I close my eyes and out stretches before me a shallow, placid pool. I can look down and see through the surface of the water as if it were transparent. My feet touch the bottom of the pool while I continue to sit on my chair. Certainly it’s not deep here. I imagine myself getting up and moving towards the center of the room where I’d find myself inevitably wading deeper and deeper over gray, rocky outcrops.
A nibble on my leg draws my attention to a fantastic little creature circling around my salty pylons. Golden yellow with fins and gills, it is obviously a fish of great beauty. Silver stripes and big, blue eyes trim the fish properly. It meanders between my legs inspecting them for hidden morsels. It gets bored and leaves, but a desire to see more grows within me.
I’m visited by a hermit crab. At least, it’s what I presume to be a hermit crab. A shell snakes its way through what it would see as a mountainous ascent. It reaches me and it does seem to be crab-like. Two large front claws stick out from under the late whelp’s helical shell, followed by two frilly eyes on stalks. The claws open slowly but close with rapid and formidable force. The creature gets nearer to my toes than I am comfortable with and I put them on the retreat, dancing my digits daintily away from danger. The hermit crab won’t stop though so I give its shell a firm flick with my big toe, which sends it gently tumbling backwards away from me. I feel bad for turning it away, but as it falls, the water making its descent look like a moon-walk, I see its ominous claws snap, snap, snap and I let it fade away without remorse.
From the depths I see a shell once again coming towards me. This time there are two. I assume the hermit crab has come back with a vengeance, and redoubled its efforts. But the shells are moving too measuredly. They glide from the deep towards me, making progress but at their own pace. I wonder if they’re coming to visit me. The smaller one, brown and striped, is making good time while the larger one, white, with a large foot that looks like a moon radiating out from under its shell, takes its relative time. The small one, I’ll call it winkle, is delayed in its progress of moving towards me, because it must climb a rock to make any forward progress. The moon snail catches up and extends its grip such that it wraps around the winkle. I realize they’re not coming to visit me. I’m instead watching a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. The moon snail envelops the winkle and draws it under to its doom.
Quite brutal, nature is. But here, floating past me is something fantastic. Gelatinous, cylindrical, translucent. A salp gone astray; lost its pack. Clear skin wrapped tightly over organs like its internals were the air in a balloon. If I were to touch it surely it would deform under my finger, then like a spring, bounce away and off into the blue. So I let it laze by me. It moves slightly up and down through thermals and turbulence, tumbling a bit around its axis as it serenely spins with not a care in the world. I’m mesmerized by it. I outstretch my hand and touch it, and sure enough, it springs off into the void. A shame.
But what’s this? I move my hand through the water again and am greeted by a phosphorescent trail. Phytoplankton? Bioluminescent. Once stressed, a phosphorescent glow is issued forth into the world. A shout, a scream, using photons rather than sound. Tiny creatures indiscernible on their own. But the things they do are quite apparent, and beautiful. I make a tiny swirl in the water radiating outward with my finger and watch as the turquoise trail spins through convection waves and ripples, causing a feedback effect of more and more blue-green blips to appear in the water in front of me. But does it hurt to scream? Even if it is with photons? I stop, close my eyes and lean back into my chair, withdrawing my hand from the water, thinking about my poor plankton pals.
When I open my eyes, the water is not as clear as before. I get up and start wading in it, the water at its deepest point rising to my navel. Beneath my foot I expected biting bedrock and cutting crustaceans, but instead I find the feeling to be that of comfortable carpet. Yes, things are changing. I spin and dance in the shallow water, imagining that all the friends I had seen earlier were still shuffling about in the wading room, but I find none. Whether it’s because of my antics in the deep, or because the water is receding, I do not know. Just as creatures follow the tide as it flows down and out to sea, the same may be happening to this pool.
The water flows down, and down, and down. Even the appearance of a rocky bottom drains away with the water until I can only see short, monoculture carpet. My friends didn’t leave, I can see. They’ve instead drawn themselves back into their two-dimensional hiding place, adorning the tapestry on the floor. Beautiful creatures that once swam with me. A shame to see them now lifeless and dirty underfoot. I’ve been here so many times and for so long that I have seen them all. Obviously I have waded long enough. The pool still churns away, draining at the sides of the room. A door opens and the water that remains is sucked out in a tumultuous gush.
In front of me, a white, sterile lab-coat makes itself present. The rush of water fades entirely from my auditory sense and I hear my name called. Yes, it’s finally time for my appointment.