Somewhere in the void, gentle rocking ceases. There is firmer movement, a prodding at a faint consciousness, not enough to rouse a dreamer. It stops, only to be replaced with prickling light, light unseen for some time.
Instinct nudges, jabs sharply, spurs dawning awakeness into new motion. "Wake up, Little One," a voice calls softly, familiar and immense.
You reach, tearing through a foreign, strong but fragile barrier, opening yourself to the cooler waters outside. You blink, peering out through the gap, addled and disarranged. How can you be breathing if you're underwater? Why can you see so clearly, your eyes roaming over sand beds, rock formations, flashing fish that entice chases, all without the sting of salt?
You're alive, you realize, suddenly aware of existing, though how that could be is beyond you. Yet, you feel your heart beating steady and excited in your chest, unmistakable proof. You try and turn about, kicking your legs only to find that you don't have any. The movement of the large muscular tail is strange and unexpected, but not wrong.
The streamlined scales coating it are pitch black, shimmering with colors you inherently know reflect your emotions. You squint, perplexed, sending a dash of lavender and something else down your tail; not all of the hues have a name in human tongue. You swish it a few times, knowledge clicking into place as if it was only buried, the feeling as natural as sprinting legs and balancing toes and bending knees had been.
It is nearby, but you need not pay It any mind; It offers no harm. Awareness of It buzzes comfortingly in the back of your head; you can reach, if you need It. It remains quiet and still, watching patiently as you find your bearings.
Beams of light pierce down into the water, brighter than you'd think they'd be at this depth, the surface distant and miles above. You remember everything. You remember clearly, your life and how you died. The memories are behind a solid line, Before but Important, there to access but easy to set aside until desired. You remember letting go of all of your attachments, and you know that life is over now, but that doesn't mean that you don't still feel everything you did before.
Your question is answered almost as soon as you think of it. It could not remove those things, painful though they might be, without taking away You, your radiant soul and all of the wordless love you've carried with you throughout your mortal life. You give a hum of acknowledgement, the sound turning bird-like and resonant in your chest. You cock your head and make an even more musical noise, utterly delighted.
Finally, you swim the rest of the way out of the leathery egg case, admiring the flex of your tail, the spines on your back and the fins on your waist and arms adjusting your course almost thoughtlessly. You glance back, unnerved and amused and disbelieving all at once to find that you've just hatched, born again.
It ceases to concern you as you soon become distracted with watching the rippling of your main tail fin, the silky yet tough membrane fluttering like fabric in the currents of your movements. You're not sure how long you were asleep for, but you decide it doesn't matter.
Water streams over the gills in your lower abdomen, the slits armored but sensitive underneath. They're angled more towards your back, but you'll still have to be careful not to tuck your arms too close against them lest you smother them. Your inhales and exhales mostly come through them now, bringing in a constant flow of fresh oxygen.
You breathe in through your nose just to see, and that seems to work just fine as well, a rich variety of smells overwhelming you for a moment. Your lips part slightly, unknown tastes passing over your tongue. At nearly the same time, you comprehend how acutely you can sense vibration, your mind automatically parsing the movements of the life around you into spatial awareness.
Pushing the sensory assault away and refocusing yourself, you wiggle your fingers, open and close your hands, and rotate your wrists, examining closely. Webs stretch between your fingers and short stout claws extend from your fingertips. Your fingerprints still seem to be there, but they're thicker and less delicate looking, more like rough pads perfect for gripping underwater.
Your exploration continues as you twist this way and that, looking over yourself and growing more accustomed to the ways in which your muscles work. You pull open one of your arm fins and release it, observing the thin but sturdy bones that shift and flex as it refolds itself back into position. Your hair floats in a cloud around you, glossy and somehow staying perfectly untangled. You run your hands over your skin, finding it more durable than before, silky and no longer subject to wrinkling. It's not human skin anymore, despite your torso looking just about the same as your remember, skin blending smoothly into shifting scales.
Even your belly button is still there, marking you as a former Child of Man. Unconscious insight tells you that most of the Others aren't like you; they were born solely from the cool waters, never knowing the shift of sand beneath their feet, stories by the hearth, or the rocking of a wooden home. But there are some that came from the Land; you won't be alone. You think you can sense a few of the Others somewhere around you, watching you with interest but hidden out of sight. You will learn to block them out, should you want to. You don't worry about them for now.
