Chelsea splashed around in the cool water, mindful of her family lounging on the beach. Every few minutes she’d come up for breath, looking to make sure she was still near her family. The waves continued to sweep Chelsea up, along with many others in the water. In the horizon a huge wave mounted and sped towards the coast. It cast a shadow over Chelsea and swept her under; a mixture of sand, shells, saltwater, and little girl swirled around in frenzy.
She looked for light and found it dancing through choppy waves an eternity away. She raced towards the surface, out of oxygen seconds ago.
She broke through and gasped, taking her fill of air. Treading the surface, Chelsea found herself lost; the beach, swimmers, and her family had undergone a vanishing act during the wave’s assault. She panicked.
Where’d everybody go?
Chelsea frantically kept herself afloat in a field of glistening blue, far away from everything. Among the crystalline claps of water, Chelsea noticed a particularly gray looking stone floating her way—or what she was sure was stone. It bobbed at a distance and soon made its way closer to her. Struggling to keep herself above the water, Chelsea failed to recognize that it was actually a fin, though she did find it peculiar that a stone should float in what appeared to be the middle of the ocean.
Soon the body attached to the fin brushed against her feet. Chelsea froze.
“What are you doing so far out here?”
Chelsea gasped for breath coughing, her mouth just above water.
She spit water everywhere, “Wh…Who said that?”
She didn’t want to, but she looked directly beneath her and saw a large dark shadow just beneath her toes. It rose to the surface and soon Chelsea was face to face with a large bottle-nosed dolphin.
“How did you get here, child?” The dolphin spoke.
Chelsea was stunned. “I…wha…how are you talking?”
The dolphin squeaked, “Talking? Child, there are more pressing matters at hand—you’re alone in the middle of the ocean! This is a very dangerous place to be, indeed! Speak, and forget your worries of how I may talk.”
The dolphin seemed off put by Chelsea’s comment that it should speak; it was more puzzled by the child seemingly dropped from the sky into the middle of the ocean. The dolphin dove underwater and pressed its back against Chelsea’s feet, steadying her and lifting her higher above the choppy water. Her balance was steady but her heart was still racing.
“I…I don’t know…really! A wave hit me and I got pulled under the water. When I came up I couldn’t see the beach or my family or anybody!” Chelsea began to cry, finally steadied enough to let herself become overwhelmed by her predicament.
The large dolphin squeaked in rhythm, and soon a smaller dolphin took its place under Chelsea.
“It is a friend holding you up. And in this place, you need many. I can’t explain what’s happened to you today child, but I can only assume it is the magic of the world that has brought us together in this moment. I may never know the ancient mysteries, but I know a special moment when I come across one! Child, I wish to give you something, a gift, if I may be so fortunate.”
Young Chelsea, stable and overcoming her sobs, spoke out “Yes…of course!”
The dolphin nodded and dove deep, leaving Chelsea alone for a few moments in the choppy water. Something floated in the distance, what appeared to Chelsea like a pearl; it bobbed peculiarly, watchfully grazing the surface. Finally the water broke and Chelsea turned to see a conch shell bobbing above water, held by the dolphin’s nose.
Chelsea took the shell in her hand. It was soft, at least softer than any shell she had known. And there was a sentimental scent to it—it smelled like mom.
“This shell is enchanted, child, in the most beautiful way—it’s the way of my species. This shell will direct you in the ways of your life, the path to follow to create the most magnificent possible existence. It was that shell, child, that brought me here today, to you. Follow its guidance and you will find bliss, young princess.”
The dolphin’s squeaky voice became stern, “This ocean is infested, and you’re a brave young girl to be brought here today, a true test from the ancients—and bravery should always be rewarded.”
Chelsea looked to the dolphin, mesmerized by her new gift.
“Thank you…thank you very much!”
She held it close with both hands. When she pressed her ear to it, she heard an orchestra of everything beautiful. Her best possible life, unfolded delicately through aromas of sound. The magical notes swept Chelsea away and brought her down thoughts that didn’t make sense to her, but were vibrant and comforting, exciting. Chelsea thought of her mixed emotions for a moment until realized she was still in the middle of the ocean.
“But how am I going to get home?”
