I think I’ll always remember the day I first met her. It was during a heavy rainfall, and the world around my house overflowed with water. Puddles merged to form miniature lakes on my front lawn. The pond in the back yard reached to the ocean that was not, but a few feet away. The downpour was relentless and carried on long after the sun had set. The power went out, and my room was turned frigid. As the sun rose I found myself huddled in a blanket in the star’s warm, basking, light. The rain had stopped. I stood and walked out to my sliding glass door on the cedar porch. Through the clear door I could see the lush greens of the old oak tree in my yard, and the grass, illuminated by the golden glow of the rising sun. A damp mist lingered in the air and caught the luminescent rays. The water from my pond and the ocean had drifted apart. I slid the door open and heard birds chirping. A breeze blew by, and with it, it brought the smells of freshly fallen rain, mixed with the salty, sea winds. The gust scattered the drops of rain that were hidden in the trees, trickling onto the grass. Seagulls flew over the roof towards the sea. I took in a deep breath and went back inside. Power was still out. The sun’s rays began to warm my house as I grabbed a banana, and walked back out to the porch. The natural beauty still hung before me like a photo. Changing minutely; barely detectable by the naked eye.
Inspiration struck. I rushed back into the house and grabbed the pencils and pad that carried the countless other unfinished products. I flipped over a new page, as I ran back to the sliding glass door, unaware that I had closed it behind me. A stinging pain filled my forehead, but I thrust the door open, not even bothering to close it this time. I sat on the wet porch, water soaked into my blue jeans, but I was too focused on recreating this masterpiece in front of me. Pencil strokes scrambled over the page. No area on that paper was safe. Hard veers to the left followed by gentle curves to the right. A flurry of sketches littered the page.
The finished product was as breathtaking in monochrome as the real thing was. I glanced upwards just as a harsh wind forced its way through my yard and disrupted the mist. I clenched my pad of paper tight. I wouldn’t let this one fly away on me. Joy overflowed my senses. I had finally completed a sketch in what felt like eons. I rose and stretched. I closed the pad and turned to head back inside when I heard a splash coming from my, what I thought to be desolate, pond. I hesitated to walk closer, and as I peered over into the edge of the pool of water, I saw her.
A girl, no older than I, was lying in the bleak shallows. I threw my notepad to the ground and charged in after her. I grabbed her wrist and began to pull her out when, to my surprise, she woke up. She began to writhe and flail about. I pulled her towards the shore, but she broke free from my grip and swam towards the center of the pond where it got deeper. I hopped in after her, making a splash of murky water, and swam towards her. She, in turn, swam away from me, and at a pace I couldn’t copy. Luckily, she appeared to be fine, and playing at that. So I got out of the pond and waited for her.
She refused to leave the pond; furthermore, she never came up for air. She just waited in the same position watching me from beneath the surface of the pond water. Confused, I called out to her. I asked if she was okay, but never got an answer. I walked towards the pond again, but she backed away. She seemed frightened. She turned away and dashed to the far side of the pond, but she refused to move too close to shallow water. Her pace increased. She swam to the one side, then the other in a frantic manner. She darted towards me; forgetting I was there and then jumped backward. She was utterly terrified. I felt alike. I waded in after her once more. She bolted back to the center where it became difficult for me to travel. I chased after her, nonetheless. She was too focused on me to realize that she was backing into a corner. I grabbed her by the wrists and pulled her closer. I carried her out like my own drenched bride, and all the while she squirmed and thrashed about. I set her on her feet, but she immediately collapsed to her knees and began to scramble back to the pond. I held her back. I needed to talk to her, but any questions I asked went unheeded. She coughed up a large amount of water proving she had been underwater too long. She began to gasp. She dropped to her stomach and continued to wheeze. My questions still went unanswered. I rushed back inside my house and grabbed my cell phone. The battery had died in the night, and my landline was out. I was alone, with a dying girl. I went back outside to the pond as quickly as I could and saw that she had crawled back in. Amazed by the ridiculous behavior of this dying woman, I sprung back into the pond. She proceeded to flee from me once more, and as I struggled to get closer to her, I noticed that her chest was rapidly expanding and contracting.
She was breathing water. I froze, and slowly backed out of the pond. I walked over to my notepad, now covered in mud and damp from the grass. I shook it off; only to see my masterpiece had been ruined, and my countless other unfinished projects destroyed. I plopped down and watched her. Breathing. In and out, over and over. Breathing water. She didn’t have gills; she looked like any other girl I had ever met, but she could live underwater. She stared at me momentarily as well, but then began to dart back and forth along the edges of the pond. She was careful to stay away from me though.
