The Other Side

Tranquil waters hide the greatest depths. I have seen it, dove into this ocean of mystery, nearly drowning in my attempt. Nonsense, you say, how could you drown here beneath the waves where you were born? You would think me a liar, but give me a moment to explain. Drowning is what I did, but not beneath the waves, not in water. My quest was to know all that there was, and that is what almost killed me. The dry and uncaring knowledge of what lies above. For many years I sought the truth, in chasms deep and dark, somewhere below the rolling surf. Little did I find for all of my trouble, swimming blind through shadows.

Until my life changed on a day like any other. The water was calm, the surface as still as an ocean can be. That was the day I looked up.

The great light above grew brighter as I swam closer to the edge of my watery realm. Its shape rippled and shifted with the surface of the water but its rays of light poured through with little refraction. I was closer now to the surface than I had ever been. Closer to the other side, and for the first time that I can remember, I really gave thought to what lay on the far side of the shimmering border that divided my world from that one. Curiosity is a great motivator, and at that time I was a good deal more impulsive than I am now.

There was only cloud blue above me and I meditated on this. Was the dome above akin that which is below. Instead of the darkness light was anywhere. But it was so still. Lifeless, but not dead. I was so close to the edge now I could feel the lapping of the waves and I wondered what caused the mighty waters to move. Were there spirits above that I could not see with my eye, designed to guide me through the waters that have surrounded me for as long as I can recall?

I had felt the pull of the tide and knew that there were forces in the universe that I could not comprehend. But my curiosity led me still.

Floating stilly beneath the surface of the waves I basked in the warmth of the sun. It was a strange sensation, the water so much warmer than I was used to. But I felt that I could grow used to this.

That was when the object appeared gliding slowly just before my face, shiny obscene.

An apple for a man and a bauble for a fish. I took a bite.

The pain was intense. I had never experienced anything like that, even in my darkest dreams. The red-hot feel of a needle piercing the inside of my mouth. I tried to break away, to shake it off, but the object only embedded itself further.

I fought it, tearing at my mouth, but to no avail. Then I was being tugged by that same object , pulled inexorably in a direction not of my choosing.

It was then that I broke the surface and felt the nothingness of the air for the first time. I choked on it even as I sailed, birdlike upwards.

Something powerful gripped my body and I flailed myself to escape. The hold on my grew tighter. If I had lungs instead of gills I would have screamed. Screamed for all of the pain I felt, for the terror in my heart and the knowledge of death that was starkly silhouetted on my brain, for my foolishness. But instead I simply gasped. Damn my curiosity.

I began to lose consciousness, felt my ability to fight the power that held me slipping away.

Then a prodding and poking and the foul bauble was ripped from my mouth, carelessly, tearing it further.

And like that I was released into the water with a plop and the nightmare was over.

As soon as I was able to move again I dived. Further and further to escape the other side. Blood was in my mouth and the pain I felt was horrendous, but I could breathe.

I am an old fish now and I have the scars to prove it. I like to think that I have learned my lesson, that I am wiser now. And I always stick to a comfortable depth when I travel. Never again will I feel the evil sting, the choking and gasping and despair. I know what I was made for and where I belong, right where I am.

Still, there are some times, when half of my mind is asleep, that part of me wanders to some distant place. And I find myself yearning to leave my world again.

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