Intro: What are the Tales From The Whale?
I’m trying something new. Each week in 2021, I’ll be building a brand new sci-fi universe. Throughout 2021, if you sign up to my mailing list, you’ll receive a weekly story based on the sci-fi world of The Whale. Each story will be under 1500 words — perfect for a quick moment of escapism whenever suits you.
You have been abducted by aliens.
His clothes had changed. It must have been the nurses, the doctors, the coastguard. Whoever pulled him from the sea. Whoever saved his life, they would have his coat, his phone, his keys. He wore a loose-fitting outfit made from a material he couldn’t place. It was a strange, luminous blue that changed texture as he moved.
He wanted his coat back.
He reached the end of the corridor and pushed open the double doors. On the other side was a staircase, and he ran down it two at a time. And the whole time, that thumping noise, that terrible thumping noise.
You are on a living ship.
At the bottom of the stairs was a set of double doors that led outside. Without thinking, he pushed them open ran through.
Only it wasn’t outside.
He fell to his knees.
We call it The Whale.
He was on a raised platform above a small road, like a 19th-century cowboy town. Around him were more buildings of similar design, none bigger than the one he’d just escaped from. Each was made from the same white marble-like substance, although some had different colours plastered over them, and some had graffiti on. The buildings stretched for about half a mile to his left and the same to his right, and there were old fashioned street lights burning to add some light. Between them people moved, all dressed in similar clothing to him. One or two stopped to look at him.
But it was the sky that had forced him to stop.
It wasn’t the sky. It was a dark red mass. There were things he couldn’t make out hanging from it, and it all vibrated. It was like being in a massive cave, with no clear way out. From the top, almost directly above his head, long glowing tubes ran at equal, flooding the area with a strange ambience. It wasn’t dark, but without the burning lamps, it wouldn’t be easy to see much. In front of him wasn’t sand, or gravel, or dirt. It was more of the red mass. There were more of the tubes crossing from house to house, like their been laid as gas pipes.
He didn’t know what to make of it, how could he know what to make of it? It was spectacular, it was disturbing. It was a long way away from England. Arun took a deep breath. He was likely imagining it, but the air felt stuffy, sticky in some way. To be inside a creature so large a town could be created… He still didn’t believe it, but when he thought about it there was less push back from the rational side of his brain. Everything around him was so real and unread at the same time.
He was somewhere different, wherever that was.
The ground beneath feet didn’t give way when he stepped onto it like he’d expected. It was hard, firm, like any ground on Earth. At some point in the past, someone had flattened the street in the centre. Down the centre of the makeshift street was a large glowing tube, lighting the way. In the distance, he saw a familiar sight. A steeple. A church. He walked towards it.
It was almost the same as the other buildings, with the exception of a tall spike that started at the rear of the building and reached up across the roof, then curved down until it the final point hung over the entrance. To Arun, it seemed like the spike was threatening and blessing everyone who walked in. As he got closer he realised — it wasn’t a spike or something manufactured. It was a bone.
The doors were open so he stepped inside. He waited for the peace he found whenever he stepped into a house of worship. Even in this god-forsaken place, he felt his chest lift a little. He closed his eyes and felt a wave of calm drift from his head down to his toes. It was good to be in a familiar place.
“Can I help you?” A voice drifted toward him. It was calming, relaxing even as it interrupted the moment. Arun opened his eyes on a small man about half his height. He held his hands in front of him and stooped, making him appear even shorter. His long grey hair was swept back and pulled into a long ponytail that nearly reached the floor of the church. As Arun opened his eyes the old man smiled.
“I don’t know what this is,” Arun said.
“I see.” The man stepped to the side and gestured for Arun to walk deeper into the church. “Then you will need all the help you can get.”
Inside, the strange glow of the chamber and the street lights faded. The building consisted of one large hall, with five or six rows of benches, with tall candles burning at the end of them. At the far end, facing the door, was a makeshift pulpit that stood out because of its construction. It wasn’t the strange marble-like substance. Instead, it was made of something that looked like wood, although Arun was sure it couldn’t have been.
“Please, sit,” the man said. “What’s your name?”
“Arun Mali.” He sat on one of the benches, close to the aisle. He could feel the warmth from the candle.
“Pleased to meet you, Arun Mali.”
The old man held out his hand. “My name if Cliff Adger. Third generation Whaleborn.”
“Whaleborn.” Arun smiled. “Cute.”
“No one can think of a better name.”
Something caught his eye, and Arun stood and walked to the pulpit.
“There are no texts, I’m afraid. We don’t have a lot of spare resources.”
Engraved into the top of the pulpit was a whale. Arun felt his chest tighten.
Cliff walked up the pulpit and stood next to him.
“What is this place?” Arun asked.
Cliff waved his arms toward the empty hall.
“The Whale provided all this,” he said, “It allows us to breath and It gives us light and food. This is where we give thanks, where we negotiate, we mediate. The citizens of Gepetto look to us for leadership, when there is no other.”
“I thought Josie was the leader.”
“Men and women need more than politics to lead them.”
“I have to get back to Earth,” Arun said.
“You cannot,” Cliff said, “Those on The Whale stay on The Whale.”
“She’s in trouble.”
“Many of the arrivals left people in trouble. The Whale doesn’t discriminate in who It takes, nor does it consider their wishes.”
Arun shook his head. This wasn’t happening to him. This was some kind of trick, some kind of hallucination. The demon in his sister must still be playing some kind of game with him. Cliff put his hand on Arun’s shoulder.
“You must test the rules, I know. All arrivals do. But first, meet the others.”
“The other what?”
“The others who arrived with you.”
Arun took a deep breath. Would Judith be one of the other arrivals? His whole life he’d tried to look after her, protect her against the worst of the world. And yet, here he was, away from her, trapped. Not only that but caught in a place where God had been abandoned.
He muttered a prayer as Cliff led him to the front door of the church. Outside, Josie was waiting for him.