What's that shadow? Kyle thought, standing at the edge of the pool. Slowly, a black shape came toward the surface. Kyle ignored the slight twinge in his chest, concentrating only on his breathing and the shadow. It somehow pulled him toward the water, and he struggled just to dive headfirst into the pool. He crashed in through the surface and then down, down, down...
As Kyle opened his eyes, the rainbow colors of a tropical reef assaulted him--violet coral, indigo sea fans, apricot starfish. Blue and yellow tangs zigzagged in front of him. Bright green kelp wrapped playfully around his legs, and, filled with panic, he struggled to yank himself free. But the kelp dissolved away, his limb beneath now melded together and glistening with opalescence, ending with a fin that fanned the water.
Nonplussed--no, instead elated!--he swam faster than he'd ever raced, effortless in sight and breath. Kyle thought his heart might burst as he shot through his underwater paradise.
"Kyle, Molly is on the phone."
He pushed up, away from the undulate moray, the calico fish, the coral masses. Cutting through a spiral of iridescent amberjack, he broke the surface.
His wife, Sara, handed him a towel and then the phone.
"Hi, Molly," he said breathlessly. "Okay. We love you. We'll talk to you soon."
Kyle handed the phone to Sara and crawled out of the pool.
After she said goodbye, Kyle stared at Sara.
"Anything wrong?" She raised her eyebrows.
She has no idea, he thought happily, then said "Nothing. I'm going to do some work on the Garrison account. I'll be in the study."
"There are some antique stores I want to go visit. I'll see you later." She kissed him lightly on the cheek before she left.
Kyle walked into the study, his trophies from college haunting his shelves, ghostly reminders of the professional swimming career that never materialized. He tried to concentrate on the advertising account, but thoughts of what might have been preoccupied him. His whole body felt dry. He longed to feel the water.
Kyle changed and then stood at the water's edge. Droplets of rain dotted the skin of the pool. Tiny sparks of light shot up like fireworks from the bottom and disappeared when they collided with the shadow. As soon as he broke the surface, the luminous undersea vista engulfed him. Jubilant, he felt the bright green kelp coiling itself around his legs again.
After his metamorphosis, he again sped through the deep, drinking up the colors and sensuous shapes.
Ahead, the sea floor ended. Swimming over the edge, now suspended motionless over a deep canyon, Kyle looked down through the fathoms, where the ruins of an ancient city presided. Fallen obelisks rested crosswise on the sand, and cobblestone roads formed an eternal maze. Coral-encrusted viaducts and a massive amphitheater had somehow survived the cataclysm that had pulled this ancient metropolis into the depths.
Kyle descended and swam through the streets of the mute city. As he turned a corner, a dark shape disappeared behind a huge dome. It was then that he heard the screams.
"Kyle! Kyle! Look at this!"
He shot up from the depths, emerging from the dark water with a desperate breath.
"Isn't it beautiful," she said, pointing through the open French doors to an old cradle. "I found it at the flea market."
"That's wonderful," Kyle said, but he thought it looked like a coffin.
Kyle lay awake, listening to the rhythm of his wife's breathing. He carefully slipped from the bed, changed, and went downstairs to the pool. Moonlight shrouded the water. Again he stood at the edge. Even as he felt the pain, saw the dark shape, he descended the steps, felt himself pulled down, engulfed...
Algae clung to the coral. Hiding in darkened crevices, the fish were spectral in their pallor. The sea fans stood motionless in the murky depths. Ropes of black kelp bound his legs this time, and he couldn't swim. He struggled until he saw the dark shape with the white teeth approaching him. The last color he saw was bright red.
Molly came home the following day. Crying together at the kitchen table, they clutched desperately to one another. Head against her mommy's hitching breast, Molly stared at the pool through the French doors, then looked at Sara.
Sara brushed away her tears. "Yes, Molly?"
"What's that shadow?"
Patricia La Barbera has an MFA in creative writing from National University. Besides being a freelance writer who specializes in fiction and poetry, she is also an editor. The author is a member of Miami Mensa, Mystery Writers of America, and For Writers Only. Her book, "THE CELTIC CROW MURDERS," is available on amazon.com. She lives in the Florida Keys with her husband and a black cat.
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