Whale Tales: Hells Orcas – Evan Flips
They tried to blame it on the five days they’d spent snorting toad fish, it had been a total bender with those ladies from the West after the last assignment, but the powers that be saw straight through it and told them to smarten up. What they do in their own time shouldn’t influence the job.
Here, he was free. Evan the Aerialist he desperately wanted all to know him as.
The way they rushed in and started harassing the Humpback, Sassy, they found out later that was her name, without verifying, it was shameful. Not even a kilo of toadies down their snout could be excuse enough for such an appalling error.
Snorting toadfish. Upside-down in the shallows, big short fast inhale close to the bottom, and the toadie goes straight up the pipe, giving them a slight blockage that makes their brain go all fuzzy and tingly for a moment. A peppering of euphoria. Even one of the idiots tried it with an urchin. He was blowing the spines out for weeks in erratic sneezes. Green goop going everywhere, it was disgusting. The infection lasted for months after.
Named Bond, double-o and Evan, he being the most reclusive one of the trio, they never did really know where he disappeared too, but some thought he might be infiltrating a new band of brothers, looking for a new patch to work over.
Evan never said much, and preferred it that way. This was just a part time gig for him. Really he wanted to get away from all this hunting and killing. He hated the name Killer Whale. He reckons Acrobat or Circus Whale was much more becoming.
He’s heard on the wire that from way up north , beyond the equator, that there were these places for acrobatic artists like himself. Little boutique oases that were far removed from the blatant terror and heavy brutal bullying that some thought was necessary to overcome the prissy name of Orca. His troupe had hardened up and become the Hells Orcas, distancing themselves from the tarnish of the Whale moniker.
The great white sharks had been known to stomp around the region, throwing around their six metre length, bulky weight and menacing teeth amongst these sultry and slow humpback behemoths, but really, Evan never understood why every other species feared them so much. Just a bunch of oversized bland looking catfish he thought they were.
In the quiet times off the job, Evan would slink away into the dark depths, nary emanating or muttering a sound. He’d dive deep, straight down at first, slowly kicking without even the slightest disturbance of water, because he knew even the slightest ripple might be heard 10 kilometres away as the sound wave echoed and permeated its way through the dark blue ocean.
At eight metres long, he could make four loping and powerful kicks, and with his ballerina like deft precise and pinpoint movements that he’d spent his life perfecting, he’d become negatively buoyant by the fourth atmosphere and simply sink, absolutely motionless into the pitch black cloak of one hundred metres deep, elegantly free falling in a suspended state of moving meditation.
At this depth he loved the cocoon like feeling of the pressure about him. It was like that time they were playing chasey when he was a young buck and the four of them all sandwiched together, he stuck in the very middle as the others tried to crush the air out of him.
Early on he knew he was different to the others, even though considerably smaller build compared to those blossoming brutes, the big squeeze they attempted, it was pathetic. Whereas others would panic and shoot to the surface, gasping and panting for massive dastardly steamy inhales, he’d relish the intensity, and with his superior diving and swimming natural abilities secretly be hoping they’d try harder. Often he’d pretend he was under sufferance, just to make them feel good about how intimidating they were, but really, he thought they were lame.
The pressure and squeezes gave him comfort, he felt more alive than at any other time.
Now, as he plateaued out at 100 metres depth, he sensed in the blackness the familiar spaces about him. A few minutes and his regular melodic kick, pause, glide. Kick, pause, glide. Kick, pause, glide would swiftly have him successfully execute his famous D&D routine – the Dive and Disappear.
Mimicking all the power, grace and effortless glide those immaculate smooth stingrays showcase day after day on the deep sandy bottoms, Evan thrived on the efficiency he’d learned by slowing his movements down to the absolute minimum. The stingrays had taught him well, and now he embodied their spirit and secret techniques for maximum thrust at minimum energy expenditure, but most importantly, minimum movement.
Whereas the other killers would pride themselves on smashing and bashing through the water, synchronised swimming, flapping and flailing their over-enhanced bulked up muscly tails in time with thud, thud, thud, thud of those droning contraptions disturbing the peaceful joy of the ocean sounds.
