Ordovician Sea Floor, Doug Henderson, 2004, for the Florida Museum of Natural History
The cephalopods drift over the garden as jets do in a city sky: confident, deliberate, direct. Below them, crinoids and corals sway with the ocean currents; the water is active near the continental shelf, with upwellings and internal waves. Starfish crawl between coral and weeds, and fish, jawless torpedoes of bone and scale, linger near the lilies. Unlike the cephalopods—because of the cephalopods—the fish prefer to be inconspicuous.
Days ago, the ocean roiled. Mud and boulders collapsed from the shelf. The silt settled to reveal half the garden crushed or buried, the rubble a grave marker. Mammoth nautiloid Endoceras rises over those rocks. It will reap from what the mudslide spared, gliding over the garden like an ogre-cum-dirigible, arms lashing down to capture fish and gastropods, shoveling them into pincer jaws with a violence that seems almost blasé. But for now, it hovers, siphon pulsing, pinhole eye staring, tentacles clutched tightly—death waiting above a cemetery.
Someday, the sea will churn again, sweeping everything in a storm. The garden will be decimated, leaving a few broken survivors. Even Endoceras is caught, pulled from the seabed and deposited with other giant nautiloids on the shore. There they will lay, strewn and stranded, like logs of driftwood abandoned by the sea.