by Brianna G. Harte
Sand soaked in the tides as they fanned toward and away from the small beach. Whenever my feet fell upon the surface, a tickling sensation climbed up to my heels and the soft coating was ruined, but only slightly. Once another wave rolled in, hardly any traces of my passing remained. It was soothing. The seagulls flying overhead from the horizon cawed like wheezing toys from years past. Leaves rustled in the light breeze that also pushed several strands of wavy auburn hair across my face.
I continued to walk, almost at peace. It was rare that I would get such chances. Usually, people stared at me as though a virus was invading their city. My outward appearance did not vary much from their own. Perhaps they received vibes about who I truly was and perceived it the wrong way. I sighed at the thought. It was time for tranquility, not analysis.
My ears perked up. Someone else stepped into the tide. But who? It was a Tuesday morning, the time when most people were at work or driving to it. Children would be on their way to school. The elderly would be inside until the clocks struck twelve, when their caretakers were ready to let them explore the gardens and seashore. I quietly shuddered, and advanced my pace.
More splashes could be heard behind me. The salty scent of the ocean was now infused with the aroma of sweet huikre blossoms that no human could have found on Earth.
My first error: I turned my head. A man in a long white trench coat, a short, dark-haired girl who seemed roughly seventeen, and a bloodhound on a leather leash, walked along. Their eyes certainly were on me.
“It’s definitely her!” the man called out as his brisk walk turned into a run.
Only a second later, I was sprinting as fast as my legs could take me. If only I could fly!
I looked toward my right. My only escape from the eminent capture on land. I rushed through the oncoming waves, too afraid to truly think of the idiocy of my situation. I was never a strong swimmer. My breath could hold, lasting five minutes, maybe seven if I concentrated hard enough. It was not nearly enough. Not against them. Nevertheless, I doused myself in water, pushing the water past in order to fade into the bottom.
As I submerged myself, the color of my skin and clothes adapted to that of the algae which insisted on clinging to my being. Currents brushed against my face as I propelled myself toward the ocean floor filled with eels, coral, seaweed, and trash. Left and right were open waters. Fish filled the spaces, but no rocks could serve as a cover, one I desperately needed to preserve myself and the future of the Qi Merova, my race. Unfortunately, the man in the trench coat and girl would know that full well seeing as I was one of five left guarding the codes.
I shook my head at the thought, allowing bubbles to flutter around me before rising to the surface. Eyes wide and heart pounding like a ritual drum, I propelled myself far away from the spot. The lively coral neighborhood now stood at an arm’s length. A school of small, silvery fish swam through my hair as I was clearly providing an obstacle course with my presence. One tickled my neck with its slick scales. I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t risk giving away my position again. Those three could likely be hovering close by in the air, planning their trap.
Disadvantages screamed in my mind. Then, the coral pricked my hand. I recoiled immediately, almost losing a breath of sweet air. An idea took form. Slowly, my hand and back slid onto the coral, ignoring the discomfort while allowing my skin to take on the appearance of the limestone-covered reef. Medium tan skin was replaced by vibrant reds, browns, and colors in-between which seemed as though a sponge created the colors. My black clothes stood out from my multi-colored body, but I quickly recalled that they could be mistaken for shadows. At least, that was the best I could hope for.
I gazed toward the surface, where shadows stood. Just shadows. No one breached the ocean surface, both comforting and alarming me. Surely they did not give up. All Qi Merovan databases spoke of their ruthlessness, their determination, and tendency to exhaust all possibilities despite their likelihoods of success. There was chance that this was their plan. Likely benefits were clouded from me. That is, until pressure in my chest began to feel uncomfortable. My skin may be able to adapt fairly easily, but the rest of my being was left as fragile as it was on the land. Every passing second, my lungs begged for air and took revenge on me by making even less tolerable pain than before. Details of reef life blurred, even the salty sensation that had taken residence in my nose and mouth.
The surface seemed to be my only option. The road to safety and utter destruction lay at my fingertips.
Turning over my arm, I tried to convince myself of the better choice. Three symbols were embedded there, each one defining Qi Merovan traits I embodied and had to protect. If I were to be lost now, they would be protected, but never see the light of day again. Was it worth the guarantee?
I leaned forward, distancing myself from the coral. The medium tan tone returned to my skin immediately. I glanced at the shadow above, then searched for any other option. Still nothing except for open sea lay nearby. With a huff, I swam upward in a diagonal motion, constantly eyeing the boat.
Maybe I can stay down here a little longer and they will move away.The thought was quickly dismissed when it caused me to swallow the saltwater. I shuddered for a moment, deeply wishing that the repulsive salty taste would evacuate my mouth. Until water was below me, it would be impossible.
