The smell didn't seem to bother the cloud of seagulls or people that swarmed the beached sperm whale. Beached whales were a sadly common occurrence lately. The scientists and biologists and specialists on the tv blamed everything from global warming to pollution. Craziest theory I heard was that krill maybe becoming toxic.
I don't really know about those theories but I know it was something else that was killing the sperm whales washing up on the beaches.
I first noticed something weird when one, a juvenile male apparently, washed up nearby. It's usually a community event, everyone turning out to see the whale. Sometimes everyone came together to help rescue the poor creature if the tides and fate permitted. This time though...
Mutilated was the only word I could use to describe the cetacean. People in the crowd that gathered said it must've died and drifted ashore, looked like sharks had gotten to it, maybe a propeller of a cruise liner. It's tail was a bloodied stub, eyes gnawed out by hagfish or gulls, blubber stinking in the sun from great swathes of torn flesh.
The voices would fall slightly, as they reluctantly pointed out the slashes in the side of the great gray beast, how reproachful it was that someone would desecrate the poor thing. Of course that's what everyone assumed, some punks slashing their graffiti into the skin and blubber.
With the rapid rise in beached whales these last few months people haven't really paid much attention to little details and discrepancies among them. Whales would turn up on beaches, dead more often than not, yes, but the sperm whales were all oddly ravaged.
The second one I really noticed was when I was watching the tube one night. I always tuned into the news because I thought the anchorwoman had great tits. I almost missed the story when they brought it up, tuning out as it switched to a report recorded earlier that day.
It was another beached whale. A female, the reporter said. He droned on to warn viewers that the images about to be shown were graphic and that children should not watch. All fine if they gave any time at all before little Jimmy and Sally at home got a close up of a beach painted red by the trailing shredded entrails. The whale had been gutted like a common fish.
No one seemed to notice, but I did and thanks to Tivo I zoomed in on the side, above the stump of a flipper, were a series of slashes, almost identical to the graffiti on the first whale I'd seen.
After that I started to look into the beachings myself out of curiosity. Whales had been turning up dead all over the world in alarming numbers. Not since the heyday of the whaling industry have so many died. But it only seemed to be the toothed whales, sperm in particular, that would show up beached and mutilated so brutally. Some animal rights activists thought it might've been whalers or poachers, forced to dump their cargo when interrupted by patrol boats.
There were too many for that to make sense.
Every so often one would show up on the beach close enough for me to take my cycle out to observe first hand. I must have gone to five different beaches, all within a hundred miles of my town, each with a massacred whale. After a while I felt like a dead whale groupie, traveling to the next appearance.
I started to ask the biologists I'd see there, recording and measuring, what they thought about it and info to sate my own curiosity. They didn't really know much by themselves but I started to gather bizarre clues.
It was when I inquired at the last beached whale, a monstrous gray almost black creature, that I started to fear the answer. Mutilated and torn, a patch of skin that may have been scarred by that same strange graffiti, but too decayed and already ravaged by gulls to be sure. There were other wounds that I hadn't really taken note of before. When I pointed them out to a grad student photographing it he just shrugged and casually explained those were scars from going after giant squid.
He didn't seem to realize how fresh and stark those jagged circular marks appeared. Those weren't mementos of battles fought and won. These looked just as fresh and bloodied as whatever butchered the great beasts.
I couldn't believe I didn't notice them but looking back over photos and memories I realized that every single one of the beached cetaceans bore those fresh circular battle wounds. They struggled before they died.
No one really believed me at first when I brought my theories up. I don't blame them, I wasn't a marine biologist, just some dude with too much time and imagination. A few would listen and half-heartedly say it might be possible.
Just sad it took till today for anyone to believe me.
The crowd was silent as it bunched around the whale, gulls screaming overhead in delight at another buffet. They were starting to get fat.
Someone to my left said that the whale was still alive when they arrived, twitching and making a strange pitiful sound. I was surprised to hear that. The poor bastard was in shambles, torn and bloodied. Around its tail a ships anchor chain was wrapped, green with years under the sea. Harpoons with broken shafts, like those not seen for decades stuck out of its hide alongside corroded rebar and even what looked like the mast of a sailboat speared through its middle.
I didn't really believe my theory either. Not until I stood there and saw what that graffiti truly meant. Carved into its side, probably by the same pirate looking cutlass stabbed in its poor eye, were two words...
Credited to MrWeasel