Disclaimer: This story is mostly fictional, although it is based on an actual experience I had. Any resemblance to other stories or events is purely coincidental. I make no money from doing this. Unfortunately.
Suffer a Sea-Change
By Artemis Rain
"Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them, - Ding-dong, bell!"
-From William Shakespeare's The Tempest
The day started like every other at summer camp; bright, sunny, beautiful and with the promise of joy to come. The activities at camp were a new experience for me. I had never before had so much fun. I felt pushed to try new things and meet new people, and completely safe while doing so. My friends were with me, and as a group of Pagans at a Christian camp, we found the activities rewarding, the people wonderfully pleasant and the preaching more amusing than enlightening. We endured the religious aspects, stubbornly clinging to polytheism (unbeknownst to the counsellors), and looked forward to each new day spent in the company of these wonderful people.
The main activity of the day was white-water rafting. I had never been and neither had my friends. We were so excited. We got to the river and suited up; bathing suits, then wetsuits, then warm clothes, then waterproof clothes, then life jackets, then helmets. I wore a bright yellow rain coat and matching rubber pants. I was teased by several people about looking like a big rubber ducky.
"Hey, Lisa! If I hug you, will you squeak?"
I forgive them; after all, they're my friends, and I did look pretty funny.
We took on the rapids, whooping with delight. The rush was incredible! The power of the water surging around me, roaring with fury and yet somehow peaceful, was unlike anything I had previously encountered. We stopped to go cliff diving. The seconds of free fall followed by the frigid embrace of the water was more enlightening than any biblical quote. We had lunch and continued down the river, conquering all rapids with flawless control, until…
The patch ahead was particularly rough. We saw it, the blood sang in our veins. Turn! Turn! Turn! But it was too late! We hit it sideways. The others hung on, but I've never been very strong, or graceful, or stationary. I went flying. My hand found the rope running along the side of the raft, but the rest of my body hit water. I held fast, but all I could do was hold. The water pulled me down and I could not hope to match that power with the strength of a single arm. The currents enveloped me, saw what kept me from them, (a life jacket, a hand on a tiny rope) and laughed. My head was pulled down. Away from air. Away from life. Lungs wanting to breathe, but not desperately. There was no air, and yet no fear, no panic. Funny, I should be pretty scared, right? Guess not. The water pulled at me, caressed me, embraced me. It was cold, but so was I. It was my temperature; the temperature of me. As it held me, it whispered to me. Air was not necessary for a Creature of Water, only for a Creature of Earth. I waited for the fear to come, but it did not. Instead I felt only a sense of belonging; as though I, too, could become a Creature of Water. If the river pulled me down and never let me up, that would be okay. I opened my eyes and saw myself standing on the bank of the river, staring down at me. My home was under the rapids as much as it was standing next to them. I would run out of air, but there would be no death; only transformation. With this epiphany came others. I found my mind opening, and something inside of me that I hadn't known was there was asking a question I couldn't, until this moment, understand. I could change. Should I change? Life on land is done. Should water begin? Should I change? All I had to do was say "yes". Life would continue in a way I hadn't thought possible. In an instant my being expanded. The currents which pulled around me now rushed through me. I was the raging river, and the calm pools where water rested. I was the cry of the eagle above. I was the wind whipping through my hair and the waves lapping at my toes. I was the fire that raged without malice and the forest it steadily consumed. I was the molten core of the Earth. I was the night sky. I was thunder and lightning and rain. I was perfect stillness. Surrounded by rising bubbles and the eerie silence of roaring water, I was Goddess and God.
Should I change?
Yes! Yes, please, yes! I want it! I want to be part of it! Yes! Let me change! Let me… wait! Where are you going? What's happening to me?
Hands gripped me; squeezed hard. Hands of Nature? No! Mortal hands! Pulling me up, away from the divinity I had found.
No! Please! I can't go up there! I'm only mortal there! I'm only myself! I don't want to need air and flesh! I am greater than…
My head broke the surface. Air! Yes! Breathe! Hands were attached to arms. They pulled me, as I pulled myself, back over the side, into the boat. Faces stared at me, concerned; some streaked with tears.
"Are you alright? We thought you were fish bait for sure!"
Waiting for a reply. Something happened, right? Something important. I'm sure of it. What was it? I felt something down there, didn't I? For a moment I was…. What? Where am I? Water… I was wet. Rope burn on my hand. Oh, I was in the water… I guess… was I… drowning? Yes, that's right! I was drowning and my friends saved me!
"Yeah, I'm okay, I think. I just can't believe how close I was! If you guys hadn't been able to pull me up, I'd have died for sure!"