The city lined the coast, its buildings looking out at the expanse, their square windows square and angry and daring the ocean to do anything to upset them lest it drew their wrath. Despite being coastal, the city had no beach. Just a collection of large rocks, boulders even, that the residents liked to clamber and play on when the tide was out. There was tell, a tale that had been told for many years by some of the city’s older residents, that in the past there had been an effort to give the residents a less dangerous setting for clambering and playing by removing the large rocks until they reached either sand or at least a collection of smaller rocks but that after cluttering the coastal wall with three cranes and a collection of removed boulders all they’d found was more and more huge rocks that actually grew in size the further down they dug. The older residents said eventually they just piled all the rocks they’d dug up back on top of the huger rocks they were uncovering and the residents who enjoyed a clamber and a play, which was all of them, carried on doing as safely as they could. 

There was a large fish plant sitting on the very edge of the coast at the very edge of the city that employed ninety percent of its residents and supported its economy. Everyone, from the age of sixteen to ninety, with or without legs, with or without arms, with or without brains or wits or skills or abilities, if you were born in the city and could live without constant medical assistance, had the opportunity to work there. On your sixteenth birthday, if your address was registered within the city’s borders, you would receive a contract of employment from them. The remaining ten percent of the city’s population worked in and owned tiny independent businesses that were less dependable than the fish plant but had the added advantage of not leaving them smelling perpetually of fish. 

The residents who worked in the fish plant, the ones who didn’t, and the tiny percent who couldn’t work at all, were very happy. Exceedingly so. If there had been a poll by the rest of the world, their city would certainly have been named the happiest in it. This was because their city felt large and important to them and though ninety percent of them stank like fish and the rest didn’t and though the ones that did smell like fish had a job that didn’t pay well, there was no snobbery because it was common knowledge that everyone in the fish plant, from manager to fish gutter, got paid the same and besides the residents not in the factory didn’t make much money either so there was a nice balance to everything. In towns and cities with similar types of systems, there generally resides a feeling of hopelessness, ingrained in the very pavements and roads, engraved in the hearts of all who live there and tattooed on the skin of all those who visit. But in the city of the fish plant, there was none of that feeling of discontent. In its place there was hope, hope in everything they did. When the residents got up in the morning they brushed their teeth with a hopeful swaying of their hands, they combed their hair with movements that conveyed the joy of facing a day that could have potential, they ate breakfast with optimistic gnashing of teeth, they wiped their asses with a pipedream that when they were done the tissue would come out any colour other than brown. It was a happy city and the residents smiled so often that before they turned twenty-five all of their cheeks and foreheads were crossword puzzles of laughter lines. 

There was almost always an overture of buzzing from the amount of conversation happening in the city from moment to moment and when they talked, they talked simply. Their words had no metaphors, or innuendos, there was nothing hidden there. They let words fall out of their mouths, communicating with no fear that the person receiving their communication would push the communication back, shove it in their faces, or laugh at any sincerity they tried to pay forward, knowing they would accept it happily, proud that in their city they had someone like them that wasn’t afraid of rejection and had hope that the day ahead would be good.

The ocean that faced all five miles of the city was afraid of drawing the wrath of the square angry windows that looked out over it without fully realising its fear. It rolled back and forth against the coastal wall with meek splashes and was a sickly green and grey colour that reminded the residents of a bruised toad as it did its best to stick to the status quote. Not that it had the energy to do anything other than stick to the status quote. Even its meek little splashes sometimes got too much for it and it had to quickly stop rolling and catch its breath with a pounding running through its body that would have felt like a heart attack if it had a heart. In its prime when it was young and impetuous and the weather was aggressive and could stir it up, the ocean had been a beast. It had roared and attacked patches of land that weren’t yet built on like they were prey. It had zoomed up into the air to join hurricanes and it had sunk countless ships in its time. But the ocean couldn’t remember that. Its memory only stretched back as far as its weakness. You could argue and say that the ocean doesn’t have a prime so it shouldn’t have ever reached the end of it, but the ocean facing the city had and its end had been aided by the city. The arms and legs and bodies and boats entering it had worn it down as it wore down stones. But it was really the fish plant’s fault the ocean was so meek, so tired all the time, it was really the fish plant’s fault that its prime never came back. The sludge the plant pumped into the ocean from morning till night gave the water the consistency of honey and made sure that its roar was only ever a whimper. 

