Ben O’Neil is a Toronto based artist and OCAD student. We love his short story, “Flipper” here at The Continuist – which can be read below – and we’re also digging this man’s fresh photography skills.
“You know what the internet told me today?” Linda tugged her shirt down over her stomach, rolled onto her side and pulled a cigarette out of her pack on the bedside table. “It told me that every year 14 people are raped violently by dolphins. I loved dolphins when I was little. Apparently they’re these awful sex demons who rape each other for weeks at a time, like 18 to 20 males at a time on one poor female. I mean that’s fucked right? They always have that same smile on their face, but really they just want in your pants. Demi Moore was almost raped by a dolphin.”
“You really believe that?” There was a long scratch running from Linda’s elbow all the way to her wrist. She thought for a moment.
“It’s on youtube or something,” she said, tapping the cigarette onto a plate. I laughed and picked nervously at a rash on the back of my palm. Linda leaned forward.
“Shit. You have that too?”
“What, the rash? You have it?”
She pulled her shirt back up, just enough to let me see the dark jagged patch stretching across her torso.
“Jesus,” I whistled. “How long have you had that? My mom thinks it’s something they’re putting in cereal that gives it to you.”
“Someone told me that that girl from our school, the one who died, they found the rash on her. Since then a bunch of kids have stopped showing up for school. I mean where is everyone? I feel like I don’t see anybody anymore.”
‘Pretty spooky stuff,” I said, managing a weak smile.
“What does it matter? If it’s not cereal it will be something else. If it’s not the rash it will be something else. We thrive on disaster, epidemics, that threat of extinction that seems so absent from our everyday life. We watch the news and know that all this might come to an end, then we go outside and look at our neighbors washing their cars, the sun’s shining, the dogs are chasing the squirrels, and we just can’t let ourselves believe that it might really happen. I mean how many Armageddon dates have we already made it through? It’s like people just need peace of mind or something. Like they’re just turning their heads away and waiting.”
Linda stubbed the cigarette out with a deliberate twist, fell back on the pillows and sighed. I shook my head.
“So you really don’t think there’s any hope for us?”
“Hope? I mean it’s not like I think it’s as simple as us being some cancer on the world that needs to be squashed out. I think there’s hope, but I can’t help but think that’s beside the point. We can have all the hope in the world, but if we don’t figure some shit out…”
Linda mimed a mushroom cloud with her hands.
“Do you want to know what I hope for? I hope we do make it, I really do, but what I really hope is that if we don’t, the world doesn’t get taken with us. Like somehow we just accidentally vaporize everyone, and the earth would keep going without a pause. The squirrels and the mice, then the foxes and bears and eventually, I don’t know, the moose would inhabit our homes, rummaging through our cupboards. Over time the roads would crack and the buildings would crumble, the forests would grow. And yeah, even the dolphins would be there, fucking each other raw in the oceans. That’s what comforts me. If all else should fail, that’s what I hope for.”
In our Western civilization, we are far removed from the concept of “body in trouble” that our ancient ancestors would have faced. The immediate dangers have been removed almost entirely; we are secure in our safe grid, and yet we carry our own concept of the body in trouble. This manifests itself in that vague feeling of doom which is a result of morbid media frenzies, Armageddon theories, disease, environmental concerns, and the overall sense of doubt and suspicion towards the pillars of our culture which supply and censor this information.