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๐—๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—ต ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ช๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฒ

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜Š๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ ๐˜Œ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ญ



One winter morning as Jonah lay in bed, he heard a tap at his window. He got up, slipped into his warmest coat and boots, and went outside to investigate. Below his window, he found a large white button he had never seen before. It wasnโ€™t heavy, and it had two hand-carved holes near the center of it. When he held it in his hand he felt a slight vibration, like it was humming a bass note. He put it in his pocket and headed back inside, but stopped before he reached the door. A monstrous whaleโ€”the shadow of an ancient bowheadโ€”floated over his familyโ€™s solitary home. It was white and translucent and looked to be swimming in from the north, floating just high enough over the house that it didnโ€™t hit the roof.

Jonah stared, dumbfounded. Soon, the ghostly leviathan was joined by a pair of seals, dancing and twirling in the pre-morning sky. They moved quickly, circling each other as they swam through the air until the sun rose, its light growing brighter and brighter until the whale and seals disappeared without a sound.


The next morning, Jonah woke up before the sun and once again went outside. Fishโ€”an entire school of glowing scales and finsโ€”swam above his house. Jonah ran to tell his two older sisters.


โ€œThatโ€™s impossible,โ€ one said skeptically.


โ€œWhat an imagination,โ€ the other added.


But even though they doubted their brotherโ€™s fantastic story, they gave in to his persistence and got out of bed. They yawned and stretched, bundled up in their parkas and mittens, slid thick fur-lined boots over their chilly feet, and ran out into the morning looking eagerly upwards.


The sky didn't disappoint. After the fish came the walrusesโ€”so sluggish on land, so floppy and slowโ€”slipping through the sky with ease. The children were lost in the eerie glow of an entire herd, turning green, then blue, then pale yellow as again the sun rose and shattered the magic.


The next morning, they were up even earlier, determined to drag their parents outside with them. And after a great combined effort of fast talking, jumping on the bed, and shrieking with delight, Jonahโ€™s mom and dad grumpily put their coats on over their robes, their boots over their bare feet, and left their warm home.


Their eyes opened wide when they emerged into an ocean of lionโ€™s-mane jellyfish. Silently pulsing up and down, the wispy creatures descended to the earth like snow then rose up again as if blown by the wind. Jonahโ€™s dad touched one, or at least tried to, but his hand passed right through it.


The young family laughed. They hugged, they kissed, they sang and cried and fell to the ground, warmed by wonder.


Jonah had been sure his parents could explain the sea ghosts, but they couldnโ€™t. His mother and father just shrugged their shoulders when he asked what was going on. Jonah wasnโ€™t satisfied. โ€œWe have to figure out whatโ€™s going on,โ€ he said. โ€œWe have to find out where these animals are coming from.โ€


Jonahโ€™s parents and sisters agreed. The animals were extraordinary, and they wanted to solve their mystery. They packed food and tents, found an old map, and went to bed early that night so that the next morning they would be ready to search for the source of the creatures hovering in the air over their home.


When they set out the next morning, it was dangerously cold and the wind was in their faces. But what could have been a miserable trudge through an icy wasteland was made sublime by beluga whales, an array of seals, and other arctic wildlife drifting over them as they walked. The family hiked against the flow of the animals, which continued to drift toward the house as if they were following an inescapable current. As the family walked, the current narrowed, and the stream of ghostly creatures moved more quickly.


At one point, the whales above began to dive, swimming swiftly upwards before bursting through an imaginary surface. Another moment brought a large pod of harp seals, the babies following their mothers closely. And the fish, oh the fish! Schools and schools, always swimming up and down, moving in sync like they shared a single brain.


Jonah galloped forward, as his sisters skipped beside him, all trying to keep up with their fatherโ€™s and motherโ€™s great strides.


The sun rose, the animals disappeared, and the family made camp and prepared for the next morning. Three days followed the same: an early rise, a long walk, set up camp and wait.


On the third day, they met a bent, old woman sitting alone on the beach. She held a gnarled cane, and from the top of it hung several fish bones, a piece of walrus tusk, and a rock. She seemed older than anybody Jonah had ever met, but her clothes were worn and aged in ways that indicated she had once been active and strong: the smooth patches on her knees, her thin boot soles, the soft leather of her hat. โ€œAre you a witch?โ€ Jonah asked.


โ€œMaybe,โ€ she responded, โ€œbut I donโ€™t think so. Witches are good for a trick here and there, but they canโ€™t perform miracles.โ€ She pointed her cane out toward the ocean. The family followed the line of her cane and soon saw a steady stream of sea life flowing out of the ocean. The ghosts sprouted from the water, dancing and smiling. Jonah laughed when a walrus looked into his eyes before somersaulting away. Jonah stood in awe. โ€œHow did this happen?โ€ He asked.


The old woman was quiet, so when she spoke, Jonah had to lean toward her and turn his head so that his ear was facing her mouth. And then she told a story so sad and magical that Jonah felt as if it were pulled from a book of fairy tales.


It was the story of a womanโ€™s love for her son, who was her only family and the captain of a ship. When she heard that he died at sea, a large hole opened in her heart and refused to heal. Searching for solace, she travelled to the beach to be nearer to him. Behind her she left a trail of tears, and when she reached the ocean she looked into the water and wept. As her tears hit the ocean, the creatures began to emerge, sent to comfort her. In every fish or whale, every creature from the depths, she saw her son playing as a boy, dancing, running, growing, going off to sea. She saw his smile on the face of a narwhal, his energy in the skip of a sea lion pup.


As her story came to an end, Jonah felt something in his hand: the button he had pocketed earlier. He must have taken it out as she spoke.


โ€œA button,โ€ Jonah said awkwardly, as he reached out and handed it to the woman. โ€œI found it on the morning I noticed the whale. It looks like whale bone.โ€ The woman took the button. Her crepe-skinned hands were shaking, but Jonah couldnโ€™t tell if it was because of age, weakness, or excitement. โ€œThis was my sonโ€™s,โ€ she said. โ€œI sewed it onto his coat before he set out for his last voyage.โ€ Jonah heard the button humming once again. โ€œThank you for bringing it to me. I donโ€™t have much to remember him by. Now I have this.โ€ She began to cry. โ€œI cried out of sadness so long, I forgot what it felt like to cry for joy.โ€ She pulled a bit of string out of her pocket and tied the button to the top of her cane. Then she walked to the sea, slowly, and let her tears fall into the water. As they fell, the sea calmed.


Jonah and his family watched the last of the specters, an elephant seal and her pup, swim out of the sea, up into the air andโ€”side by sideโ€”off into the sunrise. โ€œThe miracle is over,โ€ Jonah said sadly, as he returned to his parentsโ€™ side. He took his motherโ€™s hand. โ€œWeโ€™ll never see the animals again.โ€


The old woman made her way toward them with new energy. โ€œThe animals are gone,โ€ she said, โ€œbut the miracle of my full heart will remain.โ€


When Jonah looked into the old womanโ€™s face he thought she looked younger. He gave his own mother a hug and ran to join his sisters.


The sun continued to rise, and although the phantom creatures were gone, Jonah still thought the sky was beautiful. In fact, when he looked up, he thought the cloud above him looked remarkably like a whale. โœฆ



Chanel Earl seeks to write propulsive and startling fiction. She recently graduated with her MFA in creative writingโ€”fiction from Brigham Young University, where she now teaches writing courses as adjunct faculty. For more information about her (or to read more of her writing), please visit her website: chanelearl.com.



Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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