Watching I waited for the largest of the set. As it came close I dove under feeling it's life giving waters embrace me once again. With a gasp I breathed out the last of my air as my body changed once again, resuming it's natural form. Feeling a stir in the waters beside me I glanced over to watch in amazement as the truth was finally revealed to me. Understanding dawned as I watched my lovers body change as mine had. He had tried to tell me but I hadn't believed him. Now I had no choice but to believe him. He was, as he had said, truly one of my kind.
I had come here, to the place of the Breathers not in search of a mate but in search of knowledge. I wanted to feel for myself the differences, to feel the strangeness and to learn more about those who inhabited the world above us. I had wanted to se these descendants of our common ancestors for myself. I had been warned by those few I could find who had gone through the change what to expect. With this in mind I had come to this empty beach in the dark before sunrise.
Unwilling to lay exposed in the shallows as I changed I had dragged my suddenly heavy and unwieldy body to the base of a dune. Panting this strange medium called air I had dragged myself into the grass and bushes hiding myself from anyone who might chance to come by. It was there that he found me, weak and struggling to breath.
I had heard a thin warbling cry unlike any I had heard before. Melancholy yet somehow irresistible it had slowly moved closer to where I lay. Lifting myself a little I peeked from my place among the bushes trying to find the source of this sirens song. I had seen him then, a shadow in the early morning darkness as he walked along the beach. I watched in no little fear as this Breather slowly came closer to where I lay hidden. When he stopped in front of me, standing at the waters edge I felt my heart beat a little faster. The sky was becoming a little lighter over the waters as he stood looking at something. In the dim light I could see what he was seeing and a low moan escaped my lips as I realized he was looking at the path I had made. Slowly he turned, following the trail with his eyes until he seemed to be looking at me. Like a shark on a blood scent he followed the drag marks to the base of the dune where they vanished into the grasses.
At first he stood there saying something in a quiet deep voice. Not hearing a reply he moved closer until I knew he could see me cowering in the weeds. Looking at me laying in the sand he kept talking in that quiet voice of his. He wasn't acting the way my sisters had led me to expect. He wasn't attacking me, at least not yet. Still making those quiet noises he reached up and removed what I thought to be his skin before kneeling in front of me. Slowly he extended this skin towards me while balancing himself with his other hand. When I didn't move he laid it on the ground and moved back a little ways to watch and wait.
What was he thinking as he knelt there watching me struggling for breath? Was this some kind of game for him? The sun was just peeking over the horizon bathing the beach in it's golden glow when he moved again. Moving slowly towards me he picked up his skin and extended it towards me once again. I knew what was going to happen next, I had heard about it often enough to know I would be lucky if I survived this first attack to become his slave. The only regret I felt was I had been caught before I learned the ways of these strange creatures. Even though I knew it was useless in my weakened state I readied myself to fight. It was not our way to give up and I would not shame myself by doing so. Because of this his next move surprised me.
Instead of attacking he stopped just out of arms reach and watched me. Why was he doing this? Why didn't he just attack and get it over with? Was this some part of his game? To make it last longer? To make me even more scared than I was? Suddenly he swung his arm swinging his skin at me while with a flip of his wrist he made it open out so it fell across my shoulders before backing up again. At first I moved to shrug it off, then I noticed how warm it was. I hadn't realized I was getting chilled in the early morning air but I had been. Smiling when he saw me reach up and pull his skin closer around my shoulders he backed further away before standing.
Once again he spoke in his strange language before turning and moving quickly away. I knew this would be my one and only chance to escape. I had to be gone before he returned or my fate would be sealed to his. It took several attempts before I was able to stand upright as he did and several more tries before I could move on my feet. Slowly and unsteadily I moved away from the direction he had taken. I had only managed a short distance when I heard him once again. Turning to face him I marveled at how quickly and easily he seemed to move. How strong his legs must be to allow him to move over the sand where I could only shuffle.
As he came closer I saw he held something in his hands. Was this then the net he would use to capture me? Was he so worried about my nonexistent strength he thought to bring weapons? I barely had time to think this when he was upon me. Without pausing he threw this net around me wrapping me in a delicious warmth. Was this then his way of attack? To warm me and lull me into a false sense of security before making his move? Somehow I didn't think so and what he did next seemed to confirm my thoughts.
"My Princess, The dawn air is chill upon you and you are in need of help. Allow me to assist and protect you in your time of need."
Strangely enough I understood him. How did he, a breather come to speak my language? Granted he spoke an oddly stilted and archaic form of my language but it was my language none the less. Was he one of those who trapped my kind and traded them for money as I had heard? Even as I was thinking this I found myself nodding for I did need help and maybe, just maybe he was honest in his offer of help. Seeing this he moved slowly, pulling the strange covering more closely around me before carefully and gently picking me up. Cradling me in his arms he told me to relax as he turned and moved swiftly down the beach.
