Deep Sea Dreams
Atiniui looked around for Cadassi, his companion of several years. Searching in the sweet clearness of the environment, he saw him, a distance off in the company of several females, and he smiled. His friend always had female companions. They were attracted to him so easily that he had to wonder at his friend’s magic. Surely he had nothing different, no special scales or coverings, no special markings or coloring, nothing that anyone could see. Yet, the females flocked after him, and while he didn’t seem to mind, he barely gave any of them more than a cursory consideration.
The freedom that they all enjoyed here was being threatened by the others, the land-dwellers, and he and his friend had been given the assignment of watching for anything untoward in their world. If Cadassi could dispense with the pod of females clinging to him, then perhaps they could get their jobs done.
As Atiniui watched, his friend must have sensed his annoyance, because one by one the attentive females drifted off. Cadassi came toward him, and they began to swim toward the entrance to the grotto. With strong, determined strokes, the pair swiftly made their way to the access to the larger world. They presented a unique picture among the mermen. They were not scaled; their skin was fine, even soft light in color. Their hair, one golden and straight; the other dark and curling flowed behind their heads as they swam, the length of hair reaching their shoulders, lying in silken waves when they chose to sit on the rocks of the grotto, amid their family and friends. Their hair only enhanced the slight pointed tilt of their ears where they rose from the hair, and the slight upward tilt of the eyebrows. Their long fingers had fine, whisper thin webbing connecting them, giving them strong, powerful tools to pull themselves thru the water. Small fins, rather like wings, on their shoulders allowed them more speed. Their feet were also webbed, not in an unattractive way, with small, graduated fins along the ankles. Their long legs were lean and muscular as were their torsos and arms. Their entire bodies were clean, sinewy, muscular machines that cut thru the water as easily as hot knives thru butter. If one were to look at them objectively, one could see why the females desired them. Lean hips, flat stomachs, smooth buttocks, and obviously generous sex organs spoke of perfect physical mates.
Unlike most of the mermen, their female ancestors had been of dry land at one time, and they looked like the men that walked the earth, more than those that swam the seas. The females sought them because they were more than pleasing to look at, and the times that they lounged on the rocks in the grotto caused many a female heart to skip many beats, and desire each of them greatly. Their look had allowed each of them to walk the earth at times that their people needed them to.
Today, however, they had but to police the waters of the grotto’s entrance, watching, protecting, prepared to sound the first alarms should they be necessary.
He leaned toward his friend as he swam, the water sliding over and around them, and indicated a pattern they should swim in, in order to cover the greatest area. As they swam, he lost himself in the absolute glory of the water. Atiniui watched it, as it formed small currents around his hand, as he cut thru the water. It fascinated him, so visible one minute and then gone the next. He watched as his friend swam, and saw the larger currents form and disappear, and as he swam, he swore he felt them form and dissipate. He felt the power of the water around him, as he swam thru it, and he let it lead him
He and Cadassi were so comfortable here. They had tried to live on land - had to do it, in fact, when the elders sent them there to make sure that their home in the grotto wasn’t threatened. He didn’t like it at all. The colors were too harsh, the sounds too brash and loud, and the people were… well, the people were people. Neither he nor his friend felt as if they could live there and they did wonder how their ancestors ever did.
Swimming closer to the grotto entrance, he looked behind him to see Cadassi following, when he felt the strangest thing. All of a sudden, his leg went numb, then began to throb. He looked and saw blood, his blood, eddying and flowing from a large wound in his leg. Stunned and confused, he looked about, seeking an intruder, someone, some thing that had hurt him.
He looked down again, and saw the streaming blood. Cadassi was at his side in a moment, as he himself seemed unable to react in any way at all, and his friend pulled him toward an outcropping far deep away from the grotto’s entrance. He felt as if he were watching the events unfold around him, unable to move or do anything at all to move or save himself. His companion pulled him to the rocks, out of the water, onto the outcropping, then further back onto the ledge Cadassi, his friend pulled him further back on the ledge, so that someone coming from the grotto entrance couldn’t see them.
“Atiniui!” his voice was soft, strident and concerned, “Atiniui!”
Atiniui reached for Cadassi’s arm, grasping it, “What happened? I can’t… I can’t seem to do anything… What…Cadassi… What???”
There was real terror in Atinui’s voice, born of not knowing what had happened, what was happening, how it had happened…
All the while Cadassi had been helping his friend, he had been searching for something to put on the wound, to stay the bleeding. He reached behind Atiniui’s head and quickly scraped a mass of algae and diatoms, applying them to the wound, and wrapping some kelp around the leg to hold the mass there.
Atiniui began to lose consciousness, and Cadassi slapped his face, to bring him back to the ledge.
“Atiniui, men, in deep diving suits…they’ve found the entrance to the grotto! One of them shot a weapon at you! That’s what opened your leg!”
Atiniui looked at Cadassi. “We must get back to the others. We must! The females, the little ones! They must be protected. The elders must be warned!”
Cadassi nodded, his blond hair falling about his face. “First we have to make sure that you can swim, and that you don’t leave a blood trail. The men are bad enough, but the sharks will sense it if you’re still bleeding!”
“Which is why you must go and leave me here. You have the
speed and you can get to the council chamber quicker without me. I can’t go, I
can’t. I’ll hold you up, and above all, we have to sound the alarm.”
“Atiniui, I can’t leave you. If you’re found and taken prisoner, who knows what they will do to you?”
He shook his head angrily. “And if they find the females, the children, all of our people, what then? What do you think will happen to all of us? We’ll wind up in cages and tanks in zoos, or worse, on the lab tables of the scientists who want to know who and what we are. We can’t allow that, my friend. You know that. In one of the books that we read long ago, from the land dwellers, a writer said, ‘The good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one.’ In the workings of our world, you must warn the council and families. I am not important. Now, go!”
Cadassi hesitated. “But, what will you do?”
“Don’t worry about me, my friend. Just go! Our people are in need of you to bring the alarm. I’ll stay here, and you can come back after you’ve sounded the alarm and our people are protected.”
He grabbed his arm in a firm grip. “Go, Cadassi, sound the alarm!”
Cadassi returned the grip, and then turned. At the edge of the ledge, he turned to look back at his longtime friend, and then dove into the water. Atiniui watched as he quickly sliced beneath the water, and disappeared, on his way to the council chambers, and hopefully to be in time to warn their people.
Atiniui leaned back on the rocky ledge, looking at his leg, where he had been wounded. The pain in the leg was radiating up his leg to his hip and groin. He knew he wouldn’t be able to swim well, if at all, so it was best that Cadassi go and spread the alarm. He pulled himself further back on the ledge, secreting himself deep in the ridges of the ledge. He hoped he would not be visible if any of the intruders came in the direction of the rocky outcropping. He closed his eyes, lying back, pillowing his head on his arm, and letting Erebus spread the dark over his mind…
He came awake with a start, grabbing for his leg, but finding his hands and arm restrained. He was wrapped in something, something that first felt strange and confining, but then, quickly realizing it was comforting and familiar. He breathed deeply, finding the air around him, not his beloved water. In the background he heard sounds, once alien, then, again, suddenly familiar.
Calming himself, he became aware of a presence nearby, at the same time he was now stunningly aware of the pain in his leg. A moan escaped his lips, and a hand then rested reassuringly on his shoulder. He opened his eyes fully and looked around.
Sick Bay! Okay, how the hell did I get here? Where the hell was I? Who was I? Oh, man…what the hell…?
He cleared his throat, and looked over into a pair of piercing blue eyes, now smiling, but the deep circles beneath indicating that there had been much recent stress in their owner’s.
“Welcome back, Lee. You’ve given Jamie another run for his money. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay him enough to stay with us after what you and Chip threw at him this time!” Harriman Nelson chuckled.
Groggily, Lee Crane managed, “Sir?”