They always talked about wanting to be bigger, stronger, more powerful, and would spend days and days just swimming harder and faster until they collapsed in a dreary dull state of simpleton exhaustion. Evan would roll his eyes and continue perfecting his spy-hop technique, almost being able to hold half his body directly vertical above the surface, perfectly motionless for hours on end. They’d mock him as continuously, and he would just be spurred on to do it for longer, the survivor that he was.
It was in his secret little cove that Evan would contribute to the execution of his dream, minute by minute, and hour by hour.
A perfectionist, repetition was his best friend. He didn’t need anybody else.
In these swift escapes, without the droning sounds, removed from the ridiculous chatter, his mind was clear as the water he’d heard these pretty oases had for acrobatic orca like him.
This calm, this poise, this pause, it gave him every opportunity to practice and perfect his flips, somersaults, spins, even this new manoeuvre he’d been trying. He wanted to call it an ally-oop, but he knew with the Orca killer Whale name they’d want to label it a black-out.
Finning from the depth in a strict vertical line towards the surface, not too deep, just 10-12 metres or so, because he wanted the force of the increasing buoyancy as he rose up from the depth to help propel his speed more easily, just before the surface he’d tighten his belly to then leave the water on a more acute angle to the perpendicular.
Just as his snout broke the surface on this slight angle, he’d have to arch his torso in a way that was so strange to every other Whale and Dolphin he’d ever watched. He’d arch backwards, straining to get his blow hole to bend backwards towards his tail, which simultaneously was trying to curve towards his blowhole.
As he did so, the swift and powerful curving motion of his tail would begin to send his body in a reverse motion. A motion he’d only ever seen one of those humpbacks do when it was being dragged into one of those bloody noisy big surface contraptions. He didn’t want to admit to himself, but it looked like that contraption might be called a killer something as well, because the Whale was definitely dead, blood smearing everywhere. It wasn’t his favourite moment, if not for the morbid inspiration it gave him for this trick he lived for though.
On this angle he sent himself out of the sea on, with his back arched concave, the fun really begun now. Instead of the standard spear out of the water, bend the belly and dive back in, he was now rotating backwards.
If his eyes could look back at his tail, they would be. He felt all awkwardly squished, blow hole to tail compressed, his eyes now seeing only the sky, his body completely free of the water and in mid-air. Rotating backwards!
He loved the sense of flight. As he executed this backwards somersault, whilst moving in a forwards motion, he kept looking as far back as he could, waiting for the sea surface to come into view.
As the sky met the horizon, instinctively he would prepare for re-immersion and clench his blow hole tightly shut.
In the very early days, when he’d started to practice this trick, he laughs about it now, but he’d pretty much every time slam into the sea snout-first upside-down and snort in a whole bunch of sea water up his blowhole. He quickly grew to hate the itchy sensation and the 10 minutes of spluttering trying to clear all the irritation away after.
It motivated him to his usual perfection.
As his flight and rotation improved, his best friend, repetition, embraced him and championed him on.
Soon he was flat landing on his belly, performing the perfect full arc from spearing upwards and forwards flight, fully rotating in reverse motion, then landing flat with a good solid white water splash.
Fun, but not good enough he thought.
So here he was now, striving for more rotation.
To nail it, Evan pictured only one thing. He was going to land tail first. So it would be a full body backflip, whilst moving forwards.
Then landing like a pin might drop into the ocean, with barely the sound of kerplunk.
Polkadots and Moonbeams. A young woman descends the stairway to the beach as the sun sets and the moon rises. Looking on is a Ladybug. A fiction short story.
Last year’s Humpback Whale southern migration winner, Barnacle, actually there are no ‘winners’ because there’s no prizes. But in this day and age of supporting everyone as a winner, we’re going against the grain and calling him a winner anyway. Well, because he was first.
Back to Barnacle – a seasoned migrator. He’s finished 10 of these 10,000 kilometre events in the last 10 years.
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