FISH OUT OF WATER CH. 1: HOW THINGS GOT STARTED

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Submitted Date 03/20/2019
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Brilliant beams of light filled up the entirety of the vast, clear blue sky, beating down upon every possible inch of land and illuminating the crystal sea, its rays shining down as shafts of light into the green-blue waters. Nowhere else was it known that there was a more glorious, sun-drenched place. Far out to sea, as far as the horizon reached, the creatures there knew it all too well on this day. Among the fields of flowing, wind-whipped seaweed, rocky coral cliffs rising up and extending down to the depths, and sandy, barren plains, the swarms and schools of multi-colored fish darted in unison as the merpeople, flew through them. This way and that, they made their way to their various destinations, weaving in and out of the traffic, through the crowds of sea life, and through the waving vegetation.

“Excuse me!” apologized one merlady after bumping into an eel, which hissed at her indignantly for doing so.

“This way!” called another mermaid to her dancing children.

“Over here!”

“Come along!”

“Hey, wait a minute!”

“Pardon me, you’ve dropped your spectacles,” were among the many musical voices under the sea.

No merpeople present, however, were as joyful as two young mermaids who gaily twirled and shot across the sandy ocean floor away from the bustling crowd. One of them extended her arms and twirled around gleefully.

“It’s so lovely today!” she sighed happily.

“Indeed,” her older sister agreed. She gazed up at the warm, dazzling water’s surface in awe and wonder.

The two danced in the sunlight.

Suddenly a chilling breeze swept past the two mermaids.

“Did you feel that?” asked one of the two, breaking her gaze from the shimmering waters to look at her sister in grave concern.

“Yeah,” replied the other carelessly, as she shuddered once, and lightly shifted to a warmer patch of water. Her happy countenance did not seem to be shaken in the least. She looked back at her sister and read her thoughts. “I don’t think you have to worry about storms, Margot,” she said confidently. “There isn’t a cloud in the sky.” Margot looked upward and searched for the sight of a cloud.

“That’s true,” she granted at last. Just at that moment another frigid breeze swept by them, causing them both to shiver. “I don’t know, Vivian,” Margot persisted with a worried look, staring in the direction the wind had come. “Cold wind could be bad news.”

“Not necessarily,” Vivian interjected, a bit annoyed by Margot’s worrying.

The ocean was brightly lit; the tropical blue waters were aglow.

Margot saw this and her face lit up again. “You’re right,” she laughed. “How could we have a storm in this weather?”

“Vivian’s always right,” her bright-eyed sister joked, and the two darted off once more, their tails flashing.

As they sped farther out to sea, they came upon an underwater town. It had sunk below the ocean a long time ago, and had become like a strange ghost town now. Broken streets and ruins of buildings lay dormant across the unmeasured plain, and while many rocks were of unaccountable purpose, others retained their original shapes of temples and whatnot. Margot and Vivian understood that these were the marks of men—what wondrous and mighty creatures they must be, mortal yet divine!—but besides that fearful knowledge, the ruins were the coldest, even cruelest, imprint of life under the sea. If Vivian and Margot were to have visited a second time, though, they would likely have beheld the rocky remains suddenly light into a million scintillating sparks, made of opal, of crystal, and of quartz. The fluted columns, lying in layered chunks, would look about to reassemble themselves and proclaim their authority above the mermaids’ heads of wavy, sun-glinted hair, and the beauty that the mermaids bore would make them flowers in the midst of a radiant, resurrected city. Today, however, the day the two youngest of the Sea King’s daughters swept upon the ruin’s streets, the water steeped in a heavy blue, gloomed by murk and obscured by passing clouds high in the upper air.

“This place kind of creeps me out,” Vivian muttered uncomfortably, as she glanced around. Spotting a lovelier place on the periphery, she beckoned her sister to follow. They came to some sort of stony arbor, covered with sea anemones, barnacles, and other stationary creatures, where two benches were grounded beneath it, facing opposite of each other. Settling themselves down, they looked around. It was even darker here, it seemed, and the water was choppy above their heads at the surface of the ocean. Soon enough the water hinted eerie patterns in the air, and evening hues started to engulf them. Their colorful friends gave them some assurance that they could sit in cheerful ease, still, and they held their anchor against the hastening breeze. They talked of dreams and common contemplations, of daily, foolish peeves and humors from the theater, laughing, thinking, discussing, and then pausing.