You move about with growing confidence, your sense of self gradually resolidifying. You feel…strong, healthy, dire sickness gone and dreadful weakness banished, replaced by the sweet feelings of wholeness and wellbeing. This astonishing new body feels right, capable of more and different things than before, entirely yours. You peer up at the surface, far far away from the place where you quietly took your final breath; regardless, you find yourself rocketing upwards, crossing the distance faster than you thought possible.
You break the surface, and for a moment, you're flying, wind caressing your sleek form. With an exhilarated trill, you crash back into the sea, quickly darting up to the waves and brushing your damp hair aside as you poke your head out of the water. The Sun is shining and warm, and the Ocean stretches unbroken as far as you can see.
An instinct triggers and something shifts inside your chest, a brief ache of unstretched muscles. Your gills close and become almost invisible against your skin, your lungs filling with crisp air and the welcome scent of brine. Clear nictitating membranes slide closed over your eyes and stay shut, your regular eyelids blinking every so often as well. A light layer of slime develops on your skin, shielding you from the Sun's burning as His heat soaks into you pleasantly.
With effortless balance, you bob there for a little while, taking in the fluffy clouds and blue and other of the vault of the sky, recalling your last moments here before the Ocean took you. Already drowned, you don't have much to fear anymore. Deep inside, you know that you could cast off your scales and return to the Land for a brief time, if you wanted to. You were born of It, It still lives in your spirit and you will miss It sometimes.
But below you is the world you have always wondered about; you let yourself sink back down to it, gills reopening with another stretching twinge. Tears suddenly threaten you, the salt droplets lost to the vast depths as soon as they spring up; this new amazing world is yours now, and you have a long, long life yet to live.
There is a thrum of affectionwarmthappreciation at your understanding of this gift. It moves, somehow unseen beforehand on the seabed, Its huge black incomprehensible body approaching and circling about you. No, not black, iridescent, resplendent and powerful and hallowed.
One of Its massive coils brushes lightly against your side, Its scales shifting to a reflective silver. You turn and look at your face, a human face, but not quite. You didn't think you were bad-looking before, but now you look beautiful, full of vitality and radiance. Your pupils are no longer round but slits, the colors of your irises richer than before, speckled with ineffable shades.
You smile, a little startled by the sharp teeth that greet you. You poke at them with your tongue and fingers curiously, finding robust molars for crushing oysters and chewing kelp. You smile again, greatly pleased with your overall appearance. It's still your face; you're still you and that can never be taken away.
"I am glad that you are happy, Little One," It rumbles, clearer than you've ever heard It, Its enormous mind a delicate pressure against yours. Kaleidoscope rainbows shimmer along Its length, dazzling you momentarily before you turn to meet Its gaze. Your own scales change in response, unable to match Its vivid glow but providing a pretty sight nonetheless.
"Why me?" you chirp in wonder, music sparkling in the syllables of your native language. You find yourself full of songs, all the ones you already knew, so many from deep in your heart and so many more to learn.
Moon eyes turn to you, Its expression tender as It regards you. "Because, child, you told me that you loved me, and all throughout your pain, that love did not falter," the Ocean answers. "You gave yourself to me, and I have taken you and made you anew, so that you may continue to love all that is yours."
Overwhelming joy swells in your heart and you press yourself against the Great Spirit's tentacled mane without hesitation. Mighty limbs wrap around you gently, suction cup fangs scraping harmlessly against your new body. "Thank you, thank you!" you chatter, soon running out of words to express your sheer gratitude and simply settling for making it felt. It chuckles like rolling water polishing and tumbling stones, and this time, the brush of hair being tucked away is real.
It holds you a little tighter, sharing in your happiness before letting go. "Come, My Child. I have much to teach you," It beckons, turning and leisurely gliding away.
You again become keenly aware of all of the scents and vibrations around you; quite a few of them strike you as tasty. Your stomach growls loudly and you laugh like bells. Your teeth and your claws and your strength and your body are all made to catch food and explore and play.
"Yes, Father," you respond with a jubilant warble, following and reveling in the ease and speed with which you move through the water. The Others keep their distance for now; you will meet them when you are not so New, when you have grown more used to sleeping on soft sand beds, to dancing with the currents and hunting for the Ocean's bounty.
Scales positively gleaming with all the things you feel, you are more than ready to learn about this world that you have always longed for. You keep the one you left behind close to your heart, for that one was yours as well, and it won't do to forget it.
You greet your new life eagerly, overjoyed and knowing that you will always be safe and happy.
Because you've always loved the Ocean.
And the Ocean loves You.