Thursday, August 15, 2013

Friday Fiction for 16 August 2013

It's my turn this week to host Friday Fiction, and if this works correctly, the Mr. Linky Widget should follow this header. Join in the fun and share your short fiction blog this week, and enjoy the other submissions!

I commented two weeks ago that I had taken the short story, "Reef, Her Madness," from early 2010 as my outline for NaNoWriMo last year. I completely rewrote the story, start to finish, expanding it from a 7 part short to a 65,400 word novel. Where the original story started ended up as Chapter 7 in the rewrite, and I thought it would be fun to post the new version of that scene for comparison. The rewrite allowed me to lead into this scene, as well as share other parts of the story from different POVs, while still keeping it a very fun story to write. The original first part of "Reef, Her Madness" posted on January 29th, 2010, and can be read here, if you wish to compare.

Chasing the Sharks
Chapter 7

            Timothy slid open the sliding glass door and crawled onto the lanai. He fiddled for a few moments with the locking mechanism they had cobbled together for him, until he managed to get the door properly secured. It always felt strange when they traveled away from the Pod’s island, and had to secure things against theft. Such a consideration had never been an issue when it was just the Pod. First, they had never had much to steal anyway, and once they stated to accumulate possessions after Joshua Cardan arrived, they had tended to share freely. Why would one steal, what one could just as easily borrow whenever they wished?

            Of course, the bulk of human society was vastly different from the Pod in almost every way, and there were many that thought nothing of taking whatever they wanted. Whatever any of them might think about it, the reality remained, and they had to deal with it.

            From the lanai, he dropped to the fine sand of the beach. Even in the low morning sun, the sand was almost blindingly white, and he left a funny looking trail of hand prints and tail drag as he moved towards the lagoon. There were still few guests on the beach this early, and most were far enough away that they failed to notice him crawling across the sand.

            Small waves slipped up and back on the shore, making little noise in the barest breeze that blew that morning. His hands contacted the water first, and the warmth seemed even more luxurious than he had imagined it would feel. He proceeded in with no further hesitation, happy to feel the buoyant support of sea water all around him again. When he no longer had contact with the bottom, he gave a gentle kick of his tail, and moved towards the deeper water with effortless grace.

            The water was incredibly clear, and he marveled at just how far he could see ahead and around him. Small fish darted away at his approach, many ducking for the crevices of rocks and coral to hide. He continued out until the water was some thirty feet deep below him, and dove to skim along an extended outcropping of coral that jutted some ten feet from the bottom. Larger fish prowled around the reef, and while they tended to give him a wide berth, they weren’t as prone to fleeing from him as the smaller fish in the shallows had been.

            Although the colors faded the deeper he went, he was still amazed at how vibrant the sea life was in the lagoon. The fish around their island back home were so drab by comparison, though he had to consider that their primary interest in the fauna around the island for so many years had been for food. They hadn’t really cared that much about whether the fish they caught had been pretty. They only cared that it was edible, and valuable to stave off hunger.

            He started a slow ascent, exhaling through his nose as he approached the surface. Poking his head above the water just enough, he drew in a deep breath before turning to descend again for the reef.

            The gradual changing of the angle of sunlight penetrating the water was his only indication of the passage of time, and he decided it was something he needn’t worry about. There was nowhere he needed to be at any specific time. He could return to his bungalow when he finally felt hungry, and order food to be brought to him, regardless of the time of day. For the moment, it was a serene experience to just explore the reef.

            The sound of other swimmers carried to him through the water, but the splashing and occasional human voice sounds were distant. He suspected that few of the resort guests would venture so far out or so deep in the lagoon, and he was fine with being alone over the branches of coral.

            He drifted slowly, just a foot or so from the reef, about three-quarters of a way to the top. A brightly colored shape caught his attention, and he flipped around for a closer look. The shrimp watched him with claws raised, but it seemed fine with holding its position. Reluctant to spook it, Timothy likewise held his position, keeping what he felt was a respectful distance with just gentle movement of his hands and tail.

            A flash went off behind him, startling the shrimp into retreating deep within the recesses of the coral. Timothy spun around. A female snorkeler gave him a wave and an “okay” sign with her free hand, the camera held conspicuously in her other.

            Looking up, she swam towards the surface, with the yellow dive fins fluttering at the end of her legs.

            He looked back to where the shrimp had been, and there was no sign that it was going to emerge again anytime soon. With a feeling of annoyance, he sped after the girl, surfacing almost at the same time she did. His face had barely cleared the water before he was speaking. “What are you doing? You could have at least waited until I was done looking at the shrimp before taking a picture of it!”