“Do you want to go home, now?” Vivian suggested, after they had been there for a little while. Their faces looked dim and vague before each other.

“Yes,” Margot said promptly. She was anxious. Something wasn’t right.

The two quickly made their way back to the thriving reef, but at their return, they drew to a sudden halt at the scene and stared in confused silence. Everyone had vanished! Not a living thing remained, besides the plants, corals, anemones, and the like, which waved gently in the breeze. The two mermaids stared in bewilderment at the empty, windy blue place.

“What happened?” Margot wondered aloud, her voice nearly a whisper.

Vivian swam about the reef, calling into holes for any sign of a familiar resident. She found none. “They must have all gone to the other side of the plain for shelter. I feel that storm coming on now, too,” she said.

“We have to hurry,” declared Margot, looking up at the now blackening sky. Who would have known a storm could come so quickly? Vivian and Margot sped across the sandy plain with difficulty, as the ocean was wild above them and the winds gusted strongly against them. Sand flew up around them, even getting into their eyes and throats, making it all the more impossible to go anyplace at all. A loud crash of thunder boomed over the two, ringing in their ears. The darkened water and the wind surged about them in a tightening circle, round and round. It gradually grew so dark that they could not see anything except the black, overpowering force that enraptured them, swirling against them, around them, about them, so strong that it threw the two mermaids around effortlessly within its diabolical vortex.

“Vivian! We’re trapped!” Margot screamed, clinging onto her sister, panic-stricken.

They suddenly felt that they were drifting upward, closer and closer to the water’s surface. Up and upward they rose, pushed up by the devastating mixture of ocean and wind, jerked this way and that, until at last the two mermaids broke out from below the waters. The ocean waves raged ferociously around them, powerful wave crashing down on powerful wave. Sometimes Vivian and Margot were temporarily submerged, overwhelmed by total darkness, only to rise up again out into the bleak air. The moment they did, a terrible rain showered heavily upon them. To their utmost astonishment, the mermaids ascended even beyond the surface of the sea. In a flash, even before either of the two could comprehend it, they were both whisked up and away from the waves, the powerful winds thrusting the mermaids round and round in midair. Margot and Vivian gasped for breath, swallowing the stinging air, which rushed into their lungs, swelling them up until the two creatures thought they were sure to burst. Before they knew it, the thrashing waves were far below them. They must have been forty feet in mid-air.

“Look! It’s land!” Vivian yelled breathlessly. So it was! The land stretched out before them in the distance, desolate and sunless, and the ocean before it was black and violent, thrashing wildly.

Unfortunately, no more can be said about this wrathful storm. No later than Vivian had uttered this, they were both knocked out by debris flying in the hurricane.

~

Margot woke up first. She felt herself to be collapsed on a gentle, sandy bank while a breezy, warm atmosphere greeted her consciousness. At first she was utterly confused about where she was, when, in an instant, the entire memory of what had happened flooded back to her. She looked intently for Vivian, whom Margot spotted not too far away, lying quite still.

“Vivian!” Her foreign voice rang out in the air. It was strange to speak when she wasn’t underwater. The sun began to sear her skin. Margot suddenly felt the deadness of her muscles and joints as she attempted to prop herself upon her elbow.

Vivian, exhausted but apparently awake, pushed herself up gingerly to a sitting position like a brittle and fragile bird and looked at her surroundings. Silently, she viewed a broad body of water with a thick, bushy line of foliage outlining the horizon. Above this rose a pale and placid sky that had not yet fully shed its morning haze.

“What happened?” Vivian spoke, squinting at her sister. Margot’s expression suddenly transformed, and she stared at something in greatest alarm. “What?” Vivian glanced downward, and to her greatest surprise, discovered two human legs in place of her tail! She gasped. “I have legs! . . . Margot! You have them too!” she cried with unequalled amazement, pointing out Margot’s own new pair. They had heard of legs appearing on their kind once they reached the upper lands, but never had they believed it possible.

Margot spoke nothing, but wore a dumbstruck look on her face. Her mind had become too consumed by another matter to take in the shock. “Vivian,” she started after a moment. A trace of fear could be detected in her voice. “We’ve been washed ashore by a tornado; we can’t get back home! We can’t go home! We’re too far away! Look, the water is dirty and brackish. We can’t swim through that.” Vivian’s brow furrowed as she looked out across the wide, murky, brown-blue river.

