By Melody Kazey
Hi! My name is Kinomoto Haruka, and I'm 14 years old.
The alarm blared beside Haruka's bed, but she was awake long before even the sun rolled out from its cloudy quilt. She slapped the plastic Ika layer of her cartoon nigiri alarm clock and the round eyes stopped glowing. The clock numbers flipped from 07:00 to 07:01. Haruka glanced at herself in the mirror one last time, fixing a pleat along the back of her skirt. Silly Squiddy sometimes liked to prank her, and more than once she had walked out the door with part of her underpants showing, but she knew he was just as excited as she was. He was probably even more impatient than she was.
I go to Joshibi High School and I have top marks in my class. Because of this, I was picked with other top students to attend Harvest Fair in beautiful Tokyo! Oto-san and Oka-san never take me. They say it will put silly ideas in my head. So…I didn't tell them that I was picked to go.
Haruka watched the bright white brick and iron gates of her school pull away. The revving bus engine was soothing. All of the student chatter faded into the background as they sped by towns, cities, great stretches of grassy fields, and even a stolen glance at the ocean. The water. It was serene. Full of life. Her parents didn't like when she daydreamed like that. They thought it would keep her from her studies and getting into a good university where she would find the perfect husband. Her mind and her heart always returned to the glistening waves that lapped at Japan's shores. No matter how far she might live from the water, no matter how much people feared the shadows below the surface, it always found its way to her.
I'm excited for the opportunity to enter the talent show. I know I shouldn't be jealous, but none of the other winners could understand how lucky they are to win that money. 300,000 yen. They don't need it like I do.
Students nudged Haruka forward after she short-stopped in awe getting off the bus. They stepped into a sea of people that drifted like the ocean tides. Haruka raced for the entrance with her ticket in hand, closely followed by her student buddy Sayomi, much less enthused. Haruka couldn't mind her. She had to get in line. She had to enter the contest! Sayomi immediately refused to wait in the curling line around the audition tent. Haruka brushed off her threats of abandoning her and telling Yamoto-senpai. Once her feet were planted in line, nothing except the force of the ocean itself would move her. And so the wait began.
What nobody knows is that I have a big secret. Even Oto-san and Oka-san don't know. If I told anyone, I'd get in big trouble, especially after the scare from when my parents were my age. The day the seas rose up and we met what was underneath. I wasn't even born yet and it changed my life forever!
For hours Haruka shuffled along with the others towards the innards of the tent, clinging to the little brass whistle around her neck. Shallow dips along the shaft tickled her fingers like the playful suction cups they mimicked. When she finally heard her name, she almost thought she was dreaming. The row of judges at the long table stretching across the apron of the stage urged Haruka forward. She leaped up, curtseyed, ignored the insistent waving of her teacher, and introduced herself.
My secret is that…I'm in love! I've been hiding it, but I want to share it now. With all of you. With all of Tokyo. All of Japan! Even though we're worlds apart, we are perfect for each other. It's time you all stop your hatred of the past and enter the future with love!
Haruka brought the whistle to her lips, and it let out a high pitched shriek. The judges and waiting contestants threw their hands over their ears. The foundation of the tent shivered. A wind kicked up the flaps, tousled hair, and blew past Haruka's skirt. She couldn't be modest now or she would ruin the song she practiced. She rocked side to side, blowing a piercing tune. Then she spun, dipped, and twirled, just as Squiddy instructed. She ran, leaped, kicked out her legs, and ended in a rehearsed drop to her knees. Everything fell silent for what felt like hours. Haruka's heart raced even faster, wondering if she misstepped or played a wrong note.
But screams from beyond the tent brought an enormous smile to her face. She knew his presence would start with fear, but as the ground shook beneath them all, as each muscular whip of flesh and sea cracked the ground to make its way to her, she knew it was the beginning of Japan's healing. No longer would they fear the beautiful beasts of the sea. Everyone scattered, leaving Haruka alone when the tent was torn and flung aside.
A hulking creature with jet black eyes and scales of aqua and seafoam towered above her. Sirens were their song now. Blow horns were their reception. It was all perfect to Haruka. The behemoth brought one of its tentacles down, shattered the stage all around the young girl. She let out a surprised scream, but it was blocked as another fleshy tendril coiled around her and drew her up into the air.
You may not know what true love's first kiss really feels like. Most people don't. Most of us always wonder. But not me. It's the press of a sweet, dripping beak, the caress of moist tentacles around your body, and your fluttering heart telling you to never mind anything that would take the embrace away. It's your entire world.