Fiction by Valerie Wagner
Before the water there was the sound. Before the sound there was the solemn silence of no birds singing. Sagari noticed and not noticed. Such was her concentration as she stitched the fine embroidery on the bridal gown she was making for her sister’s wedding. When she finished this portion, she would go to market and buy a fish to add to the curry for the evening meal. Her husband and son were working a long day at the cinnamon farm. Their appetites would be strong.
Sagari heard something unusual. A loud gasp. A sucking inhale. She glanced toward the door. Was there someone there? Then began a dull roar. She laid her work down and went to check outside. Before she made it to the door, she was shocked still by a horrid sound, a howling roar.
Sagari had no time to think before the water came. She had no time to run before it blasted through the door and crashed through the windows of her small home. In a sudden forceful rush Sagari was pulled into a tumbling terror. Blinded by water, she struggled to swim, but her body had lost all sense of direction. She could not tell what was up or down. Unseen objects battered her. Still she fought to find her way through the turbulence. Each time she surfaced, she gasped for breath and struggled to stay atop the rushing, turning waters. Until she couldn’t.
Finally exhausted, she knew this was beyond her. She could not fight the immensity of force that was pulling her away. Pulling her away from all she knew. Sagari let the waters take her.
After what felt like eternity, Sagari surfaced, arms flailing, gasping for air. The salt water burned her lungs. All around her was nothing but frothing sea. No land. No houses. No farm. Where was her son? Her husband? Her family? She looked up. Strangely, the sky was blue.
Sagari had but a moment’s respite before she was pulled down under the moving waters again. Her legs and torso brushed against something. She reached out blindly, grasping madly and caught hold of roots, branches, a tree, something. She held on. She dug her nails into it and clung on with all her strength, as the water rushed her. She could see the light above her now and she tried to pull herself to surface, to air, but force kept her down. She opened her eyes. Blurry images, like dreams, rolled past her – a bicycle, a cart, a wooden boat – and then they were gone.
Sagari had been holding her breath for so long, she could no longer do it. At first she felt a panic like her lungs would burst but then something else. It was as if some primal instinct took hold of her. She relaxed. She let go her grasp. She opened her mouth and took a breath. Then another. How could this be? She was breathing water. She didn’t know it was possible. She felt her strength returning. And something else. Something was changing in her. Something beyond knowing.
Her round, unblinking eyes could see now. She turned her large smooth head, which was now encircled with a band of scales, toward her dorsal fin. Her form was full and sleek and luminescent blue. She felt her muscles contract on one side of her body, which brought her tail back the other way propelling her forward through the water. She swam with grace and ease now. And with one purpose. She must find her family. They would be hungry.