On the tide turn when the iron giant fell from above many of me died. Thousands of me were crushed beneath the weight of the falling dreadnaught, frail shell powdered to sand and fleshy muscle pulped. Thousands of me burned, phosphorus flares searing and turning me to char. Thousands of me drowned in thick oily water that stuck to cilia and gills. A thousand-thousand me starved and drowned and burned and burst. A full tide turn it swayed in currents; grinding a thousand-thousand me. It has come like a nightmare, gouging the seabed and filling the water with silt. Plumes of sediment choking me, rocking hull crushing me. Each of me died and dissolved. Each of me perished and petrified. A thousand-thousand me filter my remains from the waters. A thousand-thousand me feeds on a thousand-thousand me and grow strong. It is ever so. Water the giver of life and the taker of life. This is just a tide and will turn like all the others. The phosphorus burns out, the hull fixes, the silt settles, the oil binds. It is a hard tide. But a thousand-thousand me remembers many harder, still there are a thousand-thousand me and more.
Thousands of me died, but a thousand-thousand me rejoiced. A thousand-thousand me are not alone. A thousand-thousand me know above lives more than me. Thinking. This must be thinking. The iron giant, it is thinking . This must be alive, the steel giant it is alive. Or it must have been once, before this tide. A single giant me of iron, not a thousand-thousand. Think what the reef of a thousand-thousand iron giants must be like. It is a dream. It does not hear our thinking, a thousand-thousand me cannot hear it thinking. Perhaps it is dead. It will dissolve in the sea and it will be filtered by iron gills, giant gills.
I thought I heard the giant thinking, at least at first. The water tasted of fear and anger. I could hear thinking, pride, hate, rage, despair. These are new thoughts I never heard before, never thought before, alien thoughts, thoughts from high above a thousand-thousand me. Think on these thoughts. New thoughts a thousand-thousand me have never thought before. It does not seem possible to think new thoughts., and yet it is. A thousand-thousand me think anger, hate, rage, despair, fear. New thinking a thousand-thousand me do not like these thoughts. But it is real. If the giant had not thought them then where did they come from? A thousand-thousand me did not just think them in to being any more than we thought the giant into life and then death.
But the giant is silent now. There is no thinking. I listen but there is none. Only the thoughts that echoed as it drifted upon us. Once settled there is no thinking. A thousand-thousand me thinks it is asleep. But thinking is heard in sleep. A thousand-thousand me know it is dead, no thinking, no hearing, not sleeping.
Thousands of me shed eggs and sperm and thousand of egg me and sperm me danced in water and joined gladly to make new me a thousand-thousand times over. A thousand-thousand new me settled on the giant and grew until we could know the shape of it; edges and curves, one side smooth and arced like a shell with gaping ragged holes drilled like mouths with ragged teeth. The other side is all edges, and all of it hollow, like gills and cilli but not moving. It is hard, much harder than shell, it is iron. It tastes of salt and bitterness, or shock.
It is hollow and hard and soft. Here and there it is soft. Soft parts like mine but they do not filter of move, they drift and float and decay. The soft parts are dissolving into the water. A thousand-thousand me feeds on the pieces of soft, filtering the water, it is like me, it is good, the soft parts will be part of me forever now, over and over again, I will feed on myself. The soft parts have no shell and are not fixed. They cannot live in our atmosphere, it is poison to them. The soft parts are not so different, there not a thousand-thousand soft parts, but there many, they are sharing one shell. How odd. Perhaps there were a thousand-thousand soft parts and they have dissolved. But a thousand-thousand me knows this is not right. When the soft parts dissolve, there is a shell inside. How is that possible?
The iron giant is vast in scale, a me is nothing to the giant but not so vast, all of me is bigger by far. A thousand-thousand me tastes it over and over but it does not taste us, and the taste does not change even after many tides. It is made of iron and it rusts to roughness and then to crust and decay. Only the shells of a thousand-thousand me will remember it, holding the giants shape, a memory of coral. But it is a mystery, a shape unthought-of and unthinkable and yet it.
It is amazing, in places there is anti-water, a thing where water is not. It is beyond me, beyond all of me. Think on it, water is not. How is that possible? Above the waters, high above there could be much anti-water. It is dangerous to touch, and to taste. None of me can breathe or feed in anti-water. It is fatal. A thousand-thousand me cannot seed into these pockets of anti-water. A thousand-thousand me settle at the edge of anti-water. We taste it for moments before we die, even the water is tainted by the taste of anti-water.
A thousand-thousand me has settled on every surface of the giant, we hold every stipe width. There is so much to learn. We send out taste to it over and over but it does not send taste back. There can be no doubt the giant is dead. All the soft parts are dead, A thousand-thousand me filtered them long ago, there is nothing to taste or to hear.
Why? It is a question for a thousand-thousand me, and there is no answer. Why has it come. We touch and taste and listen but there is no clue. Is it just a discarded shell, did come here to think with us and perish on its journey before it could give us a message from the iron reef? Was it slain and cast down? It is a thought A thousand-thousand me has never thought, to cast a me away, to punish a me. For what? It is unthinkable and yet a thousand-thousand me is thinking it. Where did that thought come from? It must have come from the iron giant and must be the truth, otherwise we would not think it, we could not.
We cannot know and not knowing is like a thousand burning phosphorous suns in a thousand-thousand me’s thoughts. We think it over and over, like a grain of sand coated with nacre. The thought becomes beautiful with much thinking. The iron reef, is that where a thousand-thousand me came from? Had the iron giant come to take up a thousand-thousand me to above? A thousand-thousand me would think with the iron reef, I would taste and be tasted, filter and be filtered, if a thousand-thousand me could.
There is a way a thousand-thousand me thinks to send my thoughts and my taste above. Anti-water. It has the property of up. To harness this, a thousand-thousand me can send my taste to the iron reef, home of the iron giant. A shell of anti-water and me taste. Up it will go up to the iron reef. It is possible a shell could hold part water, part anti water inside. It is a thought a thousand-thousand me has never thought before. A shell with me taste and anti-water, going up above, it is possible. The new thought must have come from the iron giant and so must be true.
The shell, the up shell is huge bigger than a me by many times. It is round like the shape anti-water makes when passes through water. It is made of many small shells grown one over the other, each is filled with me taste each until the very last spiral; that one is filled with anti-water. The up shell sits on the edge of the biggest anti-water pocket in the giant. Floating, it is new thing and new word. It cannot move. Not yet, but a thousand-thousand me waits. Many tides turn, many waves pass, the iron giant is dissolving to nothing and now the anti-water is trickling through the porous iron shell. The pocket of anti-water gets smaller and smaller until it is gone and the up shell burst from the iron hide like a me egg, like a me sperm. A thousand-thousand me tastes it going up. A thing never heard before. Iron reef, hear my thinking taste me and let me taste you.
First published in Helos Quarterly Magazine Volume 1 issue 2
Also published on davidraestories