There is a man, whose head may only resemble a hydra.
At the bridge of his nose, a hinge has formed, and split his skull.
A multitude of fish emerge out of the cavity.
Every time one is caught, another two bob at the surface.
Divine Manifestations (New)
Each mouth has a desire to speak. When one is caught, and two new fish come to the surface, they get their first gulp of air. The desire arises. They open their mouths as wide as they can, and like Cassandra in the Trojan palace, they begin to shout. At first incoherently, but then clearly.
“OTOTOTOI POPOI DA” . . . “Alas! Alas!” . . . “We don’t like a lot of new friends” . . . “I’ve seen footage” . . . “that young man has set the goat across his shoulders and begun to walk uphill towards home” . . . “cattle graze” . . . “Hermes has returned and killed the one hundred-eyed man” . . . “do you remember what he could see?” . . . “Argos, with one hundred eyes” . . . “Speak to me o muses” . . . “has the young man come home yet?” . . . “He looked so immaterial in the distance, as all things do” . . . “a great blue canvas” . . . “bright and stark” . . . “chartreuse in a new hue” . . . “a tall and thunderous man strikes the sky” . . . “I do not know him” . . . “I know only certain useless men” . . . “I’ve only slept with sword guys” . . . “guys who collect swords” . . . “ares” . . . “apollo” . . . “one of them said to me” . . . “coffee is bad for your bones” . . . “it wears down the shaft and your joints begin to work harder” . . . “sword guys, and the man with the slumped foot, who approaches from over the hill” . . . “the goat is laid down and cut open” . . . “I’ve begun to question the ethics behind my actions. Not now, but otherwise.”
Such actions become exhausting overtime. It is easy to speak in short bursts, but when done so soon after conception, the mouth becomes detrimental to its own existence. Energy is transferred from the fins and the heart. It’s rushed into the jaw and the larynx. As it shouts, the fish begins to sink. It lands at the base of the skull and two new fish begin to bob at the surface amongst the rest. A morbid cycle begins to take shape. As one fish has begun to say too much, and as it approaches the point of its ramblings, it sinks and two new speakers must take on the same futile task.
“OTOTOTOI POPOI DA” . . . “Alas! Alas!” . . . “Hydra speaking and clearing its throat” . . . “I am ready to begin” . . . “Hurry up, please, it is time to speak” . . . “blood must be pulled into the brain, so that it may pulse” . . . “fast and bulbous” . . . “It is a bad idea to buy real estate on Mars. The government still has time to take it away from you” . . . “A sword guy is a guy who collects swords” . . . “He’ll use them against you when he’s angry” . . . “coffee and sword guys are bad for your bones” . . . “a sword hits the tibia and it shatters into pieces” . . . “one bone become thirty-six” . . . “it’s a bad thing to have too many bones” . . . “you’ll become too mobile” . . . “you won’t have enough blood to move all of your new joints the right way” . . . “more appliances require more outlets” . . . “an aphorism requires something to undermine it” . . . “Hurry up, please, it’s time to go” . . . “after the goat is cut open, it is stripped of its organs” . . . “a good goat doesn’t need organs, it can dance and be merry without them” . . . “it is easier to move when you have less weight to carry in your torso” . . . “an organless goat won’t need as much blood.”
Eventually, it is a concern that so many fish have spoken, become exhausted, and sunk to the bottom, that a pile has begun to form at the base of the skull. It forms, then grows, and the living hydra heads become crowded and anxious. New causes of death arise. They begin to speak more. In some future, distant or onset, the pile becomes too tall, and the newly bobbing fish are unable to stay. They must leap out of the cavity and find a different soapbox to preach from. Prophecies become scattered and unfulfilling.
I remember a young man, different from the young man carrying his goat uphill, who had sailed to an isolated island, with buckets of paint. The island was empty except for a cow and its shepherd. The young man snuck into the field and when the shepherd wasn’t looking his way, he blinded the poor man with bright blue paint. He murdered the shepherd and stole the cow. As a sign of his victory, he dragged the slain and painted man across the field, creating bright streaks of color, which saturated the land, permanently dying the soil blue.
As he sailed home, something was missing—not the cattle or the paint. He found himself fragmented, born out of only one mouth among many. The collective prophetic sounds had been scattered and torn. Each piece became meaningless and confused on its own, reliant on the existence of others whom it knew nothing about.
Act of Resistance
The figure reaches up into the cavity and takes hold of a small red fish, with a tall mane. It places the head in its mouth and bites down. Wailing and a dripping blood. The chin changes in color and turns every which way. It is not hard to ask where these things come from, or how they manifest. A red body and a tall mane fall onto the floor, atop a pile of different color bodies and different length manes. Two more fish rise out of the cavity, and bob at the surface.
It is important to remember that they are only fish,
imbued with the powers of speech and prophecy.
As human as they may seem,
there is no way to tell if they are the speakers or the microphones.
Or if they can feel the pain of the teeth as their heads are bitten off
or as they drown in the cavity.
Divine Manifestations (Old)
One might become worried about the rest of the body. If the skull has split and come unhinged, then what has happened to the rest of him? What’s happened below the shoulders? For the most part, nothing. His suit is clean; his feet and hands are warm.
This is not the first time he has been the product of a divine manifestation. In past weeks, he has woken up with stigmata punctured through his hands; grown a third eye; spoken in tongues; seen cherubs flying over his head; grown angelic wings, shed them, regrown demonic wings; seen biblical figures standing on his shoulders; lost all of his hair; grown horns; spoken to Zeus in the clouds; had sex with sword guys; and now, lost the top half of his head to a hydra of fish. For the most part, these manifestations disappear after a day or so, but there is always a paranoia they may never go away.
