Brightly aromatic breezes moved relaxedly to paint crowns of white on waves as they came toward Porter’s feet. He slipped through silken grains of black sand.
It seemed that Porter’d just awakened, though he was so close to the surf he couldn’t have been asleep. Waves receded lackadaisically, pulling sericeous ligaments of violet seaweed to the ocean to decay and feed another life. Porter reached down to grasp a cord of it, the pulpy fibers breaking wet and tender, and when he stood again a porpoise of some unknown species slid up in a wave.
“Hello, Porter,” said the little whale, the midday sun evaporating water from his silvery vellum. “I’ve been looking for you. I thought perhaps you’d been accosted by some fisherman. You know it’s been a rough year for smelt, and those wretched boaters put a hefty price on our skin when times are tight.” Porter somehow knew the small leviathan was right. Inexactly, but nonetheless palpably, he imagined nets stretched beyond a coral reef he knew as home, the undulating webs catching fish and leaves of kelp and holding them in strange immortal stillness, bowing and warping in the current but going nowhere, elegent and helpless.
“It’s nice to see you, Pompeii,” said Porter in reply, surprised he knew the cetacean’s name and that conversation so easily issued from his lips, for Porter was a bashful one, to say the least. “I suppose I wandered off to chase some herring and, tired as I was, fell asleep and caught a slipstream. I awoke only moments ago upon this onyx sand. Curious, Pompeii, I dreamt I stood upright, and I was oddly unnerved by the water as the tide came in. I’d bent over, odd as it may seem–and odd indeed it felt–to touch the kelp when you arrived. I was dry, surely, but not at all alarmed. It was the vastness of the water, the depths of which were somehow incomprehensible, that truly unmanned me.”
Porter let the water slide beneath his buoyant paunch in a way he felt he’d always known. Just before he went under, Porter looked back at where he’d slept and thought he saw a path of oblong impressions in the atramenteous sand. His nerves unraveled for an instant under water, as if he needed air.