Every year the city had a holiday where all the residents would go to the coast and stand hand in hand and look out over the ocean. They called the holiday Oceanfuckday because they would look at the meek ocean and throw things, coins and such, in its thick consistency and calm body, unafraid of how it would react because they knew it was too afraid to react and then sing songs about anything at all and dance and when night fell everybody would strip, leaving their clothes in piles on the floor, unconcerned about losing their pile because anyone else’s clothes would do for them, and climb down onto the big coastal rocks that prevented them from ever having a beach and jump into the ocean where they would commence thrusting their hips periodically. Even the children thrust their hips. Pets families would bring with them would thrust their hips if they had hips to thrust. They did this because they loved the ocean that faced their city and because they wanted it to know how in control of it they were, to keep it weak. It was almost pagan in its old-aged wisdom. Every thrust man, woman, child, or pet, did to the ocean seemed to be a sacrifice to a greater god saying “You could gun us down at any second, wash us and our civilisation away, we know this, we recognise this, we accept this, but we won’t let you, we’re in control, we run the plant that keeps you down and we enter you and will continue to do so, so don’t get any crazy ideas buster.” Once the thrusting was done the town would climb out of the water and go to the city hall to eat a feast made entirely of fish taken from the plant. 

How did the ocean feel about Oceanfuckday? Well, it didn’t really have an opinion. Like an addict who’s taken their drug for so long they can’t feel the high anymore, the ocean was kept so weak by the fish plant and the thrusting pelvises and flaying arms and legs of Oceanfuckday that it didn’t even know how weak it was. It didn’t remember how big and raging its waves had once been so it didn’t recognise how infantile its waves were now. It didn’t remember how it had battered the city in its infancy before the fish plant, it didn’t remember when the residents had been humble fishers completely faithful to the ocean, worshipping and praying to it for kind weather, or when wives and husbands had been lost on boats used for business and leisure, sucked beneath its salty chasm and devoured by the aching maw of time. The ocean only remembered a time filled with weakness and fear and so thought that its weakness and fear was normal. 

For one hundred and forty-nine years Oceanfuckday had happened without fail on the 29th of April. Year after year everyone in the city would fuck the ocean. It was a tradition more sacred to the residents than Christmas. The annual giving of presents paled in comparison to the preparations leading up to Oceanfuckday. For months until the date, everyone in the fish plant worked overtime to have the number of fish needed to distribute to their clients and have ready for a feast big enough to satisfy everyone in the city while the ten percents independent businesses sold commemorative t-shirts, mugs, special haircuts, books on the history of the day, and fictive books on how lovers met on Oceanfuckday. It was everything to residents and not a single person didn’t take part. But on the one hundredth and fiftieth Oceanfuckday, an extra special Oceanfuckday, something new happened. 

What happened was that on the day before the one hundredth and fiftieth Oceanfuckday, the fish plant had to shut down. For nearly fifty years the plant had never stopped producing, had never not been pumping its sludge, and had never kept the residents of the city out of work for a day. But, the day before Oceanfuckday, a huge whalebone was levered in on the conveyor belt that brought fish into the plant for gutting, a huge whalebone from some extinct prehistoric type of whale, a huge whalebone that immediately caused chaos by destroying all the machines it passed as it was dragged up the conveyor belt and eventually by breaking the conveyor belt itself. The conveyor belt, a rubber black thing that smelt of seaweed and fish guts, ground to a half after the length of the whalebone got caught between two concrete pillars. The belt attempted to keep moving, to keep dragging the suffocating fish into the plant. It attempted with all the attemption it had hard-wired into its circuits to have. It pushed, trying to dislodge the whalebone from between the concrete pillars or trying to dislodge the whalebone from it. Neither came to any fruition and with a spark and a bang and a cloud of black smoke that smelt of burning, the conveyor belt stopped on its own accord for the first time ever. 

There was a pause from the workers who’d huddled on the floor in fear of being struck by the whalebone or zapped by the sparking broken machines. Then there was a collective scream. There was only one conveyor belt in the plant and it was what the whole production operation depended on. Without the conveyor belt, there was nothing. Nothing to be done, nothing to do, nothing to say. So, they screamed and ran around and hoped someone would appear and do something. Everyone appeared and did something. Gutters appeared and screamed, middle management appeared and screamed, the account-shipping-receiving team appeared and screamed. Finally, management appeared, took stock of the situation, both the broken conveyor belt and their screaming employees, and screamed.

A visitor to the town, someone who wasn’t in the know about the residents, their hopeful happiness, or their yearly tradition, might suspect they were screaming because of the loss of a day’s wages, or because the plant would be really behind on its orders if they couldn’t get the belt back up and running. The visitors would be wrong. The residents in the fish plant were screaming because the fish that the conveyor belt had been ferrying along had been the fish destined for the one hundred and fiftieth Oceanfuckday feast. 

The fish were all ruined, covered by the black smoke oozing off the machinery and conveyor belt. Someone dived forward to test, picking one of the fish off the belt and biting into its raw flesh. They spat out their mouthful and wailed harder because it tasted of black smoke and machinery and was not fit at all for the feast of Oceanfuckday. When everyone stopped screaming and the message that there just wouldn’t be enough fish for the feast was conveyed around, management sent everyone home and phoned a repairman to come in and fix the belt and a waste disposal crew to remove the ruined fish and the large prehistoric whalebone that had ruined everything. The repairman, who was a resident of the city and just as upset as everyone else about the ruination of the Oceanfuckday feast, went in that very day to fix the belt hoping the fish gutting and preparation could start again as soon as it was. But no matter how quickly he worked the repair still took too long and the belt just didn’t have the time to pull up enough fish to feed the whole city in time for Oceanfuckday.

