Another side story written by the amazing Joi Massat.
I knew Marge was the scum of the earth.
Well, no. That would be giving myself and my predictive powers too much credit. I knew she was a sellout. I just didn’t know she was capable of selling out a world or two.
Marge is poised to do what must not be done: bring Atlantis to light once again, using an enormous crane made of kelp-ridden stone that definitely wasn’t anywhere on the Bermuda coast when our plane landed. Even on the beach, she is wearing a pinstripe suit with shiny leather shoes. They’re not even open-toed or anything. As a past-life Atlantean, she was an expert swim-duelist and all-around modern citizen until — in an epic conflagration involving me, Karina, Lamar, Marge, and somehow also Kobi, a narrative which would take at least thirty minutes for me to explain in all the incredible detail it deserves — she stole our prized scepter-weapon, which is like a nuke, only it’s powered by sea dirt.
Oh, and, back to this crane I’m looking at: it’s half the size of Ar-Eyt and ten times as close to where I’m standing (I’m crouched behind this convenient rocky outcropping, Marge is a few feet ahead, and the crane is a few more-more feet away). It’s pulling out bricks from the depths of the Bermuda Ocea– I mean, the Atlantic (I’m not stupid…). If it keeps going at this rate, stretching deeper and deeper until it hits that archaic seafloor, it’s gonna bring back technology the world wasn’t meant to see again. (Kinda don’t see the difference between that thing and a standard atomic bomb, though.)
A rock hits the dirt several yards away. The thump gets Marge to turn, go “huh,” and fall headlong into my and Karina’s master plan. For you see, that sound is a mere diversion, the rock having been tossed by Karina’s master hand. And in the split second wherein Marge turns, I run.
I exchange my subpar human, Atlantean speed for Atlantean speed (the underwater one); my determination is surging. I expect similar results with the rest of my body — and wow, am I getting it — a little too much of it, if you ask me, because I just slammed into Marge’s back and rolled over and past her, like an expert gymnast with probably a concussion right now. Ow… Karina must be laughing right now…
It occurs to me as I sit here cradling my throbbing temples in one sandy hand that I move much faster over water than under it. If only I’d had proper training to get over that hump.
Ah, shit. Right there standing over me is my swim trainer Marge.
And — oh, shit! She’s erupted into a torrent of noisy sparks and highly reflective, disco-ball-esque bubbles. Is she doing the watery equivalent of spontaneous combustion? Apparently not… I squint through the leaving steam to find a subtly different Marge. For one thing, she’s now wearing a colorful leotard with a huge gold medallion on the front, like she’s an Olympic medalist, for, uh, Worst Sister Ever or something, whatever, don’t ask me for a better joke right now, it’s not the time.
For another, her skin is scaly, stripy, finny, and the exact shade of sawdust tan that I associate with her favorite trenchcoat.
“You went Atlantis,” I hiss.
“That’s right,” she hisses back.
“You can’t beat me,” I say.
“I will, though,” she replies with a vicious grin.
“THE WORLDS MUST NEVER MEET!” I yell, shortly after summoning all the vicious poison in my body to my heart and sending the results to my spittle-firing tongue.
“And yet,” she says coolly, “they will.”
She reaches into her Atlantean scabbard and takes out her Atlantean sword, which is extremely heavy — in fact, it’s made of gold. It was tempered in the chambers of an underwater volcano. I know this because I, her apprentice, witnessed it. mBarge, as she was known in Atlantis, was a skilled blacksmith. A shrewd one, too; she never awarded me a gold sword, only silver.
“Draw!” she bellows, stepping back and swirling her sword at speeds thought impossible by humans, silly and earthbound as their kind is (I mean…our kind?)! “And show me who you really are!”
I draw my sword — and pause, as my explosive transformation into MorOcean has occurred on its own. Ahhh, that’s better. Being in these scales is like being home. Wow, my human self really is/was a pretentious asshole. But Morgan can’t/couldn’t help it. I mean, Morgan had like half of my/MorOcean’s noble lifespan. It’s not like Morgan knows/knew anything about the psyches of clownfish or the subtle pleasure of a plate of stretched box jellyfish.
I start swinging my sword around. mBarge starts swinging hers. They clash, and where they meet, bubble-infused sparks fly. You might think our Atlantean fighting strategy is stupid, but trust me, it was a time-honored martial art well before our place got totally destroyed by flaming sea meteors.
I pierce her in the ear-fin and let out a whooping cheer — this is the first time I’ve hurt my swordfighting superior, ever.
