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The dry wind currents from the land drifted passed the gritty sand dunes and down along the beach to where I laid swathed in sea foam and tangled in jetsam and my own cerulean tresses of hair. Through the jagged slashes of gills at the base of my throat I gulped the gentle breeze and instantaneously my body began to tremor and quake by the shocking desiccation of the air.
“Lungs, Tarot! You have lungs now for until the moon grows full! Inhale!”
I acknowledged the voice in the back of my mind with a sharp intake of breath through my nose and mouth, the spasms began to weaken as oxygen filled my chest and coursed through my bloodstream.
When I grew adequately calm enough to sit up and observe myself, I marveled at how quickly the Conversion Potion had taken its affect. Already the pallid scales that had plastered my body had dissolved leaving supple, alabaster skin in its place. The delicate webbing between each of my fingers and toes had also disappeared and I could feel my prominent gills shrinking until they were only minute slits scarring my neck. I was human now, for at least until the moon waxed over and became completely full in about four days. As I reached skyward to stretch my limbs, a sudden onslaught of memory crashed down on me like a tsunami.
In four days at moonrise, exactly 6:24 p.m., the moon would be struck by an asteroid the size of the ancient island of Long and the kinetic force of the impact will have thrust the moon roughly 12 feet closer to the Earth. The already high tides of that night would swell to an immense size and spill onto the remaining slice of land drowning the last earthen city of Arid and smothering the last five thousand or so remaining humans living there. At exactly 6:24 p.m. four days from now, the potion will have exhausted from my system and I would become a creature confined to the water once more.
Of course, the souls on land had no knowledge of this. No one existing on terra firma had even a remote clue as to the catastrophic future. Nobody except for me, Tarot.
An even stronger, drier gust of wind blew down the beach and swept the hair from my shoulders and rumpled the sheer, cotton dress that I’d donned earlier. As my eyes adjusted to the miasma rising from the chilly sea, I spotted the light emerald vial with amber-hued swirls bobbing in the surf next to the cork. Less than an hour ago it had been full of a translucent, bubbling liquid which was the Conversion Potion that I’d swallowed once I’d managed to drag myself ashore. The potion had made me human, but only by appearance.
By makeup, humans are stubborn. They are rude. They are cruel. They are ignorant. They have limits. For millennia, us water inhabitants have prided ourselves with our superior intelligence, attunement with nature, and placid temperament. Time and evolution have enhanced our being and we are the perfect race.
Or are we?
Our intellects tell us that there is no such thing as perfect, that perfection does not exist. Our intellects also lead us to conclude that we are entirely good. We are good because we do not murder, we do not steal, we do not inflict anguish, we do not experience jealousy, we do not encounter greed and we do not lie.
While lying is taboo, my kind does conceal many secrets. It’s true that we’ve harbored much of our understanding from the world outside of the waves- from land. Most of our wisdom and data however have typically been superfluous knowledge that had never qualified as being a necessity to having to share with people.
Then we’d acquired this new, pristine article of confidentiality involving the moon and the inevitable destruction of Arid which was agreed by the Sovereigns to remain clandestine to humans. I had no inkling as to why they’d decided as much, but I however didn’t agree.
The humans would become permanently extinct if I failed to notify them of the circumstances. On the other hand, if I did manage to convince at least a single person that their very existence was at stake, would they accept my help? Human histories were violent, written in the blood of their own innocent and stamped with hypocrisy and pride that contained each individual. They may’ve chosen to look the other way and disregard my forewarning. After all, in their eyes I was but a pretentious ocean dweller with no business interfering with their community, I confess that I too would be wary.
Still, my conscience weighed heavy on my shoulders, even under water. The humans might’ve been a crude species, but I was incapable of just neglecting their livelihood and watching the tides wash away all evidence that people ever were.
Then again, perhaps that was not such an immoral idea. People possessed such a great number of wicked attributes that they far outweighed their respectable qualities. If the sea were to swallow up Arid, then the entire world would be forever cleansed of all that was bad.
But was I myself bad for even considering this thought? If I were to have chosen to not help lead them to safety while I was perfectly capable of doing so, did that make me a…murderer?
Philosophy had always managed to twist and contradict my brain and leave behind even more knots in my psyche than it could manage to unravel. I wasn’t inclusive about any one thing at that moment and already I could sense activity in Arid as the humans began to stir with the commencing of the morning.
I scrutinized the rising sun ascending into the heavens and let my gaze wander across the sky before it finally settled on the sallow gibbous which had nearly vanished until its reappearance at dusk.
I scooped up a fistful of sand and let the wind catch the miniscule grains little by little, scattering them to far reaches of the earth- or ocean. I knew Arid lay just in the shadow of the sand dunes behind me, and I recognized that just like the sand slipping through my fingers, time was escaping. I decided to wait until my palm was empty before I would finally make the journey to the city in peril… I never got that chance.
Just before the last few wisps of dust could be drawn from my hand, I suddenly tensed at the sensation of a razor making an impression into the small of my back and the tug of rough hands clutching my hair.
“All right water scum,” a gruff and unfamiliar voice snarled into my ear “You got two seconds to scamper back into your salt pool unless you’d fancy becoming tonight’s sushi dish.”