Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

Thick mist clings to the water when I enter Topside, my body still changing. Below, I’m Dolphin, but as I rise above the pre-dawn waves, cool sea water cascading down my shifting form, my body attempts to mimic a half-remembered land creature. A Deer – I think.

I’m certain it’s a failure, a distorted, hairless chimera. I haven’t the strength for complete metamorphosis. I’m famished. The journey from the depths of the Great Water, my sanctuary, has taken its toll.

How long has it been since I last walked on land?

Or seen another of my kind?

I inhale sweet, spring air, but spit when I whiff Their foul, bitter presence, stronger than ever. I’d hoped They were gone, swept away by the ever shifting tides of change.

I fear this place, but must feed and there is little to sustain me any longer in the Great Water. It is dying. Death pools are everywhere. The kingdom is now a graveyard. It was by Dawa’s grace that I found the Dolphin, but that was many moons ago. It’s time to leave the Great Water, to return Topside and hunt.

And possibly…

Wet sand oozes through my malformed hoof reminding me of the heaviness of the world above. The constant drag on my body feels oppressive, like a tether, compared to the sea’s boundless freedom. Ancient memories of bounding, sure-footed through untamed forests taunt me as I stumble awkwardly onto the sand and pull my weary form from the lapping shore to finish my shifting.

Death. I’m ready to let it take me, to have my memories swallowed whole, to let feral teeth consume my essence as I’ve consumed so many others. I’ve lived long enough.

But instinct drives me.

Summoning my remaining strength I stagger to my feet and, like a new-born fawn, walk with trembling legs up the beach. Beyond the shifting sand at the edge of the forest I finally find my balance.

Guided by instinct I prowl the woods with wary vigilance, my senses rapidly adjusting to the new environment’s stimuli. I sense life all around, but either its too small to sustain me or I am too weak to catch it, so I take refuge beneath the bows of a large coniferous tree and wait, silent, patient, hopeful and so very hungry.

My body reverts to a dormant state, too exhausted to maintain my simulacrum any longer.

Many moons pass.

Perhaps it was a mistake to return.

I smell It before I see It; the oppressive stench of a wretched Man-thing, whose violence and hatred drove me into the sea. If the oceans weren’t dying I wouldn’t be forced to return to land to face those wicked usurpers who drove me to the ocean’s depths. I thirst for revenge, but will myself to watch and wait.

Dawa is with me. The man-thing passes so near my hiding place that I feel the warmth of its life energy. My pulse quickens. My blood is hot in my veins as I rise on formless, elastic appendages. Sensing the moment, I strike.

The instant we touch paralysis overcomes us both as our bodies and minds merge. Soon we are one.

When the assimilation is complete I separate myself, budding off a perfect physical copy, leaving my slack-jawed, insensate victim a withered husk in the bushes.

I review a flood of alien thoughts and feelings, making them my own.

Ah, yes… Now I remember life Topside.

Refreshed, I stride purposefully through the dense forest. My new body is strong, vigorous, virile.

Time to find a mate.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow

This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows