or die,” chanted the ring of evil siblings crushed against her, “divide
or die.” But she didn’t want to divide. She wanted to remain intact,
singular, in her little spot of ocean warmed by the hot object. Fish
were floating dead or swimming wrong on the surface. She actually brushed
one on the eye. It was luscious, the heat that welled up in her when
she flicked that dead eye. For a moment she ached to divide, she fervently
yearned to be two, but it passed. Everything passes, she told herself,
trying to block out the chants of the others. “Divide or die,” they
The whole thing had begun with a pang of loneliness,
a desolation the weakest couldn’t survive. They cried themselves to
death. But the stronger ones looked for others like themselves. Then,
as a group, they checked the perimeter for food. If it was warm and
the wind was low, and if some rich, thick sludge was being heated and
pumped into the slow current, they could all divide at once. It was
an orgy with thousands of participants, hundreds of thousands, millions.
Shivers of pleasure shot across their surface.
Now they spread across the ocean surface endlessly—a
solid red mass that rolled and rippled in the wind like a sheet on a
line. They soaked up the energy of the hot object and snacked with relish
on the dead things they made. When the shadow of a cloud moved across
their surface, they knew they were being caressed by another entity
just like themselves—large, swift, devouring.
She was a mutant. The hot object had worked its way into her DNA and
unhooked something. So what if she was a mutant? So what if she didn’t
like to divide? She wanted to float in the warm current, and to flop
on her back now and then and watch the clouds lumbering across the pretty
blue sky. How long did any of them have? Just a few days. Why not just
fucking enjoy it?
But the group was powerful. Shared emotions swept over them like storms:
hunger, awe, desire. For a moment at dawn they were all racked with
nostalgia. There were times when every single one of them felt out of
place. Peer pressure was a force to be reckoned with.
“Look at her,” said a pert little dinoflagellate with a perfectly smooth
protein coat. “Look at her with her nose up in the air, refusing to
They laughed at her. No one was on her side.
It was hard to have only siblings and no parents to act as referees.
If she didn’t divide, she couldn’t truly be part of the All, and if
she wasn’t part of the All, she couldn’t share in the divinity that
was being passed from sibling to sibling like a joint. “Divide or die,”
they said. That they would stop saying it was unthinkable.
It was tempting, so tempting, to just dissolve
into it, but she’d begun to believe it didn’t really mean anything anyway.
She’d begun to believe there wasn’t any difference between being many
and being singular. In the end, she just was, and she was going to dissolve
soon anyway into a little drop of liquid neurotoxin. But before she
did, she wanted to give herself a beautiful name.