I have been called many names over the years.
Before the poison seeped into the waters, the small children that played on the sandy shores named me ‘sea-dragon’.
Although I was barely a hatchling in those days, I spent long hours propelling myself through the cool waters of the Pacific, imagining I was as marvellous and grand as the children believed I was.
But then, the evil arrived.
It travelled in great ships that threw out terrible devices which swallowed the entire ocean up whole.
Once, when I accidentally swam into one of these nets, the Fishermen grabbed hold of me and called me awful things. If I had not managed to escape from their grasp, they would have sliced off my scales and used my flesh for soup.
That is if they needed me.
If I were unwanted by-catch, they would have simply thrown me overboard to die.
Fishermen have not always been so cruel. Whilst they have always been the predator, and us their prey, it was never like this.
We used to swim for miles together, bobbing in and out of the waves. Their children would stroke my back, tickle my tummy, and feed me soft pieces of fruit in the tropical heat. When they did kill us, it was with a particular kind of love and respect that seldom exists anymore.
I have met many kind-hearted humans in my time. They each provided me with names that I carry with me to this day.
My favourite was Zippy.
A small boy with thick rimmed glasses chose that name. He told me that I was a “leatherback turtle”, which meant that I was the only species of turtle in the whole world that did not possess a hard shell.
Recalling this piece of information seemed to please the boy greatly. A wide smile grew on his face when he then stroked my back, verifying his claims.
Alas, names fade away like tracks on the sea floor.
No matter. I would be more than happy to drift aimlessly through the seas till the end of my days.
But it seems that life has a greater calling for me.
I mustn’t be late.
I swim a little faster, seamlessly navigating the way to my birthplace.
(The small boy with the vast mind told me that turtles always knew our way back to where we were born because we are aligned with Earth’s magnetic fields.)
My mind is so lost in reminiscence, I do not notice the thing until it is too late.
There, on top of the sea floor, partially obscured by the coral, lies a shark.
My breathing slows down, almost to nothing. He mustn’t see me, he mustn’t. I cannot go like this. Not yet - please!
Why isn’t he moving?
I force myself to take a closer look at the creature. As I inch my flippers forward, a wave of nausea overcomes me.
His fins. They are missing.
Chopped off by the heartless Fishermen.
The shark faces me; his eyes scream for help.
But there is nothing I can do. Without his fins, his body cannot move. He will stay in that one spot until he dies of starvation.
The ocean’s greatest predator, reduced to nothing.
I had once feared the great beasts who patrolled the ocean floor. But the only emotion I felt whilst watching this poor creature flail so helplessly in the sand, was sorrow.
I couldn’t just leave him like this.
(I shall refrain from describing the last moments of the shark’s life. Just know that it was quicker and more painless than the fate those Fishermen chose for him.)
Onwards I swim.
Past the swathes of coral that line the ocean bed. In better days, I spent many hours playing amongst the vibrant fronds that bloomed in the light of the sun. Back then, the ecosystem was a majestic palace which I had the honour of residing in.
Now, most of the coral is dead.
A jellyfish swims by. I know from experience that it is futile to attempt to capture it. It is not like the jellyfish of my youth whose gelatinous bodies provided me with an abundance of nourishment.
This type of jellyfish has no taste. Some of them seem harmless, at first. Until you ingest them, and they tear up your insides, lacerating your organs, preventing you from ever consuming food again.
Once upon a time, I was invincible.
Against all the odds, I had survived to adulthood; one in a thousand.
The life of a turtle is not easy.
From birth we scramble for our lives, desperately trying to avoid death until it finally apprehends us.
If the fish, dogs, seabirds, raccoons, boars, whales, sharks, and ghost crabs do not catch us, the humans always do.
They did not approach me directly. That would have been too fair a fight.
No. They poisoned me instead.
A few weeks ago, when I was swimming in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the most horrendous black sludge rapidly engulfed me. When I surfaced from the water to try to regain my breathing, toxic fumes rushed down my throat, permanently damaging my internal organs.
In short, I am dying.
I can see the corals of my youth. Something deep inside of me never forgot this place. How fearless I was as a hatchling when I first tread these waters all those moons ago.
So much has changed since then.
I wade out onto the sandy shores to find a safe place to rest.
The pain is quite unbearable now.
As I collapse inside my shell, I remember the shark; cruelly incapacitated by a beast who possessed far more malice than he.
I wish that someone had been kind to me, like I had been to that helpless creature.
For I have been dying for so long.
I close my eyes.
Peace, at last.
My final thoughts are of a small boy with thick-rimmed glasses calling me by my favourite name.
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That was a wonderful story, thanks for writing it. It quite accurate in many points and I appreciate the fact that you make research before writing it. There are 7 species of sea turtle survive today and all of them were endangered. I remember swimming with them in the streamline between the Pacific and Indian oceans and they were majestic. One of my favorite is Eretmochelys imbricata which also an amazing creature. Well, back to your story. It's good but too straightforward, sounds like 'Hey reader! Here! There's a problem with our ocean an...
Aww thank you so much. I know what you mean about the straightforwardness :) Have you read Turtle Planet? That is what inspired me to write this. I think you might like it
Whilst I was researching marine life for this story, I discovered that one of the collective nouns for a group of jellyfish is known as “a smack”. A smack of jellyfish. I thought it was so wonderful, I had to share it with you all.