The Grey Seal’s Lament

Coming on 22nd April, Earth Day 2018, the Nothing Is As It Was climate-fiction anthology is raising funds for the climate-action group, Earth Day Network. The story below has kindly been donated by the author to raise awareness of the anthology and the issues humanity faces due to climate change. We hope you enjoy it and if you do, please make a donation to the cause if you can and leave a comment letting the author know.

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The Grey Seal’s Lament, Bayveen O’Connell

They say elephants remember, but what about the other animals? Physical memory, emotional memory, collective memory? It was the worst storm since ’65, long before my birth but I knew somehow. The earth pulsed; the whale song whispered it. My pup and I: she was two weeks and one day, with a soft coat, snuggled up to my teat, taking what would be her last drink of mother’s milk. She was my fourth but who counts? The humans come to count: how many? How long? How heavy? They coloured her tail so they would recognise her, but a mother needs no markings, she knows her pup.
The day before was calm, too still, a trick of nature or maybe a clue. I worried. My heart pounded as she cuddled into me on the stony beach. Above us gulls circled giving guttural calls of warning. She, fat and sniffing at the air, growing at a great rate, had no idea.
The wind blew up and the waves gained force and we were floating suddenly and had to swim against the force trying to pound us against the cliff face; those cliffs on Ramsey island, my home place, which at other times had sheltered me. The rain fell and I could hardly see. I raised my head above the water for breath. I had no arms to hold her, to keep her with me. She was strong, she fought. I saw her struggle with her eyes just below the surface as she reached for air – her mouth opened and closed, wanting to breathe, head turning in panic. I dived under to push her upwards but we were hit by wave after wave.
The force of the tide drove us apart while I was desperately trying to swim towards her. She floated away from me, her huge eyes terrified. I watched as the current wrenched her away from me and recalled carrying her cosy in my belly and waiting, breathing heavily, aching for her to be born. Now she was flailing, needing me most, but I closed my eyes and used my last strength to shoot upwards out of the water, to take oxygen and live. Out in the open, the rain lashed down on me while I breathed and breathed. Each breath was goodbye, goodbye my pup.
We don’t normally name our young like humans, but this last one I called Ophelia. I knew deep inside that if I fought this weather monster, I would live to have another pup this time next year.