Nelson settled into his chair just as Will Jamison arrived at the bedside to check on his patient. The genial physician smiled at the Captain, as he listened to Crane’s heart, checked his temperature, blood pressure and the three or four lines feeding into the hep-lock connection.
“Well, Lee, it looks like despite your best efforts to the contrary, you’re going to make a full recovery. Your leg is going to give you some pain for a while, but it will heal and you’ll be up and about in no time!” Jamison’s voice was cheery and light, in spite of the underlying concern that Crane heard.
For once, Lee had no desire to give the doctor a hard time about getting out of Sick Bay. He was too confused as to the how-what- where and when of it all. And he was so tired, he felt like he could hardly keep his eyes open. He didn’t feel the false lethargy that comes with a sedative, but a natural tiredness, that of the body recovering from some great struggle. But what?? What had happened??
“Admiral?? Chip? The boat? The men? What the hell happened? I don’t understand. I wasn’t here.. I was… I was…”
“Do you think you can share what happened in your dreams, Lee?”
“I don’t remember. I… I think that Chip… that Chip and I…”
He drifted off, and Nelson watched as the pattern of deep sleep established itself, deep steady breathing replacing the short erratic breaths that had preceded Lee’s awakening. He rose from the chair, and went to Jamison’s office, where the doctor was making notes in Lee’s folder.
“Well…?” he asked, as he sat in the chair opposite Jamison. He reached in his pocket pulled out a cigarette, and fished for his lighter. He took a long drag, and then as Jamie gave him a dark look, “Will he be all right? No lasting effects?”
Jamison cleared his throat, “You should let up on those, Harry. They’re going to be the cause of some major problems for you one of these days if you don’t…”
Nelson grunted as he stubbed out the cigarette. “Okay, you win… for now! Now tell me about Lee!”
Jamison smiled an ironic smile and sat back in his chair. “Well, leave it to Lee Crane to have an unusual event with a very basic injury. The fact that he was slammed into the Coral bed with that underwater disturbance wasn’t the issue. He’s had coral cuts before and we treated all of them successfully. His problem this time was that the bed had been infected with some Red Tide diatoms. And Lee being Lee, well, they decided to take up residence in that body of his, and the rest, well, he did give me a hellacious time.”
“Why is he having such a hard time with his memory?”
“Clinically speaking, he’s got Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning. The chemicals in the Diatoms
cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps within 24 hours of exposure. In more severe cases, the neurological symptoms develop within 48 hours and include headache, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, and loss of short-term memory… Which explains a lot, but what about long term? From what I’ve been able to research, I believe that there isn’t an antidote or cure for it.
“And we know that, again, Lee being Lee, he got the worst of it all. He really got a massive exposure due to the way his leg was torn up. And within the 24 hours, he had all of the symptoms. And a few that they don’t ‘know’ about. That said, we were in luck. Since the ’91 ‘event’ in Washington State, and the Sea Lion deaths in Monterey Bay, there has been a lot of research done on the toxin, Domic Acid. Our ‘friends’ at Langley and ONI seem to think it may make a good ‘biological weapon’. So not only are they doing research on the viability, they’ve also developed an antidote. It’s only been used on small test groups, but it works. So I made a few calls, called in a few ‘markers’ of my own and we were able to get one dose of the antidote. Fortunately, Chip wasn’t cut or scraped in the disturbance. His cracked ribs won’t prohibit him from light duty in a day or two, and he wasn’t exposed to the toxin, so he’s ‘home free.’ And Lee responded very well to the antidote. He’s sleeping peacefully now and I have hopes that he’ll wake a lot a bit more alert and with it. In the meantime, however, you need to get some rest yourself. Frank’s with Chip in his cabin, and he’s resting. John’s here, watching Lee, and you need to get at least four hours in your rack before I want to see you here again. And this is your CMO talking, not your friend! Now…out, Admiral. Out!”
Nelson released the breath he’d been holding when Jamison’s voice lightened, and he started to reach for another cigarette but a blazing glare from the doctor stopped him. He looked over to Lee’s rack, and Jamison quickly said “No! Your cabin, Admiral! Not here.”
