Niklas returned to the reception and remembered little of it. One vodka followed another as his mind tried to assess how much trouble he was in back home. He chatted with people, tried to make sense of pleasantries, and then realized that most were as drunk as he was, so it mattered very little.
He briefly spoke with Caroline Gillette, Malcolm’s assistant. She was fifty pushing sixty with the body of a thirty-year-old and a taste for young men that had landed her the name “Conference Cougar.” She preferred young, married men who strayed into her sights. Niklas, now divorced, was no longer on her radar, and he was thankful for that.
Caroline prowled only briefly near Pekka, Rafu, and Otto. They closed ranks as reindeer would with a wolf nearby. Their wives threw glances of disgust at Caroline, and she slinked off in search of new prey — Niklas thought he heard her purr.
A mixture of fatigue and alcohol finally reached Niklas. He needed his room and sleep. His actions in Finland were still on his mind, and sometime tomorrow morning he would deal with them. He said some good nights to the thinning crowd as participants made their way to dinner or other bars and walked back to his room.
The moon was full, a soft breeze blew, and the smell of flowers filled the air. Niklas wondered how a person could be sad or troubled here, but he was. His feet moved slowly towards his room, as if his balance were ebbing away. He crossed the bridge over the pools where the dolphins were swimming.
There were no attendants at the pool now, only the dolphins. Niklas stood there, transfixed in the moonlight. Two dolphins swam towards him, blew a little air, seemingly smiled at him, and turned on their sides. Niklas was sure they were waving.
He finally found his room, stripped off his clothes, and climbed under the covers. He was asleep in seconds. The large ceiling fan in the room blew a soft breeze, and the air conditioning kept the room temperature low.
The first dream Niklas had was of riding a dolphin. It pulled him along while another one pushed him from behind, nudging. Feeling a bump in his back, he woke up. He rolled over and looked back at where he had been sleeping to see what was there but found nothing, so he went back to sleep.
He was not sure when the splashing entered his consciousness, but once it did, it would not leave. One splash followed another. They kept coming and getting louder. He woke up again. The clock beside the bed read 12:00 a.m. The splashing sounds were coming from outside.
Niklas got out of bed, walked slowly to the balcony door, and opened it. A warm wind was blowing, and the moon was full and high overhead. Below in the pool, the dolphins jumped. One after another, they rose out of the pool in twirls and flips near where the pool ended and the beach and sea began.
In the smaller second pool, the one that the bridge crossed over, other dolphins moved in circles, seemingly agitated by the splashing in the larger pool. Niklas wondered if they splashed because they wanted to be free. Just then, a thought came to him—he did not know from where. I can free them.
As soon as the thought came into his head, he laughed out loud at his own foolishness. He had already made a statement with his ex-dog, and his ex-wife, and his ex-friend. He was not about to free the dolphins.
He walked back into his room and tried to go back to sleep, but sleep would not come. He finally took a small beer out of the bar fridge, a Coronita (a small Corona), then went back to the balcony, pulled up a chair, and continued watching the dolphins.
A few people were walking about on the resort grounds. Night cleaners rearranged poolside chairs and swept the patios around the two swimming pools attached to the bars and restaurants. Two security guards in jeans, polo shirts, and nylon jackets with fluorescent SECURITY labels on the backs wandered by the dolphin pools and watched them jump. One of the security guards looked like a small Mexican mountain. He moved slowly with the smaller guard beside him.
Niklas felt content as he sat there on his balcony watching the dolphins. He wasn’t sure why, as he was in a pile of trouble back home, but he told himself he would deal with it when he returned. Right now, in the warm, night air, everything was fine.” And you will free the dolphins”, said a voice inside his head.
“Where the hell did that thought come from?” he asked out loud. Niklas stood and looked around the small balcony. A solid partition of concrete hid the neighboring balcony. He crept slowly and looked both left and right to see if anyone could have said what he thought he had just heard. There was no one on the other balconies. Empty deck chairs greeted him.
Niklas shook his head, went back inside, and cracked open another Coronita. The small bottles of beer went down well, and Niklas was thirsty from the salty food at the reception. He planted his feet on the balcony once more, watched a cloud pass over the moon, and then looked down at the two dolphins below. They had swum up to the middle of the pool, directly below his room. Half out of the water, they rocked their heads back and forth.
Then Niklas heard a loud voice inside his head: The sea wall has cracks, and you can set us free.
Niklas had had enough. He had never heard voices in his head before. Sounds, yes, waves of sounds from vibrations that few others could hear, yes. But this was too much. He downed his beer, went inside his room, and turned the television on. The fatigue of air travel, the vodka, and the beer must be getting to me, he thought. He put a pillow over his head and attempted to sleep.
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