GIVETHEREADERSWHATTHEYWANT!
One writer's experiment to tackle any subject his friends come up with.
6/27/11-BEN SELF

The Drowning World

In 10 days, it is going to start raining, and it will not stop raining for 2 years.

 

June 28th, 2011

 

Once upon a time there was a girl who swam with dolphins.

That girl is me. I don’t know why I started off that way. I don’t read much, I guess. Dad’s always telling me to try this book or that one, something he says I’ll find “relevant to my interests.” He got us on Kawai by studying hard, he says, and I need to pick up some better habits. I just can’t bring myself to ignore all that’s out here. Maybe someday I’ll get tired of playing on the beach, climbing the palm trees, and snorkeling through the afternoon. Maybe someday I’ll read more. But it’s not on the horizon yet.

I’ve made up plenty of stories, sure. It’s just me and Dad, and he gets busy sometimes. Well, I should say it’s just me and Dad and our little polynesian cottage and a few neighborhood boys. Sometimes they can be fun to play with, but they’ve gotten kinda unpredictable this summer. Like they’re not sure whether they want to play on the beach or pretend they’re bored with that or just – be idiots. Dad says it’s a pubescent Jekyl and Hyde thing. I think I know what he means, but it’s not a book he’s suggested for me yet, so I haven’t really bothered with it.

God, how did I get into all that? The reason I’m writing is because something happened to me today, something amazing and – I think – important, that I can’t figure out.

I haven’t even introduced myself. Okay, official record-keeping. My name is Nala. Nala Peterson. Yeah, kinda disappointing, I know. Let’s just keep it at Nala. I don’t think any of the other stuff is all that important. Let the history books find me if they want to. I’ve got a facebook page, it’s all there.

I started out with the dolphins. And that’s true. Well, it happened once.

Dad doesn’t really know how much time I spend in the water. I learned to swim when I was four, and I’ve never been afraid of the water. I got into a tricky spot last August when I let myself get pushed out of the cove over to the other side where the undertow is pretty vicious, but I stayed calm, remembered when to exert myself and when to let the water move me, and came out all right. I don’t figure Dad needs to worry about all the little adventures I get into out here.

People who haven’t seen it don’t know how blue it really is. They think it’s some cartoonish idea of water. But it’s blue, bright, lively and glistening in the shallows, and a swallowing dark in the depths. I’ve always guessed it’s where they came up with “navy blue,” the kind of blue that my dad can’t tell apart from black, even though I’ve helped him pick out his socks a hundred times.

But today it’s just me in the water, my mask and snorkel keeping me entertained. I don’t know if Dad gives enough credit to what I learn out here. Sometimes I get a raised eyebrow out of him if I mention some rare fish or coral, especially if I can get the name right. I pick up plenty from him, and I know he’s happy that I’ve taken to his passion, in the wild if not in the textbook. I figure it’s a start.

Me, my mask and snorkel, and – today – a dolphin. The cove we live above is pretty calm most of the time, and the larger sea life doesn’t usually come in here. But I’ve seen a handful of dolphins, from a distance. This fellow was getting pretty adventurous, though, and I prayed I wouldn’t scare him off.

He was gorgeous. A real big fellow, beautiful blue-gray sheen without a single blemish. Dad says it’s unusual to see an older one without some scuffs on him, and from what I’ve seen, he’s right. But this one, he looked like he was just molded out of wet clay. He darted around quite a bit, mostly underneath me. I could tell he knew I was there. He kept his distance, but his movements all centered on me, floating above him. Anyway, he eventually steadied down, and ended up gliding back and forth underneath me. I got this unexpected image of him as a pendulum, and myself as the pivot. It came at me from some unknown place in my mind, and as I thought more about it, it got clearer. The dolphin kept gliding back and forth, slowing, and rising with each pass. My back was warm from the afternoon sun. Through the snorkel by my ear I could hear my breath getting slower. My head was rocking a little from side to side, following my new friend, watching him get closer and closer.

And then he was right under me. Writing about it now, it should have been exciting. I should have freaked out. But it was just too amazing and grand. Like there wasn’t any room for hysterics. I just lay there in all that blue. The water was so warm I couldn’t feel the edges of my body. I was focused, but unaware.

The dolphin let his tail fall and brought his face close to mine. You’re used to them being clever and playful. You see them in a show (which I’m against) and think about how smart they are, how quickly they respond to the slightest commands. But this was all so slow, like meditaton. I couldn’t recognize any emotion in that foreign face. Even though we were only a few feet apart, there’s no reading that stiff beak and those two black marbles. But I still got a sensation of awareness – like what you get from a gorilla’s face, the familiar spark. He was looking into me. And, for the first time, I was seeing him.

We looked at each other for I don’t know how long. I couldn’t think about time. For no reason I could figure, a vague, sad feeling started to come over me.

Then I flinched in surprise at the feeling of rain on my back. The dolphin flinched in return, paused, and then surged off, down into darkness. I watched him disappear, and lay there for another moment, trying to process what had happened.

Like I said, dolphins are playful. It’s not unheard of for one to approach a swimmer, even to nudge one around or swim with them a bit. They enjoy the interaction. But this tenderness, this prolonged contemplation – I’d never heard of this.

I came back to myself, and looked toward the shore. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was then that I realized it wasn’t raining, and that the sensation had stopped as soon as I had moved.