“Okay, Jamie, okay. I get the message. I’ll go to my cabin.” He paused, “Call me if he wakes, will you? I’d like to talk to him about all this…”
Jamie nodded. “Of course.”
Nelson walked out of the Sick Bay, assured that his ‘boys’ were going to be okay.
Until the next time….
Atiniui woke with a start. He hadn’t meant to fall off to sleep, but the wound had drained him more than he realized. Pulling himself to a sitting position, he slowly drew his leg up. Cadassi had wrapped it well with the seaweed and diatoms. The area pulsed with pain, but the bleeding had stopped. He wanted to test it, and himself, to see if he could get back to the council chambers, to help Cadassi and the elders with the people. They would have to go into the hiding place, deeper in the grotto than the men from land could go with their air tanks. He pulled himself up, using a small ledge to lean on. Fire continued to rage in his leg, and he bit hard on his lip to keep from crying out. He couldn’t cry out, couldn’t make a sound, just in case the land dwellers were nearby and they could somehow detect his cry. His long hair, now dry, fell over his face, blocking his view of the area above the grotto entrance. He saw underwater lights, maybe about a dozen. That sent real fear to his heart.
Attacked!! We’re being attacked by the land-dwellers. Cadassi, my friend, I hope you sounded the alarm!! I hope you and the people are safe!!
Atiniui sank to the ledge, his energy sapped, and his heart dark and fear-filled. There was nothing he could do to help his people now. It was in Cadassi’s hands.
Cadassi swam swiftly to the council chambers. He hadn’t wanted to leave Atiniui, but as his friend had pointed out, he had no choice. The mer-people had to be notified, had to be protected from the invasion of the land-dwellers. Finding his way into a strong current, he swam and let the current help him reach his goal more quickly. He saw the spires of the council chambers glowing in the soft light of the sea animals used for lighting. He swam rapidly to the chamber, stopping before the Elders.
“Honored ones, the land-dwellers are coming. We must take the people and go to the deep hiding place. I do not believe that they are here on to be our friends. They wounded Atiniui, and he could not come back with me. I came to warn you. We must sound the alarm and leave!”
The chief elder, Aegeus, whose flowing auburn hair was flecked with white, and whose blue eyes carried a millennia of joys, sadness and fear, spoke, “Then send the alarm, tell the mermen to take the females and little ones to the deep, safe part of the grotto. No land-dwellers can go that deep with their air tanks. We will all leave now!”
And with that, the elders quickly left the hall. Cadassi followed them, seeking his family, and seeing to them. He also sought out Atiniui’s family and saw to them, too. In a short period of time, the habitats were empty, the chambers deserted, the mer-people gone from the grotto, or at least it would now seem to the land-dwellers.
Once all the people were hidden in the deepest of the grotto, Cadassi left the hiding place, and while remaining hidden, went to watch and wait until he could find a way to go and see if he could find Atiniui. He hoped his friend had managed to hide, to find a place to safely wait until he could return to his people and his friends. Cadassi knew that if Atiniui was able, he’d hide and stay hidden until he could come back to the people, or someone could come and help him. One way or another, Cadassi would find his friend. He was watching at an outcropping, and started when a hand touched his shoulder. Miralani, one of the females who had spent time with Atiniui had come behind Cadassi, and asked, “Where is he?”
Cadassi turned to her, “He was wounded by the land-dwellers. I had to leave him, on a ledge.” He shook his head, “I had to. I didn’t want to, but…”
She placed a finger on his lips, “I know. And I am sure he told you to leave, as I know the both of you. Have you seen the land-dwellers? Are there many of them?”
“I saw twelve in a pod. They had lights and weapons, and they were going into the council chamber. If they leave, we must seal the grotto entrance. We cannot allow them in again. And we must be even more cautious than ever. Atiniui is right. They will put us on display or worse. We cannot lose one of the people. We cannot allow any one of us to be taken!”
