Carlea Holl-Jensen



Bodies are drifting down from above. They float slowly through the darkening expanse, backlit shapes against the distant blue.


We go in groups to watch them. We’ve seen them before in ones and twos, but all together like this, they’re quite a spectacle. Our children name the shapes they see in the array of fanning hair, in the languid gestures of weightless limbs: a shell, a brittle star. Up close, they’re startling to look at—not sleek and streamlined as we are, but opaque, vulnerable to pressure, their eyes small and unsuited to the dark.


When they come to rest, we adorn their brows with silt. In the shivering light of passing boneless creatures, we sing for them as we sing for our own dead.


More and more of them appear. Amongst our daughters, there is a fad of declaring one’s love for a dead man. They take tokens of their beloveds—a femur, a fingernail—but the affairs are short-lived.


Sometimes the blue above is nothing but the dark forms of descending bodies. After they settle, scavengers glut on their flesh, leaving a roiling cloud in their wake. Soon large predators arrive, drawn by their decay, and we must take care, or else be eaten, too. Bones lie scattered in every direction. The swirling waste left behind accretes into thick, clinging ropes that smother anything they touch. Before long, we will all be strangled in its grip.


Some say we must seek out new, untroubled territory, but we have heard that everywhere it is the same. There is nowhere else for us to go—except, perhaps, where the dead come from. Soon, we will have no choice but to demand a place among them. And when they want to know why we left our homes to trespass upon theirs, we will say, “There are too many dead in the sea.”