“Well, Kayla, what do you think?” my dad asked as he snapped another picture. As a wildlife photographer he took me to Norway for a new assignment. In a tiny village he had asked an old fisherman if he could help us cross the water to the other side. He had mumbled and shrugged, but he had allowed us on his small fishing boat and we were now crossing the sea between one island to another.
“It’s beautiful,” I answered, between shivering and shuddering. Despite the thick blue coat, gloves, hat, scarf and boots I had never been so cold. Ahead of us an enormous white mountain arose on the island and seemed to be surrounded by a few houses. The mountain stood, like my father had said, like a solemn and lonely king, watching over his people. He could be dramatic like that.
“See!” the old man said and pointed towards the water. Black fins broke through the surface as rays of water sprayed into the air. A family of orca’s had noticed us and were curiously coming closer. Immediately my father turned his camera and made pictures, while he mumbled an old Haida legend. Gentle calls and whistles echoed over the icy blue water.
The boat rocked and my father and I leaned forward and peered outside the boat. Two grownups and a what seemed to be a teen were swimming underneath the boat, while the rest of the group swam at a safer distance.
“Careful, careful,” the old man said and gently took held my arm.
“I will,” I smiled, but immediately peeped my head over the side of the boat again. As the sun breached the clouds, the whales swam around our boat. Their deep black skin and white eye patch soared beneath us, weightless, effortless and in every way beautiful. Finally I caught the real eye of one of them. They looked at me so straight, I wondered what it was thinking. The orca popped its head up above the water and was so close I could almost touch it. Perhaps, I thought, if I just get a little…bit…closer.
“Kayla!” I heard my father shout, but before his big hands could grab me, the sounds of the world were absorbed by the water.
For a moment my entire body hurt. It seemed like a thousand icepicks pierced my body with inhuman strength. I wanted to scream and yell from the pain. But it only lasted for a moment, then I saw the wonderful world I had landed it, then I was calm.
Cold yet beautiful blue water surrounded me, as a family of orca’s swam around me. The young ones were kept at a distance, but one of the adults slowly swam my way. As he circled around me I tried to keep eye contact, but it was difficult to see underneath the water. I was not afraid, I felt calm and safe.
The whale got closer and I could touch him. He felt like leather, but soft and slippery at the same time. He didn’t seem to care that I stroked his back. Slowly he turned and one of his flippers touched my feet. Gently I was pushed a tiny bit upwards. As I looked up I saw how far the upper world had floated away. I could see the boat and I think I saw my father and the old man. They threw something in the water, but I was too far to reach it. And too tired, I realized. I wanted to yawn, but it seemed that I had lost all control over my muscles. The orca looked at me again, as to reassure me. He was right. I knew he was right as I looked around. This was a beautiful place to die.
For the last time I stretched my hand and touched the leathery skin. Peaceful calls and whistles echoed through the water and I could feel their vibration. I was not afraid. My heartbeat was calm and I did not even need to breath.
For the last time I looked around. The younglings were coming closer, even though their parents wanted them to stay close.
For the last time I closed my eyes and the orca close to me called out. His vibrations went through my body and I exhaled the last bit of breath still in my body. Darkness surrounded me as the orca near me gently pushed again. Not yet knowing, it was too late.
It’s beautiful, I thought, beautiful...