To be the ocean’s servant: on thalassocratic experience

Untitled photograph of a dead deer on a shoreline (© Samuel Preston IV, 2018)

“The mind evolved in the sea. […] When animals did crawl onto dry land, they took the sea with them.” – Peter Godfrey-Smith

i. The dark intelligence of the sea

Quitting land for the sea can mean a lot of different things. On the one hand, the simplest physical voyage requires a diverse range of skills, all revolving around the negotiation with waters, winds, and weathers that successful navigation entails. On the other hand, such a departure can also launch a voyage of the mind, or spirit, like those that follow Herman Melville or Joseph Conrad’s nautical wanderings.

Both Melville and Conrad returned from the sea as changed men.

The nature of these changes varied over time, but both proceeded to immerse themselves in highly complex, metaphoric oceans of prose. Ideas in vast shoals swim throughout their writings. Yet a philosophical horror of the sea accompanies the deep fascination each man has with its depth, its opacity, and its turbulence.

In his second volume of memoirs, The Mirror of the Sea (1906), Conrad writes, “The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” He concludes: “The most amazing wonder of the deep is its unfathomable cruelty.”

Similarly, Melville’s Ishmael relates the following (in Chapter 58 of Moby-Dick):

Wherein differ the sea and the land, that a miracle upon one is not a miracle upon the other?

[…]

Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!

Yet push off he does – and, indeed, it is Ishmael’s chance “floating on the margin of the ensuing scene” of the Pequod’s destruction that saves him from Ahab and the whale’s fury.

Both Melville and Conrad make contact with the alien sea, and neither man is able to forswear its dark intelligence. Such contact confronts human pretension with its liquid origins. For both, quitting the land marked the start of an elemental encounter with the waters that never really came to an end – because, in fact, the sea inside is but a fluid appendage of the sea around us. In a particularly poetic moment, Rachel Carson writes that “[t]he sediments are a sort of epic poem of the earth,” but her insight extends beyond the purview of geological formations and into the living mud of life itself. (For a historical and ontological argument to this effect, see Manual DeLanda’s A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History.) You could say we’re all made of sea stuff. This is the source of Melville and Conrad’s agitation, of the stormy prose, the fascinations and lamentations of whale-haunted minds.

ii. Inverse Kitezh (or the Milesian Doctrine)

One of the first Western philosophers, Thales of Miletus (c. 624 BCE – c. 546 BCE), leaves behind only fragments of thought (as if thought could be anything but), like potsherds waiting to be dredged up from Aegean depths.

Aristotle recounts the primary claim for which Thales is remembered, namely, “Water is the first principle of everything.” Paradoxically, this claim lies at the very center of thalassocratic experience. It is paradoxical because the sea has no center. It is acephalous, amorphous, and filled with violent turbulence. The ocean is on the move. Follow its movements over a long enough timespan, and you will see the flight and the formation of every World Island, the rise and fall of every landscape. “The first principle of everything” – that is to say, the very wetness of the dark wet heat that permeates all life on our pale blue dot.

The cosmology of Thales is an oceanology, and it prefigures Charles Darwin’s “warm little pond,” the primordial soup that spawns both beaches and entangled banks (“with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth […] these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner”) and everything terrestrial. See how his cosmology has its echoes in the search for life on exoplanets, or on Mars, always driven by the search for traces of liquid water, or else dead, dry seas.

According to the Milesian doctrine, the earth floats on an infinite ocean of black water. Life emerges from the sea, but so do the continents themselves, so does every piece of land and every earthly harvest. Every coastline is a border. We misunderstand what borders are when we characterize them in terms of imporous divisions. Borders divide things, yes, but they are also unique sites of connection, transit, and traversal. Generally speaking, a border simultaneously divides and provides a site through which bodies, goods, symbols, and weathers circulate. All land is just tellurian afterbirth, temporary coastlines begat by the sea.

In other words, it is due to the sea – to water, the first principle of everything – that ontological distinctions appear and disappear in the first place. Arguably, this has profound consequences for how we understand being and time. Instead of a linear trajectory, time is more like a lunar tide, or, sometimes, a typhoon. Being is a night ocean: “Vast and lonely is the ocean, and even as all things came from it, so shall they return thereto. In the shrouded depths of time none shall reign upon the earth, nor shall any motion be, save in the eternal waters.” Recall how various cosmogonies, or mythologies of creation, emphasize the presence of chaos (χάος, meaning “abyss,” “gap,” or, according to some, “infinite darkness”), darkness, formlessness, and the water that stirs restlessly at the origin of all things.

For the Greeks, chaos precedes the creation of the world. Hesiod characterizes chaos as an eternal abyss that surrounds existence, or in which the earth is suspended, which becomes personified in the form of the primordial deities Erebus (“Darkness”) and Nyx (“Night”). Other Greek writers (like Heraclitus and Pherecydes) identified chaos with elemental waters. The latter half of the first verse of the Tao Te Ching reads, “Mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness.” In the Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson recounts the Norse mythic cosmogony:

“Gangleri asked: ‘How was the world wrought, before the tribes came to be and mankind increased?’ And Hárr replied, ‘Stormy waves flowed, and their flow became ice. When this ice stilled and stopped flowing, it froze into hoarfrost. Layer by layer, the ice grew within Ginnungagap.’ [Ginnungagap is the magical and primordial void that environs and precedes creation.] And Jafnhárr replied, ‘The north of Ginnungagap [i.e., Niflheim, the elemental domain of ice] was filled with ice and hoarfrost, with water and wind. But in the south was a glowing fire [i.e., Muspelheim, the elemental domain of fire] […] and when the breath of heat met the ice, it melted, and life quickened in the waters.’”

Even the Book of Genesis begins similarly: “Darkness covered the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Aristotle recounts another fragment by Thales (there are only a handful). The fragment reads: “All things are full of gods.” Everything originates in the intoxicating turbulence of the “wine-dark sea,” and everything is inhabited by a throng of agencies. These agencies – the gods – were the living ambient voices of the real, personifications of generation and corruption, of growth and decay, of difference and repetition. Pantheons can be circumscribed no more than the world can. This is the oceanic function that informs thalassocratic experience. Water in motion is made of ripples, of eddies, riptides, vortices, and swells. To study waves is to study how dynamics produce and dissolve transient structural forms, dissipating and reforming without end. The sea explodes the myth of the eternal return, however, for even tides break islands and shape shores.

Thales hailed from Miletus. During the Pleistocene, the future site of the city was underwater, only completely emerging from the depths like some sluggish behemoth about 18,000 years ago. All dry land was once underwater. On a geological scale, land returns to water all the time. Wait and see how we will greet sea level rises with dancing and howling and death. Maybe there’s hope, after all. Lemuria is passing away before your very eyes. Russian pilgrims believe that Lake Svetloyar, in Central Russia, hides a sunken city populated by drowned saints. Only the holiest people are allowed inside its walls, and, sometimes, fishermen hear bells tolling in the deep.

Needless to say, the city of Miletus is now land-locked. But there’s something to look forward to. Aristotle relates the Milesian doctrine a final time: “Out of water all things are and into water all things return.”

iii. On “oceanic feeling”

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud famously discusses what he calls “oceanic feeling,” which refers to the pre-rational experience of primordial unity with existence, or, as he defines it, “a feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole.”

His correspondent, the French writer Romain Rolland, actually coins the term, but Freud identifies it with the infant’s “primitive ego-feeling,” with the experience of life preceding the infant’s as-of yet undeveloped capacity to separate its sense of self from the world perceived as an “oceanic” whole. “Oceanic feeling,” then, is an experience that precedes individuation, or which follows from some dissolution, however temporary, of the boundaries of self.

“Oceanic feeling” is also the source and substance of religious feeling, he writes. “One may […] rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illusion.” Consider how people frequently describe crowd experiences, especially in contexts like megachurches, political rallies, or raves (“fusing the urge to surge and the urge to merge,” to borrow Simon Reynolds’s striking turn of phrase). Awe and ecstasy blend together in a fog; everything becomes love (or hate, as the case may be). Elias Canetti: “As soon as man has surrendered himself to the crowd, he ceases to fear its touch. Ideally, all are equal there; no distinctions count. […] The man pressed against him is the same as himself. He feels him as he feels himself. Suddenly it is as though everything were happening in one and the same body.”