The current harshly pushed against my skin as my arms and legs moved faster and with more strength. Must . . . get . . . air!
Heavy splashes came from the right and behind. My heart beat fast. My lungs started to give in. Dark spots covered my eyes to compliment the redness that probably had been invading the whites long ago. The surface still was too far away. Twenty feet maybe. Thirty at most. Whatever the case, I wasn’t going to make it.
Despite these thoughts, I pushed onward until I absolutely had to open my mouth again.
Perhaps it was luck. Perhaps something had assisted me. Either way, I took a breath of air. That is, after I coughed the water I ingested minutes before.
“Haha! Not so robust now that you’re in the water, are you?” a teasing voice called.
I turned to find the boat not nearly as far as I had thought it would be, or rather, hoped it would be. Two strides and my hands could touch the girl’s hand. The air seemed to become cooler as I bowed my head, not daring enough to meet their eyes. A soft, low hum echoed through the space between the clouds and sea. At first, it seemed to come straight from the jaws of the dog whose eyes narrowed with sharp teeth barred. When the man in the trench coat lifted me out of the water and threw me into the back of the boat, the humming became omnipresent even though the face of the dog now hovered over my own.
“Irin, do you hear that sound?” the man asked in a whisper, just loud enough for me to hear.
“The humming? Of course,” the girl responded. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her reach for long sticks within a bag slung over her shoulder. “Perhaps we can catch two at once, though I’m sure we can get the secrets from the first soon enough.”
A slight smile grew on my face. If only he or she would show. While the possibly rabid beast in front of me could deliver a significant amount of pain, I would jump at the sight of another like me. I’d been alone for so long . . .
Soon after I thought that, the dog was thrown far from me and into the waters. The large splash that followed shook the boat, catching the man and girl off balance as they apparently had started to stand in the boat. Their momentary distraught brought much needed relief to my mind.
“Qi Merovan! Get ready!” a voice shouted from somewhere near by. Seconds later, I was lifted into the air.
After years of being an anchor to the ground, rising into the sky frightened me more than being inches from capture. I had no control at all at that moment and not the slightest clue as to who had shouted. Since danger still hung in the air, my eyes closed in concentration, and the color of my skin shifted. Air currents whistled and waves crashed against the boat below. The new color should be interesting. When my eyes opened, I could hardly breathe. Unlike usual, the mild tan gradually shifted into a transparent, clear color. This could be promising.
Of course, my black clothing counted as even more of a setback than it had been in the sea. Unless there were storm clouds, my cover would be null and void just because my abilities extended only to my body.
As if in tune with my thoughts, a storm cloud began to form on a cloudless day. Winds picked up, bringing in numerous others from the east. The dark cloud soon encompassed me, causing my skin to shift into a dark grey, less solid form. Of course, it was not made of cloud particles, but it appeared so.
“We’re far enough away from the three in the boat now. You can turn off your camouflaging now, Qi Merovan,” the voice called again.
This could be a trap. Though, why would someone who wishes to trap me want to aid in my hiding minutes ago? Thoughts such as these swarmed in my head. Better wait and see what he’s planning or who he is first in any case.
“You wish to hear proof?” he asked, causing my jaw to drop. Telepathy?“I am Ecuardo, one of the remaining Qi Merovan left on Earth a hundred and fifty years ago. My task was to learn of the Earth, its elements, its geography, and its secrets. What I learned in addition was that the five code protectors sent from our world as it underwent changes to become more capable of withstanding attacks, was that another race was sending its own agents to pursue you. I have not thought you to be of any danger, so you have been left alone. No need to disturb the land the humans walk on and pay much or too little attention to if it is not necessary. They should not know we are even here or their governments would pursue us as well. Earth governments seem to be keen on the submission of their enemies and destruction of what they do not know, at least that’s what I have observed.”
I took a risk and spoke, not entirely sure that Ecuardo, as he called himself, truly had the ability to read my mind. “Why should I believe you?”
“Gullu paï, Kei,” a familiar voice said to my right.
I let my camouflage dissipate, and as it did, the clouds sank so that they were just below me. Where the voice came from was neither in front of me nor to either side. Narrowing my eyes, I wondered. I tilted my head and gazed toward the sun above. Bright beams fell down into my eyes, momentarily blinding me. I had to squint in order to see anything. What I did see shocked me even more than I had thought possible. I mean, how many times do you see people’s faces emerging from a cloud hovering close by?
My heart nearly jumped out of my throat. “Don’t do that!”
“You mean flying next to a cloud? I do not see anything wrong with this. It was the way of our people hundreds of years ago, surely you know that,” he said.
“I don’t recall anyone being able to fly,” I said bluntly.
A frown replaced his smile quickly. “Have the leaders become so corrupt as to deprive you of your acknowledgement of your flight potential?”
