Fleet in Being

     It wasn’t until I heard the news about that shark discovered on the New York Subway the other day that I began to  understand what’s been happening in my own life. Forget the detail about the shark having a cigarette in his mouth, a travel card and a can of red bull, blahdy blah, that’s just bored kids running around in the summer break with nothing better to do. No, the really relevant factors are :

a) the direction the train was travelling in

b) the ambient temperature in New York that day

c) the price of oil

d) the imminent extinction of major marine species

    I was able to put two and two together because of the following key factors, which are, in reverse order of significance:

I work in the area of animal intelligence,  my old man was in the Navy and on top of that I’ve been screwed every which way myself for the last umpteen years.

    I’m talking Karma Sutra levels of shafting and emotional spamming –  ex wives, mistresses, brothers, parrots, boss, bank, neighbours, taxi drivers, tax collectors,  blahdy blah – you name it I’m  getting fracked by all of ’em –  financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, Bam!, Biff!, Kapow! as Batman would say. In the guts, in the head, between the legs, as it were. Ouch. Dead shark under the seat. It all figures.

    So this shark – let’s call him ‘Sharky’ – in the political economy of living breathing species, Sharky may be a big scary guy with loads of sharp teeth and an attitude, just like me, but he’s actually badly outnumbered – again, just like me, who I’ll call Charlie, no – I’ll call me Marky. Oh yes – that sounds good – this is a nice story about Marky and Sharky. 

    Marky and Sharky were born into a world dead-set on cheating them out of anything like a pleasurable existence. So what do we have going for us, two sad saps rapidly approaching obsolescence, vilification and eventual stuffing?  How does a decrepit old male who’s 3 stone overweight but emotionally malnourished get any kind of existential leverage?

    Ok I’m probably going to lose you now but all Sharky and Marky have going for them (dead or alive) is the Sea Denial Doctrine.

     Sea Denial is a notch down from actual Control of the Sea, and more like the U-boat war between Germany and the British in WW2. No one actually wins anything but you get to cause an awful lot of trouble. It’s an ancient strategy – even Sun T’zu mentions it in his ancient methodology ‘The Art of War’. He observed that the greatest battles  are those you can win without fighting. But to make effective use of Sea Denial Doctrine poor old Sharky and Marky need in Naval parlance what’s called  an ‘Area Denial Weapon’, something like land-based ground-to-air  missiles if you’re a villainized shark and who knows what if you’re me – a miracle/re-birth. Forget me for the moment. How exactly does the shark population, represented by brave Sharky,  deploy a real life  ‘Area Denial Weapon’?

    What Sharky’s gotta do is called ‘guerre de course’ in French, mainly because they have to make everything sound attractive and much like an activity you wouldn’t be embarrassed to do with your mother. Wrong! Guerre de course – or ‘Commercial raiding’ in glib English or ‘Handelskrieg’ in scary German, just means ‘trade war’. Which is something I do know about.

    Commerce-destroying exhausts and demoralises the enemy, even if it can’t necessarily defeat them. Sharks can’t hope to wipe out the human race and neither can I, but we can mess with human minds and churn up the expected order of events. Sharky chose a grand form of cognitive dissonance which, if aggregated by other animal disequilibrium actions, may go a long way to undermining the human race. Who knows – maybe a miracle will happen and they’ll change their voracious planet shafting ways? Yeah, right.

    So, what Sharky did is what the Navy call ‘fleet in being’. Sharky our ‘Shark in being’ doesn’t need to do anything overtly aggressive and he doesn’t need to have a full-scale invasion plan, his mere existence on the New York underground is sufficient to challenge his enemies. Sharky waits for an exceptionally high tide which will take him out of his Sea World holding pen and up through the sewers into the New York subway system. He picks a not very hot day because visitor numbers will be down and he wont be missed by the keepers.

    Global oil prices are unsustainably high and a world energy summit is taking place downtown. Sharky’s picked an auspicious day to make his sacrifice. By the end of the week half the human population have seen his corpse on You Tube. The intelligent half actually bother to find out something more about the fragile life sharks live. The sensitive ones feel ashamed and moved by his mocked corpse. Though Sharky’s dead he’s gone with a bang. He’s gone with the conviction that all things are possible. Anything he can imagine will happen.

    Sharky’s reminded me that I need to keep the faith. Faith that things might get better. I guess I do sound bitter sometimes. The main guy I blame is Doctor John. ‘Dr John C. Lilly’ to the rest of you. Doctor John was a neuroscientist who in 1958 took me to work with him on a project in the beautiful Virgin Islands.  While I was there I met the love of my life, Margaret Howe. We even moved in together, and had a thing. Inter-species I know, but still a thing.

   Lilly lost funding for that project and decided to split Margaret and me up and instead give all ‘his’ dolphins LSD to speed things along with his quest to get us talking like humans. He thought we’d be reciting Shakespeare by the end of our first psychedelic trip, what a dolt.

    I guess I don’t have to tell you what happened after that – a cliched 60s story – drugs, rehab and all the rest. So now, after all those wasted years, I’m here at Harvard, back in a lab doing cognitive tests for ambitious psychology students. I still get LSD flashbacks and my short term memory sometimes goes, but I wont forget about the Sea Denial Doctrine and I wont ever forget about Sharky. He at least made it as far as the New York Subway and onto YouTube. Who knows, maybe I’ll get out of here and find my way back to Margaret one day?  Lilly always did predict there’d be a head-on collision between different types of Earthly intelligence, he just didn’t guess it would involve us, his former research servants, and that the fight will be between Man and Dolphin, Shark and Man, Scientist and Subject.

Published by Rejected Short Stories

"Now I have restored some of my words that I want to tell people what it feels like to go through such an experience- the contents right flushed out of your brain. What it's like a whole load of other people's stuff pumped into it. Most of what they put in my mind was bank account numbers and bioinformatics data flows rearrange forever. A swirl of unstable figures, flows through me in all directions, such as rats and fleas self-replicating and voracious attacks of my brain, only animals was not, it was language."

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