There’s a serious error lurking in all of this.

“Oceanic feeling” may exist, but what I have described isn’t really oceanic. It’s a failure of imagination to characterize the ocean as that place where all distinctions are lost, as some kind of dark Parmenidean expanse. To the contrary, an ocean is an infinitely reticulated thing, both forming and formed by ripples and tides. It is a plenitude, filled with gods and remorseless tribes. It spits out driftwood and half-drowned sailors. Fish even fuck in it.

The ocean, therefore, is not a zone of indistinction. It is instead a site of a fundamental productivity, a marine medium that gives and takes away. It is more like an unconscious craftsman than anything else.

Accordingly, thalassocratic experience is not reducible to what Freud calls mere “oceanic feeling.” If anything, the term should be reclaimed. True oceanic feeling refers to the robustly ontological sense in which “everything flows and nothing stands still” (Heraclitus), a sense that brings together the turbulence of life with a cognizance of the processual nature of nature itself. The natural is not the necessary, nor submission to what is necessary; nothing is necessary.

iv. Thalassocracy

What is thalassocracy?

The word itself stems from the Greek words θάλασσα (thálassa, or “sea”) and κράτος (krátos, meaning “dominion,” “power,” or “rule,” especially in the context of politics or war). In modern English, we typically use the suffix “-ocracy” in reference to a political regime type (e.g., aristocracy, autocracy, or democracy). Thalassocracy, therefore, retains an ineluctably political connotation.

Historically speaking, “thalassocracy” refers to a maritime power, or a state of whatever magnitude that asserts a dominant military posture through the exercise and maintenance of its navy. Representative examples include the Phoenicians and the Athenians, and, later, the Republic of Venice, the Dutch Empire, and the British Empire. More recently, the United States and its longstanding commitment to Atlanticism qualifies as a type of thalassocracy (albeit one that relies tremendously on air power).

Accordingly, the term “thalassocracy” is generally taken to mean something like “the rule of the sea” (or, more accurately, “rule by means of or over the sea”). Even more simply, this is often called “sea power.”

As every reader of Sun Tzu knows, however, the environment of warfare dictates strategic behavior. Recon ought to drive decisionmaking more than intel. In other words, traversing material environments necessitates assertive, yet responsive negotiations with the conditions of materiality that obtain on the battlefield.

This means that, even in terms limited to military application, thalassocracy cannot refer simply to maritime supremacy, but must include a sensibility of the degree to which maneuver and navigation alike depend on the ocean as the primary actor in the network. It is the sea that makes a thalassocracy in this sense possible in the first place, not simply as its condition of possibility, but precisely because of its mutable and turbulent nature.

Thalassocracy isn’t just a military posture, then, but a political phenomenology, one that draws normative force from the oceanic, from the sea, that “first principle of things.” Homer knew this perfectly well, and he expresses the insight paradigmatically in a famous ekphrastic passage in the Iliad that describes the shield of Achilles as the shining plane of immanence upon which the worlds of the human rest. After all, it is the Ocean (characterized earlier, in Book 14, as a “fountainhead” of gods) that girdles “round the outmost rim of the welded indestructible shield.”

Thalassocracy is therefore a phenomenological architectonic or structure that informs or even constitutes a particular kind of human subject. It positions the subject fluidly in relation to a liquid cosmos. It provides normative directionality that takes cues from the nature of things (“reading the weather”) without slipping into a nasty determinism. However, being the ocean’s servant requires the work of decision, which is always political work. After all, thalassocratic experience, like politics, is about navigation, and navigation implies more than “going with the flow” at the same time that it requires a dark, supple intimacy with the sea, an intimacy which exceeds every form of existential heroism and undercuts every master and commander.

v. Deciding for the sea: toward a philosophical geopolitics

Geopolitics has always been thought within an ontological framework comprised of land and sea, of the twin monsters Behemoth and Leviathan entangled in some beautifully occult violence, of heartlands and World Islands bedeviled and environed by dragons and nomads (even: “a sea of horsemen”), by pirates and raiders who come and go with the seasons like gray ghosts, or furious storms.