That night after the news that there wouldn’t be enough fish for a feast on the one hundred and fiftieth Oceanfuckday had spread to every man, woman, and child in the city and every man, woman, and child in the city had wept a little, there was a call for everyone to gather in the city hall for an emergency meeting. The city didn’t have a mayor or a leader of any real kind, so what would happen is at the start of every city meeting there would be a mass vote to decide who should be the spokesperson. The spokesperson took the role of offering different solutions to the problem or problems that required an emergency city meeting for the rest of the public to then vote on. Because of this system, the public usually voted favourites and usuals into the position of spokesperson, mainly due to most of the residents being incompetent or unwilling to take on the responsibility. At the start of every meeting, the public would all use their phones to send the names of who they thought should take on the responsibility for the night into a selector app that then tallied up which name came up most often.

The night of the emergency meeting regarding the one hundred and fiftieth Oceanfuckday the resident whose name came up the most was a young woman called Joan, one of the ten percent who didn’t work in the fish plant. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that it hadn’t been a worker of the fish plant that had been selected as there was a general suspicion in the air that it had been one of their faults the feast had been ruined. Joan, who had been voted into having the role of spokesperson twice before and was known for her pragmatism, left her seat when her name appeared flashing on the giant screen at the back of the room. The problem the meeting had been called to discuss took the place on the flashing name on the screen as she stood in front of all the residents of the city and began with the speech every elected spokesperson had to begin with.

“Residents of our beautiful city, thank you for the honour and privilege of being your spokesperson for this meeting. I promise to not abuse, disgrace, or disparage this position. I promise to use the powers I hold for a limited time here tonight only for the good of my fellow residents and for the good of our shared city.

“Now we can all see the words behind me. We know what they say, what they mean, we knew before we arrived here tonight. We have a problem. It is a big problem. One we’ve never had to face before. The easy solution would just be to use a different food for the feast, of course, and that is the one I’m proposing first. Please, vote on this proposal.”

There was a universal vote that swept the hall at the idea of anything other than fish being consumed at the Oceanfuckday feast. It was a universal NO. Joan had suspected it would be a universal NO because it was the vote she would have cast if she’d been a resident and not the spokesperson that night. It had to be fish, specifically fish taken from the ocean, specifically fish taken from the ocean that bordered their city, otherwise it wouldn’t be Oceanfuckday. Joan held up her hands.

“The only other proposal I can offer here today is for this year’s Oceanfuckday to be postponed until we have the fish available. Say till next month.”

This proposal was an unheard of one, but it was one that brought back some of the inherent hope that ran through the town. One that gave the people something to look forward to again. After a proposal had been accepted in a meeting, the spokesperson would bring the meeting to an end by holding up both hands and relinquishing their power for the evening and bringing the residents together for a sing-along of the city song, ‘Our City, Oh City, What a City, I love this City.’ Once the song had been sung and the overtime for all the fish plant workers had been arranged so they definitely would have the resources for the feast the following month and the residents and Joan had left the hall and gone to their respective homes, their hearts light again now they knew there was another definitive date for Oceanfuckday to take place, there was a night of sleep for everyone. 

Everybody slept and the next day everybody did nothing. There was deep respectfulness for what that day should have been. Businesses and shops shut up, few people left the house and the ones that did, did so alone and in solemn silence. Out of the billions of words usually uttered in the city on any given day, there were only maybe two uttered that day and those were by a rare tourist who entered the city and began speaking before being quickly silenced by the heavy feeling of mourn permeating the air. The coastal wall by which the residents usually lined up and sang on the 29th of April before entering the ocean for some thrusting stood as empty as a baby’s laugh and the night on which the one hundred and fiftieth Oceanfuckday feast should have taken place, filled with toasts and giggles and gluttonous eating that spread fish over cheeks and mouths, was filled instead with quick, clean, guilty meals in homes and stubborn fasts by those in the city who refused to disrespect the sacredness of Oceanfuckday. 