I watched her from my kitchen window, as my lunch simmered before me. She drifted in circles; she was tired, and, more than likely, hungry. Searing grease burst out from the pan, and onto my arm, forcing me to pay attention to it, and not her. I mixed my favorite blend of spices and flipped the beef. My mind drifted out the window, and I could see that she stopped moving, and sank to the bottom in the center. I lost my concentration, and nearly burned the meat. I twisted the knob to stop the gas, and the flames died down. I ventured out with a plate and utensils in hand. Her eyes split wide. She stared at me long before I ever got to the shoreline of the pond. I sat and faced her. She peered at me as I watched her. My eyes were unmoving as I began to eat my meal in front of her. She remained motionless as well. I cut up the last few pieces of meat into bite-sized pieces. I tossed one towards her. It gently weaved its way to the bottom. She took her eyes off me, and inhaled deeply through her nose, and gulped the meat before it hit the floor. She looked at me with large eyes and silently asked for more. I tossed the rest into the water, and, with gusto, she engulfed every bite. But she still wanted to eat. I went back to the kitchen and saw that my dark fridge was deprived of food, save for a bag of grapes. I grabbed a handful and returned to her. I threw her a grape, and it rested on the surface. She sneaked up to it, and smelled it thoroughly. She wrinkled her nose, and swam away. She didn’t like grapes, or she had no idea what it was. I turned my attention back at her, and noticed she was staring at me intently. I grabbed a single grape with two fingers, and ate it. I tossed her a second grape, but she refused to eat the fruit bobbing on top of the water. Perhaps she wasn’t an omnivore, but a carnivore. I needed to get her something to eat if this arrangement were to last much longer.
Nightfall. The round moon danced as the ocean waves darted across its reflection. I opened the door and felt a cool breeze brush passed me. The scent of the sea surrounded me. I walked over to her watery cage and tossed in more meat for her, and she happily devoured the meal. I paused, sat, and watched her in silence. I looked up at the plethora of stars dangling above me. Each twinkled at a different pace. I turned back to her and attempted to strike up a conversation, but she neglected to answer me. She must not be able to speak English. Though, she hasn’t spoken in any other tongue either. It might be that she can’t communicate vocally. This girl is stunning. She’s beautiful. Her hair was a burnt sienna kind of brown, and her eyes were a marvelous shade of orange and textured like swirling ocean currents. She circled around the pond, as I watched her. She was circling around the reflection of the moon perfectly. After several revolutions, she glanced at me sleepily. She fell to the murky floor and tossed her legs back and forth and a storm of cloudy, muddy, water encased her body. The water soon settled and cleared. She was sleeping motionlessly and covered in speckles of dirt and soil.
Inspiration struck again. I needed to draw her sleeping beneath the moon. I hurried inside and grabbed my notepad, only to see it was covered in a dry crust, and the pages were wrinkled. I grabbed a fresh notepad and tiptoed to where she was sleeping. I covered the page with pencil strokes and shading. My fingers became covered in gray dust. The monotonous color of black and white was boring to some, but more appealing to me. It could make the most complex of pictures simple, and showed the world through a different light than what most view as an everyday occurrence. With the drawing completed, I went inside, and watched as the power abruptly came on. The house lit up like a casino, and was just as noisy too. The TV blared, mixed with the noises of the air conditioner, and numerous other appliances that had activated at once was deafening compared to the peace I had spent with her. I wandered around and silenced the noise-making machines around the house. I turned off the lights and strolled into my bedroom. As I lay in my bed, I noticed the top sheet was loose. I threw it up over me, and it draped over my body. The air caught the sheet and pulled it away from my legs, and covered my upper body and head. I pulled the sheet back down to my feet and my mind focused on that girl in my pond. We were certainly different, but maybe not so different after all.