Consider the ambiguously mythic resonance of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne in 793 CE. The relevant passage from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reads: “In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and a little after those, that same year on the 6th of January, the ravaging of wretched heathen men destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.” At the time, it had become common practice to place chapels and monasteries on the shore, ostensibly to avoid the consequences of martial and political conflicts raging deeper in the Penda’s fens of in-land England.

The irony is of this twofold. On the one hand, it is the eventual Christianization of the Norsemen that leaves their runes in ruins. On the other hand, in 793, it is almost as if the bastions of Christianity are offered up to the sea wolves. This foundational act of destruction – to put it bluntly, the burning of a single lonely church on a desolate rocky shore – inaugurates a cultural cross-pollination that changes the very landscape itself. The water works the earth. Later, the Danelaw serves as a paradigm case of a wild contact zone, and it devastates every stunted little fantasy of autochthony and ethnic purity that grows up like strangling weed in every dry place.

After Lindisfarne, after the march of the Great Heathen Army, the Norsemen haunt and populate the annals of the so-called Dark Ages. Almost everything we know about them was written down by their enemies, or else preserved later in Icelandic archives by nominally Christian scriveners with pagan hearts. In 793, however, there was an incursion, an encounter between these two elements or powers that evidences the extent to which such conflicts are terminally geopolitical. Sea shapes the land, and the motion of the sea gives rise to every landmass.

In 1904, the English geographer Halford Mackinder (1861 – 1947) publishes “The Geographical Pivot of History,” in which he explodes the traditional Eurocentric world-picture. Rather than retaining Europe at the center of the geopolitical universe, he foregrounds what he calls the “pivot area,” consisting of a landlocked Eurasian heartland. Surrounding the pivot area are the “inner crescent” and the “outer crescent,” both of which are controlled or occupied by sea powers that cannot effectively project force into the global interior. (One of Mackinder’s primary concerns was what he perceived as the worrisome decline of British sea power and the emerging threat of coherent new land powers, namely, Germany and Russia).

One major element of Mackinder’s argument is his cognizance of enclosed planetary space as the new theater of action. The conceptual – though not material – completion of efforts to map the planet signifies a paradigm shift that disturbs and fascinates him. It fascinates him because it affords the opportunity to systematize geography into a predictive scientific instrument that speaks directly to newfound global political concerns. For Mackinder, geography plays the determining role in human history, because geography structures possibility. We remain spatially bound creatures, so what is possible for us is constrained and even produced by the spaces we inhabit.

It disturbs him because of concerns about what he saw as the impenetrability and the economically self-sufficient character of the Eurasian heartland. In a nutshell, Mackinder feared that geography conspired to insulate the pivot area from control by sea powers of the “offshore islands” (e.g., Britain). Hence, his basic claim: “Who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

We can make much of this. For example, compare Mackinder’s conservative anxiety about cultural decline with his nostalgia for Victorian imperial grandeur and even with the shadowy near-consciousness of the fundamental weirdness of the British Empire that affects every late-stage reflection upon it. The classicist Seth Benardete writes the following: “For Thucydides, Athens as a sea power is linked closely with its restless innovativeness, so that its ultimate ambition seems to have been to be a floating city, to be everywhere and nowhere, rootless and all-powerful.” There is a tension here, both in the first political thalassocracy of the West – Athens – and in the British Empire, a tension between the elemental foundations of geopower (Θάλαττα! θάλαττα!) and the aspirations of an imperial polity. The irony lies in the fact that this tension animates the imperial project from the start. Empire crashes and founders against the reef of the real, and the waves it rides drive the ship of state into shipwreck.