Despite the respect being upheld for what should have been Oceanfuckday, no resident noticed the ocean itself was being unnaturally quiet. Its meek splashes usually gave off little watery noises that wet the ears of everyone from one side of the city to the next but on the day Oceanfuckday should have taken place there were no meek splashes coming from it, there was no sound at all. It drew its waves back as if recoiling from the city, hurt by Oceanfuckday not taking place. The ocean in fact was hurt. Hurt and surprised. It was used to the feeling of the city’s residents singing to it, entering it, thrusting, and going off to loudly feast on the same day every year. Even though the day made it weak and kept it afraid of the square windows of the buildings looking angrily down at it, it was so used to the feeling that it had grown to love it, long for it year after year. It drew its waves away from the city in the hope it could somehow separate itself from it, get away from the odd feeling of rejection, a feeling it had never felt before. It drew back as far as it could go, exposing more large rocks that residents could have frolicked on if they’d been in the mood to frolic, all covered in seaweed and damp patches. 

As the night went on and the time that would have been spent thrusting and then feasting on the fish they pulled from it was spent by the residents sleeping or lying in silence in their beds thinking about what they should have been doing lasted for longer, the ocean got stronger and pulled itself further and further back until it pulled itself further back than it could ever remember having been able to before. Kilometres and miles passed like seconds on a clock and the large rocks that the older residents could remember being pulled up vanished and, in their place, far away from where they’d hoped to find it, sand eventually appeared. White sand covered with hidden debris. Then, just before five in the morning on the day after what should have been Oceanfuckday, a day usually reserved for being a very good day, the kind of good day that had hope being spread on the toast of every resident’s soul like a sweet paste, when the sun was on the precipice of shining its light over the edge of the horizon and the ocean was as quiet as a duck sleeping in a tree and as far back from the city as it had been since the pre-historic years it couldn’t even remember, it realized that if it let go of itself, let itself crash back towards the city, there would be some splashes that wouldn’t be meek. Those splashes would be boxers and spitfire planes and roasted marshmallows on arrows being hurled towards innocent children’s faces, and they would destroy all they touched. Those splashes would make the angry square windows shit themselves violently and run away and the residents would regret making it miss feeling them violate it on a special day every year. 

The ocean, smiling coyly to itself, thought, ‘It’s quite a lot of energy keeping myself back here trying to escape feeling hurt. Maybe I’ll give it up a little, let myself crash.’

Then that’s what it did. It was so far back from the city that the buildings were just a speck in the distance at that point, a blemish on a masterpiece of a horizon. The ocean let itself go and it fell; the animals living inside it, all those fish that hadn’t been caught and all that sludge that had been making it so thick and gelatinous in the harbour, fell first, hitting the sand that had been covered and hidden for so long. The water stayed back at first, growling at what lay ahead, cautious of its power. The fish flopped and flipped on the sand and the sludge, sludge-like, trudged back towards the city like a slug covered in concrete, making no headway until the water threw away its cautiousness and abandoned itself. It flew forward, collecting all the little drops and froth and waves that could have been into itself and holding them there tightly, a mother’s hug smothering its beloved son. 

An hour later when the sun was up and the people in the city were waking up and looking out their windows towards the ocean as they always did, because why would they have looked towards something less beautiful for their first sight of the day? The first thing they saw was a ginormous tidal wave the length of the city approaching them. When I say the length of the city, I mean that as a humble remark on this tidal wave. You couldn’t see the end from one end to the other and the middle was as black and angry as a storm. It rose thirty-five metres in the air, froth perched on the curled top like a cheap toupee. The residents all did the same thing when they were confronted with the sight of their ocean acting in such a way. They stopped looking out their windows and carried on about their day as normal, telling themselves that what they were seeing was just being seen by them and couldn’t actually be seen by anyone else so why worry about it. The hope for life was so heavy in the city that seeing the wave was not enough for them to believe in it. It was only when the fish plant noticed that because there was no water around its newly fixed conveyor belt wasn’t pulling any fish up that people began to realise the tidal wave was as real as a piece of pie on a windowsill. 

There was a mass gathering on the coastal wall when this news was realised by the plant. The residents looked at their beloved docile ocean miles and miles away, rising ever higher, threatening and looking mean. The square windows on the city buildings became slightly less square and angry, more rhombusion and fearful as the residents’ mouths didn’t so much fall open but slowly come apart. Because the tidal wave didn’t look like their ocean who was their friend, it looked like a red-nosed man holding a rubber pipe with blood stains, irrationally angry and determined to show you how angry, the line of residents watching the tidal wave, almost simultaneously, began thrusting at the air and singing to try and get the tidal wave to fall down and be their friend again. But their thrusts and singing did nothing. The tidal wave didn’t fall back in on itself and as their voices rose into the air, swan diving like doves with swan aspirations, and their hips gyrated, pleading with the ocean with each thrust to be their friend, it grew faster because the ocean was enjoying the strength coursing through it. It had forgotten already wanting to show the square windows who was boss, forgotten wanting to make them afraid. It felt alive and hopeful like the residents always did. It was blissfully in love with life and the day and because it was so blissfully in love with life and the day, it was intoxicated. The little crashes it was making as the tidal wave swept forward were making noises like birds chirping and dolphins squeaking and now and then it let out an inarticulate howl, slurred from the zeal it felt. 

