I was playing No Man’s Sky this morning, and I came upon the first ocean planet I’ve seen. I don’t think that was a thing before this recent update, but… I’mma be honest, guys, I’m not okay with it. It turns out that my thalassophobia is very real. I landed in my ship on one little island in a whole world of ocean, and for a whole minute I sat there, too terrified to get out. And it’s not like there’s a damn thing in No Man’s Sky’s oceans I haven’t met and mined for its precious minerals, so this is not a practical fear. I can’t tell you what I thought would happen. I felt somehow as if the entire world were a mouth, at the edge of which I was flickering like an infinitely tiny fly about to be swallowed. Just… just fuck every part of that. Went back to space. There’s nothing down there I need.
I have a lot of nightmares about the ocean. It’s not about drowning; most of the time in my dreams I can breathe underwater. That doesn’t help. There’s something about a bounded void, a fundamentally unknowable and yet concrete space. I think there are some similarities in this to the fears that House of Leaves plays upon. If you haven’t read that, go read it; come back and blame me for your lost sleep later. Anyway, this poem is about… all of that.
Once, in your arms, I learned a sinking waltz.
Full fathom five my father lies, they say.
He can’t see the sun, even at midday.
Instead, he constructs endless… empty… vaults.
I confess it’s that emptiness I fear.
All empty spaces, by their nature, ache –
what if that darkness should come wide awake
thoughtlessly yawn, swallow a thousand years?
I fear the emptiness of space much less
than a void with limits, a house with halls,
an ocean with an unseen floor below.
What will I find when my feet come to rest?
What if, down there, it’s just more floors and walls?
Would you bring a light?
Would you want to know?