Press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night! Mad naked summer night!
Those lines are from Leaves of Grass, and it’s where I got the title for “The Sea Half-Held By Night,” which is reprinted this month in Apex #68.
When Silvia Moreno-Garcia announced she was doing an anthology of Canadian zombie stories, I didn’t think I’d end up with anything spectacular to submit; zombies aren’t my first genre love, but I do love them on the rare occasion (one example being Zone One, Colson Whitehead).
But then the first lines of this story came to me, and I had a very distinct image of a woman in a whaling camp, and it was bitter cold, and there were strange beasts in the sea; she spent her days inside whales, and I could almost feel the temperature difference between the whales and the winter air, and I knew this was a story in need of writing. It turned into one of my favorite stories to have written!
Esteuan sees the bent figure at dusk and thinks nothing of it. His day has been long, beginning before the sun brightened the sky, ending as the sun takes a last gasp and puts herself away for the night. Exhaustion bends his own broad shoulders against this darkening sky and he presumes it is another man much like himself, wearied from a day on the ships, amid the tryworks. The stench of his own body, streaming with sweat, blood, and whale oil, masks anything else he might discern from the evening. Esteuan brings these scents home and even when he emerges from the bath some time later, he smells of whales, of sea, of hunting. I see the figure three days later; when I mention it to Esteuan, his head lifts from the tub of water and his eyes bore into me, as if what I have said makes no sense. There were only exhausted men; he tells me of the one he saw. I tell my story twice, and neither time does it change.