The residents stopped their fake Oceanfuckday when they heard the first howl and without a word all went to the city hall, filing in quicker than normal, but not exactly rushing. They walked quicker because they were a little afraid but felt they could afford not to be in any real rush because even in fear they had what hope gives you, a detached, curiously optimistic feeling that everything would be alright no matter what. This time Gideon, a high-level manager at the fish plant was voted as the spokesperson and when he went to the platform he rubbed his thinning hair with pride at being the city’s choice in a time of crisis. Gideon did his obligatory speech, and if you hadn’t known how Gideon usually spoke you would never have known that he was speaking a little faster than normal. Gideon also broke city meeting usuality. He decided on how to deal with the tidal wave without submitting it to the residents as a proposal. This wasn’t because of an overreach in power though, it was in fact due to him being a part of the collective. He was a resident. He knew in his heart the solution every other resident also knew they needed to undertake. He was one of them and they of him. He was simply the ball of wool being untangled for the kittens of the city to follow. 

“We hurt the ocean. It’s angry. We didn’t thrust in it yesterday and it’s reacting badly. We need someone, a resident with a pure heart and elocution of wonder to tell the tidal wave our problems with feast supply and convince the ocean to settle down and wait and not destroy our city and us, to tell it that Oceanfuckday is happening next month.”

The words, I AGREE, flashed behind Gideon and he walked off the stage without turning his head, joining the commotion that started up as everybody tried to stand up and be the resident with a pure heart and elocution of wonder. It was universal knowledge in the city that the first person to reach the flag at the back of the hall, the flag that had the crest of the city sewn on it, a crest depicting a pigeon with a vibrant green breast being cradled by a giant hand, was to be the resident doing whatever it was a resident needed to do in situations that required a resident to do something. Everyone wanted to be the chosen resident. To have that honour was to go down in city history. Only three times before had a resident stepped up, in times of great strife, great hunger, great illness, and all three residents’ names had been memorialised, with streets and squares dotting the city named after them, their names also carved into the wooden stage in city hall that the elected spokespeople stood on.

It required strength and instinct to be the chosen resident because the older residents, who stuck to the back of the hall for mobilities’ sake, were in key positions to reach the flag first. Luckily it was also that lack of mobility that hindered them as, by the time they got to their feet, even the spriteliest of them, and most were incredibly spritely, had been reached by other back row residents and this influx of people halted proceedings as everyone gently clambered on top of everyone else, their bodies creating a barrier that prevented anyone from reaching the flag quickly. The problem was that none of the residents really wanted to hurt or fight anyone else for the honour of being the chosen one. Love thy neighbour was almost a sacred vow to them, but it wouldn’t have caused more fight if they hadn’t loved their neighbours like slices of cooked and buttered bread because the hope that lived in them day after day gave them the belief that the person who reached the flag first was the one who was fated to be the chosen resident and, despite their personal desires, fighting harder than necessary would maybe throw off fate. So, they fought, but softly, with the conviction that the right person would reach the flag when the time was right.

The time was right five minutes after the words, I AGREE, had flashed on the screen, when a young woman with hair and eyes stepped on the shoulders of a ninety-year-old man with as much compassion as possible for his fragile frame to grasp the flag. The residents all backed down when they saw the flag had been touched and they cheered that the chosen resident had been found quickly. The woman was lifted and carried out of the city hall, as was customary in those situations. They carried her to the coastal wall where the tidal wave was drawing closer, getting close enough to fill the air with its spray and leave salt crystals in eyelids and eyebrows. 

Hands and low murmurs of support held the woman in the air while other residents hastily ran to hardware stores to gather supplies to build a stage for her to stand on and talk to the tidal wave. The stage was shoddy but completed swiftly and they put the woman on it before moving back, going to stand in the square windowed buildings that lined the coastal wall to watch the exchange, leaving the woman alone. 

The woman smiled and waved at the tidal wave, a silver ring on her left middle finger flashing in the midday sun. She was young, barely twenty-four, and worked as a fish gutter in the plant having only just joined from working in her mother’s bookshop before that. Her name was Tiff and all the other residents knew her as the person who danced a lot. Throughout the streets on weekday mornings she would be seen, previously towards the bookshop, but more recently towards the fish plant, dancing instead of simply walking, humming songs to beat her steps on the floor to. Everyone in the city liked to see her dance, she was happy and that made them happy which in turn made her happier and so on.

The tidal wave saw Tiff’s wave and waved back, parts of its crest forming fingers and dotting from side to side. Its wave wasn’t unfriendly, and that gave Tiff, and the rest of the residents, even more confidence. Tiff danced a little at the tidal wave to get things really started, her thick rubber work boots that had bits of fish guts caught between the grooves made hollow booms on the shoddy stage. 

“Hey there, Ocean, or would you prefer to be called Tidal wave at the moment?”

A dip, a hundred metres wide, appeared in the tidal wave in the shape of a mouth, with bits of rock and turtle shells with turtles still in them acting as teeth and a great red sea of jellyfish acting as a tongue. 

“I would prefer Tidal wave actually at the moment, thank you for asking. You are?”

The Tidal wave’s voice was the sound of rocks falling into the ocean and creating a big splash, the sound of whales singing and fish mating. It blew a sea breeze towards the city which rattled windows in their frames and blew Tiff’s hair around her face.

“I’m Tiff. I live in the city you’re currently hurtling towards, you see it?”

“I see it. I’ve seen it for a very long time.”

“Then you must be fond of it, its structures, residents like me. Fond enough to settle down when you realise that if you keep hurtling towards it, you will probably destroy it, certainly you’ll kill all of us living in it.”

“I think a few of you will survive. Especially if you flee now.”

Tiff smiled wider and did the shim-me-sha-wabble.

“We won’t flee, We have hope that you’ll stop being a tidal wave and be our usual Ocean again if I just speak to you a little. It’s like a Mexican standoff except our guns are hope and certainty and yours are nuclear bombs destined to be disarmed.”

The Tidal wave laughed.

“That seems irrational.”

Tiff shrugged and laughed with it and because she laughed, she got happier and shim-me-sha-wabbled a little harder. The Tidal wave watched her dance, its jellyfish tongue wagging approvingly.

“I like how you move. It might be irrational, but I’m glad you’re the one speaking to me.”

“I’d say I like the way you move, but it’s potentially quite destructive.”

They both laughed a little more and the Tidal wave grew a little bigger and moved a little faster.

“I haven’t moved like this in I don’t know how long. I’ve felt so weak. It feels nice to move. For as long as I can remember all I’ve been able to do is be weak and scared of those square angry windows in your city, barely moving at all. I didn’t like life very much when I was weak and scared and barely moving, but now my life is about moving I’m discovering life is to my liking.”

“Moving is wonderful. That’s why I dance so much. You feel good when you move, your feet hit the ground and vibrations go up your spine and sometimes your legs ache, but that’s just part of the fun of it.”

“You get it. I feel so strong. Nothing in me aches. Maybe I’ll never stop moving. Maybe I’ll just keep going.”

Tiff leaned on the edge of her wooden platform and rested her chin in her hands. 

“But what about us in the city? We aren’t going anywhere and you don’t really want to kill us, do you? Stop us from moving and living? We like moving and living too.”

“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it. But now I am I have to say I don’t think I’d mind. You’re all awfully small. I could kill thousands of you and not even notice I’d done it.”

“But you will have done it. I won’t ever be able to dance again if you kill me and you won’t ever get to see me move again.”

“That will be sad. Now I know moving is to my liking I wouldn’t want to take it away from anything.”


“You never know though, you have your hope, just transfer it. Maybe you won’t die and not be able to move when I hit the city. Maybe you’ll keep living, deep inside me and still be able to dance. Look at the animals living in me now. Swimming is a bit like dancing.”

“They can all breathe underwater. Humans can’t breathe underwater.”

The Tidal wave smiled, his mouth curving to the top of its crest.

“That’s where your hope comes in. Believe you’ll be okay. Have the same certainty you’ll be okay inside me you have for being able to convince me to be the Ocean again.”

Tiff slapped her forehead.

“I just realised that I haven’t apologised to you yet, Tidal wave.” 

“Apologised for what?”

“I assume you noticed Oceanfuckday didn’t go ahead this yesterday?” 

“I noticed. It hurt me. Every year I’d feel you thrust inside me, but this year there was nothing. I was hurt.”

“It was the fish plant’s fault. It broke and ruined the fish for the feast we have in honour of you. We postponed it till next month. Just until we had the fish. But we didn’t cancel it completely or forget, don’t think that. There will be something.”

“That makes sense. You’d never forgotten before. That’s why I was hurt. I’d never been forgotten before. I feel better about the whole situation now anyway. It kept me weak and unable to move.”

“Weak? How can making love to you and then feasting as a sign of respect make you weak?”

The Tidal wave grew an eye made from a clamshell and looked pointedly at Tiff.

“That’s not completely true, is it? Like many things I didn’t know when I was weak, I now know you were keeping me weak so I couldn’t splash your city with any kind of power, even though I’m playful and I like to splash with power.” 

“We didn’t know you were playful and liked to splash with power.”

“Me splashing playfully and with power is how I dance and I couldn’t do it before. How would you feel if someone stopped you being able to dance?”

“I’d feel very sad and angry. I admit it. I’d be furious.”

“And you want me to stop hurtling?”

Tiff’s hope took a little nosedive at this. It wasn’t a large nosedive, just a little one, barely ten feet down, and it quickly rightened itself. Tiff began dancing again, flossing to make sure it didn’t nosedive again. The Tidal wave had powerful sight. It saw her hope take a little nosedive, and it saw her continue to dance to quickly righten it as she nodded, “Yes,” with a smile. The Tidal wave chuckled.

“You’re an interesting creature. So hopeful and full of moves. You seem bigger than an insect.”

Tiff was so pleased with the Tidal wave’s words that she got distracted and stopped dancing.

“How big do I seem?”

“About the size of a barn.”

“That’s bigger than an insect.”

“It is. I remember now I’m not so weak washing over them before your city was there. They’re memorable to wash over.”

“It won’t be so easy for you to keep hurtling then, will it?”

The Tidal wave looked at the city and the back at Tiff standing motionless in front of it.

“Can you dance a little more for me? You’re only as big as a barn when you move.”

Tiff bowed, more than happy to comply, and tap danced, her feet making cuckoo clock chimes on the planks of wood beneath her feet. The Tidal wave swayed to the music of the chimes and looked at the residents watching with smugly hopeful eyebrows from the windows that had scared him. The Tidal wave mused happily as Tiff serenaded it with her feet. 

“It will be just as easy to keep hurtling because I think I hate those people watching us talk. They pumped awful stuff into me that tastes like fish but isn’t and it’s that awful stuff that really stopped me moving.”

“Do you hate me? I work at the plant but you like my dancing, my movements. I can’t move when I’m dead and I’ll certainly be dead if you keep finding it easy to hurtle.” 

“I don’t think I hate you, no. You aren’t one of them, look at you, dancing away, so full of hope, so full of beauty and love of life. As big as a big barn. At least if you die I’ll remember your dancing.”

Tiff raised her chin, pointed at her face, and then pointed at the residents watching them. Her tapping rhythm didn’t falter as the residents pointed back and then pointed at their faces. Quivering fingers highlighting their matching laughter lines that were in such abundance their faces looked like pieces of paper that had been scrunched up and then flattened back out.

“I am one of them, and I’d prefer for just me to die and never dance again than for them to all die. They’re my friends, my family.”

The Tidal wave sighed. Seaweed gathered at the top of its crest and then dripped down past its makeshift eyes, resembling long strands of oddly coloured tears. 

“You’re a beautiful person, Tiff. Really, truly beautiful. Inside and out, not to flirt.”

“You’re beautiful too, Tidal wave. I thought so when you were the ocean and filled with that horrible stuff from the plant and almost gelatinous. That’s why I took part in Oceanfuckday. Not to keep you weak or show I was in charge, but because you were beautiful.”

Tiff’s feet started slowing down, her legs aching from her furious tapping. 

“Please don’t stop dancing, Tiff. I don’t you’ll be able to stop me hurtling by talking, I really don’t, but maybe you can dance me out of it. You’re so beautiful when you move that you just might do it.”

Tiff began doing the worm and the approaching Tidal wave smiled so widely that it put the Aura Borealis to shame in terms of exquisiteness.

“You have a wonderful smile, you know,” Tiff told it, rising from her worm and dancing the salsa rueda with her hips in one movement. 

“Thank you. Tiff, you’re so beautiful, so sweet. I think I love you. I’ve never loved before, but I think I love you. I’ve never seen a human so large and full of life. So full of movement.”

Tiff felt something stir in her heart and did a jump and spin, feeling the cold air coming off the Tidal wave caress her face like a giant’s hand, she stammered.

“I don’t know what to say. I feel something for you. I don’t know what it is.”

“It could be love?”

“It probably is. That’s what I will say. I feel it in my heart so it probably is. But that must mean I’m a terrible person. How can I love something that’s going to kill all the people I also love who are hoping so strongly that they’re certain I’ll save them?”

“You aren’t a terrible person. We’re just a wave and woman who fell in love through a mutual appreciation of life and movement. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“There is if you kill us all.”

“I won’t kill you now. That would defeat the purpose of loving you entirely.”

“But the rest of them?”

“I’m sorry. You could never have really danced me out of it. I won’t stop hurtling and though it isn’t certain, they’ll probably die. They might not, there’s always that hope, but I won’t make an effort to save them like I will with you. It’s a shame, but we’ll have our love and you’ll get over it when you live in me and never stop moving.”

“What if I die inside you despite your love? Then you’ll always have my corpse inside you, and that will always be still.”

“Tiff, you say this and it doesn’t sound hopeful. I hope saying this doesn’t mean you’re losing your hope. Your moves won’t be the same if you don’t have hope. I don’t think I love the Tiff who moves without hope.”

