I have stayed close. The smell of salt is in everything. I sleep with the muted roar of the ocean in my ears.
You sent me here. My first reaction was disgust. Their lives, their politics corrupted the water we breathed. I was your instrument of vengeance, burdened with purpose as I strode ashore.
My fingers traced the lines along my jaw where my gills had closed. My fingers lacked webbing and the changes to my anatomy appalled and fascinated me. I would sleep to the soundtrack of my new organs, gurgling and pumping with new life.
I lived under a false name, funded by the treasure which laid in piles amongst my people. My heritage was my sword and shield.
War and horror were my purpose, but it was her kindness which unmanned me.
She was in the supermarket, saying out loud how glad she would be when they delivered. Her blue eyes held a light like the photo electric displays tuna communicated with. Her blonde hair hung in loose curls around her soft face and her smile was a sunrise after a long time in darkness.
Her humanity was a barrier. We would say hello as we shopped, forming a line of communication from fragile asides and jokes. I had to watch television to get some of her references but she talked more so I listened and let my silence form her opinion.
She worked in an office, filing invoices and calling people. She did not like it but she talked about it a lot which was something humans did by design. I would check out the contents of her shopping, trying new things to understand the world she made for herself.
My senses gave me information about her. The imbalance in her endocrinology due to the medication she took. You would have dismissed her as weak, but I saw how she fought her invisible enemies and her sweetness proved beguiling.
I resisted the pull of her. It tugged at me, a new language of want and desire fed upon the smallest gestures and I hated how fluent I was becoming.
One night, I had gone to my car when I heard a scream and her voice, pleading in a pitched babble made me leave my bags and move towards her. It was a pleasure to be a warrior again, open and whole in confrontation.
He stood with a knife pointed at her. I struck him in the temple and he fell. His sweat was slick against my knuckles and his skin shone like the pelt of seals in the morning light. Maya dropped and checked his pulse.
‘What did you do to him?’ she said.
Tears welled in her eyes and I frowned. A thin, sharp stab of disappointment slipped between my ribs and bit deep enough to make me turn away.
‘He had a knife.’
Her eyes sparkled as she drew her hand away. The man’s chest rose and fell in the easy rhythms of unconsciousness.
‘He’s breathing though, that’s something.’ she said.
We stared into each other’s eyes.
‘I know.’ I said.
She tilted her head to one side
‘I’m freaking out a little but thank you.’ she said.
I walked away, but she got up and reached out, touched my shoulder as she brushed the hair from her face.
‘Brian.’ she said.
I had picked the name from a yellowed page of newspaper but on her lips, it made me wish it were my true name.
She leaned towards me and opened her mouth.
My first kiss.
The brush of her soft, warm lips made me strong and weak. Every fibre screamed for a discipline of self which disappeared with each contact. This was my need made manifest, potent in its heady impact and the first battle since my ascent.
When we drew apart, the man on the ground groaned with a dull anguish.
‘What was that for?’ I said.
She giggled and the music twisted within me.
‘I’m a little freaked out, but you saved my life and I wanted to kiss you.’
She touched my cheek, a gesture like the play of light on water but its implication knocked my beliefs to the ground. She leaned into me again.
‘More than once.’ she said.
The second kiss broke my bond to you without effort.
I followed her home. Our third kiss was as sweet as the first. Her apartment was full, awash with bright colours and half-completed art projects and her kitten hissed with envy until she put it into another room.
She broke and renewed me. It was nervous, awkward but sublime in ways which made me question all I knew. It annulled my reasons for being here and replaced them with something sweet and fragile.
My doubts haunted me. She held me without asking and I became intoxicated by the buttery texture of her skin. It was medicine for a quiet, ugly grief which sought to spoil the pleasure of the surprise. She stroked the cleft in my chin and ran it up to my lips.
‘It’s okay, Brian.’ she said.
I reached out and held her tight.
I chose her, father.
This will be my last message. Once I have placed it in the bottle, I will toss it into the ocean and hope it finds you.
Your response will be terrible.
She is asleep. I will tell her who I am and why I was there. Her rejection terrifies me more than your displeasure but I will remain calm in the face of whatever happens.
Like the waves, I will return to her.
Like the waves, I have ebbed from you.