All of this tension gets radically displaced in Mackinder’s geopolitical imaginarium. Mackinder’s dreams prefigure, say, someone like Aleksandr Dugin, pimp or prophet of the World Island, and those dreams are filled with fear, with feverish fantasies of tellurian autochthons rising in the East like vampire Cossacks or Mongolian horsemen led by a mad god, all the Behemoth’s teeth. Recast Mackinder as a depressed Vizzini: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia!” But the nightmare of history makes such a war unavoidable. Mackinder whispers warnings to Daniel Dravot in the winding corridors of decaying British imperial power, but Dravot keeps turning the corner ahead of him, like someone in a dream who never seems to hear your hails. Burst bags of stolen gold dust blow in gales over the opium fields in Afghanistan (reflect upon the fact that at least three empires have foundered here), and the slaughtered colonial dead peer curiously from the hills at whole British navies mysteriously aground in the desert, miles from the shore.

So Mackinder remains ironically trapped inside the tellurian myth of a founding Chaoskampf. Supposedly, the Chaoskampf is a mythic structure that recurs throughout Indo-European culture. It refers to a primal conflict between a divine hero and a dragon, a monster, or a leviathan, representing chaos and the sea. The defeat of chaos by the divine founds the world order of the human, making the space necessary for the development of a land power. Call this “civilization” in its oldest sense: the making of cities by routing the wild. In other words, Mackinder – the reluctant psychopomp of late thalassocratic empire – wishes he could transmute sea to stone and turn waves into landlocked mountains. He inadvertently speaks to the failure of sea power to transform into land power. Ultimately, this is for him the cause of Victorian decline. Accordingly, he fails to register either the degree to which the sea spits out and swallows up the land, or the degree to which even land flows like water, given time.

The Chaoskampf has always the feverish dream of a seasick mind. Nevertheless, it contains an overriding imperative that shapes much of world history: Kill the chaos monster in order to establish order. In contrast, thalassocratic experience reveals how an underlying chaos (χάος) both generates and transforms every form of order. Darkness is not an enemy that must be defeated, or kept at bay, but a fertile latency that environs every manifestation. Open up and let the devil in. The nightside of the world is an ocean. Creative darkness makes and unmakes worlds. Ginnungagap subtends the distribution of the sensible.

vi. Reading “The Doom that Came to Sarnath”

H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Doom that Came to Sarnath” (1920) is a foundational document for any American psychogeography, but it also testifies to the fascination and the fear that thalassocratic experience embodies for Lovecraft and his readers.

The story reads like a fragment of ancient history, chronicling the geopolitical misadventures of a race of merchants and shepherds in the land of Mnar. These people expand and expand, eventually encountering a vast misty lake at the center of their continent. There they found the city of Sarnath. But there is already an indigenous people living by the lake, who reside in the ancient stone city of Ib. Lovecraft emphasizes the disgust the people of Sarnath feel for their neighbors, the denizens of Ib, for their “queer” appearance and their adherence to a strange religion centered upon the worship of Bokrug, the Great Water Lizard.

After a time, motivated by this disgust, the people of Sarnath “marched against Ib and slew all the inhabitants thereof, pushing the queer bodies into the lake with long spears, because they did not wish to touch them. And because they did not like the grey sculptured monoliths of Ib they cast these also into the lake; wondering from the greatness of the labour how ever the stones were brought from afar, as they must have been, since there is naught like them in all the land of Mnar or in the lands adjacent.”

The only thing that survives the destruction of Ib is an idol of Bokrug, which the people of Sarnath take as a trophy and place in their temple to remind them of their victory. That night, however, the idol of Bokrug disappears, and the high priest of Sarnath is murdered mysteriously. In blood, he leaves a single word scrawled upon his altar: DOOM.

A thousand years later, Sarnath is at the height of its affluence and power. On the millennial anniversary of the destruction of Ib, there is a feast to celebrate the defeat of the denizens of Ib. During the feast, ghostly lights appear above the lake, and a thick mist flows into the city from the waters, which begin to lap angrily at its walls. Disturbed, some of the revelers depart from Sarnath. As they go, “all the bronze gates of Sarnath burst open and emptied forth a frenzied throng that blackened the plain [and] on the faces of this throng was writ a madness born of horror unendurable, and on their tongues were words so terrible that no hearer paused for proof.”