“The elders say we can live in harmony with them.”
He shook his head, his face showing concern with a hint of anger. “The elders are wrong! Atiniui and I have lived among them. We would be looked on as specimens. Something to be studied, and worse. We would not be looked on as equals. There is no place on land that would respect us for who and what we are. No place!”
“It makes me sad, Cadassi. I had hoped to see the land that you and Atiniui walked. But if land-dwellers are as you say, then it will never be.”
He slid an arm around her, pulling her closer to him, “I’m sorry, Miralani, but all the land-dwellers are seeking is to show the rest of their world, people that live where they cannot. They only want to learn how we live here, underwater, yet can also breathe the air. They will only destroy us, nothing else. “
Miralani’s lovely face fell into a sad frown. “It is not right, Cadassi. We should all live together in harmony, on the land and in our Mother Ocean. All life came from here, why can’t we live together?”
“Because, innocent one, the land-dwellers have been out of Mother Ocean for far too many centuries. They look at her as an enemy. There are a few, among the scientists who do not seek harm in the waters, who seek to learn, and understand. But they are few, and the governments of the land do not seek to use Mother Ocean to help and expand knowledge, but simply to exploit her, in whatever way they can.”
“Does this invasion mean that we must live in fear from now on?”
“No, it doesn’t. As soon as the land-dwellers leave, we will seal the entrance to the grotto, and make sure no land-dweller will enter it ever again. It will be wiped from the ocean.” He took her chin in his hand, and tilted her face towards him, “Do not fear. You and Atiniui will be able to mate, and you will have his children.”
She blushed and smiled. “Only if he wishes, Cadassi. Only if he wishes. And he does not wish so yet.”
Atiniui watched for the undersea lights to leave the grotto. Time passed slowly, so very slowly. His leg throbbed, the pain growing worse. He worried about the people, Cadassi, his friend, his family, the females that he cared about, all the little ones that he had been helping to learn of the history of the people and the grotto. He lay there, hidden, watching, and praying to the gods of the sea to protect all.
After an interminable time, he saw the lights in the distance, moving in a line to the grotto entrance. One by one, they left, and when he had counted 12, no more followed. A short time later, he saw a group of mer-men approach the entrance, carrying tools and materials that he recognized all too well. He knew their intent, and he also knew he would have to leave the relative safety of the ledge, for when they sealed the grotto, this ledge would no longer exist. It would crumble with the rock face and seal the entrance to the grotto forever. He tried to rise, tried to stand, to get to the edge of the ledge so that he could dive into the water, and swim to safety, but he found his body wouldn’t work, wouldn’t follow his orders to it. The wound in his leg was sending pain to his hip, his groin and into his belly. His arms seemed to be devoid of all feeling. Whatever he had been wounded with, whatever had opened his leg had also slowly begun to paralyze him, as well as cause indescribable pain emanating from the wound. He couldn’t call out either, to let the others know he was here. Only Cadassi knew where he was, but even if he got to him before the grotto was sealed, Atiniui believed it would do no good.
Somehow, he knew that he was dying. He knew that there was very little time left to him. He hated the idea; he felt he had many more things to do - to help his people, to teach to the young ones. However, it seemed he had no choice in the matter. He wanted to say goodbye to his family and his friends, but he knew he wouldn’t have the time. It seemed that his body was slowly stopping its functioning. He could feel the lack of response as it moved, along with the radiating pain, up to his chest. He felt nothing below any longer, just the pain, as it was rising in his body, along with the lack anything else. He could only lie there and wait. It didn’t take long, finally the pain reached his chest. He felt tremendous pain and pressure. He heard his heart, pounding in his ears, the heart rate going faster and faster as the pain and pressure increased and moved further and further up his chest, then to his neck, his face. His vision grew dim, and he realized the end was very near. He was struggling to breathe, and regretted that he was so near his beloved waters, yet so far. It was all black now, no sound, each breath a single fight, and a step nearer to the end of all.
