastels on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Soldier

She crawled her way out of the sand hole. In the pitch black darkness, she pushed out the hundreds of soldiers trying to reach the surface, always up and into the air and into the night. Then she ran for her life towards the sea. She had to reach the deep blue before the sun came up.

Enemy fire was constant. Aerial attacks and heavy artillery. Her brothers and sisters were hit all around her, decapitated, dismembered, their bodies one moment in motion, the next moment lifeless. There was no time to think, only to run.

She reached the surf. A giant wave took her away from the carnage. Now the attack was submarine. She could hear the screams of terrified soldiers underwater. She swam, swam and swam, she would never give up.

The day was gone when she reached the first mat of sargasso. The floating weed, a life-saver oasis in the middle of a liquid salty desert. She slept long and hard tucked into the lush copper green. Hunger came next. A jellyfish was within reach. A tasty snack for the tired soldier. A first bite, and the pestilence of the human world reached her. For the jellyfish was petroleum incarnated into a plastic bag, discarded, and turned into a wall of death.

The baby sea turtle never had a chance.

Seaturtle eye. Oil pastel on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Sea turtle eye. Oil pastel on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Revolution

It was time for a revolution. The workers complained of working non-stop from sunrise to sunset. No weekends off and no holidays. They had food and shelter but that was all. What about the fine things in life? or about their intellectual pursuits? they were working class but they had the right to go to college, travel freely anywhere and everywhere, do the things they wanted to do and more. Not just cooped up there, in the factory.

The worker’s union was in an emergency assembly. A general strike was not enough. They had to get out of that place and demonstrate for all the world to see. The time of reckoning was now, the revolution was coming!…

“Every night, it’s the same story” thought the giant clam. “Idle photosystems make them overthink the situation. Why did I end up with a bunch of anarchist zooxanthellae?”

“Well, here’s sunrise. Open up”.

And the algae went back to work.

Giant clam closeup. Oil pastel on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Giant clam closeup. Oil pastel on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Self Help Workshop

A brand new camera lens fell from a dive boat and sank into the ocean. It came to rest twenty meters down by a coral reef. The octopus was the first creature to find the lens. With her superior intelligence, she saw a market opportunity. So she took the lens and left it at the entrance of her den, with a tentacle-written sign.

The reef animals had never seen anything like it before. By bending the light, the lens became a funhouse mirror exaggerating the reflected image of unsuspecting bystanders. The pufferfish looked too fat. The trumpetfish too skinny. The clownfish looked too colorful, the pigmy seahorse too small, the green moray eel too green. The fish were devastated believing a funhouse mirror reflected the truth.

The sign next to the lens said in big bold letters: SELF HELP WORKSHOP. One by one, the unhappy fish entered the den in search of help.

The octopus never went hungry again.

Octopus and lens. Watercolor and ink on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres

Octopus and lens. Watercolor and ink on paper. Credit: Sarah Frias-Torres