Author: Sebastien Lacasse
They washed up sometime in the middle of the night, people said. Swollen as rags with seawater and all aglow beneath milky starlight, their bodies glistened as they crawled onto the wet sand and plopped down once free of the surf. The creatures came in every irregular shape imaginable, each one stretching a few inches, coated in thick mucus.
Anna discovered the first early that morning. The sea spray salted her eyelashes until her eyes burned. She came running down from the tall grass, leaving her parents behind in a wake of small footsteps. They trailed after her, invisible snakes winding a curved path to the sea’s edge.
The first one resembled a jellyfish. The second, some sort of eel bent into the shape of a puffy cloud. Anna crouched by one, eyeing the other thousands of glistening creatures from her peripheral.
She poked at it with a stick, watching how its skin sunk with the slightest pressure. Anna turned it over onto its back. No legs or arms. No mouth. It sat on the sand in its grim, grey-tinged silence.
“Anna! What are you doing?” her mother said.
“Nothing!” she lied.
But Anna reached out one sandy finger to touch the thing, just to see if she was, indeed, dealing with nothing. Her skin met its cold, wet flesh and everything flashed an opaque, blinding white.
She swam in this whiteness for a time, looking about for her parents, for the beach, for anything familiar to her. Anna called out to the void, but the whiteness soaked up the sound. Utterly alone she swam on, bound up by the nothingness around her, made free by it too.
A dim color, like a drop of ink on paper, appeared somewhere in the vastness. A faint blue dot that swelled until it was the size of an ocean, until it was the ocean. Peach-colored sand flowed beneath her and met with the ocean again. The little cloud creatures—or maybe jellyfish creatures, she hadn’t decided yet—appeared like stars with the waning of the sun.
Anna stood up, though the world looked different now. Her feet dug deeper into the sand than before, her back stood longer and straighter. Her whole posture was more sure of itself, a new confidence in the leaner, taller body she possessed now.
Sand squashed under purposeful feet behind her. The sound of her parents coming to her side.
“Anna, you’re—” her mother caught those remaining words with a hand over her mouth.
Anna looked down at her body, too long now to really belong to her. Touching the creature pulled her through time like some tugboat of the soul. The future tied a tether to her navel and brought her here to this moment, but her parents still had the smooth faces of youth.
Anna’s father, a man with wide stone hands, took his daughter by the shoulders and looked her up and down. His eyes washed over her from head to toe, then their tide shifted to the sand and the small, grey fish lying there.
It glistened like wet diamonds, taunting them to prod it, to touch it again. He would read later about the futurefish, how they washed up unannounced on shores across the world. He would read how they made strange things happen when touched and that it was best to stay away until their effects could be better understood.
Then he would look at his daughter—all of four years old, but in a body thirty years older—and wonder why he insisted on going to the beach that morning.