Jamison looked up as a loud cry came from the rack of the boat’s skipper. He’d believed that Lee was in a ‘good’ sleep, and wouldn’t wake for several more hours. He saw John struggling to calm the Captain. Will moved quickly across the short space to the Skipper’s rack.
John looked up, “I dunno, Doc. He just suddenly sat up, cried out that it was black, all black, and then started to fight with me.”
Jamison quickly replaced John at the side of the rack. The monitors showed a sudden spike in activity for both the heart and the brain, and then a quieting down. There was no fever, no indication that there was anything wrong. Perhaps he was just having a reaction to one of the meds that he was receiving. That would be no new thing for Lee.
Crane was still unconscious, muttering things that Jamison had no idea of, and was moving restlessly about in the bed.
“Dead! Dead!” he muttered.
Jamison had had enough. He laid a hand on Crane’s shoulder. Gently, “Lee…Lee… wake up. C’mon, Skipper. Wake up!”
Lee’s head turned toward the voice, his eyes snapped open, “Cadassi? Where?...”
He looked around… at first, he didn’t recognize Jamison or Werner. Then slowly recognition dawned, “Sick Bay?”
smile creased Jamison’s face, “Yes, Skipper. Your least favorite place on the
boat.” He turned to John, “Call the Admiral and let him know that the Skipper’s
awake. And call Frank in Mr. Morton’s cabin and tell him as well.” He paused,
and then began again, “Also, tell Frank that the Exec can come down here for a
few minutes ‘just to see for himself’ that the Captain is okay.”
He turned his attention back to Crane, “Care to tell me what was going on in that mind of yours…? You called me by a rather odd name…”
“Cadassi… I know, Doc. I…” He scrubbed his forehead with his free hand, “ It was…well, I was … I died… and…”
Concerned over Crane’s growing agitation, he again placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Why don’t you just relax a minute or two? The Admiral’s coming down to see you, and I’m sure Chip won’t be that far behind. Then you can tell us all at once what you ‘dreamt’.”
Crane nodded, and tried to settle more comfortably into the rack. He gestured to
his leg. “I, uh, don’t remember what happened to me, Jamie. How did I wind up
here in the first place? The last thing I remember was… The bomb and the
mermaid…” Alarmed, “God, that had to be days ago! What happened to my memory?
Why can’t I remember? Why?”
Jamison increased the pressure on Crane’s shoulder. “Easy, Lee. Yes, that was a week ago. Actually, eight days to be exact. Is that the absolute last thing you remember?”
Lee’s forehead creased into a deep frown, followed by sincere puzzlement. “Yes, the absolute last thing. How did I lose eight days?”
Jamie leaned forward, taking his stethoscope to listen to the Captain’s heart and chest. He made a note on the chart hanging on the side of the rack, and then spoke to his patient. “A nasty little diatom that produces a toxin that causes, among a variety of other things, short term memory loss, or slight amnesia. The bad part is that in all the studies that have been done, the memory lost will never return. The good part is that we were able to get you the antidote quickly, and you should be fine, and so should your memory. And since you were here, flat on your back for the last six days, that only leaves two days of memories lost. Not much in the scheme of things, and all the time, you were here, on the boat, so, nothing critical was lost, as far as the Admiral and I can determine.”
Some of the tenseness left Lee’s lean frame, and he seemed to relax somewhat in the rack. Jamison checked his vitals again, making notes from the machines on the other side of the elevated rack. He adjusted two of the three IV lines, and then leaned toward Crane.
“Feeling any better? Now that you’re fully awake?”
“I suppose. It’s just… just so strange. I don’t know what happened to me, how I got here… where I was… So very strange… My leg… you said I was hurt… what happened?”
