This story may not be all about AJ.
Hi. I'm Tilikum.. you may not know me, but this is my story.
Chapter 1: The Capture
I wasn't always in prison. Once, I was free.
It's sort of hard to remember, but I think I was about 2 when it happened. Just minding my own business; swimming with my mother and the rest of her pod. She had just weaned me, though occasionally I would still get the privilege of nursing. Anyways, we were all traveling off the coast of Iceland, I believe, when the boat came.
It was large, and kicked up the water with such strength that it made it hard to swim; a dull roar came from it. A net came down, like a wall.. terror pulsated through me as I tried to stay near my mother. But the netting came toward me, and lifted me out of the water. I screamed.
Chapter 2: The First Year of Prison
Less than a day later, I was overcome with relief when they lowered me into water. But this relief didn't last long: I was now in a tiny, enclosed cement tank, with nothing in it - no turtles, no live fish, no seals. It was my sad new "home."
I was all alone, with nothing to do but float - not a content taking-a-two-minute-nap-float, but a bored lonely-and-missing-my-mother-float.
Oh, I guess I should mention the food. They offered me small, silvery things that I learned were "frozen thawed" fish; a far cry from the wild fish I was used to, but at least it satisfied my hunger.
I stayed here for a year, all alone in my pool. My dorsal fin flopped over, my muscles ached from inactivity, and my heart hurt from everything.
Chapter 3: Sealand, Part 1
At the year's end, I was moved again, but this time by a strange "plane" rather than a boat. I had to go almost a full day in a crate with very little water.
Then, again lowered into real water. My new "home" wasn't very big; just a netted-off area from the ocean, like a harbor of sorts. The biggest difference was that there were two other orcas there - adult females, Nootka and Haida. I later learned that this was a human entertainment area called "Sealand".
I thought they might be nice, that they might welcome me. Ha! How wrong I was.. life would be hell on, er, water here.
I couldn't understand their vocalizations, and vice versa. They raked me, rammed me, bit me. I was their live punching bag.
You see, the humans made us do tricks in exchange for frozen fish. They would be at the head of a crowd of other humans, then flick their hand, expecting us to jump out of the water or splash the other humans, who would laugh and smile. Not too fun - plus, we trained in pairs, and when ONE of us didn't do it in time, BOTH of us would be deprived of the fish. (Again, the thawed fish is disgusting, but it helps fill my belly, at least.) The females would be stressed out when I did it off-cue, then turn and attack me as punishment. We had to do tricks up to eight times a day.
And then there was the module. Oh, the module. At night, when we were done training and jumping, they herded us into an indoor pool with iron walls. I hated it in there.. there was barely room to turn a full circle, much less escape Haida and Nootka's attacks.
It went on for a while... this was my life.
A few years or so later, it happened.
The trainer fell in.
Chapter 4: Sealand, Part 2
The trainers didn't usually go in the water. So imagine my surprise when a young female human dipped her foot into the water.
Only one thing was going through my mind: new. I was so desperate for something, anything, new to play with.
So I grabbed her foot and pulled.
I dragged her about underwater, eager to get the most of my new playmate. Haida and Nootka followed me around the pen, trying to join in, but I didn't let them near me. It was mine.
I heard humans screaming, but still didn't care. I had endured too much, I deserved to have something new. The other human trainers tried to use nets to get my new prize back on land. When that didn't work, they tried to tempt me into module with filleted salmon. As if I would go in there willingly!
I got bored with the "toy" rather quickly, so I just let go. It was then I realized the trainer was dead.
People still shrieked and ran about. They dragged her out of the water and ran off somewhere.
I didn't care where. I just floated there aimlessly, the childish fun over. Nootka and Haida swam on either side of me, silent.
For the next few days, there were no crowds of humans. No shows, no training. The humans barely stopped to feed us our fish; they didn't bother to put us in the module. I heard them talk in high voices: "Closing up..." "The press is all over it..." "Moving..." And of course, the word that would haunt me for years to come: "SeaWorld".
It was about a week after the incident that we three orcas were split up. I heard Nootka and Haida screeching as the lifts pulled them apart. A wave of pity rippled through me. I might have missed them, just a bit.. until I remembered how they had treated me.
I set my jaw as they loaded me onto another plane. The humans couldn't make me do anything I didn't want to do. I wouldn't let them.
Chapter 5: Welcome to SeaWorld.. AKA Hell
While Haida and Nootka were shipped to some marine park in Texas or something, I had the privilege of going to SeaWorld Orlando. Yippee.
When I got there, the first thing I noted was the air. At my ocean home, the holding tank, and Sealand, the air was cool and slightly moist, with a faint tang of salt. But here, the air was thick, hot and muggy. The sun beat down on my sensitive skin whenever I came up to breathe, burning me. Rain and thunder were frequent. And at night, mosquitoes would practically eat me alive. (Although I shouldn't complain. I hear some orcas at SeaWorld die when they contract diseases from the bites.)
Oh, and I got a lovely tankwarming party from the other orcas already there. By that I mean a ramming, biting, raking sort of party. They attacked me so viciously that I had to be moved to the medical pool for my own "safety".
The shows were way different, too. We didn't do the pair-training - if we did a trick, we got a fish, if not, a "neutral response" of the trainer staring blankly ahead. And the tricks themselves were harder: backflips, splashes, hydro hops, slide-outs, all against stadium music that was positively deafening. The audience was bigger, and they all called me "Shamu" for whatever reason.
So... forced to perform, left in isolation or else beaten, still missing my mother....
This was to be my home for pretty much the rest of my life.
Chapter 6: A Tragic Love Story
Then there was Gudrun.
Let's just say that I've been forced to mate with a lot of females - nowadays through artificial insemination. But no female was quite like Gudrun.. I actually felt a connection.
Then we swam into the sunset and lived happily ever after.. not.
You see, we were able to be with each other for a while. She had already had a calf by another male - whom she hated, and I think died of a mosquito bite - and was actually a good mother, considering the circumstances. Everything was fine relationship-wise.
A while later, Gudrun had my calf: a female named Nyar. But something was wrong with the little one.. I mean, she couldn't even swim straight without help from her mother, much less do the flips the humans wanted us to.
Gudrun tried to be a good mother, but she snapped after about a month. She began attacking Nyar - trying to drown her, and get the little calf's death over with. It was pretty horrific.. the human trainers even separated the two. That left me to be the sole guardian of Nyar - who would never perform, never have calves, never have anything to look forward to except her medication-loaded meals.
Think it ended there? Of course not!
Gudrun was pregnant again about a year later. You'd think she'd be allowed leisure while expecting, but due to her near-flawless markings and easygoing personality, she was still used almost daily in shows, demonstrations, and "Photos with Shamu". This meant that, even while she was close to calving, she had to do backflips; stay on the slide-out on her belly for up to ten minutes at a time; and allow toddlers to sit on her back. The stress on both her and the calf was immense.
When the time came, the calf got stuck in her. The humans used a scanner on her, then said: "No heartbeat... must be stillborn." They had to drag the dead baby out of her, which must have involved unearthly pain.
Even after that was all over, Gudrun was terminally ill. She wouldn't eat, wouldn't play, wouldn't even move from her spot in the blazing sun. Then one day, she swam over to the gate and touched rostrums with Nyar through the bars. Gudrun died a few hours later, followed by Nyar a few weeks after.
Chapter 7: Unnamed