            She spit the snorkel from her mouth, and flipped her head back to get the hair from in front of her mask. “What shrimp? I was taking a picture of you.” She gave him a mischievous smile, and slipped the mask from her face to hang around her neck. “Well, unless you consider yourself a shrimp, in which case, I have to ask just how big a merman has to be before he’s considered normal size.”

            He stared into her eyes, and found himself struck by just how pale blue they were, and how full of life and wonder. “I, uh, I - ” he stammered, and felt a sudden flush run through his skin.

            “Wait – you’re blushing,” she said. Her look turned to dread. “Oh – you don’t think I meant - ?” It was her turn to blush. “Oh, no, no, no. I meant your overall size, you know, like head to toe, I mean tail, I mean - ”

            His annoyance vanished, replaced by amusement. “It’s okay, I know what you mean. I was just looking at a shrimp down there on the reef, and your flash scared it into hiding.”

            “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know. I saw you down there, and I’d never seen one of the Pod before so close, so I wanted a picture. It’s kind of hard, underwater, to ask first, and I was afraid if I waited a moment, you’d move off somewhere else, and I wouldn’t be able to find you again. We could try to find another shrimp.”

            “It’s all right. I’ve got a whole week, and I think I’m going to see a lot of things out here that will make that one shrimp seem rather mundane.” He looked past her, and took note of just how far from the shore he had gone. “Are you out here by yourself? You really should have someone with you when you’re swimming this far from shore.”

            “Nope, just me. My friend Jenny was supposed to come swimming with me, but her boyfriend surprised her by coming along at the last minute, and she decided to stay in our bungalow with him this morning. I feel compelled, though, to ask where your swim buddy is. You’re just as far out as I am.”

            “This swim is nothing for me. I’ve gone much farther many times, especially back when we had to forage around our island for food.” At least, I was alone, if you don’t count dolphins swimming with me. “This is a long swim for someone like you.”

            “Oh?” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Just what kind of someone am I, that this is a long swim?”

            “You have legs,” he said.

            “Thank you for noticing. I am rather attached to them, even if they are standard equipment for most of us.”

            “I mean, you’re a normal human, made for walking on land. Swimming like this is something I’ve done my whole life.”

            She laughed. “I don’t get accused of being normal very often, and never before by a merman. How do you know it’s not something I’ve done my whole life?” she asked. “Normal humans swim, too, you know, and even some not-so-normal ones like me. Many of us are actually quite good at it.”

            “The best normal human swimmer I’ve ever seen is Josh and Marta’s son, and he’s been swimming with the Pod since before he could even walk. He’s still just a child, and I think he would give your best Olympic swimmers some real competition. Even then, he’s still nowhere near the swimmer any of us are.”

            She poked him gently in the center of his chest. “I’ve been swimming for as long as I can remember, and started competing at ten years old. I swam competitively through high school and college, and still swim laps a couple of hours almost every day, going a lot farther than this without fins. I may not be able to swim as fast or as far as you can, but don’t think that, just because I’m not a mermaid, I’m not comfortable and competent in the water. Now, if you think it’s that important that I have a buddy as I swim around out here, then either put up or shut up. I’m going to do some sightseeing on the reef. You can either be my swim buddy, and I’ll be yours, or we can go our separate ways, and I’ll hope to see you around somewhere else, later.” She placed the mask over her face again, and wiggled it around a bit before releasing it. With the snorkel in her hand, she said, “Well?” and then dove without waiting for an answer.

            He watched her swim away. Well, she got one thing right – normal is not a term that fits her well. Weird might be a better choice. She didn’t bother looking back as she drew closer to the reef, and he found that all he could think about was those pale blue eyes. With a low leap, he dove after her. Then again, who am I to criticize anyone for being weird?

            When he caught up with her, she rolled over to swim facing up, and took another picture of him. There was a satisfied look in her eyes, as though she’d known all along what his choice would be, and was enjoying the vindication of being correct.

            He had to admit, her ability to stay under did seem a lot longer than most of the land-dwellers that visited the Pod, and she appeared very confident in her use of the snorkeling gear. When she headed for the surface to breathe, she did so at an easy pace, and not in the hurried manner so many people did, as though they were ready to drown if they didn’t get a breath right that moment.

            If he held his hand to block the view of her below the waist, Timothy could easily imagine that she had a tail instead of legs. 

1 comment:

Sara Harricharan said...

Awww, poor Timothy. I remember the original piece of this and I went back to read it again. I love the changes you've made. It flows easier and I can understand some of Timothy's reaction better, having seen the little glimpses of like, why locking up bothers him and the conversation with the FMC and her "normal" legs is better transitioned. Lovely, lovely snippet. I always love reading in this Pod world of yours.