The Eye

There was an eye at the bottom of the ocean. Edison Jones opened his mouth in a round O of surprise. That was a mistake. He swallowed a mouthful of sea water and just about drowned when his snorkeling mask filled up past his nose.

Edison dog-paddled frantically to get his head above the surface. He ripped off the mask, coughing and sputtering. Then he flipped onto his back and paddled back to a depth where he could touch bottom. He stood up and peered around. At a distance, everything was a blur without his glasses. Where was Jonathan, his snorkeling buddy?

Edison wanted to tell someone about the eye on the sea floor. It was spooky. One minute the ocean floor was a smooth field of sand. The next moment, there was the eye. A big round eye with a dark center. Only one eye, not two. And it just stayed in one spot, glaring like a glass marble.

Where was Jonathan? Edison twisted around to scope out the whole area. His flippers moved slower than his body. They made his feet heavy. Shuffling little by little, Edison was able to turn to his right. Over there by a rock ledge was a green blob that could be Jonathan. The color matched Jonathan’s green swim trunks. He was nowhere near the place where Edison saw the eye. Was it still there?

Edison adjusted his mask and snorkel, then eased back into the water. Stretching out his arms, he headed away from shore toward the place where he remembered seeing the eye. He lifted his chin to see what was ahead. Drat! There was a swarm of trumpetfish. They blocked his way like the bars of a prison cell. Trumpetfish float vertically. Their pointy heads slope down to the sea floor. Their tails point up to the surface. Edison hated trumpetfish, so he diverted to the right to avoid them.

The eye had been in a sandy area. Just sand and a scattering of shells. Edison swam into an area of rocks and coral. Ahead was huge puffball-shaped boulder of brain coral covered with a maze of squiggles. Edison decided to circle around the coral and head back to a place where the sea floor was sandier.

On the other side of the brain coral, the water was shallow. Sharp spikes of coral and spiny sea urchins were uncomfortably close to jabbing his chest. He had more clearance when waves lifted him up, but between waves, he felt himself sinking closer and closer to the coral.

He couldn’t even try to stand up without scraping his knees on the razor sharp coral or getting stabbed by a long and wicked sea urchin spike. He was afraid to kick. If one of his feet went too low, it would scrape the coral.

Edison floated rigidly. One wave lifted him up. In the trough, he sunk toward the coral. The next wave lifted him again and pushed him toward shore and water that was even more shallow. Just a couple more waves and there would be no escape. There was only one thing to do. When the next wave lifted him up, Edison used his ankles to kick hard and fast, but not deep. He made about five kicks before the next trough. Then he had to float motionless. Kick. Float. Kick. Float. Gradually, Edison reached deeper water.

And suddenly the sea floor disappeared. He could not see the sand bottom. The water was dark blue and bottomless. And it was cold. Edison had somehow passed the reef and reached the drop off. The water here was hundreds of feet deep. The sun went behind a cloud and the water became black. It no longer seemed friendly.

Edison began to wonder what kind of creatures might be lurking in the darkness. He dog paddled and raised his head. Breathing hard, he looked right and left, then back right again. There, near the rocks was Jonathan. Edison saw him waving his arms and pointing to the right. What he didn’t see was Jonathan lifting his shell necklace to his lips. He didn’t see Jonathan blow through a snail-shaped shell. He didn’t hear the barely audible whistle.

Edison started swimming to the right, still in deep water. He settled on a course that would take him toward Jonathan. Looking through his mask, Edison could see what was in the water nearby. Sharks were his worst fear. He’d seen them in aquariums. Their blunt snouts and flat eyes were terrifying.

The deep water was disorienting. There was no sea floor in sight, so the only reference for up and down was the surface of the water. As he continued to swim, dark shadows began to appear. They were uneven shapes, dark mounds sunk just in the space where rays of sunlight faded into gloom. Edison hoped the shapes were rocks and nothing more.

Then one of the shapes began to move. The shape was dark and long. Oh please don’t be a shark, thought Edison. He glimpsed a dimly glowing bubble that was revealed as the shape moved. He had only a split second to focus on it. He couldn’t judge the size of the bubble because he didn’t know how deep it was. It could have been as small as a baseball or as large as a beachball. All Edison noticed was that it glowed with a pale blue light and seemed to spin ever so slowly.

That was all Edison noticed about the bubble because the dark shape had clearly taken the form of a very large fish. It took a lazy turn, still just a shadow. Then with a powerful thrust of its tail, the shadow homed in on Edison with an alarming rate of speed. In a flash the dark shape begin to fill Edison’s field of vision. How could something so big move through the water so fast? It was’t humanly possible to out swim it. Impossible to try to escape.

Edison realized that the outcome of this encounter was entirely out of his control. A kid could admire superheros and secretly wish to have their powers, but in the real world kids have to work with what they have. If this was a movie, the hero would punch the bad and evil creature in the nose. In reality, the water would blunt any punch, making it slow and weak. Edison stopped swimming. Maybe if he was very very still, the thing would ignore him. He tried to look like a log. He lost sight of the sea creature for a moment. It had passed underneath him, still deep.

Now Edison was really scared. He pictured a shark, its huge jaws open wide, coming at him from behind. He curled his toes and hoped the first mouthful would just be a nibble on the end of his rubber flippers. He was breathing heavily now. His snorkel was a loud wind tunnel. His breath whooshed out with a sharp “who” as if asking Who will survive?

Seconds passed and there was no attack from behind. Instead, Edison saw the creature’s dark body cruising slowly a few feet beneath him. It was close enough to see a fin on its back and flippers on either side. There also seemed to be a blow hole on top of its head. And then Edison knew everything was going to be all right. He wasn’t surprised when the shadow turned back in his direction and a dolphin with a silly grin popped into view. Edison stretched out his hand and felt the dolphin’s sleek skin. His hand came to rest on the dorsal fin and the dolphin began to tow Edison carefully through the water toward shore.

Past the reef where the sandy sea floor was again visible, the dolphin peeled off toward a swimmer in green swim trunks. Jonathan touched the dolphin on the nose and it swam off, back into deep water.

Jonathan made the thumbs up sign. Edison was just about to do the same when he saw it. The eye! There it was right below them. And it blinked. Edison grabbed Jonathan’s arm and pointed, jabbing his finger toward the eye on the sea floor. Jonathan swiveled his head for a few seconds and then pointed, too. He’d seen it. Edison made a kind of shrugging gesture, asking What is it? Jonathan put his hand up signaling Wait! Then he jackknifed down toward the eye. His approach didn’t go unnoticed. Soon the sand around the eye began to ripple and eight tentacles appeared. It was an octopus perfectly camouflaged to blend in with the chalky sea floor. Disturbed by the approaching swimmer, the octopus gathered its tentacles and puffed off toward the reef. Jonathan resurfaced and both boys poked their heads above the water.

“That was awesome!” shouted Edison.

“The octopus or the dolphin?” asked Jonathan.

“Both,” responded Edison, grinning ear-to-ear just like the dolphin. This adventure had a happy ending. He’d discovered an octopus and gotten a ride from a dolphin. It was all so great that he almost forgot about the glowing bubble. Almost. But that is another story.