“What are we going to do?” she asked.

Margot thought for a moment, still stunned that they were now, in fact, truly human. “What are we going to do?” she repeated back to Vivian.

Vivian shrugged her shoulders. “I guess we should just learn how to use our legs,” she suggested. “We can’t do anything else.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Margot agreed.

They found that they were both somehow clothed in the simplest white summer dresses you can imagine. At the same time, though, they were both complete wrecks. Their hair was tangled and torn, and cuts, bruises, and sores covered their bodies. It took a while before they managed to stand up straight. It took them longer to walk.

“I’m starving,” Margot complained after slipping to her bottom for the fiftieth time.

“I think we’re going to have to live here somehow,” Vivian said, a worried look spreading across her face.

“We are?” Margot had hoped that there was some way of getting back home.

“Like you said, the water is too cloudy and we couldn’t see,” replied Vivian. “Besides, Father will send out a search party for us and they’ll bring us back.”

“I wonder if they’d search this far,” said Margot, peering closely to see if the ocean was in view.

“Don’t worry,” Vivian replied confidently. “We’re the princesses. They can’t stop until they find us.”

“Yeah,” sighed Margot, and she thought no more about it. However, deep in the back of their minds, they were both at a loss to whether or not they would ever see the land they loved again.

The mermaids were too hungry for words, so they decided that they must reach civilization somehow, even if that meant pulling themselves across mountains. They tottered up a steep sandy bank, not without quite a few tumbles downhill. When at last they reached the top, they discovered that they were at the edge of a road. The mermaids had never seen one before such as this one, and it was hardly the deteriorated cobblestone street they had seen in the underwater town.

“Do you know what this is?” Vivian queried Margot, collapsing down in the middle of it.

“I don’t know. What are those?” the latter pointed upward, meaning the tall oak trees on the other side of the road. She joined her sister in the middle of the lane.

“We’d better not cross that yellow line. It might have magic in it,” warned Vivian.

So they sat sprawled out on one side of the road. They were still absolutely clueless to what the trees were, though. They couldn’t tell if they were plants or animals or towers.

“Look, they’re moving!” Margot exclaimed, as the wind rustled the leaves of the trees.

“What’s that?!” Vivian shrieked abruptly. Margot’s eyes shot toward one end of the road. She gasped sharply, and she and Vivian stared at the sight before them. An imposing, massive creature came roaring down the lane, charging straight towards them without any sign of stopping. Then another came, this one a little different, on the other side of the road, and was coming the opposite direction. Margot and Vivian clung to each other frantically and screamed. The beast coming towards them gave out an ear-piercing screech and halted before them. The other one slowed down as it passed by the scene. A strange, scrutinizing face peered out from it and looked strangely at the two who lay on the road, and then sped off down the lane and out of sight. Margot and Vivian still clung onto each other, afraid of what might happen next. Within a moment, a short, little woman came out of the “creature”. She had a kind (though agitated) face, and a mass of curly, dirty-blonde hair, which was divided into two sections, top and bottom, with the top part gathered together by a band.

“Excuse me, girls, who are you, and what are you doing in the middle of the lane?” she cried, stooping down a little with her hands on her knees. At first Vivian and Margot didn’t know what to say. A real live human, standing before them, speaking to them! The two girls began to stammer.

At length Vivian spoke out, “We are hungry and we don’t know where to go.”

The little woman stood up straight. “Well, that’s certainly no reason to go and kill yourselves!” she admonished. Vivian and Margot looked at each other in confusion. “Where do you live? Is there any family I can call? Where are they?” the lady questioned with increasing concern. Vivian and Margot had no answer. The lady looked up and surveyed the area with her eyes, searching for someone who might help with the situation. Seeing she was alone, she sighed, at a loss, and turned back to the girls. Her face betrayed a mild distress, but after releasing her internal tension with a sigh, she settled on her customary attitude and course of motherly nurture.

“I could take you with me,” she finally offered. The mermaids could see that she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “I’m taking my sons to boarding school right now. I think it would be best if you came with us.” She nodded decidedly. Margot and Vivian accepted at once, seeing that she was a good human. They boarded her car with some difficulty, and then sped off down the road.

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