Nothing. No answers anywhere. Regardless of the number of inquiries I had made on the web, all resulted in an endless string of fruitless websites. Nobody knew anything about this girl, or any race of people like her. Not a single soul knew of the existence of this carnivorous, water breather. She may have family wherever she came from, but I couldn’t find a trace of them. If she needed help of any kind, then we were alone. She needed to get home, and back to the ocean. I walked outside to the pond where she still slept in the mud, but as I continued to move closer, she woke up. She shook herself, jerked and turned, and the mud fell off. She swam slightly closer to me, as if hoping I had food. I waded in the water, and she nervously backed up. I paddled nearer, but she out-maneuvered me. She refused to let me get close to her. I tried telling her that I could get her home, but it fell on deaf ears. She swam effortlessly, as I struggled and stumbled to move closer towards her. It wasn’t long before I got out, and sat on the edge of the water, exhausted. My clothes hung tightly to my body, and had gained weight. My white t-shirt became transparent and my gray sweatpants turned black. A summer breeze surged from the ocean and made me shiver in my sopped clothes. She swam closer to shore as if in a mocking manner. She had to go home, but I wasn’t going to be able to get her out like that. Thoughts clouded my mind. She’s close to the ocean, not but a few feet away, and I can’t get her there. How infuriating. The ocean merely rose because of the torrential downpour, which had since fully receded. The next heavy rain could be months out, and by then she may very well have drained my account with her excessive meat lust. I was stuck; she was trapped. I looked at the waterlogged path that the ocean left as it relinquished the territory it had stolen from my lawn.
Then it hit me, I may not be able to raise the water, but I can lower the ground around it. I rushed to my garage and grabbed a shovel. As I returned, I formulated a plan. It would be unwise to start at the waterline, as I’d be constantly shoveling muck. So I began in the middle. I forced the tool into the swampy earth and threw the soil behind me. With every pile of dirt I tossed aside, the hotter the dreadful sun cast its beams on me. Sweat dripped down my face and my back. My shirt, still damp and dripping, only weighed me down further. I slid it off and threw it onto the porch of my house, and continued to dig. I struck my shovel into the dirt only to feel a fierce ping reverberate up the shovel and into my hands. The sting forced me to drop the shovel. I shook my hand vigorously, and then firmly re-gripped it. I jammed my shovel downwards, locating the edges of the rock, and began to dig it out. More and more of the amber stone shown through the dirt, so I jabbed my shovel underneath the rock and pried it out. I gave it a heave out of the soon-to-be canal and kept on shoveling.
The trench wasn’t halfway done when somber clouds drifted overhead. Thundering booms echoed across the sky. I need to work faster. Dirt began to fly about more vigorously as the crashing racket continued to grow louder. The clouds opened, and dropped their water onto the earth. I crawled out of the tunnel and fell to my back on the grass enjoying the free, God-given shower. As I watched the boundless raindrops plummet to the ground, I heard splashing behind me. I turned towards the pond and saw her, playing in the rain. She swam about frivolously, as if to chase the indents on the water. She swam to the bottom, placed her legs on the ground, and hunkered down. With a forceful push, she launched her self out of the water, only to fall back in and slosh more water about. She may not have liked the air, but she loved the rain. I stood and brushed the muck off my pants, and walked to my porch. I bent down and grabbed my shirt; just as she burst through the top of the water again. I went inside, changed clothes, and paced back to the sliding glass door, where I could still see her play. I turned to the notepad that resided on an end table by one of my chairs.
I snatched it, and a pencil, and sat cross-legged on the floor facing toward my, or rather, her pond. Mid-jump; my mind captured the image like a photograph. My hand was the conduit that would transfer her image to the blank slate before me. The pencil strokes imprinted the paper, but my attention was dragged elsewhere. I was the only human alive that knew of her, or others like her. If no one else could document her, then it was my job to fill the void. She continued to jump skywards even as the rain began to slow. By the time the drawing was complete, the rain had stopped entirely, and from what I could tell, she had drifted off to sleep. I reasoned that it’d be wise for me to do the same. And as I lay in bed, I began to think. Maybe she was lonely. Perhaps she had a family: brothers, sisters, parents, and possibly even children. Her age was a mystery to me after all.
