Author: A. R. Tivadar
A. R. Tivadar is a hobby writer from Romania and a graduate of the University of Oradea. She has been published in underscore_magazine, the Aurum Journal and Disturb the Universe Magazine. She also has self-published stories on kobo.com.
She was about to snap a photograph of the glittering lights the Sun created on the water surface, when a school of sardines passed in front of her, blocking the view. Mar snarled her lip and swam back inside her home.
She did manage to take some nice pictures that day. Of her friends, of the algae pushed about in the currents, of the many shades of red and orange cast by the Sun above the water’s surface. The water of the Mediterranean Sea was warm all year round. Pen pals from the Pacific Depths claimed it was unbearable, but Mar felt fine.
Her parents warned her not to swim too close to the surface so as to not burn herself. The Sun was still scorching hot.
Mar’s father was working in his home office. He was a professor at the local university. There were two big universities in Atlantis, one for science and one for arts. Mar grew up with stories of her family being descendants of a great scientist named Dr Maria Abel. She made ground-breaking research into bioengineering, allowing people within a few generations to live in the vast waters of planet Earth. Which was very useful when the Sun was too hot to bear anymore. Atlantis was the biggest city in the Mediterranean Sea. Mar’s mother came from the Black Sea, from the capital of Neptun.
Mar’s father told her lots of stories, and he still did. Many centuries ago people used to live above the surface, on the land the edges of rocks led up to. They had noses on their faces instead of gills and they could not breathe water. They had hair and some of them didn’t even know how to swim!
Mar put the key card against the door frame and the doors opened. She kept it around her neck like a necklace, along with her camera and her actual necklaces. Her home was blue and purple, with expensive decorative corals, imported from the Southern Ocean. She found her father typing away, back turned to the door. Her mother was lounging in the living room, a tablet in her lap. She told Mar to go visit her grandmother if she was done taking photos, to bring her the groceries. Mar’s mother saw her photography passion as a passing hobby, not a feasible career, which annoyed Mar.
Atlantis was a very big city, full of people, buildings and coral structures. Everybody lived in luxury. The houses were blue and green, stretching up like pillars from the bottom of the sea, like in an ancient cartoon called “The Jetsons” she saw in her father’s archives. People swam left and right, up and below. It was always crowded. Mar had to dodge business people, little kids and pet sharks like it was a sport.
Grandma lived in an apartment closer to the bottom of the sea, where the water was cool and the light was dim and gentle. Mar smiled when she saw the charming old woman, sitting as always in her huge armchair.
“Did you take pretty pictures today, sweetie?”
“I did! I tried to capture the Sun, but fish got in the damn way.”
“Oh, you’ll get it next time. It’s not like it’s going anywhere.”
Mar arranged the canned food and fresh meat in her grandma’s fridge. Grandma was watching tele-novellas on her widescreen TV. She wore a necklace of pearls, from the same set as the one Mar wore. Grandma said they were an heirloom from the old country, back when people lived on land. She got hers from her own grandma, who got it from hers, who got it from hers, all the way to Dr Abel. Pearls used to be rare and expensive.
Mar nuzzled her grandma against the cheek and wandered around the room, looking at framed screens with static photographs. Grandma’s home was like a museum. She could see her father as an awkward teen and grandma as a very beautiful young mermaid. In a corner was a photograph of Dr Maria Abel, a candid portrait. People looked so different back then, it was hard to believe they were the same species. Dr Abel had brown skin and black hair, dark eyebrows and eyelashes, eyes with white scleras and a big strong nose, with nostrils. She looked very important and distinguished.
Mar’s father told her that before humans adapted to living underwater, they had spent many thousands of years on land. They changed a lot back then too. Before they were proper humans, they were monkeys, and before they became monkeys, they used to be fish. Fish and small organisms used to populate the planetary ocean, the sun too hot for them to bear, until the earth cooled down and the fish were able to waddle up on land.
In a way, humanity has come full circle. Mar asked if they would ever be able to live on land again, if the earth would cool down once more. Her father shrugged and said “maybe”. Maybe her great-great-grandchildren will evolve back into land dwellers.
Mar bid her grandma goodbye and left her to her soap operas. The Sun was setting, bathing the world in black with indigo reflects.
Mar got an idea as she craned her neck up to the surface. The water was chilly at night, so the surface may feel cooler too.
She waited for her parents to be asleep, which she could tell by their bubbling snoring.
She sneaked out a window and swam upwards, above the roofs of houses and antennas. The water got warmer as she came close to the surface. It was getting hard to breathe. She took a big gulp of water and pushed her head up.
The sea lapped against her chin and lower lip. The first thing she felt was the air, drying her face and stinging her eyes. She could barely keep them open and hot air filled her grimacing mouth.
Mar tilted her head up and looked at the sky above. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life. It was inky black and covered in glittering lights as far as her vision could take in. White, golden, silver, billions upon billions of stars shining like pearls. The Moon stared back at her, shining like a searing-white spotlight. She fumbled for her camera and brought it out of the water, quickly taking pictures.
Mar ducked back under the surface, gasping for water, as uncomfortably warm as it was. She was smiling like the little kid she was, scrolling through the camera roll. Some of the photos came out shaky, the stars turning into long streaks of light. They looked like sunlight dancing on the surface earlier that day.