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Whale Fall

“A whale fall occurs when the carcass of a whale has fallen onto the ocean floor at a depth greater than 1,000 m (3,300 ft), in the bathyal or abyssal zones. On the seafloor, these carcasses can create complex localized ecosystems that supply sustenance to deep-sea organisms for decades.”



Fog dimmed the window glass, with snowflakes growing on the edges. Everything was white, emotionless, the smell of disinfectant fluid filled my nose. A sudden feeling of pain and numbness pierced my leg. I realized that I had been sitting here for 7 hours.


During this time, hundreds and thousands of footsteps crossed my sight, they were all in a hurry. An old woman was crying and screaming, her tears were all over her face even though that pair of eyes were already too sick to fully grasp the surroundings. A young woman in her 30’s was bending on her knees. She was begging for help with her baby sleeping in her arms.

I have seen this kind of situation more than 5 times in only 7 hours. I know nobody can make the situation better, especially when she is laying down unconsciousness in the ICU.


The red light was shut off at 11:30 January 25th, 2020. It was the Chinese New Year, on the screen of the ECG monitor, my mom’s heartbeats gradually became a straight line.




“Are there still too many works that need to be done before your final exam?” my mom asked me through the screen as we Facetimed.


“I guess so…” this is the reason I always avoided talking to my mom after I study abroad in the United States. The family reunion became a luxurious thing for me and my mom. I was too afraid to see her expression when she felt disappointed.


“Well,” my mom dragged the face mask respirator to her chin, “This is going to be the sixth spring festival we do not celebrate together.”


I noticed blood streaks thickly dotted in her eyes. I’m very confident that she hasn’t slept well for a long time. I know this for sure because her tiredness is clearly shown on her face. Even when I was in China, my mom and I hardly celebrated festivals together. Since I was born, she only shuttled back and forth between the hospital and our home. She often did not respond to my dad’s phone calls, even when there was an emergency. Once I accidentally hit my head when I was 6, blood spilled all over the ground. I guess I understood why my dad left her. After her absence that day, and on every important date of our family. My dad’s tolerance had finally come to an end.


Horrible things continue to happen to me. I never get any first aid from my mom. I hardly receive meticulous care from her. She was always absent from my growth during those teenage years. On that day, she ran to me and hugged me, she explained that she was performing a surgery and apologized to me over and over again. I would often pretend to fall asleep. I saw her crying and staring at the family photo which is still hanging on the dining room wall. My mom, my dad and I were laughing so much on that day, sunshine was soft, and the summer ocean breeze tasted sweet and salty. I secretly promised myself, I would never be a doctor like my mom, never.


“It might be a good thing that you don’t come back this time.” My mom sighed and pulled back her respirator on her face.

“Why? Is this time similar with the SARS?” My mom was a front-line doctor in 2003 when the SARS CoV virus spread all over China. Now a newly identified virus originated from my hometown Wuhan, causing 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease, which is gradually taking people’s life, as through Satan dragged them to hell.

“I guess this time can only be worse, I need to go back to work right now. Make sure you study, the people need you, mom needs you as well.”


When the screen went dark I could see my reflection. The only thing I saw through my eyes was perplexed. My hand was still holding the pen, the document of “major transfer application” lay in front of me waiting for my signature. After I sign this, I’ll never get involved with any medical school courses, but when I saw the light of hope sparkling in my mom’s eyes, I hesitated.


“Mom! Mom!”


I never knew the distance between people could be close and far at the same time. I knocked on the glass window with my maximum strength. One knock after another, until I felt the pain, like a bone was broken inside of my skin. I saw the wrinkles on my mom’s face deep like a dry riverbed. I touched those edges on the glass window, tried to smooth those traces of years on her face; Her hair turned white, how can such a strong women suddenly becomes so weak? How could the virus consume my mom’s spirit so quickly? Cheekbones towered over her face, dark circles under her eyes are the mark of Satan, showing me what my mom has gone through to fight against it, but finally being defeated.


“It’s okay.”

“I know you only want an ordinary mother, but I have become a so-called ‘hero’.”

“I need to apologize to you and your dad, I’m sorry, I’m not a good mother and a good wife.”

“But I couldn’t stop, when I saw the innocent eyes on an ill baby, I thought of you. I can’t imagine how their parents must have immersed themselves for the rest of their life in grief if their baby dies.”

“When I saw the virus knocking down every single person, I could not stop. I saw a 40 year old man, who was so strong being defeated by the virus. How can his wife, his old father, and his two children sustained their life after the loss of their loved one? “

“Everything happened so suddenly. The virus doesn’t care which life it takes, the moment I hate myself the most was when I realized I couldn’t help.”

“After the sunrise, the snow melting on the mountain tops, the river water will wake up all living things. At that time, I hope the people can still love the worlds, love the land they stand on.”

On that day, the sun tore up the clouds, hitting through the gap between branches, directly shining on my mom’s face. Her shadow on the ground was extended to the backside of the table. The label of “Virus isolation room”, dirts and blemishes on the glass were all swallowed by her shadow.




Surroundings gradually became clear in front of me. People all walked by with their face mask respirator, first aid personnel with their protective clothing, carried the stand into the ward and out, like they never felt tired.


Nurses hugged each other in their office before they went to work. They can’t go back home, because they are too afraid to carry the virus to more people. Beads of sweat drop down their hair, and wet their uniform.


I heard someone calling his best friends to take care of his child if he dies, because he is suspected of being infected, his voice trembling with fear, and his head dropped deeply down to his knees.


The 70 year old woman fell into a coma after she exhausted her body from crying and screaming. Her body was too old to accept the truth that her daughter was still in ICU for the rescue.


The young woman down at the doctor’s feet, using her shaking arms to lift up her body. Pain and agony could not escape through her eyes, helplessness had overwhelmed her. Her baby started crying, as though he knew that his father was going to leave him. I saw the grief and guilt on the doctor’s face; it was exactly the same which is carved on my mom.


A lot of supplies being transferred into the hospital from people. Those people shine their light worldwide, being connected, being put together like a giant light source. The light cannot be ignored even in the galaxy.


At the same time, near the polar region, a whale is fallen onto the ocean floor, the trace of its body remaining everywhere in the ocean, sustaining millions of living organisms. I tear up that document into pieces, blow them up. In a trance, I see those shredded papers, become whales, their eyes are calm and firm. As they slide their wings rapidly in the water, their roar causes the ocean system to trembled. Suddenly, the direction of the waves changes all at once.

Tinghui Song

Fiction Author

Tinghui is a first year bio major student interested in the artificial intelligence. She comes from China, and English is her second language, she loves writing nonfictions.