Hopping back, shaking the jammy blue blood off my sword, I say, “Score one for Atlantis, master.”
mBarge grips her fin with a free hand that, conveniently for her, also hides her expression of defeat.
This is when I notice Karina’s having a fight of her own not far away. She and Lamar are going at it hand-to-hand, half-submerged in the brackish water from which that humongous crane is still slowly pulling bricks. They’ve both gone Atlantis: Karina/Kelp is a brilliant peach color and looks way more fit than she ever did above ground, while Lamar/LaMer (“mer” means sea), sparkling green, looks worse for wear than ever, probably because I killed him.
They’re both wearing leotards, a fashion statement that today’s humans scoff at because they’re innocent lambs who don’t know any better. Not many know this, but the ancients, paragons of knowledge, wore leotards exclusively.
“KELP!” I screech. “HANG IN THERE!”
“I’M TRYING!” she yells back as LaMer backhands her with an Atlantean coral-studded knuckle. “The crane…it’s the key to all of this!”
“The crane?” I say. She can’t hear that part. Then I snap my fingers — oh, yeah, the crane. What am I skewering my modern-day sibling for?
I make a mad dash for the ancient Atlantean stone machine, and mBarge follows. Shit, I forgot, she’s faster than me! I hear her webbed feet on the sand just behind me… I can all but feel her breath. (People of Atlantis have both gills and lungs, and therefore are masters of land and sea. Wow, how could Morgan be so high and mighty when Morgan couldn’t even go underwater without a snorkel, and was, in the end, just another foolish earth-mortal?)
Enough wasting time– gotta pull out my famous trick, the MorOcean Fish Flop–
I make a physics-defying leap for the crane.
My head bashes into the control panel, cleaving the rock apart. It hurts so bad and my eyesight is so thick with blue Atlantean blood-jelly that I bet it’s shattered outright, but fortunately I bounce off of the crane in a very comedic fashion, which lightens the mood a bit. And I — ow — I trundle onto the sand, the reverberation of the impact shaking my bones even now. I don’t think I’ll ever recover, but at least I got to become my true former self, attaining the wisdom that all human beings strive for, whether or not they are aware…
What the– oh, no… sparkles drifting from my gnarled form like smoke… I’m turning back, aren’t I? Oh, geez… oh no, I’m forgetting all my cool Atlantis memories too, now, aren’t I…
The coast of Bermuda is strewn with rock, kelp, and a little bit of ancient treasure. Police are still combing the area, and archaeologists are beginning to take interest in the huge crane-like object now dominating the beach. It’s a veritable OOPArt, something that seemed to spring up overnight but had to have been constructed over the course of months, if not years. An unexplainable ancient technology…and those who try to explain it will be shot down.
Well, not like it matters to me, Morgan Harding, age however-old-you-are-when-you-finish-tenth-grade. I’m just glad we’re not fish people anymore. That was a hassle.
The saddest thing is, though, that when Karina and I got back to Atlanta, I had the urge to run to the Jimmy Carter High pool. It’s overcast and about to rain, so the pool is empty. I’m here now, and I’m just…standing. The toes of my shoes are right on the edge.
“What’s up?” says someone familiar. I flinch the worst surprise-flinch I’ve ever flinched in my life, Possibly in two lives. In fact, I nearly fall in the water. I wish nobody was here to see me like this, but I guess Lamar’s seen me do worse.
“Hey, Lamar,” I say without turning, which makes me feel really serious and dramatic. “Uh…what a week, huh?”
“Yeah, uh…..” He clears his throat. “Yeah.”
“I was just thinking about…about how if I was a cybernetically advanced human, I probably wouldn’t enjoy swimming.”
“Yeah. If you had an AI implanted in your body or something, you wouldn’t even be able to hit the water.”
I clear my own throat. Then I decide to be polite and turn around. “Good thing we live in normal old Atlan…”
What’s that rock on his face? That porous pumice rock chunk over his eye. Is that a barnacle? It…it’s got a face, or at least eyes…
While I’m bugging out, Lamar says sternly, “Morgan, don’t say anything. This is Ar-Eyt, an ancient rockware AI who’s using my body as a means to defend Atlanta and prevent The Merging Of The Worlds. If you say anything–“
“It’s a fucking rock on your face! Everyone’s said something!”
“Only reincarnated Atlanteans can see me,” chirps Ar-Eyt.
Thus a new chapter of our life in Atlanta begins, and I scream in disbelief to the heavens of a city which is about to do much more than make me swim.
Just Kidding (This Is The End)