It was a long walk down to the beach from my home. Even so, it didn't take long for me to find it. It was still where I last saw it, its tentacles still writhing, as it continued to gibber in a shallow tone. The sea water gently washed across its skin, its flesh shuddering with the contact, while the flesh on top continued to tighten and shrivel. I looked around to make sure that no one was watching, then settled down next to it and began to talk.
“Can you understand me?”
After a few moments I saw its eye open. And then several more, until I realized that eyes ran all along its body, appearing and disappearing between the folds of its limbs.
“We understand.” it said.
I could not tell from which part the voice was coming from, though it sounded like a high pitched whine, trapped under the water. As it spoke, I heard long draws of air moving in and out from long frills along its sides. Its blood red eyes focused on me, their pupils expanding till they nearly rendered the eyes as black as its skin.
I suddenly felt cold. and I retrieved a blanket from the backpack I had brought, wrapping it loosely along my shoulders. The smell on the blanket was familiar, and I felt my stomach tighten. The ache for company had brought me here, and yet I was unable to put words to what I wished to express. To it. To anyone really.
“Do you have a name?” I asked at last.
It seemed to try and shift its way in the sand, but its size prevented it from doing so. “We do not think of names. We are one. We are...legion.” It shuddered, then sighed heavily and with great difficulty. “We are dying.”
I felt a knot in my throat begin to form, as I struggled to compose myself. “I know someone who is dying too. I don't want them to go...”
It did not stir for several moments, the sound of the water filling the space, as the sun lowered and the sky darkened. I waited for it to respond, terrified in some deep way that I would get none.
It looked at me, then sighed. “One of you dying is insignificant. When we die, we all die...”
My body began to ache, as rage built up inside of me. “If anything dies, it is always important.”
It said something in a language I could not understand, then spoke again. “ I am sure you could name a creature that you wouldn't mind dying.”
“No,” I said plainly. “I don't anymore.”
It seemed to notice the heavy weight of grief in my voice, because its voice suddenly softened. “You lose many things in your life. You destroy many things as well. Becoming consumed by the death of only one thing won't change that.”
“You said that your death was significant.”
“We said that when we die, we all die...this is the truth. There is no further significance in death.”
The sun had begun to set even lower. As it did I noticed the strange glow that seemed to emanate from its body, flashing lines, like veins of dull white , along its black, slimy flesh.
I shifted uncomfortably, then spoke again. “What are you dying from?”
It shifted, then spoke. “We are legion. We live by accepting in new elements to the many. We have not found unique tissue in the oceans for some time. In our need, we searched the world of the surface. But we are too tired to move. Too weak. Our existence is eternal. We need only feed. But now we are hungry, and we are dying.”
It seemed a horrible injustice. It had lived. Endured. Existed. I saw in it what I feared, and it wrecked me inside.
I thought about my own pain, and I thought of her. I had been so alone for so long, and now I was facing being alone all over again.
“What happens to the creatures you eat? Do they die?”
“No,” it said softly. “They become part of the form. They still live... We are legion. We never need to die.”
I sat there for a long time. I thought about the grief I had felt through months of sleepless, nightmare filled night. All the while the thing studied me.
“Does it hurt?” I asked finally.
“All good things hurt.”
I thought again of her, and of the months of her pain. I pulled the blanket around, and breathed in deeply. In the end, the choice was easier than I had thought.
I dropped the blanket, and headed into its arms. At first it seemed to comfort me. Then it drew me in, as I felt it taking me apart. The pain was indescribable, and I feared it had tricked me.
But soon I began to sense another mind. I was no longer just myself being hurt. I was now consuming and being consumed. After a short while I could hear the sounds of a thousand minds pulsing in my own. And soon, as I found new strength, I understood what it meant when my ailing love looked at me, and spoke about sacrifice.
We are legion. I am legion. My Alexis is legion. And all is still in the pulse of our heart.
The following story was sent to me anonymously. The return address is said to be on Wellington Street. However, to my knowledge the location does not exist.