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Chapter 1

Aquas sighed in distress. His human man was really gone.

They might have come for him. He gave the lonely beach one last look before diving back into the waters below.

He swam casually, before swimming through a familiar give away. He waved in greeting to the guards before continuing into the cove.

Aquas’ cove, Afibia, was fairly large and prosperous. The dwellings and public buildings were skillfully carved and manipulated into the ocean’s canyons and rocks. Duties were assigned, not chosen, and the relationships with them and other coves were peaceful and beneficial.

Aquas swam through the stone paved streets, greeting familiar faces as he passed through the marketplace and into the dwelling area.

“Aquas!” someone called him.

He turned to find his childhood friend Ramie waving towards him.

He swam towards him, entwining their tails in greeting. Ramie’s tail was a deep black blue and glimmered like a polished pearl.

“Where did you get this?” Aquas asked, gripping the amulet held loose around Ramie’s neck by a weak string.

“From the marketplace, you know I have a good eye,” Ramie replied with a wink, his equally dark eyes twinkling. Merpeople’s tails were the same color as their eyes. Aquas’ tail was green, with gold embroidery like flickers here and there.

“Do you think my sister will be finished?” Aquas asked Ramie for assurance. He wanted to visit Marsha, but she’d been terribly busy since she’d been given her seat on the cove council.

“I doubt. There was a case about a thief that got caught just this week. There’s no telling if that’s solved yet,” Ramie answered as Aquas sighed in frustration.

Aquas might have visited his brother, but he was part of the hunting and gathering team that was presently on a trip.

The cove went to great length to remain unmoving and maintain their civilization. The hunting and gathering team was thus important. Apart from the seaweed plantations, and the unlimited amount of sea creatures around them, the people depended solely on the spoils brought from such trips.

Things like capsized wood, the meat, and skin from walruses and seals, pearls, animal teeth, vines, marsh grass, clams, and goods like rare medicine ingredients, tools, and ornaments from far away coves.

Before such expeditions even took place, the citizens of the cove were given a week to make special requests at the cove council. At the seventh day, all requests were closed and the hunters were given special advice and blessings before they were sent away.

“Why so glum, what about your human?” Ramie teased making Aquas to give him a shove accompanied by a small laugh.

“He’s gone. They must have come for him,” Aquas finally replied. Ramie gave him a pitiful nod before urging him to continue their swim.

They swam towards the dwellings as they talked, waving at familiar faces as well as greeting new ones.

The borders of the cove were open to all. Sometimes even whole coves passed through at a time. Some people from such moving coves stayed behind, preferring the stable lifestyle they adapted.

“Look,” Ramie said, suddenly holding Aquas back by the shoulder. They watched as sharks were being led by their keepers through the streets. Aquas could feel his heart beat hard against his chest, he had a terrible fear of them.

The sharks, three in total, passed by before Aquas and Ramie continued on their way.

They reached Ramie’s dwelling and swam through the opening. His dwelling had two rooms, just like Aquas’. Just like every other thing in the cove, they were assigned according to your needs.

Ramie was a tinker, meaning he had to find a use for some of the oddities the hunter gather’s brought back to the cove. He made jewelry, utensils, weapons, etc. And was paid according to the quality and amount of the goods he made. The goods were then sold in bulk to the local traders.

Aquas had not been given an assignment yet. For now, he would make do with the allowance issued out to unassigned merpeople of age.

“What’s this?” Aquas asked inspecting an odd implement he’d picked from Ramie’s work table.

“Don’t touch that, it’s dangerous!” Ramie said, snatching the small sharp-edged bent piece of metal from Aquas.

“What’s it for?” Aquas asked, taking the scolding lightly.

“I really don’t know. I didn’t make it, it was given to me after the last expedition, and I really don’t know what to do with it,” Ramie said, turning the ‘j’ shaped piece of metal in his hand. He’d seen it before. The bearer had called it a hook.

“It’s a hook,” he said, remembering.

“Do you remember what it does?” Aquas asked, swimming over to Ramie’s nest. It was a sown bed made of walrus hide stuffed with seaweed.

Aquas moaned as the feeling of softness overwhelmed him. He looked up at the ceiling of the room. Watched with fascination as the trapped luminous jellyfish moved inside the transparent castings above. They were shimmering brightly, an indication that the sun must be going down.

“Don’t forget yourself and sleep off,” Ramie advised as he joined Aquas on the bed. Their tails tangling together in a dance of familiarity as Ramie picked at Aquas’ hair.

“Do you think he’ll remember me?” Aquas asked all of a sudden.

“Who?” Ramie asked as he continued to caress Aquas’ hair.

“My human,” Aquas said turning to face Ramie, letting his eyes burn into Ramie’s blue-black ones, seeking a sincere advice.

“Who could forget you?” Ramie teased, wrapping his hand around Aquas’ waist. Aquas smiled the words although teasing sounded quite sincere.

“What do you think I will be assigned?” Aquas asked with a frown. Two years had passed since his coming of age, and he still hadn’t gotten assigned.

“Do you have a position in mind?” Ramie asked. Aquas shook his head.

“Maybe the elders are just as puzzled as you are,” Ramie explained. Aquas sighed. It was true. If he was an elder he would be confused over what to assign him too. He wasn’t like his sister with the knack for settling arguments, or his brother with clear shot bravery, and neither was he like Ramie with a natural talent for tinkering.

Sometimes he felt utterly out of place. That’s why he’d visited the surface ever so often. He’d sometimes dreamed of being human, the thought both exciting and scaring the life out of him.

Humans are beautiful. He thought remembering the surreal beauty of his human even in its grievous pain.

He cleared his mind, feeling guilty about his dreams. His people were kind to him and faired far better than the many surrounding coves. There was no reason for him to want to sprout — what we’re they called again — legs?

“You’ll end up sleeping here,” Ramie muttered, hugging Aquas close.

And he did end up sleeping there, dreaming of his beautiful human and the warmth of Ramie’s embrace.

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