He, as a body might, has had fears of what these manifestations might lead to. He might find himself living out prophecies one day, instead of espousing them. He has already had sex with sword guys, as the fish have suggested, although that one may just be a memory retold. As a precaution, there is no more coffee in the house. He has considered trying to get rid of the fish, throwing them out of his skull or trying to feel around for the missing top half. But, as hydra do, any progress is counteracted twofold.
For this reason, he has given up resisting. The fish do as they like, or as they themselves are prophesied to do. Violent shouts still spill out of his head, and when the divine manifestation compels him to consume the fish, like Cronos did his children, the body consumes them.
“OTOTOTOI POPOI DA” . . . “Alas! Alas!” . . . “There is no reason to stop” . . . “new animals have begun to conceive themselves” . . . “a union of turkeys circles the central corpse” . . . “have you read the wittgenstein” . . . “none of us have” . . . “none of us will” . . . “speak through me o muses” . . . “gift me my meal” . . . “the mound grows taller and taller beneath us” . . . “these animals arise” . . . “they are humanoid and tall, with fat torsos and strangely arranged limbs” . . . “I’ve seen arms coming out of their hips, and legs out of their necks” . . . “Hecatoncheires arrives” . . . “he wanders around the waiting room” . . . “scimitars and rapiers are hung on the walls as display” . . . “watch out before you lose all your bones” . . . “you’ll be filled with dust” . . . “it is bad to be filled with dust, because you won’t have enough blood to hold the dust together” . . . “and if that’s the case, you’ll float away.”
There may be people in worse cases than this. White noise can be pleasant, and when you hear something as much as and as often as these fish, that is what they become. Argos and Hecatoncheires may be early examples of these kinds of manifestations. It’s hard to picture a man born with that many eyes, or hands. The body is hopeful, though, that this fish ordeal will only last a couple of days, like the others have. There is no reason for the young man to kill him, or for Hermes to kill him, if he is only this way for a couple of days.
Fish Prophecy Condensed
“OTOTOTOI POPOI DA” . . . “Alas! Alas!” . . . “Jean Cocteau has told us it is time to speak” . . . “the key to speech is the tongue” . . . “only some fish may speak as properly as the manifestations demand” . . . “Jean Cocteau has done such a lovely job drawing all of the creatures” . . . “but he has forgotten to materialize them” . . . “they are a young man in the distance” . . . “they are immaterial” . . . “it would be easy for an angry man to take one of those swords off of the wall and start swinging it around” . . . “Everything will begin to coagulate” . . . “fish tails will fly out of the stigmata in your palms” . . . “they will grow wings and hover over your head” . . . “like fat little angels” . . . “there are reasonable fish and unreasonable fish.”
“OTOTOTOI POPOI DA” . . . “Alas! Alas!” . . . “the corpse pile continues to grow” . . . “there is a smell which I cannot place” . . . “Where is Cassandra?” . . . “Where is Anne?” . . . “who is making all of these noises?” . . . “I’m worried I’ve lost my sense of place” . . . “when the goat begins to dance on the sacrificial table, I will know where we are” . . . “or if the man tries to walk with his slumped foot” . . . “or if his bones are too thin” . . . “have I lost my place?” . . . “it is hard to return to a topic which I have not already visited” . . . “have you read the float?” . . . “I cannot remember where we are supposed to be” . . . “Jean Cocteau has told me it is time to speak” . . . “I remember this” . . . “have the barbarians arrived yet?” . . . “Hurry up, please” . . . “when the pile grows too tall, everyone will have to leave.”
“OTOTOTOI POPOI DA” . . . “Alas! Alas!” . . . “all of it has to amount to something” . . . “have you seen the mound of bodies on the ground?” . . . “far below” . . . “the body does not want to contain itself” . . . “there is a difficulty in understanding what one is comprised of” . . . “or what all of those pieces might mean” . . . “which multitudes are more important than others?” . . . “which ones are bad for your bones?” . . . “which ones use the most blood?” . . . “it is important, when the end comes, that you keep a reservoir of blood in your body, so that you may have the room to lose some” . . . “stop drinking coffee.”
It may not have been in the best interest of anyone
to bite off the heads of these fish.
The Hydra Dilemma
If the fish are not just a phase, lasting only a couple of days, then eventually the body will have to learn to live with these creatures. He will have to stop sitting around all day, and have to accept that his skull is now a shared space—eventually too much of one.
He has had nightmares of the hydra, when it grows too large and complex, and when his head is endlessly overflowing with fish, flooding the entire house. Once a cup becomes too full for one drop of water, it becomes too full for every other drop of water. Fish will consume his entire existence, occupying the capacity of every physical space. In this moment, there will be a changing of the guards. One white noise, that of endless speech, will be replaced with another white noise, that of endless movement.
The body thinks again, back to Argos and Hecatoncheires. Their manifestations were limited. Each only had one hundred symbols of the divine, eyes and hands respectively. If this is not temporary, and if it is limitless, then his case may be one that is especially sinister. He cannot place what comes of having too many fish, or too many signs of holiness, but there is the possibility it will only lead to further complications.
In this way, the body has become suspicious of the gods, and what their motives might be. If he is to endlessly house a company of speaking fish, or to overflow the entire world with sea life, then what use is there in participating? The body cannot think of an outcome. He can only see the hallucinatory nightmares of the hydra.
Mike Corrao is the author of Man, Oh Man (Orson's Publishing, 2018) and Gut Text (11:11 Press, 2019). His work has been featured in publications such as Entropy, Always Crashing, and The Portland Review. He lives in Minneapolis where he earned his B.A. in film and English literature at the University of Minnesota. Learn more at www.mikecorrao.com