Kujira’s Lament


At 5:57 in the morning Bogi Anderrson discovered the bodies. They were laid out parallel to each other on the cobblestones of the village square, heads uphill, hands tied behind their backs, feet bound at the ankles with nylon ties. There were 19 bodies in all, totally naked, lying deathly still in the cold gray overcast of morning.

When he rounded the corner from the lane that led to his house, he couldn’t quite figure out what he was looking at. By the time he had run across the square to where he first saw them, the gore had risen in his throat till he puked. It was like nothing he had ever seen before in his 67 years. His heart beat uncontrollably. He found it difficult to breathe. Bogi felt as though he had lost track of normal time. As he tried to comprehend what he was seeing, each new detail became an indelible snapshot in the archives of his mind. Four men. Twelve women. Three children. All naked. All seemingly dead.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of his muddled brain the realization that he had to do something began to emerge. He put his hand in his pocket and withdrew his cell phone. He ticked the screen to turn it on and stared at the damned thing, waiting for the screen to make contact with the cell tower and connect him to the rest of the world. Eventually he realized that no bars appeared on the screen. The cell tower was dead.

He didn’t want to leave them there, alone and dead on the cold cobblestones. So he began to shout. He shouted his lungs out for several minutes until he was out of breath and could shout no more. No one came. No lights went on. Nothing happened. He stood at the top of the net ramp and looked out on the barren harbor, still black as hell in the early morning.

False dawn began to illuminate the far horizon, bringing with it the fresh morning sea breeze cold and damp. He shivered in his bones and took a deep breath. After one last glimpse at the bodies next to him, he turned and followed his nose down the cobblestone decline that led to the harbor where his boat was laying slumped over in the mud. The tide was nearly full out. His boat, like all the other 28 boats in the fishing fleet, rested on its keel, tilted 18 degrees to starboard. Between Bogi and his boat lay a vast expanse of desolation. The floor of the bay was entirely covered by gravel, skinned by a 4” deep layer of slime and kelp.

Bogi eventually found himself running down the ramp to the place where the cobblestones gave way to the sea bed. Despite all his years of being near the sea, he slipped and fell every two or three steps, his knees and hands taking the brunt of repeated collisions with the earth. By the time he reached his boat, his hands and clothing were sopping wet and coated with sour, stinking sea slime. As he reached the boat, he tried to wipe his hands on his pants and then his shirt so he could grasp the gunwale and pull himself aboard, but his hands were so covered with slime that he could not make it happen. Exhausted, terrified, and watching his sanity relentlessly slip away, he finally sat with his back against the hull of his boat and wept.

Eventually his breath returned. The slime dried on his hands, the sun began to edge towards the skyline and he was able to pull himself aboard. As he was turning his radio on, his gaze drifted through the sea-stained window surrounding the cockpit towards the shore. He could see the bodies lying all in a row at the top of the ramp. It wasn’t just a bad dream. It wasn’t a mirage. No one was moving in the village despite the rising of the sun. No lights had come on. The village itself seemed as dead as the bodies on the ground.

When the radio crackled to life he picked up the microphone, pushed the transmit button down with his thumb and tried to speak. The fog of early morning flowed down his cheeks, blurring his vision of the daylight aborning.

“Türshavn, Türshavn, this is Bogi Anderrson aboard the fishing vessel Johan Frioi TN 91 in Sküvoy harbor. Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

The instant he released the thumb pad the speaker came to life.

“This is Türshavn Coast Guard. What’s the problem, Bogi?”

He simply could not speak – for a single terrifying moment he had almost allowed himself to believe that no one else was alive in the world. The sound of the man’s voice on the radio almost didn’t register.

“Come in, Bogi. What’s happening?”

He finally pushed the transmit button and began to speak. “Is that you, Bjorn?”

“Yes, Bogi. This is Bjorn. Tell me what’s going on.”

He took a deep breath and forced himself to speak with exaggerated slowness. “I found 19 bodies laid out on the dock this morning. I think they are all dead.” He paused. “No one is alive in the village.”

A long silence followed, then, “Bogi, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that Poul Hanus, Tummas Knudsen, Juliana Djurhus and 16 others are laid out like cord wood on the cobblestones at the top of the boat ramp. They are naked. Their hands and feet are tied and they are not breathing.”

“Oh, …” said the voice on the radio. “Where are you now?”

“I’m on my boat. The cell phone doesn’t work so I had to get to my radio.”

“Hold on,” said the voice. Then silence.

Bogi looked out the window again and stared at the landscape. No lights. No people. No dogs barking. Nothingness.

