Breath & Shadow
Winter 2019 - Vol. 16, Issue 1
"Living, As They Do, At the Bottom of The Sea"
They are a people who weave baskets, living, as they do, at the bottom of the sea. Tiny
creatures of light, miniature suns living within the scraps of some lost universe, some
wandering place that found its way here.
Surrounded, as they are, by bubbles of spacetime that refuse to fuse with our universe,
close as a breath and distant as the stars, they seem not to know that they are lost, that
they should not be here, living, as they do, at the bottom of the sea. We tried for
decades to make contact, to tell them, “You see, you should not live at the bottom of the
But the little luminescent beings are merrily oblivious, ignoring us and weaving their
brilliant baskets, weaving in the oceanic deserts, in the acres of acid and sand, weaving
in all that is left of the bottom of the sea.
Abandoned, they were, by the scientists and explorers, abandoned when nothing could
be made of their activities. “Why bother with these idiots, these fairies, these beings,
that weave baskets of light at the bottom of the sea? They pretend we don't exist—can they not see? Up here in the dark, where the dust filters the sun, we live in the best
universe that can be.
Leave them to their baskets, leave them to weave. Only a fool would want to live at the
bottom of the sea.”
Walking among them, as I do, a fool in a suit made three times too big, compressed by
the water, compressed to my head, smashed by the pressures of a world long dead,
crushed by the world on top of the sea, I wonder, as I do, what is best in their universe,
what caused them to flee, what inspired them to weave baskets of sunbeams and stars,
to live, as they do, at the bottom of the sea?
They weave and live all alone, you see, weaving their baskets, as they do, at the bottom
of the sea. No fish, and no trees, not a clam or sand flea—no, not a single thing lives at
the bottom of the sea. And what better use for a place seared clean, by acids and oils
and filthier things? For a place emptied of life by only one Celsius, by a measurement of
merely a single degree? Did they not tell us, those preachers in black, that, “Chemicals
and Celsiuses can’t possibly cause that! Who, after all, could hurt such a thing? Who
could hurt something the size of the sea?” Why should we worry, now that the ocean is
cleared, you see, of fish and kelp and whales and things, their bones decaying, as they
do, in the bottom of the sea? Perhaps I worry too much for the little sun people, the
weavers from some forgotten branch of the multiverse tree, thriving, as they do, at the
bottom of the sea.
I walk among them in a suit that fits me tight, coming, as I do, to stare at baskets of
light, and I wonder, as I do, when it will break, when I will stop coming down to this
place, when I will stop searching for baskets that aren’t meant for me, baskets meant
only for the bottom of the sea. I walk among a people who can’t forget I exist, and I
hope for a misplaced piece of brilliance, forgotten upon its pedestal of sand, a beautiful
thing churned out, you see, by the strange, the oblivious, the intoxicating people at the
bottom of the sea.
And I look, as I do, at the photos, you see, photos of the ones who’ve forgotten me,
photos etched into the armor that I wear, here, in the solitude, in the sunshine, in the
silence at the bottom of the sea. They urged me to forge their pictures into my skin, to
take needle and ink and tattoo them, as they do, in the land where people are thin,
where shadows are breath and darkness is free, to tattoo them on my eyes, you see,
that I might never forget I am a person of gloom, not a person of light, that I do not
belong down here, down where the children of the stars weave baskets, as they do, at
the bottom of the sea.
“There you can only be a shade, you see, deep below, on the bottom of the sea. Stay
with us, put our images on your eyes, and forget the strange people at the bottom of the
sea.” But who can forget, who can ignore, the call of the beauty at the bottom of the
sea? A fool I am, haunting their steps, hoping their baskets will tumble into our universe,
that I might grab one, and flee, that I might look inside, that it might help me to see, to
understand why a people would live on the bottom of the sea.
I look at the photos and remember their pleas, remember telling them, as I did, that my
eyes are precious to me, that I would not tattoo them, as they do, in the land of gloom,
and they responded, as I recall, that, “The baskets of light are not for us at all!” Not for
us, or for me, but meant only for the people at the bottom of the sea.
I watch the people of light breathe water touched by the sun, living, as they do, at the
bottom of the sea, and a piece of me breaks, desperate, as I am, desperate to see,
what they keep in those baskets they weave in the sea. And I take off my helmet, and
light bathes my face, and I know now why I’m drawn to this desert place. And I drown in
a breath, and fill my heart with the sun, screaming, as I do, at the bottom of the sea.
And they walk over my body, sharing not even their light, dancing on a forgotten woman
in an ocean of night. And I’m dying, as we do, dying with glee, dying and drowning in
the black of the sea.
Adam Fout is a writer masquerading as a marketer in the suburban wasteland of North
Texas. His short stories, flash science fiction, and poetry can be found in Borrowed
Solace, The Courtship of Winds, 365 Tomorrows, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Déraciné. Read
his work free at adamfout.com, and follow him at @adamfout2.