THE GOLDEN SEAL
A short story by Golda Mowe.
|Seal at Kepy Cape Town Scuba Diving School by Tim Sheerm (from Wikimedia)|
Timon drifted between sleep and waking as he clung onto the floating crate. He couldn’t tell how long he had been adrift but he now felt so numb he could not even feel his legs. Maybe he should just let go and stop fighting the inevitable, he thought, but each time he attempted to do so, a primal fear would set in and make him cling harder to the crate.
He was glad he went out alone on the boat. Then again, if he had not quarrelled with his wife Marie, he would not be out at sea during stormy weather. He chuckled and coughed at the same time as he thought about how a silly argument over the placement of a single cushion on a newly bought sofa could lead up to a shipwreck at sea. Too late he realized that Marie was perfectly beautiful because she was a perfectionist. She admitted during their last argument that she married him because she thought he was the perfect project to work on. He was a handsome man who had bad hair and bad taste in clothes. He needed a woman’s touch, she thought.
A seal poked her head out of the water and stared at him. Timon smiled and reached out a hand to try to touch her. The seal re-submerged. Timon put his hand down and lay his cheek on the wet crate. He started to drift off to sleep once more. He woke up with a start when he felt something hit his head. It was a freshly killed sardine. Without giving it a second thought, he grabbed the fish with one hand and started biting into it. The ironic taste of blood filled his mouth. The more he bit, the hungrier he became for the sardine. He even crushed the head between his teeth and chewed on it like it was fruit.
The same seal poked her head out of water again to watch him. Timon’s gaze met hers and he said, “Thank you.” His voice sounded strange to him because it sounded like a cross between a squeal and a cough.
“You are welcome,” she said.
Timon almost released the crate with shock. “You can speak,” he said with wonder.
“Of course I can,” she said. “So can you.”
Timon chuckled. Again the sound that came out of him sounded alien, or rather sounded like a sound he had never thought he would be capable of making. It must be because he had not had any water to drink for a while, he reasoned.
The seal said, “Come swim with me.”
“I can’t. I will drown.”
“Don’t worry. I will take care of you.”
At that point Timon realised that he could be hallucinating. But if he was, he decided, it was a really good one. So he let go of the crate and moved towards the seal. He felt himself gliding through the water. The seal turned and swam away, and Timon chased after her. His clothes began to peel off him as they dove deeper and deeper. Then they went up and up until they broke through the water surface to gulp in air. After a while, Timon realised that he could hold his breath for long stretches of time without any problem. And more amazingly he could keep up with the seal. They crashed into a school of sardines.
Timon turned this way and that, reaching out with his flippers to try to catch one, but he could not grab hold of a single one. The female seal gave him a fish she caught and he reached out with his mouth. Then they dashed into the school again. This time Timon used his mouth to catch them, the way he saw she did.
After they both had their fill of fish, the seal swam ahead. Soon Timon found himself at the cliff edge. He was ecstatic. He was finally back on land. He tried to walk, but felt the sharp edges of the rock scrapping against his belly. He looked down, and saw fins where his hands should be. Then he looked behind him and saw a flipper in place of his legs. Timon’s breath caught in his throat as the horror of his new form finally registered in his mind.
“Look, Mommy,” a little girl called out and pointed from the cliff edge. “A golden seal.”
Timon tried to call for help, but the only thing that came out of his mouth was the seal call. He looked up with despair as people got out their cameras or phones to take pictures of him.
The female seal said, “Don’t do that. They will think that you like the attention.”
“What have you done to me?” Timon asked vehemently.
“You ate the fish I gave you. So you are now my husband.”
“You seemed interesting,” she said. “I wanted something different from all the other males.”
“Oww!” Timon yelled. Then he turned with a roar at the male seal that bit him. “What are you doing?” he demanded.
The other seal only glared at him then turned away. The female explained, “He just wants to show you what he can do to you if you ever try to approach any of his females.”
“I don’t want to.”
“It doesn’t matter. You are a male. Males don’t like males.”
Timon was livid. “Why did you change me? Why can’t you just be with the other males?”
The female settled her chin on the rock and closed her eyes. Then she said, “Because I don’t like any of the other males. They are arrogant and promiscuous. I would rather have a male that stays with me all the time instead of one that roves about the other females.”
“Well I can do that too,” Timon said then added a little more sheepishly, “Rove about, I mean.”
“Of course you can,” she said, “but you will not last a day. The males will tear you to pieces. If you are lucky, a marine biologist might save you. Then he will put you in a cage where you will be cold and fed dead fish with stale tasting blood.”
A new kind of fear entered Timon’s mind. A kind of fear that he had never considered before in his life. He lay down next to the female, and she snuggled up to him. He watched the surf crashed into the side of the rock and he felt the spray rain back down on him. He thought it strange that he did not feel cold. Then he realised that this was the life he had always wanted to live. Lazing about on the beach, and swimming whenever he felt like it. Maybe he should give it a try after all. But he must remember to stay out of the way of the other males.
Bio - Golda Mowe hails from Sibu, Sarawak, a Malaysian state located on the island of Borneo. She is an Iban, a tribe native to Sarawak, and a graduate of the prestigious Waseda University of Japan. Golda is a published author with two books to her credit - Iban Dreams (a folklore based fantasy fiction) and The Nanobots and Other Stories (a collection of sci-fi short stories for tweens.)