“We will take you home now, child. Please remember this time and your new gift. Follow it and you will be rewarded with the sweetest bliss given by the ancients! Farewell, child! Safe returns!”
With that, Chelsea and her shell sailed along the water’s break atop the smaller dolphin, cutting through choppy water with ease.
In the distance the horizon began to rise, and Chelsea quickly realized it was a huge wave very much like the one that brought her so far out here.
“There! That’s the wave! That’s it! Turn…”
But before she could shout the word “around!” to the dolphin, Chelsea was back under water, spinning uncontrollably and without direction. When the assault was over, Chelsea again raced her way to the far-off surface, 30 feet above.
“Wh…What?” Chelsea, above water, found herself treading back where she had been on the busy beach, her family waiting for her near the shoreline—a soft conch shell gripped tightly in her hand.
“Momma! Poppa!” She yelled, frantically swimming towards shore. She opened her hands to show them her badge of bravery, her gift, but her parents simply saw a seashell.
“That’s very nice, Chelsea. Now let’s go, you’ve been in the water for far too long! We didn’t see you for a few minutes—we thought you finally turned into a fish and swam away!” Her mother teased.
Chelsea blurted her story out like swallowed water, every extraordinary detail—right down to the dolphin’s impressive vocabulary.
“What an imagination!” Her mother said.
“You were in the water waayy too long. Let me see that shell!” Her father insisted, but only heard the sound of the ocean. Peculiar, it was the one thing Chelsea didn’t hear in the shell’s euphony.
Chelsea held her conch shell close to her, always remembering her moment with the dolphin. It teased her, paraded down her thoughts constantly. If it weren’t for her new gift of bliss she’d hardly believe herself, either. She’d tried to show everybody its value, but anybody who put their ear to the shell was given only the ocean.
“Odd,” Chelsea would say, “The Ocean is the one thing I never seem to hear in that conch shell.” But never paid it much mind, it was surely buried somewhere beneath the other sounds.
Chelsea grew, and her admiration and fascination with dolphins was ever-present in her hobbies. She studied Marine Biology and became well-regarded for her research in tissue vibration patterns of bottle-nosed dolphins. Chelsea became obsessed with finding the magical wave that brought her to dolphins, to ancients, to mysteries she knew she was needed to uncover. She watched the colorful thoughts take shape over time, often times symbols that would appear in her life. The orchestra made her feel warm, just like home.
Just having this conch shell by my side is the most beautiful life I could ask for. It’s given me everything I could ever want! Oh how I wish I could just see that dolphin once more. We could
Every year she continued to wade in the ocean, in the very same spot on the very same beach she was swept from years ago. Chelsea rarely looked to the shore anymore, her family no longer with her. She intently watched the horizon, waiting for it to rise in peculiar ways, throwing her this way and that, finally spitting her out somehow in the middle of ocean. Chelsea’s studies in ocean life made her greatly admired in the field, but she could not seem to figure out what provoked the magic wave. In the ocean, she’d hold the conch shell to her ear, again hearing the beauty of everything possible in her life—excluding any sounds of crashing waves.
“Maybe it means I’ll just never see that wave again.” Chelsea resigned.
At that moment, the horizon bent. It began rising with an intensity unlike the two waves Chelsea had witnessed as a little girl. The other bathers seemed uninterested in the wave, but Chelsea began swimming further out to sea, trying to meet the magic wave half-way.
When she was able to open her eyes and find her way back to the water’s surface, she was once again in the middle of the ocean. Chelsea let out a laugh and some tears, overwhelmed by once again finding herself in the mysterious depths of the ocean.
While treading water, Chelsea looked for her dolphin friend but saw nothing. She looked for any gray stones bobbing in the water, but none appeared. She held the shell to her ear once more, smelling her mother more vividly than she ever had on its soft shell, hearing joyous sounds unlike any rehearsed of laughter and her best possible life.
I wonder how mom’s doing..
The sun gleamed atop the choppy waves, and at once Chelsea noticed what looked like a white pearl bobbing peculiarly in the water. It began edging towards Chelsea, who was still in the water. So excited was Chelsea to tell the dolphin of her studies, of all she had learned about them and herself that she didn’t realized it was a fin, not a pearl.
