“We’ve been watching you for a few days,” Tall says a round of introductions later. “Where are your people?”
“Back home,” you reply, your arm sweeping back to the gentle waves behind you.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she says with a flinch. “We thought you were a traveller.”
“But you came home to bury your kin?”
“My pod isn’t dead. Or at least I don’t think they’re dead. We live in the sea.”
“Oh.” Tall and Short exchange glances. “And where did you live before then?”
“I don’t understand the question,” you say. “We have always lived there.” Short steps forward, gingerly touches your warm hand.
“You’re still alive!”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“We release our dead to the sea. We thought you were one of the ones that try to come back,” Short says with a grimace.
Time passes. Night falls. You had all but forgotten what it felt like to share a meal, to listen to others breathe as you fall asleep.
In the morning Tall and Short convince you to swim to their pod.
You are too lonely to do anything but agree.
The waves grow larger the longer you swim. Their people huddle behind the peak of one of the biggest waves you’ve bobbed through so far.
The pod parts. One paddles up to you and touches your hand.
“You’re still alive!” One says.
“So are you!” you reply. One really looks too old to swim. You wonder why he continues to kiss the sky with so many new swimmers competing for air.
“The sea hasn’t called me yet,” One replies. “How did you manage to escape it?”
You share your story.
“There’s someone you need to meet,” One says. “I’ve never heard of people living in the water but she may have. But first you must rest here, build your strength.”
“Is it a long swim?” you ask.
“Swim?” One laughs. “Where you’re going there isn’t any water at all!”