by Elous Telma
On a secluded Greek island in the 1950s, an enormous abandoned mine is filled with sea water for a major international experiment in marine biology. It is intended to study natural selection and, perhaps, evolution in a new aquatic ecosystem. However, the experiment and the island are eventually abandoned.
Decades later, a sailor’s photograph of the corpse of a large shark prompts a team of biologists to visit the island. The team discovers unique environments, including an underwater brine lake. The life forms act in ways that affect the fauna on the island as well as themselves.
The new ecosystem is dangerous. How to cope with it? The biologists will need some form of interspecies communication with the sea life and even with a cat that has been stranded on the island. It’s simple in theory...
Chapter 14: Nannion’s Long Walk Back
Finally, all humans seemed to be keeping themselves occupied and away from Nannion. This meant she could start her journey home, now that she had chosen to take the long way back. First, back to the shore, then all the way around the Aquarium. Before reaching the team’s headquarters, she would arrive at her building, the safest place on the island.
She wasted no time and got moving towards the shore, pacing herself as she was aware of the length of the trip ahead. She looked down and saw the shadow of the shark, still close by her. She kept moving, but her head felt heavy. So much that it tilted downwards and her eyes closed almost shut. She felt as if someone had turned the gravity up. She found herself on her belly, her chin touching the walkway.
But she didn’t want to stay there; she wanted to reach the safety of her building. She crawled ahead, as best as she could, whatever “ahead” meant. She didn’t realize she wasn’t really controlling her direction and kept on, fooling herself into thinking she was making progress.
Her eyes were partly open and she focused on placing the walkway in the center of her perspective. Her fur was soaking humidity from the pavement, and the moisture was certainly not pleasant to her. Less than a minute later, she had veered off the center axis of her planned path and was about to fall off the walkway to her left.
Her left front paw was dangling outside the walkway, but she was so confused that, instead of taking it as a warning, she was pleased by the improved grip that helped her move forward. One or two more pulls and she would find herself in the water, close to the center of the Aquarium. She felt confusedly that the general direction seemed right.
Suddenly, a remarkable obstacle made her correct her course. By her left paw, which was mistakenly leading her into really inhospitable waters, two enormous rows of teeth appeared. The head of the shark had come out of the water, blocking her from accidentally falling over and drowning herself.
The sight was majestic enough that even in her mental state she figured that a change of course was in order. She took a glimpse of the eye of the shark, who seemed to understand that Nannion was a seriously dizzy animal.
As the shark sank back into the waters, Nannion tried to correct her course by rolling over towards the center of the walkway. She found herself belly up, wet and miserable, staring at the stars above her. Gravity was still in overdrive and she was in no position to try to move any further.
She could see the Milky Way and the moon in her field of view. She took deep breaths and did little else. Her leg twitched and she kept staring upwards. She wasn’t tired and didn’t need to sleep. But she felt heavy pressure from all sides, as if she were hundreds of meters under water.
With time, gravity gradually returned to normal, and she got up to continue her journey. The hazy light made the transparent walkway look like a river cutting through the Aquarium. Her moist fur added to the sensation that she was still in some watery environment. She pictured a massive shark head pointing the way to her, as the real one had done earlier.
A Greek summer breeze came in, bringing some much-needed fresh air. The haze seemed to be clearing. The air moved Nannion’s fur, and she felt it drying out as the rain stopped. The walkway started also feeling drier on her feet and more pleasant to walk on.
Nannion reached solid ground and took a right turn, following her plan of return. She must have been in a mental fugue for some time, for the sky now was completely black without a hint of blue. The stars and the moon were welcome; they allowed her even to pick out colors. She took a good look back towards headquarters. Seeing that she was in no danger of being noticed, she carried on.
When she reached the explosion hole, she stopped to ponder the driest possible route to the other side. It was not difficult for her, really. A climb, a couple of jumps, a little balancing act, and off to the other side she was. The view towards the open Greek waters was spectacular, and she enjoyed gazing at it on several brief stops.
By now, she had found so many different spots where she could stare at the sky and the sea that she had covered every topological feature many times. She wasn’t sure what had happened to her on the walkway, but she felt fine; it was good to keep moving.
A new thought in her little head had to do with affection. It had gotten stuck in her mind, and she couldn’t shake it off. How would it feel to be petted again? What if the humans were not dangerous? What if they actually gave her some of that delicious-smelling food?
Dreaming of tasty food and caresses, she rolled around the ground with her face all satisfied, purring just as she would have, if one of the humans had been there to scratch her tummy. She got up again and continued walking, stopping along the way to enjoy the views. She could see the headquarters lights on across the Aquarium and her building closer to her.
When she reached her destination, she went to her favorite room with the view towards the shore, climbed up on the window ledge and kept an eye on the scientists, especially that girl who seemed to have been through an intense experience recently. At least that one had others to interact with.
After a much-needed nap, Nannion went back to the shore. She had noticed the strange egg-like structures floating on the water’s surface but had had no time to deal with them. Some of these things were very close to the shore. She could have reached some, using her paws, but she preferred to keep away from them. She actually felt disgusted by them.
By the headquarters, the humans, using nets, were also catching these egg-like things. They did look like coral eggs, which can be quite massive, but they were difficult to identify just by looking at them. This was especially interesting given that Greek waters are not particularly rich in corals, and such massive spawning events are unheard-of.
* * *
“Has anyone noticed any corals in the Aquarium, so far?” asked Cannavaro.
“That would help explain the eggs, I guess,” responded Taro, “but I don’t think so. Maybe there are some on the other side of the Aquarium.”
But nobody thought there would be any. The Aquarium was quite symmetrical. Why should there be coral on only one side? Eiko took a long walk with the pole camera and was unable to find any signs of coral anywhere. And coral do not normally live in deep waters; they require strong sunlight for growth.
Cannavaro offered an alternative explanation: “These could be jellyfish eggs. Jellyfish also make eggs, and they will mass-spawn. They’re kind of big, but they could still be. And, unlike coral, they may rely less on direct sunlight. Maybe they live deeper.”
Taro: “Maybe they live in the lake?”
Cannavaro: “It’s possible. One more reason to check it out.”
Fawkes: “Well, something is spawning. And if something is spawning, then maybe something else may also be spawning. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other eggs or whatever, later on.”
Taro: “In the morning. First, we check up on Frank.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2015 by Elous Telma