“You dolphins really are very good at disguising yourselves!” She cheered.
The fin dipped below the water and Chelsea looked below her toes. The shadow was gigantic, much larger than she remembered the dolphin having. Her heart raced; suddenly she remembered the dolphin’s cautious words about dangers out here.
“Who are you, child?”
A hard voice, deep and forceful; it was the type of voice that demanded attention, not answers. Chelsea stayed silent.
She dared not move, barely able to keep above water.
“What are you doing out this far?” The shadow surfaced and Chelsea found herself face to face with a gigantic white-finned shark.
“I…I was…looking…” She was all but paralyzed by fear.
“Your words are as choppy as these waters!” The shark laughed. He slapped his fin against Chelsea’s feet, giving her balance so that she might respond.
“Dolphins.” It was the only word she could say. All this time, Chelsea had prepared herself as an ambassador of the human species, ready to live amongst the dolphins, if possible, to share each other’s findings. All of her studies, all of her achievements: silently slipping to the bottom of the ocean floor in front of the behemoth shark.
“Dolphins? I don’t…oohhh. You’re the girl with the gift, is it? There are stories of a special girl who fell from the sky—and here she is! What a fortunate day indeed!” The shark’s breath smelled of fish and flesh.
“Tell me, child, what is that in your hand there?” He nudged his snout to Chelsea’s conch shell, which she brought closer to her body.
“It’s…a gift…from the dolphins. It…guides me to a better life…”
“Oh? Is that what this shell does? It looks rather ordinary to me.” The skeptical shark looked directly at Chelsea with its black eyes.
“May I have a listen?” Chelsea put the shell to the shark’s head, unable to determine where it might be hearing her from.
“Child, I only hear the ocean, which is to say, the ocean is the only thing I ever hear. I suppose it is gift then, for a shark to live its best life it should most probably be in the ocean.”
“Everybody hears the ocean when they put it to their ear, it’s only special for me.”
The shark smirked, “but yet, that is precisely where you are.”
Chelsea, determined to make the shark understand her and her shell’s importance, began to tell her tale of dolphins, ancients, and deep-sea mysteries. Afterwards, the shark fell silent for a moment before laughing heartily.
“Foolish child! A shell of everlasting bliss…haha! And for how long have you struggled to gain control of your blissful life?”
His words were barbed, they stung Chelsea in the same way the dolphin’s words soothed her. She worked long hours, but they were nothing compared to college. The sleepless nights, working 3 shifts sewn between classes and studying. The shell was the only thing that kept her motivated. She knew this was the route, it had to be. Nothing came easy…
“How long have you thought you had everything you required? How far are you still from your…bliss?”
The white-finned shark swam around her, slipping Chelsea from his fin and forcing her to tread water, seemingly bored by his chance encounter with the special girl.
“What have you got right now? What exactly has that shell brought you? Where have you gone because of that shell?”
It continued circling Chelsea. “Seems to me that you’ve only lived within that soft conch shell—fascinating to think about, indeed! Like your dolphin friend, I have a gift for you as well Such…enlightenment should not go unrewarded!!”
The shark grinned, snarled teeth and all, diving deep into the ocean’s depths before Chelsea could respond.
“A gift? What has this shell brought me, other than an obsession with dolphins that nobody seems to understand? Sound that nobody else can hear? An ocean for everybody but me! What does it mean, enlightenment?”
The water soon broke and the white-finned shark swam close to Chelsea.
“Here. It is all yours.”
Chelsea could not find anything bobbing in the water.
“What is mine?”
“Nothing!” The shark laughed hard, “Nothing at all! It is what you have out here, and what will save you! Nothing is simply everything to you right now, child. And isn’t that bliss?” The shark was proud of its cleverness, “Perhaps that shell worked, but you’ll never know dear child.” He scoffed, “A special girl. Hah! Foolish enough to follow herself before a beautiful gift. Unable to follow the simplest instructions! That dolphin friend of yours may as well have given you my gift! Haha!”
Chelsea was shocked, “How didn’t I know…”
But before she could finish her realization, the white-finned shark devoured Chelsea and her shell whole.
A shame, too, because that conch shell really was a beautiful gift.