In the Time Before Time, dolphins were the masters of Earth. The whales – – humpback, blue, sperm, beluga, minke, pilot – – all the whales had aligned, in their elderhood, that their own time, so deep in the past that there was no longer a name for it, had been the time of Creation and Disbursement, but now the whales needed to welcome the dolphins, whom they had so gently nurtured with their wisdom and teachings, to take the reins of the planet.
The dolphins were eager for the leadership they felt they had rightfully earned, under the whales’ watchful and patient eyes for so many millennia, and they were eager as well to prove to the whales that they were up to the task, that they had learned the songs correctly and could swim them around the globe, throughout the oceans and even some of the great rivers.
The dolphins thrived and were deeply respected – – held in awe, even, by the other creatures of the briny deep. From ctenophore jellies to blue tangs, from purple spotted octopi to moray eels, from black-tipped reef sharks to harlequin nudibranchs, there was not a soul among the whole world’s oceans who thought ill of the dolphins or their ability to create and maintain goodwill among all beings, to employ their souls’ music to educate and entertain, and to hold in their gorgeous minds the maps of the world’s contours. The dolphins ruled in peace for more millennia than could be counted.
And then Veraquel got curious about what might be beyond. It was decades before she dared put into voice the song she’d been composing since her early 40’s. It was a song of questioning, of envisioning something else, of asking what might not be known, not because it was unknowable, but because no one had ever asked. Finally, Veraquel got up the courage to begin to sing her song, but she wasn’t brave enough to sing it to the other dolphins, or to any other creatures with whom she shared the world of salt and perennial wetness. She was willing only to share her song with the ocean itself, her creator and her home. She swam for weeks, to the farthest reaches of water she could find that would put her at maximum possible distance from any other dolphin, porpoise, whale, seal, or any of the other creatures that could pick up on her vocalizations most easily. She swam to a distant place, into water that was so cold she could barely stand it, into the darkness of a cave that seemed to have no end…except that it did have an end. There was room for her to turn and flip and to get redirected when it was time to make her exit, but for now she rested quietly at the end of the cave, and began to sing very softly: Where else is there to be? What worlds are not yet discovered? How might I find those worlds and remain safe enough to return to my own? Is such a thing possible?
The ocean heard Veraquel’s song, heard it quite clearly, even though her voice was barely more than a whisper. For fifteen years Veraquel returned to the cave twice each year, at the times when the sun shifted, and for fifteen years the ocean considered how to respond to her query.
And then the ocean replied. Just as Veraquel’s voice was about to go quiet at the end of her last question, the ocean said to her, with a whoosh, “Yes.” Veraquel nearly forgot to go to the surface for air, she was so startled, excited, honored to hear an ocean voice she’d never before heard.
“There is a place,” said the ocean. “I will give you a map, and next month when the night jelly above is fully blown you will swim to the place in this map and I will transport you to another world. I will provide you with everything you need to be in this world until the following full blown night jelly above, at which time I will rise up to bring you back.”
At the next full moon Veraquel arrived at the place the ocean had given her. As the high tide reached its peak the ocean lifted her above itself and settled her, ever so gently, onto sand in the night air. She alit on the sand, standing on feet she’d never seen before, breathing through a nose she’d never had before, wearing clothes she’d never known existed. She was in a cave and the cave was full of food – – mussels, clams, anenomes, starfish – – enough to keep her satiated for many days and nights. But she felt so heavy on the ground…the strangeness of not being in the water caught in her throat, making her unable to sing.
And this was the first human woman, who at the following full moon turned her back on the ocean. Instead of returning to her home in the depths Veraquel became the mother of All People.
Cover photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash