Endless Blue – Week 36.6 – Indigo: The Spreading Black Water   3 comments

Ecology

Indigo: The Spreading Black Water

There are many dangers to life in the Endless Blue.  There are the hazards to life from roaming predatory creatures the size of buildings, and the risks of a neighbor deciding to finally take what he covets.  Organizations pose a menace in their quests for power, and tiny blooms of toxic algae make simply breathing a peril.  But of all these threats, nothing comes close to the encroaching tide of black water.

To the average piscean, black water is simply a ghost story, a deliciously frightening tale used to cajole rebellious children and entertain jaded adults.  It could only be the realm of fantasy, a darkly humorous, absurdist notion of water that is not water, the antithesis of that life-giving liquid, dark and murky, thick and tacky.  It dredges up primal fears of corruption, suppuration, insane terror of suffocation with lungs full of dense oil.  It is the Cerulean Age, a time of clarity in water as well as in thought, and the idea of black water is as ludicrous as filling gills with air.

Though nothing travels faster through water than gossip, word of the black water has traveled as slowly as the substance itself.  The brunt so far has been to the Kouton, whose inherent secretive culture is a main suspect to the lack of attention.  Further clouding the issue is the race’s status as one of the primitive species, a label given by the self-entitled “intelligent societies” to place the dwellers of the Hinterseas at a lower class level.  Such prejudice colors the judgment of the homeseas of the Periphery into a dismissive view of the going-ons outside their collective borders.  This has kept word of the slowly spreading invasion of black water to a minimum, and when discussed, spoken of in a detached matter as a “foreign concern” with no bearing on piscean society.

Descriptions of this new kind of red tide are inconsistent.  Some retell that the black water manifests first in wisps, hazy darkening of the surrounding waters that slowly condense into a miasma.  Others relate an utter black, as if absorbing all color and vision from reality, scattering shapeless pockets of darkness where light should illuminate.  Still others describe spreading blobs of oozing darkness, a tarry, thick molasses flowing slowly forward regardless of tide or current, as if on some predetermined course that will flick this way and that like an undulating, gooey ebony eel.  Directed, determined, even deliberate in its billowing expansion.

Incursion of the Indigo into inhabited water have apparently been appearing mostly in the most remote reaches of the Hinterseas, along the western borders of the Kuoton Bay. With not even a single uncorroborated sighting in the far east, the source of the Indigo is most likely somewhere on the far side of the Spine of the World, in a mysterious and little investigated area known as the Pummeled Plains.  This area of the planet has the greatest concentration of islets, interspersed among an abnormally large amount of deep, vertical basins.  It was formed in the early Black by the heavy comet bombardment that deposited most of the planet’s abundant waters.  Just as that pristine ice melted and flowed over the rocky terrain to form the oceans, Indigo is spreading across Elqua, but by its own power, not pulled down the slopes by gravity or carried along on the currents.  To this day, meteoric impacts still hammer the area in a higher percentage than the rest of the waterworld.

Black water is as lethal the red tide, but the comparison ends there.  This black water does not kill the unsuspecting by chemical toxicity, but instead slowly engulfs it within it viscous, tacky tendrils.  Those that claim to have seen the Indigo and survived say the mucilaginous mass stalked like a predator, lashing out with syrupy tendrils that looped around its victim, entrapping them in their sticky ropes.  As the victim struggles to free themselves from the terrifying morass, the tarry substance clings to their skin and scales, pasting their fins and flukes against their writhing bodies and hampering their futile movement.  Soon unable to escape, to even move, the horrific muck not so much draws the victim into it as swell outward to swallow it whole…

However, no quantifiable evidence of its existence has ever been found, and with the tale’s veracity coming from “a friend of a friend”, most discount it as so much over-hyped superstitious nonsense.  No trace ever remains to attest to the passing of Indigo.  There are no corpses of the unfortunate left behind, no traces of goop-stained seaweed nor clotted sand, and the swells of black water never seem to have lingered when witnesses return to the site to validate their stories.  Noting is left behind to even suggest anything happened except a lack of any sign of biological life, not animal nor plant.  How can such a teeming sludge that taints everything it touches to the point inundation disappear again so quickly, so completely?  The mere concept is impossible, and it is no wonder that the plight befalling the Bay of Kouton is not taken with more ecological seriousness.

The encroachment of black water is not limited to the Shoals and Shelf of the Fluid Nations; the denizens of the Undertow know full well of the existence of Indigo and have been harassed by its mucous thickness for longer than the waters above.  Their battle with the encroaching blackness is not faring well, with more and more of the limited labyrinthine cavern system that serves as their geological cage is filled, stalactite to stalagmite, with mire and muck.  Their battle with the black water continues to this day, usually resulting in the loss of vital cavern space and the need to collapse yet another branch of limited space in order to stem the spread of the malaise.

Sooner or later, the races of the Known world will have to accept the truth of the Indigo or find themselves a forgotten memory like the Icht.  Assuming that anything can be done to prevent that destiny…

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