I never got my friend’s bizarre obsession with the sea, especially when he would drag me to his Grandma’s house at the New Jersey shore. Charlie lived in a fantasy world and sometimes had to be reminded about being realistic. Today was no exception as we relaxed under a pavilion while Charlie went through all the seashells he collected on the beach. I could care less but tried to look enthused as I sat back on a bench enjoying the view.
“So Charlie,” I began, “Do you want to go to the aquarium tomorrow?”
“No way Ellis, I always feel bad for the animals imprisoned there.”
“Yes, yes your right. I’m not being rude or anything.”
Charlie continued to look through the shells in the bag when his gaze went up to sea. The surf was a bit rough today and the beach was almost deserted save for an older couple taking what looked like a romantic stroll along the shoreline.
“If you could be any sea creature for a day, what would it be,” he asked.
“That’s a tough one,” I replied, “I’ll have to think about that.”
“I would like to be a dolphin.” Charlie said cheerfully, “They’re so playful and happy.”
“Dolphins are hostile and murderous creatures,” I said, “Have you ever seen those documentaries? In fact most things in nature are cruel, cannibalistic, or insane.”
Charlie gave me a perplexed look but said nothing. Realizing that I may have shot him down I decided to change the subject.
“Nice view of the ocean from here,” I said, “Great place to relax and get your mind off of stressful things.”
“Yeah,” he began dully, “You know there are good animals in this world.”
I sighed and ran a hand through my thick brown hair.
“Yes Charlie, look how about we go back to your Grandma’s house? It’s getting late.”
We started to head back when I stopped and looked out at the surf. The cool and salty early autumn air tickled against my skin as I took in a deep breath. It was refreshing as I exhaled, Charlie and I liked this place when there weren’t much people around and the view was beautiful. I followed Charlie up the boardwalk where I could tell by the look on his face that he was agitated with me. We were about to head up the sidewalk when I stopped. I wanted to give Charlie space and didn’t want any anger explosions from him.
“I’ll catch up later, you keep going.” I said.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Oh no, I just want to… hang out here for a minute.”
“Oh… OK. See you later Ellis.”
I waved in response and went down the stairs back to the beach. I figured I’d look for a few more shells on the beach as a type of an apology for him. I made my way farther down the beach while searching the sand for anything unusual. As I made my way towards the surf to see if there was anything worth giving to him, I started to regret what I had said to him about dolphins. Even though it was true, I wished I was a little less harsh sounding.
I didn’t find anything unusual on the beach, much to my disappointment, and the sun was setting fast. I was about to head back when something shiny washed up on the shore. I went towards the object which looked like a reddish-pink swirly shell and picked it up. Examining it closer I realized that the shell was unlike anything I’ve seen and checked to make sure that it was empty. I frowned when I realized that there was a large, stalk-eyed snail inside of it which came out and was staring at me intently. I got out my iPhone and snapped a picture of it, as it was still a strange and humorous sight that made me snicker. As I sent the picture to Charlie I felt something slimy touch my hand. I saw the snail feeling my hand with a tentacle-like appendage which produced what looked like a needle-like thing. Before I could react the snail stabbed me in the hand with the needle which felt like lightning shooting up my arm.
I screamed and flung the snail back into the sea as I fell to my knees gripping my wounded hand. I cussed under my breath and tried to reach for my iPhone on the sand when the painful sensation ran throughout my entire body. I groaned, gritting my teeth, and collapsed on my back as I rolled towards the surf. Waves washed over me and the cool Atlantic water pulled me out to sea where I was swept out farther into the deeper regains. I sank below the surface as I thrashed and squirmed in the water. I felt as if I was being burned on the inside and that I would burst at any minute. But instead I felt myself growing and my body stretching and reshaping. All my clothes shredded off as I continued to grow bigger and longer. I could feel the sides of my neck slitting with gills developing inside of them. I took in fresh water through my newly formed gills; it was an odd sensation breathing underwater. That’s when I felt my arms and legs shrivel up to nothing and retreat into my redeveloping elongated body. My tailbone also grew out and developed into a long and thrashing tail. My face pulled out into a muzzle as my ears shriveled up into pores and I grew dark-green scales on my body with light-green underbelly scaled developing as I became bigger and more serpentine. My tongue grew longer, with the tip forking, and my teeth fell out only to be replaced with larger, sharper ones. My eyes grew and filled up my newly formed eye sockets and even though they retained their original look they were developed more so that I could see underwater. As my hairs fell out a spiky frill grew out of my long back from the top of my head to the tip of my tail. Finally the pain went away as I weaved through the sea, aching and dazed. I glided up towards the surface and raised my reptilian head out of the water to scan the beach. I was farther out then I thought as I shook my head to clear my thoughts. That’s when I looked down at my reflection in the water and saw the new scaly face staring up at me. Surprisingly I didn’t panic or freak out but rather took myself in from all angles, looking at my new body inquisitively. I was more curious about my new form then scared but got caught off guard when I heard running footsteps on the boardwalk. Charlie rushed down the boardwalk’s stairs and onto the beach.
“Ellis? Ellis,” he cried out, “Where are you?”
I submerged myself beneath the surface to remain out of sight. I could see him find my iPhone on the beach as I weaved closer back to shore. I rose up my head from the water and looked down at him. He looked up at me and instinctively dropped my iPhone. I tried to talk but all that came out was a series of gurgles and grunts.
“Great biscuits,” he shouted.
Screaming at the top of his lungs he sped away back towards the boardwalk.
I rolled my eyes and hurried back out to sea. Slithering out farther into the ocean I could feel a strong hunger start to build up inside of me. I glided under a fishing boat and decided both the fish and the fishermen wouldn’t be good to eat. I needed something bigger and more sustainable.
That’s when I heard a couple of humpback whales singing in the distance, it was like music to my ears. I followed the sounds towards the whales, hungry and ready for a good hunt.
I have never had a better meal since.