“Omi! Omi wait.”
Omi ignored the sound of his best friend calling out for him as he swam away from the council hall. The merpeople around the entrance made way for him, as he swam away as fast as he could. He could feel his chest ache, and his head ached as he tried to repress the low wails that threatened to escape from him.
The cove’s elders were really planning an evacuation in less than a year. He could feel the suffocating feeling of grief begin to overwhelm him as he tried to swim his frustration away, propelling his tail up and down with as much strength as he could to push him forward with speed. He slowed down when Ezer’s calls became faint, and he couldn’t see any person in sight.
I lost him. He thought with a sigh, running his webbed fingers through his honey-colored hair. He squinted at the sight of light dancing above water. He’d gotten so much closer to the surface than he’d expected.
“Curse the elders,” he muttered under his breath as he stopped swimming and simply gazed at the water above, watching as the light and oil danced above it. There was nothing interesting about the surface above. Unlike the surface area around the coves he’d visited before, the closest coast to Afibia was not a human beach or fishing spot. The only way Omi could describe what was above was death. The sand was black and soaked with the oil that killed the fish as well as the birds that made to eat them. The oil was what made the odd colors dance on the surface of the water above him. It reflected the light from above, making greens, yellows, blues, and reds dance on the moving water. Although the sight was beautiful from both below and above the ocean, Omi couldn’t watch it without being reminded of the death the caused.
The elders simply called the oil the Black Death, and had concluded that it would keep spreading from the surface down. The sorcerer in their cove could purify the water, but she was running out of ingredients for her spells, and it seemed futile to keep trying to rectify something that just kept coming back. A handful of the cove’s members were already sick, and a good population of the fish was already poisoned, and unfit for eating. The elders didn’t want to take a chance and play probability with the lives of the merpeople in their care. Everything was dying around Afibia, it was only time before the merfolk within the cove died as well.
Omi could feel his chest swell with sadness as he looked at the deadly, yet colorful waters above. He sighed, swimming upward until his head broke the water. He coughed, trying to do away with the taste of the oil, and the feeling of it against his skin and hair. After a while, he swam towards one of the concrete pillars holding the highway bridge above. He rested his head on its cold surface as he held on to it, closing his eyes as he waited for his breathing to adjust to the air.
Eventually, his breathing was steady, and he opened his eyes, looking on to the filth infested water. His face fell as he looked on at the ocean. Chucks of junk were beginning to float together, and the bodies of dead fish floating about became a breeding ground for algae and fungus.
It was terrible.
Omi swam away from the pillars, heading towards the empty shore that was now a human junkyard. There was a building that had its back to the ocean, but no human ever came out the back — well, Omi hadn’t seen one on the black shore sand. About five pipes were connected to the back of the building, pouring waste into the already dying water body.
Hmm, what’s this? Omi thought to himself when he saw a silhouette walk through the back door. He watched the figure walk about the beach for a while. It was holding on to a large plastic box-like container, and after a while, the figure dropped the rectangular box by the shore.
Omi frowned, submerging into the water before swimming closer to shore in hopes of getting a closer look. He moved towards a stone lodged at the side of the shore that was close to water he could still swim in. He held on to it as his head resurfaced.
A human? Omi thought, surprised at the person right in front of him. People didn’t come this sure — or maybe he’d just never seen one when he visited the surface before. He watched the human who was now squatting by the large plastic containers. The person was humming as he handled smaller cylinder objects.
A frown found its way on Omi’s face as he tried to figure out what the human was doing, but his eyes widened in interest as he watched the man move towards the water to collect a sample. The transparent cylinder container was soon half filled up, and the human headed back to the plastic box. Omi watched as the man took out a small glass bottle before transferring some of the purple liquid into the cylinder with the sea water. And just like magic, the water cleared.
How is that possible? Is it magic? The question lingered in Omi’s mind as he watched the man smile at the now clear water in the glass tube he was holding. Some humans were known to use magic, but the practice had seemed to vanish within the last couple of hundred years — it was the same situation with the underwater world below. The untimely death of sorcerers meant gaps of knowledge that couldn’t be filled were present when a new sorcerer was eventually born and took over.
“I still have to test you for microbes,” the man said before securing the tube with a wooden cork. Omi watched him with wide orange eyes, his equally orange tail freckled with blue shimmers moved in the slug water as he watched the man who now had a wide smile on his face talk himself. The man had dark hair that fell around his face in waves, complimenting his thick beard and brows.
Omi’s observation of the human was cut short when he screamed out in pain at the feeling of something clipping the end of his tail. He turned to find a crab holding on to him, and he cursed under his breath as he flung it away. His scream had made the human to look up before turning to him, and when Omi turned back to the shore he was face to face with the man. They both stared at each other. Omi’s orange-blue eyes staring into the man’s dark brown ones.
“What are you?” the man asked as his eyes moved from Omi’s face to his tail that was moving with the water’s current. Omi just looked on at the man, not understanding his words.
“No answer?” the man asked, getting up from the ground before making to walk towards Omi, and it was then the merman realized what was going on and snapped out of his daze. He let go of the rock, diving into the water and swimming away as fast as he could, and all the while hearing the human’s shouts that he couldn’t understand.
When he was midway to the bottom of the sea he slowed down, coming to a complete stop before turning and looking up towards the surface. He cured the water. Was the only thing that ran through the merman’s mind before he turned back and continued swimming towards the ocean floor.