One day the tide went out and kept on going.
There were some among our people who were nervous. “A great ebbing brings a killing wave!” they cried. And yet minutes passed, then hours, and mud that had been a fathom deep began to dry, to crack under a strangely swollen sun.
We went down to the sea to walk there among our boats fallen over.
Fish lay on their sides all around. We gathered baskets full. When we set all the fish out for smoking, the racks creaked under their weight.
The days were endless. The sun hung motionless above the western horizon, over canyons and broad plains once obscured by the sea.
Before long, we had gathered and eaten all the fish near our village. We ventured farther from the old shore to search for more, baskets in hand. Dry kelp, dry eelgrass tumbled in a dry wind. At length we stood upon the brink, the edge of the shallow sea that had fringed our land, and the old seafloor fell swift away from us. A mile down we climbed, the scent of old brine sharp in our nostrils, our steps raising a fine pale dust that made us cough hard.
There were those of us who had been lost at sea and we found them, alive beneath the wreckage of their ships. Their hair was ropy and green and they greeted us distractedly, lost in opaque thought. Aquamarine eyes that had once been brown or gray fixed on the sun, alarmed. We bade them return with us but they did not follow.
We stayed with them, our colors changing over days.
What were our spines but the backbones of fish? What were our arms but fins? We were fish then again, scuttling at the bottom of a sea of air. The air grew thick around us, cloaked the sun. A mile above us thick air parted from thin, a meniscus overhead, seething.
After some time, restless, we walked toward our homes on the old shore, but the air grew thin as we arrived. We could not stand, nor could we breathe. We fell down gasping. Animals were there, the dogs we had left to guard our homes grown sleek. They watched us choke. Their eyes had changed, grown yellow with fire in them. They regarded us with curiosity, with pity.
The dogs came to us where we lay dying and kindly pushed us back into the sea where we could breathe. They watched us with some fondness a while longer, then turned and went about their business, lords of the world we left for them.
by Chris Clarke