All of Sarnath is flooded with ambiguous creatures from the lake – the revenant race of Ib, or, at least, its avengers. Sarnath is destroyed, for the lake swallows the city and all its doomed citizens. “Where once had risen walls of three hundred cubits and towers yet higher, now stretched only the marshy shore, and where once had dwelt fifty millions of men now crawled only the detestable green water lizard. Not even the mines of precious metal remained, for DOOM had come to Sarnath.” Only the idol of Bokrug remains, and the people of Mnar slowly begin to worship this strange new god.

It is, of course, impossible to avoid the degree to which Lovecraft’s own racism inflects the story, but this is also one major reason why Lovecraft remains such a paradigmatically American author. The asserted and perceived threat of racialized others constantly appears in his prose. Likewise, the American national experience has been haunted from the start by displaced anxieties (if not homicidal rages) about autochthony and legitimacy. How do you build a free country on such a recent and visible legacy of invasion, appropriation, and extermination? On the one hand, it remains glaringly obvious that the United States constructed itself on genocidal foundations. So many of our place names retain Native American denominations. The legends of our maps are filled with purloined letters. Without irony, we even name our tools of war after indigenous populations we warred against. On the other hand, we have always been desperate to legitimate our national experience and origins by crafting false mythic narratives of the empty and expectant frontier. We’re supposed to be here, we say to each other while averting our eyes, and, supposedly, our democratic experiment is a break from the violence of the Old World, an exception to the rule that states are born in murder.

Yet our occupation of the land itself remains deeply unsettled. This is the paradox or the tension informing every cultural and political performance of contemporary American national identity. There is an unconscious feeling, a dark murmuring that reminds you, This land isn’t yours. At the heart of America, then, there is horror, and the silencing of horror. While a body politic, like a body, may not be reducible to its heart alone, it relies heavily upon it nevertheless.

Lovecraft’s Sarnath is a metonym for our America. He inverts Mackinder’s nostalgic, tragic sensibility into a nervous, self-aggrandizing fear about the water’s return. As always, he projects qualities of abjection onto the alien other, yet he remains fascinated by that other. As always, he associates the other who threatens our destruction with lakes, seas, tides. They have gills, or fins, or tentacles that coil and uncoil in the dark. They worship Dagon, or Bokrug, harsh and guttural deities of inhuman provenance. These are the true inhabitants of Lovecraft’s wilderness, these Deep Ones, these Old Ones, who come before us and then survive us. We humans are a sham. We don’t belong here. Even the planet we live on had the gall to preexist us. And, secretly, like every phobic personality, Lovecraft desires precisely what he fears and hates: in this case, the return of thalassocratic experience, to crawl back into the sea.

Recall that in the “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” the protagonist Robert Olmstead discovers that not only do the Deep Ones exist all around us, but even that his own body is ultimately becoming inhuman. Why should it rain frogs when the frogs are inside us? We’re always already contaminated with otherness. When we return to the sea (or when it overtakes us, as it does with decadent Sarnath, or, ultimately, Olmstead himself), it is ultimately a kind of relief. Hence the strange shift in tone that marks the story’s conclusion. “We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.”


vii. Strangelove ocean

1. A hypothetical state of the ocean, characterized by unusually low to no biological productivity.

One possible candidate for such sterile ocean conditions is the period of several hundred thousand years following the K-T event. Another might haunt our canceled future, stalking the far side of the ecological crisis. Imagine 265 billion gallons of dead water, churning ceaselessly under a dying red sun. Imagine drowned cities lurking under the waves like broken-down leviathans, with rebar ribs jutting starkly out of decaying concrete flesh. They do not dream. The waves mutilate themselves, but there is no grief. Pieces of plastic trash roam with the tides, as if looking for something they have lost. If you lived here, you would starve. If you dived here, you would find nothing but a terminal sea, filled with mechanical echoes.

“The oceans are dead. Or so everyone thinks.” – T. J. Bass