‘Once there were . . .’ – Cormac McCarthy
There were barnacles that marked the edges of oceans.
Late scramblers on the rocks could feel their calcic ridges
stoving sharply underfoot. The wet rocks glittered beneath
and in the wind they smelled of verdigris. The barnacles
fused in intricate settlements. For their whole lives they
cleaved, and in turn the fragile rock cleaved to them.
Volcanoes and thimbles and strange constellations.
Together they mapped distant cities and willed the sea to
overtake them. and when the russet tide came they opened
themselves like unfamiliar lovers. The whole thing some
actinic principle: a forest grew up in a second, to grace a
world where the sun was a watery lamp. Where none had
been before, white mouths frilled softly in the current and
squat armour issued forth the unlikeliest of cilia:
transparent, lightly haired, cherishing each updraft as,
feathered, they moved with it. They only existed for that
half-sunk terrain. And as they briefly lived, those tender
quills wrote of their mystery.
From Loop of Jade. Reproduced with kind permission from Chatto & Windus.