The waves splashed in my face, making it hard to see the nearby island. Beneath the turbulent surface, the waters were calm, almost serene. I kicked my legs against the current, but the riptide pulled me farther and farther from shore. Each surging swell of waves catapulted me back into the salty abyss. I’d known this would happen. I tried to tell my body to stop fighting the waves, to let the current take me away. I felt the tide coming back in and braced myself. As it lifted me above the surface, I glimpsed the horizon, the wind-whipped palm trees looking a sad sight in this polluted world. My last vision of the world above were the stark white clouds covering an iron-gray sky. Fitting, my final view would be of the chemically-laced smog which now hovered over the majority of Earth.
I’d left my own home behind long ago. The city in which I’d lived for nearly thirty years had become a cesspool of corruption, greed, and all manner of environmental and moral violations. Oil companies drilled, with or without permission. Toxins were carelessly disposed of into lakes and rivers, which then infiltrated and contaminated most of the city’s water supply. For years, people became sick, and the city did nothing. The nation did nothing. When my own father fell ill and passed away from lead poisoning, I made the decision to leave and have never looked back.
As a marine bio-technologist, I’d been to many coastal regions. My diving skills were fair, but I’d never gone down further than six or seven feet. I specialized in studying the coral reef’s genetic structure. All divers are taught the basics, including how to handle being caught in a riptide or rogue current. This was no rogue current. I knew its destination, nearly as well as I knew the world above was doomed. At least I had a full tank of fresh oxygen; it had become quite the commodity.
As the light began to dim and darkness enveloped me, I felt the current tugging me closer to the source of my decade-long investigation. This current was undocumented, though it came and went with regularity. The closest it ever came to land was here, on an isolated, tropical island in the middle of the Atlantic. I’d been to many remote places for my job, and it had been no difficult task to arrange for an assignment here. At last, I’d arrived. Having heard legends of mermaid-like creatures arising from the sea from the aboriginal tribes, I knew I was right in my theory. This ‘rogue’ current was most likely more like an underwater highway for this unknown species. I’d been obsessed for far too long – I had to see this through to its completion.
My slackened body rolled and rocked along with the current’s ebbs and flows. As it slowed, a large, hazy orb began to appear from the murky darkness. At once, I was able to make out the sharp angles of structures and deliberate movements of creatures within. Heart pounding, I kicked my flippers, propelling myself forward. I swam as close to the orb as I dared, almost near enough to touch it.
When I finally plucked up the courage to continue forward, I heard a deep and resonating rumble from behind. I spun. It took a moment to comprehend what my eyes were seeing. Two large eyes gleamed at me, though the body attached was so massive, I couldn’t even see it in its entirety. The black and white coloring told me this was an Orca, and I made sure to back up, giving it a wide berth. It wasn’t until I began to collect my wits again, I noticed the two strange-looking creatures swimming next to the killer whale.
Mermaids, indeed! They were incredible, but they most certainly were not mermaids! From the top up, they were most definitely human, though their skin seemed to glisten. I soon realized, the shine came from thousands of tiny bubbles along the surface of their skin. They had no gills to speak of, but the patches of scales along their upper bodies clearly indicated their aquatic nature. Their tail ends had a pinkish tinge and resembled those of the Amazon River dolphins. Perhaps the legends of the indigenous Amazon tribes were true, as well? They seemed to be intelligent creatures. Each wielded a long, thin spear and seemed to communicate – not only to each other, but also to the Orca – through some sort of echolocation. A decision seemed to have been made as one of them nodded to the other and began to swim toward me.
With a smile and an interesting, lilting accent, he said, “Welcome to Encante!”