“I work for our leaders, Ecuardo. That’s why I hold some of the codes,” I told him, raising my arm to show him my markings. “They are not corrupt.”
Ecuardo slowly became visible and separated himself from the cloud. “If they have not had the older generations guide you in flight, then something is clearly wrong. Nearly every Qi Merovan is born with the ability to fly, just as birds are. Let me show you.”
Suddenly, the force that had been pulling me upwards disappeared and I started to fall, desperately grasping for something to hold onto. Unfortunately, clouds are not as supportive as they seem from below. I fell through them all. The details of the waves below came into view.
“Ecuardo!” I screamed.
Let me just tell you that falling without a parachute is not fun. Not if you quickly approach your death as a result. I honestly thought I was going to splatter on impact, which while it would protect my race, it would be a horrible way to end life.
“Fly, Kei!” he called, not even mildly concerned.
“I can’t!” No more than twenty seconds of falling remained probably.
“Yes you can! Imagine you are flying like an eagle! Glide across the currents!”
I closed my eyes, trying to calm myself down. Flight. Where are you? In my head, tiny particles swarmed around. I could see it. At first, they zipped by each other quickly with a large space separating them. Then, they compacted and swam as a unit. Is this the way?
My eyes opened again to find the ocean almost at my face. I jerked my arms forward, desperately hoping that I could do as my thoughts proposed. I imagined the air particles moving closer together below me and motioned my arms in the direction I wanted the air to move. A transparent, but certainly present blanket was forming.
It’s not enough! I thought.
I crashed into the blanket and soon after, fell into the waters.
As I surfaced, I coughed out the waters. “See? I can’t fly. That ability is gone.”
“No? Then what was the air pocket you created? The only reason why you couldn’t fly was because you were falling too fast by the time you figured out how to use your ability,” Ecuardo said as he hovered close by in the air.
“She’s back! Don’t lose her now, Kaht!” a girl’s voice yelled not too far away.
Seconds later, a heavy object fell upon me, pushing me into the waters as air bubbles ran toward the surface. My first instinct: fight it off, so I did. It weighed far more than a dog and did nothing to counter my attacks, so I hesitated and opened my eyes. A body lying across my own resembled not the other girl nor the trench coated man, but Ecuardo. No emotion showed on his face. No part of his body flinched when I tried, and failed, to push him off. It seemed as though he fell unconscious . . . or worse.
“Ecuardo!” I said, with a flurry of bubbles rising out of my mouth. I shoved him hard without avail.
The impact was so sudden. I realized, with wide eyes, that he could not have taken a breath before falling into the ocean. And even for Qi Merovan, high concentrations of salt could kill upon entering the body. I wrapped his arm around my shoulder after swimming beneath him and attempted to swim to the surface. It was no use. No training had prepared me to carry a fully submerged weight along with my own. None of the leaders really expected me to meet another of my kind since all of the code holders had to remain separated.
I tried repeatedly, but I felt as though we were sinking deeper into the waters. To save one of the few Qi Merovan I will probably ever see again, I placed my hand over one of the marks on my arm, causing the world around me to shift. Not wanting to waste precious, pure energy from the gift bestowed upon me when I became a code bearer, a simple wish was asked. One that would not strain the fragile creatures that lived upon the soil and water. In my mind lay the rough, brilliantly colored coral, which quickly came into view as sank. I channeled a fraction of the energy bounding from the marks to the sea organisms to allow them to help me by helping them first.
Please. Bring your brothers together. Should you protect us, the energy you receive shall protect you from the dangers to come.
A chain of hope linked my spirit to the reef of coral and I could feel within my soul that they began to shift. For what seemed like hours, brain coral, sea plumes, and black coral crawled to the location directly beneath me and Ecuardo and built a thick column with their own bodies. Once we reached each other, the coral column pushed us toward the surface where the sun gleamed on top of the waters.
I need you to live, Ecuardo. I don’t want to be alone anymore, I thought, hoping his telepathy was true. You will make it.
Only a few seconds more. Almost there!
The reef seemed to tire, not used to such strain. I allowed more energy to transfer to them, a high risk for me in my position. It left my eyesight blurry and my arms hardly capable of holding onto Ecuardo, even though we stayed in the water. But the coral column grew again in full force, enough that when we breached the barrier between water and air, bounds of bubbles followed.
The seawater stung in my throat. The salt dried out my already blurry eyes. I had to focus, though. Ecuardo still lay in my arms.
“Breathe, Ecuardo! Breathe!”
“Better not give him any hope,” a deep-voiced man warned. “Once he takes a breath, there shall not be another to follow ever again.”
Copyright © 2015 Brianna G Harte. All rights reserved.