“Bogi,” the voice said, “stay where you are so we can stay in contact. I have alerted the authorities and they have told me to tell you not to touch anything, okay? You hear me?”

Bogi acknowledged the instructions and sat on the captain’s chair. The microphone slipped from his hand and dangled by its coiled rubber cord from the dash. He closed his eyes and saw the coral streams of dawn shining through his eyelids. He trembled. The noise in his ears was deafening. Silence.

The first helicopter landed 23 minutes later in the open space behind the cemetery where no graves had been dug for more than seven years. By the time they arrived two dozen villagers had staggered out of their dwellings and wandered into the center of the village. Even from his boat Bogi could see they were disoriented, stumbling on the wetness of the pavement and wandering aimlessly around. They did not speak with each other and only barely noticed the bodies lying on the ground.

Six people bailed out of the helicopter onto the soft grass of the cemetery. The lead EMT ran across the churchyard and into the village square, carrying a large plastic tool kit box in each hand and running as if his life depended on it. He went directly to the bodies and pulled a gray woolen blanket away from the first body. Someone had covered each body with a blanket as if to keep them warm. Beneath it he found a child’s body, a girl child, perhaps 10 years old. A quick scan of the face told him that the child was not dead. Her lips were not blue but her pupils were almost completely dilated. He pressed the first two fingers of his right hand against the place on her neck where the carotid artery carries blood from the chest cavity to the cranium. He felt a pulse. Very slight and erratic but a pulse nonetheless. 15 beats per minute. Barely enough to keep her alive. He raised her right arm and saw that rigor had not set in.

“This one is not dead,” he announced, turning to face the other EMT’s who had begun conducting the same investigations among the other bodies.

“Neither is this one,” said the woman in the blue surgical clothing who was kneeling over the body next to the girl’s.

The crowd began to murmur, then someone began to sob with great choking gasps, mourning, hands to his face, his body trembling in great heaves as he groaned in agony. The scene became even more surreal as other villagers began to find their way out onto the square. In small groups of two and three they walked unsteadily across the pavement towards the crowd that had gathered in a growing circle around the bodies and the EMT’s. They hugged each other, aimlessly, as if hugging was all that was left to them.

An old woman stumbled and fell, catching herself clumsily on outstretched hands. Someone in the crowd saw her fall and moved quickly to help her. Others stumbled and tipped over, out of balance and spastic in a state of nearly cataleptic numbness. Eventually, most made their way to the center of the square where two of the EMTs began to examine and question them.

Despite the arrival of the helicopter and all the people gathered in the center of the village, the place was eerily quiet. Except for the sound of weeping by the villagers and murmured talk among the medical technicians, the only sound that punctuated the dawn was the skreeing of the gulls and the sound of cables clanging against flag the pole.

After a twenty-minute struggle across the muck, Bogi Anderrson finally reached the bottom of the boat ramp. When the first of the EMT’s noticed him, he was covered in gray slime from head to foot, dripping kelp from his arms and elbows. Except for the whites of his eyes nothing could be seen of his skin or the fabric of his clothing. When he reached his arms out towards the assembled crowd, he looked for all the world like the harbinger of death risen from depths of the sea. He was utterly unrecognizable.

For a moment no one reacted. Then his neighbor Arni Heygum broke from the group and walked uncertainly towards him. He said nothing. Uttered no sounds. When he reached Bogi, he saw the man’s face, covered entirely in slime and mud. His hair was matted against his scalp so that it was not possible to determine where his forehead ended and hairline began. The man’s mouth opened and sounds came out in a raspy, halting, gasping voice driven by exhaustion.

“Arni,” the slime man said, “Is that you?”

Arni stood three feet away, his eyes intensely focused on the hellish apparition before him.

“Bogi?” he said finally. “Bogi, is that you?”

The man under the slime nodded. His eyes were fixed on Arni’s, glued to him with unblinking intensity, as if his life depended on making the man understand who he was.

“My god,” Arni said finally, reaching out to take Bogi’s hands. “What the hell is happening to us?”

Bogi stepped slightly forward, his head drooped towards his chest, and tears flowed down the slime that covered his face, revealing traces of the pink flesh left in their wake. He slowly shook his head from side to side but could not speak.

The sound of helicopters reverberated from far across the distance. One of the villagers raised her head and pointed across the bay.

“Six of them,” she said.

The EMT saw them approaching, six dark spots in no sort of formation, moving rapidly towards the waterfront. By the time the choppers began to land, all of the 154 inhabitants of the village had been accounted for, including Bogi Anderrson, who at first had been counted as the only missing person.