Before long we reached an odd sort of construct, in many ways it reminded me of the places of the ancients near where I lived. This one though stood alone and it's portals wee covered by some strange material. Instead of avoiding this place as we did he moved closer until he was standing outside one of the larger portals. Was he not then afraid of the sprits that inhabited it? He must have sensed my unease for he stopped and looked at me cradled gently in his arms as a youngling would be cradled in it's caretakers arms.
"My Princess you may relax. You have nothing to fear for this place is not inhabited by spirits. Instead it is inhabited by myself. It is a place of refuge and safety for you. A place where you may rest and regain your strength."
Having said this he set me on my feet and opened the portal and led me shuffling inside before closing it once again. Once inside I stopped and looked around me in surprise. Instead of being dark and oppressive as I had expected it was brightly lit by the sun shining in through several large portals covered with a clear substance. Instead of standing empty as those in my land were this one was filled with strange objects both on the floor and along the walls. Guiding me gently he led me to one of these strange objects. Seeing my confusion he showed me how to use this thing he called a couch and soon I was relaxing on it luxuriating in it's softness. Smiling gently he told me to rest a bit while he gathered something for me to eat. Would I be able to eat what the breathers called food? This was something I hadn't thought about before but now I would find out.
He came back from another room with a large platter in his hands. Setting this down in front of me he apologized for the meager fare as I stared in wonder at the array of fresh fish laying there. He bade me to eat as he picked up a small box and after setting it on what he called a table pointed it at me. When he touched something on it's side I heard a click then a slight sound before feeling myself bathed in a wonderful warmth. Doing as he had asked I moved closer to the table, allowing the strangely comfortable netting to fall away from my body as I did so and grabbed the first fish. Thanking the Gods for their bounty I started eating what he had placed in front of me, rarely had I eaten such a feast as this.
When I had finished and was licking my fingers clean he looked at me.
"Now my Princess, what do I call you?"
I thought about this for a minute. Although he called me Princess, the nickname we had for those of us still able to change, he did so in that odd dialect. Should I tell him my name? Did I dare? There were some among us who thought a name had magical properties and knowing another persons name gave you some power over them. While I wasn't one of these mystics I still hesitated. After a short while he seemed to tire of waiting and standing turned to an oddly decorated wall.
This wall was made of shelves holding thick pieces of some material. Curious I watched as he pulled one of these down and to my surprise it opened to show many thin pieces of material inside of it. Moving from my place on the cushions I stood beside him and looked in curiosity at what he held. Now I could see these pieces were covered in by strange designs. It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing. These designs were the breathers version of writing. How ingenious of them to have their writing in these things he called books. He even allowed me to hold this book while he looked quickly through several more before finding what he was looking for and turning to me with a smile.
"Because you do not wish to tell me your name, and because you seem to have come from the sea I believe I shall call you Venus."
Saying this he tipped the book he held in his hands in my direction. To my surprise this one had a picture in it, a picture of a woman walking out of the waves onto a beach. Was all of this information then held in these books? Could I learn their history and teachings just by reading these books filled with their strange symbols? If so I wanted to be able to understand it. When I told him this he smiled again and led me back to the couch. When I was once again seated he carried the platter into the other room. When he returned he was carrying several sheets of that strange substance in the books and what he called a pencil. Setting these on the table he started drawing. I soon saw he was drawing the same symbols I had seen in the books. Under each of these he drew more symbols which he explained were how each one sounded when said aloud. In this way he started teaching me not only to read but also to speak the language of the breathers. As he was doing this I realized I didn't know what he was called. Asking him he laughed, a low rumble in his chest, and told me to call him David.
It didn't take me long to learn the basics of his language. I was an apt student because I not only wanted but needed to learn this language. Within the next few days I was not only speaking but reading his language. Oh there were stumbling blocks of course, mainly in how I pronounced the different words as well as how I dealt with some of their foolish rules. I was constantly amazed at what I was learning. At first I couldn't believe how many people there were living on land. This was overshadowed only by how many languages they spoke. How did they all communicate and get along with each other? I was surprised by the many ways these people worshiped their Gods but was saddened at how violent some of these ways seemed to be. Perhaps the most shocking to me though was how these peoples had relegated those like me to the realms of myths and fantasy.
When I learned this I retreated to my room to be alone with my own memories. I remembered the lessons I had learned as a youngling where I had listened to the history of my people and of how we had split from the breathers. I had learned that in a time of a great famine our people, one of the tribes of man, had left the lands to live aboard great rafts. My people had lived on these rafts for many years, slowly changing to adapt to our new environment. We learned to not only live on the waters but to live with and in them. We became one with them. Over time many of the people adapted beyond the rest, their bodies changed and they were able to spend more and more time underwater. Over time these changelings became the majority. Those who couldn't change slowly vanished until only those who adapted to the water were left.
Those were dangerous times for my people. From the land came raiders intent on killing or enslaving any they found. Too many rafts were lost to them and their fast ships. Too many of our people were captured and sold as freaks for the entertainment of those on land. Soon my people abandoned the rafts and lived their entire lives under water. They built a society, a civilization under the waves. Now their bodies changed even more. Now the changes became more dramatic, more pronounced. My people lost their legs, in their place they grew tails. Our hands became larger with webs between the fingers. Along our backs we grew gills allowing us to breath. No longer were we dependant on the surface. Slowly we moved deeper into the Abyss.