“You and Chip were out of the boat, with a small party. We’d come across some Coral beds, in a place that the Admiral didn’t know there were any. We stopped, so that we could get some samples. You and Chip took the party out because the size of the bed was so large, and the Admiral didn’t want to spend too much time in the area, considering the mission we’d just finished. Apparently, you all split up, and started to do the sampling, you from one end, and Chip from the other. You both were finishing up the sampling when we were hit by an undersea disturbance. I’m told it came from nowhere and caused several underwater ‘waves’. Tossed the boat about, and threw all of the diving party around. We’re just lucky that the injuries, off boat as well as on the boat, were as few as they were. You got tossed into the reef so hard that the leg of your suit was torn from your hip to your ankle. You had some pretty nasty cuts, several deep ones. Chip hit a rock bed that cracked three of his ribs. Ski wound up with a concussion and a lump that would win him a prize in any contest. Lots of bumps and bruises on the rest of the dive party, and the boat as well. We had one broken arm, and two broken hands. Assorted bumps and bruises that would be found in such an upheaval. No damage to the boat, though, not even a scrape of the paint!”
Lee smiled slightly.
As Jamison continued, Nelson appeared in Lee’s line of vision, and behind him, a somewhat battered looking Chip Morton, left arm supported in a sling, white against his dark blue robe. Jamison continued. “I think it would be fair to say that you and Chip took the worst of it, you, (sotto voce) most of all.”
Jamie stepped back, and Frank and John brought two chairs to the side of the rack, Jamison brushing off one for himself. He leaned against the rack above as Nelson and Chip took their respective places in the seats.
Chip reached over, laying a hand on Crane’s arm, “You had me worried. I thought I might have to think about breaking in a new Captain. Something I never want to do again! You’ve gotta stop getting in the line of fire, bro…”
Softly, Crame replied, “Trust me, I really don’t plan these things! Hey, you’re
not doing too shabby a job either.”
Chip laughed, “At least I’m in my cabin, while you, Skipper, continue to be Doc’s guest in the luxury accommodations!”
Nelson leaned toward Crane, “Care to share with us some of what you were dreaming, Lee?
You, uh, woke up pretty agitated, when I was here with you. And when Will had Frank call, he said that you were pretty upset again. Called him by a name he didn’t know…”
Lee nodded, “I did… Cadassi. That was, that was the name…” Lee’s focus went past the men gathered around the rack. “I don’t know, Admiral… I… I was a … a merman… Chip and I…” He blushed deeply. Morton merely became more attentive to the story. Nelson’s expression was one of interested concern. Jamison’s face was, for all intents and purposes, a blank.
“Doc, can I have some water… I’m really dry, and I think I may have a lot to say.”
Wordlessly, Jamison provided the water. Crane took several sips, and then let the glass set at his side on the rack as he continued. “That was Chip’s name, he called me Atiniui. It was as if we had lived all our lives there… God, the freedom of it! Of being able to move from land to sea without tanks, to breathe in the water and swim without suits and all the rest… Admiral, it was amazing!!” He paused, “I know it wasn’t real, but it felt real. I felt the water against my skin, I felt myself swimming thru it, and Chip was right there with me, we were friends like we are now!” he took a deep breath, becoming more agitated. “We were different than most of the ‘men’ in the community. We didn’t have scales, we looked almost like we do here, now, except for longer hair, and some fins. Unlike most of the rest of the ‘men’. But… the people were being watched by men they called land-dwellers, who used scuba gear, and they were going to invade the grotto. We, Chip… Cadassi and I were sent to patrol, to watch for them. We were swimming toward the entrance to the grotto, and I was wounded by something, in my leg.” He reached for his injured leg. “I… I guess I’d never been injured like that before, because it completely incapacitated me. Cadassi brought me to a ledge near the grotto entrance, he put some algae and kelp on the wound, and then I sent him to warn the people. He didn’t want to leave, but I told him he had to go. He did, and when the invaders came, I don’t think that they found anyone. I watched for them to leave. You see, whatever they had wounded me with, I was dying… and I knew it. And then the men of the community came to the entrance of the grotto, and I knew they were sealing it, and I knew that I was going to die, and that only my friend knew where I was, and as they caused the entrance to the grotto to close forever, I died.” He looked at Will, “That’s when I woke up, here. Both times, I had been there and then I woke up here. I felt like I’d lived that life, like I belonged there as much as here. And,” he paused and looked at Nelson and Chip, “if I could, I think I would have chosen that life, over this one. There was such freedom… I can’t begin to explain….”