And now, here I am writing about it. It was beautiful, and profound, but I have no idea what really happened or why. I just hope it happens again.

 

~~~~~~

 

July 1st, 2011

 

It happened again.

And more than anything in the world, I wish it hadn’t.

I’ve spent a lot of the last few days trolling around in the area where I met the dolphin. I had to have another taste of that contact. Today, I just went to that same spot and lay there. For two hours I lay there, thinking about the dolphin and those black eyes, trying to call him to me.

And then some of the deepness began to take shape and move toward me. He approached the same way as before, gliding back and forth. Having waited in stillness for so long, I was already physically relaxed, but mentally alert. I let him come to me. He performed the same dance, that lulling, back and forth approach. He came to a stop beneath me, and looked up at me again. I still didn’t move, but thought hard at him.

It all seems so silly now. I didn’t know what I was doing.

When the sensation of the rain came, I was prepared. I let it fall. I let it wash on my back, and splash in the water around me. Lightning and thunder were next, and I both saw flashes reflected beneath me, and heard the muted rumble.

Then I saw myself, lying in the water. My dad’s cabin from above, dim through the storm. The coast spreading below, becoming the edge of the island, then its entire outline. The outline grew smaller, and I realized that it was not only receding from me, but into the water as well. Part of me could see the shore at the foot of cliffs inching inland, while another part was aware of other continents and these same events. I saw the slow swallowing of shorelines and the quick erosion of cliffs. I smelled wet earth turning to pungent mould. I felt the saturated ground become a swamp, tasted acrid decay in everything that required light and air, and heard the downpour’s steady hiss, so unceasing that it became inaudible.

I lost myself as seasons passed. The earth was drowning before my eyes. Some continents had all but disappeared.

Instantly I returned to myself, choking in the water. I recalled a distant, garbled scream, and realized my mouth had lost its grip on the snorkel. I shifted myself upright in the water, trying to clear my lungs, while still desperate to keep sight of the dolphin. But he was gone. At first I thought my clouded vision was due to water leaking into my mask, but soon realized it was my own saltwater tears which coated the inside.

I stayed there, stunned, barely treading water for several minutes. My mind, or my self, still seemed dislocated. This is the part I want to get straight. Whatever it was I had just come out of, it wasn’t a prediction. That leaves room for interpretation, or a mistake, or for things to change. This was like I was living out his message as he told it. Or showed it. God – it was like I had aged years and then been brought back to the beginning of the message, to some arbitrary point just before the rain began. I felt years older, the years I’d lived while my body just laid there in the water. I’m going on about it, but that’s how it felt. Not that I’d been given a warning, or shown a vivid movie, or had some full sensory experience. As surely as I had gotten up that morning, eaten eggs with Dad, and snuck down to the cove while he settled in at his desk, I’d lived through the flooding of my planet. And those years had already settled in, making it feel like a memory, taking effort to recall.

I looked up and realized that the sun was nearly down. I needed to get home.

And so I did. But why? Where have I taken myself? To the drowning surface? My dad’s cottage, a pile of sticks, as good as driftwood? There is no place for me now, maybe for anyone. Our time of thinking ourselves kings, walking the miserable fraction of the world, has come to a certain end. I pictured the crowding inland, the riots, the pitiful responses of governments. I saw all this in my mind’s eye, playing back my vision and filling in details. What could possibly be maintained? Would the rain ever stop? I cried with regret at not knowing how it ended. I tried to convince myself that it was some fantastic vision, but it’s like telling yourself your childhood didn’t happen. It’s a part of you, and you can’t pull it out and get rid of it.

I don’t know why I’ve been chosen to know this. Remembering the dolphin’s face, his eyes, I get an overpowering sense of remorse. I have no idea what to do.

I guess we should head for higher ground.

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Copyright Cole Bennett, all rights reserved.

7 Comments to “6/27/11-BEN SELF”

  1. Cole Bennett says:

    Ben, thanks! Holy cow all these ideas are so different!

  2. jeorg says:

    i think this one has already come true. did ben know something (as always) before the rest of us?

    • Cole Bennett says:

      Jeorg, I’ve been thinking the exact same thing! I think I’ll have to write the story with a conclusion to bring an end to Ben’s curse!

  3. ben says:

    Only because the dolphin showed me! Thanks cole!

    • Cole Bennett says:

      Thanks Ben! What’s crazy is all the research I put into it has yet to show up! A week late with little to show for it – yet! ;)

  4. Pat Bennett says:

    Having a little trouble with this one. How old is the girl? At first she seems 12 to 13-ish, but in the next part she seems much older, with her comments on what happened. I love the idea of the story though. We really don’t know what a dolphin (or any creature) “knows.”

    • Cole Bennett says:

      Well, that was my intention, so – success! :) I see her about 13-14 at the start of this chapter. By the end, although she’s not physically any older, I wanted to portray the weight of the years and experiences she went through while living through the dolphin’s message. Of course, a better result would be if that were clearer, instead of confusing the reader.

      But that voice at the end of this chapter alludes to who she is in the next. I’m enjoying this one too much, and I need to post it! I just had too much fun with the concept of tying Ben’s and Magnus’s starters to each other (thank you to Adam Gillett for seeing what I had not)!

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