By Pamela Zero
This Story Won Third Prize in Our Contest
My parent dome said to write everything down as if I was talking to an imaginary friend. As if you and I had grown up together, here on the bottom of the ocean. Maybe it will help.
I crushed my neighbor yesterday. I grew too fast, too big, and I heard the tinkling sound of his structure shattering. Water rushed in and destroyed his careful gardens, their delicate life. The tender ministrations of our invaders have caused me to triple my growth rate, and there’s no time for those around me to shift to accommodate my exploding girth.
Up until a month ago, I was a model dome. I grew slowly, steadily, in our sheltered, deep-water bay. My surface curve was graceful, my diameter appropriate to my height. Maybe my transparency was a bit cloudy on my lower third, but I was working on that. No one paid much attention to me. My parent dome says that silent support is the best way to pull your weight. All of my dedication to moderation was lost the instant the strangers came.
If you were really my friend you’d know this, but I think I should explain, anyway. We have always lived in deep water, always grown around the rarer beings and plants found on the seafloor. We Erlen are dedicated to sheltering those that need extra protection from the weight of the water. Some of the other sea races have challenged our choices, but it is our way, the Erlen way, to conserve and assist. Sometimes, in the early light part of the day, beams of light sink down to glow above us, letting us see the expanse of our colony, like bubbles caught on the seabed. As we grow, our walls eventually touch, and sometimes we allow small gaps to form in our joint walls so our ambulatory charges can move between domes.
I wonder what the invaders are thinking, as they pour nutrients on top of a select few of us. They come down wrapped up in squeaking layers of material, with bubbles frothing from tubes on their heads. Whoever gets the nutrients grows huge, quickly. We usually grow about a meter across, but whatever they’re putting on us makes us enormous. When we get twenty, thirty times bigger than we’re supposed to, they pry us up from the seafloor and take us away. I don’t know where they take us, or why.
I’m almost twenty meters across now. A giant. Huge, and unwieldy, unable to direct the currents within my own self. I have no control over my internal water temperature, and all of my flora and beings have died. I weep all day. Slow bubbles form on my upper curve and then float off to the surface. Tears that no one else can see since I’m taller than everyone. Another giant dome towers near the kelp beds. It’s too far away to make out if there are bubbles rising from it or not. I keep wishing that I could turn time around and go back to when my biggest worry was how I was going to encourage my fussy resident wormfish to eat properly.
The invaders came yesterday and tore away pieces of my side. They didn’t really tear it, but rather they cut, with some sort of vibrating stick. Remember my slightly cloudy lower third? They carved arches in it, openings that let water flow right through me. I can barely hold on to the seabed. I don’t know why they are doing this.
I wish you were a real being, a real friend I could talk to, instead of just a tool my mind uses to get things out of my head and etched onto rock. My whole colony is moving away, and soon it will be just me. My parent dome moved within speaking distance yesterday. They said the best thing I can do for the colony now is to damage the seabed as little as possible when the invaders pry me up and take me away. Then they said goodbye. Imaginary friend, I cannot bear this.
I cannot bear this.
I am on land now, among other domes. But without water currents to carry our words, we can’t speak to each other. There’s a small cliff of rock pressed into my right side, so at least I can write. The invaders pulled me up a while ago, ripping me from the seabed and letting me float aimlessly up to the surface. It hurt so bad I lost my thoughts for a bit. When I was able to think again, I was here. I’m much more brittle than I was back home, but the air currents aren’t strong enough to shatter me. It’s incredibly bright up here, but I’m getting used to it. There are times of intense light and then dark, comforting times, like home.
The strange invaders are living inside me. They put hard flaps on some of the arches they cut out of me and go in and out. Other arches have a clear substance wedged into them. When the flaps are closed, I am slightly sealed. I’m not watertight though. I will never be watertight again.
There is a great deal of life here on land, and I spend most of my time trying to encourage it to visit me. Perhaps I can motivate one of the flying types to hit me with the eating pyramid on its head if I sparkle brightly. Maybe I can be cracked. Otherwise, I will live for a long time, sheltering the invaders who ripped me from my home. It’s not fair. I lost my family, my friends, my living place, and now they are living in me. I have no currents to roil, no air bubbles to seethe, no way to protest this involuntary sheltering of my captors.
A flying being lands on one of my neighboring domes and hops around. I try my best to sparkle.