2 - Charlie
You break through, into the light, into the sky. You soar higher, cleaner, freer than ever, and you know.
It is going to happen.
It runs through your body like like magic, like time.
It turns you inside out, fills you with hope and pain. The sounds turn to light and you are transformed.
My lower body split in half. My fins became long and spindly and ended in fingers. One moment I was a sleek, muscular dolphin. The next I was elbows and knees and fear. A nine-year-old human, a boy, I hung ten feet above the waves.
I hit belly first. My fins didn't work, my breathing hole had moved, I couldn't find the surface.
The water had never been my enemy before.
I finally got my head—I had a head now—into the air. I managed something like a dog-paddle.
Then something lifted me. I looked over my shoulder. An enormous wall of water came straight toward me. It hurled me toward shore with sand in my mouth and foam in my eyes, slamming me against the bottom, spinning me, roaring in my ears, stinging my throat, until, finally, it flung me onto the beach.
The water drained away from the wet sand before my eyes. I lay naked, shivering. I didn't know how to control this strange new body.
The beach stretched out forever, and there— so far that I could barely make him out—came Charlie.
I lay terrified as he limped toward me, step by painful step. Finally he was closer than I'd seen a human before.
He was a wiry old man in faded army fatigues, his remaining hair in a regulation crewcut. He limped without a sign of hurry, didn't slow as he came close. I was afraid he would step on me, and winced as he stopped, towering over me.
He pushed his lips out, like a puckerfish, and whistled.
Then he spoke.
"It's been so long. I thought there wouldn't be any more."
Good old Charlie.