The summer sun sheds sympathy for no man, especially those with manual labor to accomplish. My hands, my craftsman’s tools, were sore. Blisters formed as the callus on my hands grew to conflict with the coarse, wooden handle of my shovel. I stuck the spade into the ground and hopped out of the trench, and let my feet dangle over the edge weightlessly. I turned towards the pond and saw her staring at me curiously. Some things about her had been apparent or had revealed themselves already but there was much about her that I couldn’t tell. Communication was a big question, as was social interaction and anything involving a partner. Her biology was as equally dumbfounding as her existence was, and her intelligence was a mystery. I hadn’t tested it, yet. I entered my living room and grabbed a notepad and some bits of cooked meat I had prepared for her especially. I flipped a new page over and walked out to the pond. I began with a simple form of communication for humans; a simple hand wave. But it went unnoted. I signaled at my mouth and sang a note. I gestured to her, but my only reply was a confused head tilt. She knew that one pretty well. I touched my hand to my lips and forced it away, in a manner similar to an overly gratified chef appraising his creation. But it yielded the same results as earlier. Communicating proved difficult, meaning other forms of intelligence testing might as well. I grabbed a piece of meat in each hand and held them over the water as I moved closer to the shore. She looked upwards at my hands. I released the meat in my left hand and it thrust water out of its way as it hit the surface. She caught it before it hit the ground and ate it. She glanced back upwards at my hands. I closed my left hand and mimicked the hand still holding the piece of chicken. I then acted like I dropped something, but she didn’t budge. I pulled my left hand back and raised my right over her head and drooped my hand slightly; she jolted forward, and then gave me a glare. I then dropped the piece and she caught it in her mouth. This merely proved that she was smarter than household pets, and even they learn eventually. We shared a long stare when I realized she had breasts. I pulled my head back slightly and was embarrassed that I caught myself thinking like that. The thought then re-crossed my mind in a different way though. If she has breasts and hair, then she’s a mammal. She may not breathe air, but it’s not like I’ve ever heard of a hairy, lactating fish before. This explains a little of her biology, but reproduction is still a mystery. For all I know she could lay eggs. For all I know her “breasts” lay the eggs. I shook my head in disbelief at the odd scenario I had just envisioned. She may not be a mammal after all.
The trench was nearing completion when I heard my phone ring. I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and answered it. The marine biologist I had contacted a while ago returned my call and said even though I sounded nuts, he’d be out to look at her in the morning. I hung up the phone and continued on the tunnel. My shovel lifted more and more dirt up from the trench. Rocks did little to slow my path. She needed to return home. Finally, my tool came to a halt at the edge of the ocean wall to keep the trench dry. The swift removal of two thin walls would fill the trench and were all that stood between her and freedom. I looked at her, but her view of me was obstructed. I contemplated freeing her now, before the biologist had a chance to see her. On one hand, I had contributing to science and possibly race relations. But on the other, I had helping a girl return home. I pulled out my phone and walked closer to her. I began to shoot a film and zoomed in on her chest expanding in and out. She then spun around quickly and swam around the pond leisurely. I put my phone away, and went inside. I returned with some meat as a thank you, which she cheerfully engulfed. I sat cross-legged and watched her as she watched me. Even though I had only known her a short while, and she constantly forced me to buy absurd amounts of meat for her, I was going to miss her. She never said a word, and she rarely gestured more than a confused head tilt. But her freedom heavily outweighs my preference.
I abruptly felt the urge to draw her again. So, I hurried back inside to grab my notepad. As I returned, I was greeted by her swimming about rapidly; exercising I assumed. I snapped a photo of her swimming and caught a streamlined photo of her body being swept back by the current. It reminded me of how dolphins swim. I began to copy down her form to my pad. An eruption of pencil strokes followed by a plethora of smeared shading completed the artwork I had created. It was as beautiful as she was. I looked up at her and saw that she was watching me.
The walls, keeping the trench free of water, burst down. The soil had gotten wet and eroded. She glanced out towards the sea. She returned her glance to meet mine. She seemed torn. I nodded my head towards the sea. She tilted her head to me, and then dashed away. The trench that took days to complete she swam through in mere seconds. I ran out to see her off, but as I got to the edge of the sea: she was already out of sight. She disappeared into the deep blue faster than I had anticipated. She was gone, and there was a fair possibility that I’d never see her again. My eyes began to water, so I pulled on the ends to keep them from tearing. I missed her already.
The next morning, he came by; the marine biologist. He asked to see her, so I brought her to the pond that used to serve as her cage.
“You set her free? Well, that seems awfully convenient.” He retorted.
“Look, I know how it sounds, but I’ve actually got proof!” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone.
“Proof? I’ll believe that when I see it.” He scoffed as I began to play the video for him. He seemed skeptical at first, but as I zoomed in on her breathing the water, he gasped. “All be- you really did have a water breathing girl living in your pond!” He looked back up to the pond, which was now connected to the ocean.
“Why’d you do it? Why’d you set her free?” He shook me back and forth in desperation.
“I didn’t mean to. The walls I made to keep the canal dry eroded.” I brushed his hands off of me.
“Eroded? What’d you make them out of? Sand?” I scratched the back of my head.
“It was dirt, actually.” He sighs, and then stared out to the ocean.
“She’s long gone now I bet. What can you tell me about her?” I glance downwards, and then back towards him.
“She was a carnivore, and loved steak the most. She enjoyed the rain, and was capable of some form of deep thought. Most of what I did confused her, and she could feel emotions. I’m afraid I don’t know too much else.” I look towards the sea that she escaped to. “I know it’s not that important, but I called her Nami.”