Tiff, overcome with abandon as the love she felt for the Tidal wave and the love and fear she felt for her fellow residents rushed through her and collided in her heart, fighting it out while her lungs watched like idle spectators, stopped dancing with any kind of style. She flung herself around haphazardly, following the whims of whatever part of her body wanted to move at any point. The Tidal wave watched her move. It liked how she moved. Its love for her grew tenfold, and she became even larger than a barn to him, more like a sky scrapper actually scraping the sky, and felt such affection that the things it could see she loved also became things it cared for so the residents watching their interaction from the previously angry square windows grew, were promoted from insects to barns and the hate it had realised it felt for them turned into a spring of bubbles that got devoured by a sea creature.

“Oh, Tiff. Oh, my lovely Tiff. I wouldn’t have even considered letting the others survive with you, not after all they’ve done to me, not with that hate I was realising I felt. But looking at you, moving for the simple joy of moving, with such abandon, for no reason other than the compulsion of love for me and them has left me in shame. I shouldn’t let my movements ever be ruled by hate. That’s not loving life and movements. Looking at you, so hopeful and young and beautiful, I swear on our love that my hate’s gone. There’s no room for it with all the love I feel for you.”

Tiff laughed and threw her arms out to the Tidal wave, wanting to throw it a million kisses. The Tidal wave saw her intention and nodded to signal it would have accepted the million kisses like they were a million perfectly fried eggs if she could have thrown them and formed two hands to hold out to Tiff in a pleading way.

“I can’t stop being a Tidal wave. I’m sorry. If I could, I would, but I can’t. I love to move and I need to hurtle. All I can do is promise to extend the same courtesy to them as to you. I will make the effort. An effort will be made and they will live in me, move with us.”

Tiff thought about this and wasn’t dismayed or worried. Her hope lived in the pit of her belly like a pearl in a clam and couldn’t be shattered. She trusted the Tidal wave because she loved it and because she trusted it she knew she and the residents would be safe. Without stopping dancing, she turned to the buildings and watched the eyes watching her, surrounded by an aura of faith that everything would work out. Aiding the aura, she gave a thumbs up. The residents cheered, and all poured out of their buildings and lined the coastal wall. Confused that there was still a Tidal wave, but trusting Tiff’s thumb up, they got as close to the ocean as possible and mimicked her dancing. There was no way for Tiff to tell them all about what she’d discussed with the Tidal wave, no time either to explain it properly with the Tidal wave being as close as it was, so instead she turned back to the Tidal wave. 

“I have hope. I trust you.”

The Tidal wave rose up and down as if it was pop-and-locking, the effort of upholding the belief that Tiff and the residents would all be okay inside it making it move in ways other than splashes and waves. The residents, who had begun dancing just to copy Tiff, thinking it was part of the solution, saw part of the answer they were expecting from the dances happening in front of them and their bodies moved in ways of their own. The hope that everything would be alright making their bones feel lighter as music filled all their ears, influencing how they danced.

“I like how all of you move!” The Tidal wave thundered at them and received a hearty cheer from the residents.

Tiff hopped off her platform and onto the coastal wall to be as close to the Tidal wave as she could as it made its final approach to the city. She did a spin and looked at the thousands of faces dancing with her, feeling a profound love for them and their ability to believe without knowing what they were believing in, looking as well at the smiling Tidal wave and feeling profound gratitude alongside love for it forgiving her brothers and sisters, Tiff was grateful for many things in life as it hit.

As it hit, its smiling face vanished and the Tidal wave destroyed the city buildings with their windows that had made it afraid before and ripped down houses and flats and shops. It ripped down the fish plant with particular venom and ripped down nature and things built outside of nature and as it destroyed, debris got washed up into it and collected there like internal organs. As it moved further up the city, more and more debris got collected until the wave looked like it was mid-X-ray and it had swallowed the entire destroyed city whole, with bits of metal and plastic floating within the depths of it. Then it moved even past the city, its force pulling it further on, dragging it over the countryside, uprooting trees and farmhouses and actual barns, before stopping at the border of another city fifty miles away from the original. There it began receding. A godly force pulled its mass back towards the coast it had spilt from, leaving all the unwanted debris that had been floating in it behind splayed across the land. Bits of furniture and cars and trees were tossed like drowned kittens in places they hadn’t been picked up from, but once the Tidal wave had receded back to the original city, all the debris it had collected from there was left in roughly the same place it had been found; the rubble from houses and shops were they left where they stood and even bits of tree and grass that had been uprooted found themselves left back where they had rooted themselves when they grew. All that wasn’t put back in place was the fish plant and the residents. The places they had stood were left empty with not a speck of hair or hide of the plant or them to be seen after the Tidal wave retreated to how it was before becoming a tidal wave and became again the ocean, lying as still as an ocean that was no longer meek could lie still, its waves crashing against the coastal wall, sometimes gently, sometimes roughly.

William Hayward was born in Birmingham, England. He has been writing for several years, mainly in short fiction. He’s previously been published in Ruminate Magazine, Litro Magazine, Something Involving a Mailbox!, and Terrain.org.