I wrote this one this morning and am publishing it (like I’ve done the past week(s)) right away although I’m less happy with this one than I have been with the others. It feels more static than what I’ve been writing lately. I’m happy to hear your thoughts on it. Thank you for reading!
I lived under water all my life. Or up until that day I decided not to.
Cooped up in the tower quarters, floating between the hatches amongst the fishes and the reefs, trying to get a glimpse of the light that comes from above. On a good day you could see the fascinating colours of the ocean glimmering all around. On a bad day it was just a grumbling grey muck with almost no view. They tried to keep the garden lit though. You could put on the diving suits and roam around the garden if you liked but they rarely let amateurs like me into the big deep.
I’ve never wanted to enter the big deep though. I’ve never been interested in the secrets they have in wait under the rifts in the ocean bottom. I have no interest in the wast caves or the Far End Reefs although I’d like to see it once before, before what? Before I die I guess but it’s too late now. I thought I had time I thought I had an entire lifetime to rot in Mermaid haven.
What always wanted to go up and see what’s up on the surface. See the lands that we read about, the wast width of a desert, see the sky, wether it was dark grey and ominous (like they told us) or as blue as the artists renditions we had hanging on the walls. They said the world is inhabitable, that everything up on the surface is ruined and that the atmosphere hasn’t been breathable for two hundred years. They said we are lucky to be able to live in our filtered reality, able to survive decade after decade because a visionary foresaw what was happening to the world and built a self-relying haven in the ocean.
Nobody has been up top for a very long time although there were the stories of Frank the Sailor. They called him Sailor because he always drifted upwards and sailed away in his thoughts. He was a dreamer Frankie and one day he opened the diving hatch in Room 401 and drifted all the way up to the surface. They never found him again. Not that they looked too much, nobody dares to go up there. They said the upper world is too dangerous, that whatever may have survived the holocaust the world went through is too dangerous to confront.
But Frankie wasn’t afraid, apparently, because he rose to the surface and vanished.
Dead on a shore somewhere the sceptics said but there is a glimpse of doubt in some of the professors eyes. A glimpse of doubt that seeps through the propaganda they try to feed us.
I longed for the gateway to the outside world, the hatch to the width of open air that was never used. It hadn’t been used since our ancestors descended and ascension, they said, was out of the question.
I spend most of my time in the upper towers. I didn’t like the light down at the bottom. The artificial light is bright enough but there is a difference, the colours aren’t as spectacular down there. It’s as if the colours fade the farther down you go and floating between the hatches further up was so much fun, with all the ocean open beneath you, its secrets and its gifts, but also with the hint of the open sky above you. We were not allowed all the way up, it was against regulations and there were heavy defences that shot down anything or anyone who tried to cross the line but there was a hint of something more. A certain light, a glimmer and a glimpse of something unknown, a hint of a secret once known but now lost.
I don’t know why I decided to go up. I was never particularly rebellious. During my teenage years I spent my time reading, studying anything I could on the world that we had lost. I read everything I could get my hands on, information about the holocaust as well as any information I could get on how people lived before. The houses they lived in, the vehicles they drove, the planes that actually flew in the open air. I read about weather, clouds, thunder… just about anything that had to do with the upside world. I couldn’t get enough of it.
When I got security clearance it had occurred to me that I could sneak up into the hatch and go up top. I could take a diving suit and I could simply push the button with the “up” arrow. I wasn’t sure it would work but I wanted to try. I knew it was a one way trip though.
It had its risks. If I’d be caught I would be put in a cell at the bottom of the tower and I would never get to visit the upper areas again. I would never be allowed to float between the hatches or dive amongst the reefs and the fishes. I would never be allowed to visit Far End Reef and I would be made to work as a shadow labourer for the rest of my life.
So I didn’t do it.
Until one day when I did. I don’t know what it was that triggered the sudden bravery. Perhaps I just got tired of living my life inside the prison. The fish are free in the ocean but people who are meant to walk on the earth and not breath in the ocean will never be free under the surface.
So I took a bag with necessities, a pressure suit and I went to the hatch. I didn’t meet a single soul on the way, it was late and I had security clearances. The guard on watch was probably sleeping or getting coffee as I stepped into the hatch and pushed the arrow.
And I ascended. A feeling of utter happiness rushed through my body as I felt the elevator going up. I saw the beautiful towers vanish beneath me, I saw the garden and I even saw the outline of the closest reef in the distance. And then I was in a locker, I stepped out into another hatch and pushed another button. There was no tower to ascend in this time but a sea born elevator that ascended and birthed me on a soft, brown shore what felt an eternity later.
The hatch opened immediately.
I felt heavy, so heavy that I fell to the ground in my suit but I couldn’t do anything but laugh. The sand was bright brown and the sun was shining brightly warming. There were a few white puffy clouds in the sky, the kind of clouds that covered the artistry in the Mermaid Haven and there was green grass in the distance.
I saw no greyness and discovered no toxics in the air. There was no sign of anything but raw nature, mountains so far in the distance that my mind couldn’t comprehend it. Distance and width so vast that it was hard to understand. I lay there on the shore, watching the land underneath my feet unable to look up, unable to look around because the range frightened me more than I thought it ever would.
It took me a long time to gather my senses and my courage. When I felt the suit had done its purpose I shed it, threw it aside and walked further up the beach. The sand tickled my feet and the air felt cold and fresh in my lungs. I was up in the open and I was all alone. The only hint of civilisation was underneath the oceans surface, far behind me.
I started to walk. The vastness of the landscape eluded me and I knew that there might be a thousand things in the air or on the ground that could kill me but I kept on walking. I fantasised about the monsters we had been told roamed the earth, stories parents tell their children to keep them at bay, to keep their attention were their attention should be.
I imagine that Frankie the Sailor might be roaming the earth somewhere too but if he ever existed he died a long time ago. Sometimes I fantasise about finding his descendants living in a valley somewhere, I imagine he found people who survived the holocaust and settled in. I fantasise a lot.
The earth doesn’t seem toxic, at least I’m still alive and my options are unlimited. I tried at first to send messages down to Mermaid Haven to tell them that it was alright to come up. That it isn’t as threatening and dangerous as they think. That the danger, whatever it had been, was gone. But I got no reply. Maybe the radio in the pressure suit was broken.
In the end I left it on the shore.
A lonely reminder of where I came from but also of the fact that I will never return there. I walk the earth and I breath fresh air. I have seen the stars that my parents and their parents before them had only heard whispers of. I have seen forests and trees and I drink water from fresh springs and I’ve even seen animals, shying away as I tread their ground. I eat fruits and what the earth gives me.
They said that the ocean lured our ancestors and that the love of the ocean saved our lives and the civilisation. I am not a woman of the ocean. I am a person of the earth. I may be alone. I may never find a way to lure my stranded fellow beings up to the surface but at least I have the sun in my face, the stars in my eyes and the width of the open sky above my head.