Among my people there was a group, a minority who wished to remain in contact with the land. They argued that those on land would have things we either wanted or needed. They claimed that one day those on land would once again welcome us as family. Few among my people agreed with this group. The death and slavery were too recent to be put aside so easily. Soon this minority left, they moved away from us. Rarely were they seen or heard of and before too many generations they were mostly forgotten except as a lesson in our history.
When I came out of my room I explained to David what I had remembered. He didn't say much when I said this but I did notice he was writing it all down. Quickly now my education continued. David taught me about his people. He taught me how they thought and what they seemed to like. He introduced me to music and to what he called movies. He taught me to wear clothes, those same strange skins he had draped over me when we had first met. He slowly allowed me to sample the foods of the breathers, foods that tasted strange yet exciting to me. Most of all though he worked on strengthening my body. Every day we went down to the beach. Every day we did what he called exercises that made my body grow stronger. I was always amazed at the power and strength in his body. When I lay panting on the sand he continued exercising, pushing his body until his muscles trembled. Slowly my body grew stronger and before too long I could stay with him through his entire workout. It was only then that he allowed me the greatest education. He took me to places he called cities.
At first these strange places scared me. We had nothing like them in my land. There were too many people all moving at once. It was confusing, it was exciting and it scared me beyond words. Thankfully though David was always with me. I knew he wouldn't allow anything to happen to me. I knew without question that he would protect me. In this as well as his knowledge he reminded me of another thing my teachers had told me of those who had left.
Those who had left to follow their path of trading and treating with the Breathers held a strange set of beliefs. Beliefs that seemed to contradict each other. They claimed that they wanted peace, that they respected all others and yet they trained themselves in the skills of warfare. They said they loved the arts and philosophy yet they trained themselves in the use of weapons. It was said that they respected courage and valor as much as they respected love and the softer emotions. I had been told that they loved knowledge just as they loved their freedom. I saw this in David one evening less than a month before I had to return to my own realm.
We had just weathered a major storm, what the Television called a Hurricane. David had gone for one of his walks along the beach to see what the waves had churned up while I remained in the house. I was sitting in the living room reading by candle light and listening to a small battery run radio when I heard the front door rattle. I looked up in confusion, David had left through one of the doors leading directly to the beach. Why would he be coming back through the front door and why was he shaking the door so? He had his keys with him. I was thinking this when I saw the door splinter as the men there kicked their way inside. I had enough time to stand and open my mouth to scream before they attacked.
What followed was a confused blur of images. I felt myself thrown to the couch as these men surrounded me. I felt my clothing torn from me as they touched me in ways I had never been touched before. One of them, the largest, pushed the others away and ordered them to hold me down. My nose wrinkled in disgust at the smell coming from him as he removed his clothes while leering down at me. As though in a dream I felt his hands on my legs as he roughly spread them apart even as I heard the sound of breaking glass behind me. I knew without looking that David had come home.
I lay there fully exposed on the couch as I watched him move into view. His shirt was missing and blood flowed from several small cuts. I could hear the sound of the waves through the broken window as he moved to confront my attackers. They laughed an called him a little man as he moved slowly and gracefully towards them. They pulled knives while telling him what they would do to both him and me. Instead of the look of fear they obviously expected he smiled. A slow, predatory smile that reminded me somehow of the expression of the Tigers on T.V. grew on his face as he moved ever closer. My attackers couldn't understand this, they expected fear and begging for mercy not a smile. What happened next was so quick that it barely registered on my mind. The three of them attacked and David seemed to blur as he moved. A flash of candle light on steel, a blur of movement. A scream then silence. It was over.
As though in a dream I watched as David hoisted one of the men onto his shoulder and turned towards the door to the beach. I had to know what he was doing and sitting up I asked him. Looking back at me he answered in a quiet voice.
"My Princess, I know that you have learned about the rules here from my books and the little bit of television you have watched. I know that your people also follow the rules as set down by your rulers. Unfortunately there are times when a person must take care of a problem without following the rules, this is one of those times."
I didn't have to ask him what he meant, he could see the question in the expression on my face. Was he saying that not all of the laws here were meant to be followed at all times as they were where I came from?
"Yes Venus I am going to break one of our many laws. You see sometimes the laws here don't make sense. Unlike where you come from we keep adding laws to keep up with what is acceptable behavior, but we never seem to get rid of the old laws. They just get ignored until it is convenient for someone to use them for their own gain. Sometimes you have to rely on yourself and what you believe is right."
I nodded as though I understood what he had said and started helping him even as I thought about his comments. One thing he had said struck a chord in me. His comment about doing what you thought was right and relying on yourself echoed in my mind even as we disposed of the bodies. By the time we had tossed the last of our attackers into the water for Poseidon to take care of I had made up my mind. I would do what I wanted, I would do what I thought was right and I would do it soon before it was too late.