Nelson placed a hand on his shoulder, “You don’t have to, Lee. That kind of ‘desire,’ as it were, is completely understandable. Keeping the friends and family we have, but in a different ‘world’ is something many of us ‘wish’ for or dream about. It doesn’t make your life any less important of valuable or honest. And the thrill of the unknown possibilities is always something we look to get hold of and keep. Freedom… there are all kinds of it, and it’s normal and natural to seek it in whatever way we can. You’ve always had an affinity for the oceans, Lee. Like we all do, we’re drawn to it, to her… the mistress of our souls. We spend most of our lives within her. How could you not want to choose to live freely within her? I would, if I could.”
Lee was surprised at Nelson’s revelation, and his face showed it.
“Surprised you didn’t I? Well, there are things about me you still don’t know and, who knows? In time, you may or may not find them out!” He smiled, removing his hand from Crane’s shoulder. “You should rest, Lee. There’ll be lots of time to talk of this, when you’re feeling better, and when your ‘brother’ here is also in better shape. We all need to talk about this. But rest assured that the choices you’ve made, are the best for you and for all concerned. Trust me in that one…”
Lee reached for Nelson’s hand, “I do, Admiral… I do.” He moved downward in the bunk, and began to drowse off, then his eyes snapped open, and he looked at Chip Morton.
“Chip, status of the boat…”
Chip grinned, and began, “Well, Skipper….”
Cadassi swam like he’d never before. He’s been helping his family and Atiniui’s back to the grotto, when he realized that the workers had left to close the entrance. Atiniui was trapped on the outcropping. If they closed the entrance, the ledge would collapse, and… Cadassi didn’t want to think of the possibilities. He and Atiniui had grown up together. While they had different parents, they were as close as brothers, and neither did anything without consulting the other. It was as natural as could be. But if something happened to Atiniui, what would he, Cadassi, do?
He couldn’t even imagine. He had to get to the rock ledge before the unthinkable took place.
He reached the area just before the workers were set to use their tools to cause the entrance to crumble. He halted them, and went to look for Atiniui.
He found him, on the ledge, towards the back and out of sight of the workers, or anyone else. He was lying on his side, the injured leg atop the other, his head lying on one arm, while the other lay across his stomach. His long hair was thrown back, and Atiniui’s features were peaceful, showing no pain.
He knew, and he felt as if his heart had been wrenched from his chest.
Atiniui was gone. He was dead, his spirit moved to wherever the spirits of the ones who die go. Cadassi moved toward the body of his lifelong friend. He was so still, and Cadassi felt a broken man. Atiniui had sent him to save the people, and they were safe, soon to be safer when this grotto entrance was sealed, but the cost!
He knelt next to his friend, calling his name softly. Atiniui didn’t respond. He felt for a pulse, for the beating of his heart, and felt none. His fears confirmed, he sat back on his heels, and cried out against the vile fate that caused his friend to die. He wept for all the times never to be had, the joys never to be known, the love never to be shared, and then he tenderly gathered his friend’s body in his arms, and slid into the sea, carrying him home, one last time….
Atiniui (m) "man of the sea," (Micronesia – Chuk)
Cadassi (m) "to have something of the sea" (Guam- Chamoru).
What happened to Lee Crane was based on the information below, with a bit of artistic license, having this particular Red Tide diatom take up residence in a Coral bed, which is not outside of the range of possibility.
Amnesiac Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) - Domoic Acid - Red tide Diatom -Glutamate
Receptor Agonist – major vector – fish, but with a red tide, Coral can be infected & the diatom can reside in the bed.
Incubation Time -< 24 hrs - Acute Symptoms – Gastrointestinal, neurological, other symptoms – Amnesia
Diagnosis - Clinical, Mouse bioassay, HPLC
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