The earthbound world and its shadows fell away into stillness. I was floating, drifting down into the sea’s embrace, kicking effortlessly above a smooth slope of sand and shifting pattern of lights from above — flying, more than swimming, through crystal clarity. The water somehow amplified details of fish and coral, outlining shapes with a knife edge, infusing colors with their own lights. A cloud of silvery fish drifted past and broke into glittering sparks around me.
The slope plunged deeper, sea taking on a bluer tinge. I rolled over face-up and watched etched-glass air bubbles rise to the surface, dropped back farther to revel in the freedom from gravity. Arching into an open somersault, the tank only a weightless bulk, I drifted down in a slow free-fall past darting schools of fish in colors I’d seen only inside aquariums.
Vic was waiting below, beside a wrinkled brain coral. He gestured, and I followed him deeper over a drop-off. I caught a quick, echoing breath.
It was a lost alien city. A mad architect run amuck with coral. The reef had proliferated into fantastic shapes — tall arches, convoluted ribbons and passageways, pagoda-like spires plumed with delicate fringed plants in muted colors — submerged in flickering bands of surreal light. From out of its watery maze, a huge black manta ray suddenly lifted, flying on rippling batlike wings. The devilfish. It soared overhead, shadow touching my face, circling and gliding deeper, disappearing with a last beckoning dip.
I hovered, staring after it, caught in a disturbing, impossible sense of déjà vu. Seen before, but not by me. John? A dark foreboding stirred inside me.
A high-pitched sound below caught my attention. Vic guided me on, through a dappled lacework tunnel of coral, lancing lights strobing the dimness inside. Orange blossoms of a feathery creature sucked into its tube on the rock, vanishing like a mirage as I approached. We emerged into a shimmering silver cloud of fingerlings. Vic, peering under a branching coral, waved me over, pointing at a dark crevice underneath it. I squinted into it.
A mass of slippery-looking pinkish flesh, and an eye staring out at me. The shapeless blob writhed and rolled closer. A tentacle shot out at my face.
I scrambled backwards in a gush of air.
Vic’s laughter bubbled. The tentacle had unrolled to reveal the row of suction cups on an octopus arm. With an oddly human gesture, it deposited a pink spiral shell. It rolled up again, retreating into its hole.
Vic put the shell in my hand, closing my fingers around it, his hand warm in the cool sea. He gestured, indicating my vest pocket. I peeled open the velcro and sealed the shell inside.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish