She was a stranger in a very strange land and yet everything felt so familiar, like it can in the most impossible of dreams. She wasn’t dreaming, but it felt like she was, as she moved among the different sculptures in the new art exhibit. The walls in the large gallery were painted in wavy patterns of swimmy blues and murky greens and the effect was like being in an underwater cavern and the statues and sculptures seemed to sway in a current unfelt by human skin.
She’d worn a modest bathing suit, as instructed by the art gallery owner and she shivered a little as she walked among the statues. They were almost familiar too, like child drawings of sea creatures. There was a mermaid with a forked tail so it was like she had large fins, instead of legs, and silvery hair sweeping down her scaly back. A porpoise with whiskers drooping on each side of its snout. A very large lobster, with tentacles instead of claws. She gasped, as one of the statues opened its eyes and turned towards her. It was a man, dressed in a coat that looked like intricately woven seaweed.
“Do you like my creatures?” he asked.
“Oh, yes!” she said. “They feel like I know them from a dream. I mean, they seem so unreal and yet so familiar.”
He patted the back of a sea turtle that had rows of centipede legs on each side of its shell.
“You very well may be dreaming,” he said, and smiled an impish grin at her.
“I most certainly am NOT dreaming,” she said. “but I may as well be.” He was quite handsome, she thought, with his goatee and boyish red curls. She had sworn off dating artists but now she couldn’t remember why.
He moved closer to her. “Do you know how to swim?” he asked.
“I do, but not well. I don’t get the opportunity very often. Why do you ask?”
“It’s part of my show. But you have to trust me. You need to not be afraid of water.”
“I would never be afraid,” she said. “There may be things that scare me, but water is not one of them.”
“I knew that when I saw you,” he said, and raised his hand to blow three sharp notes on a small pipe whistle.
Water started pouring out of the base of each statue, quickly filling the floor of the gallery and starting to rise. Soon it was a foot deep, and then two, and as it began to reach the creatures they began to move languidly, stretching and tossing their heads back and forth. At three feet deep some were able to rise off their bases and they began to swim around the gallery, diving and weaving among each other. The porpoise nudged her leg and the whiskers tickled.
“Shall we?” he said, and taking her by the elbow, he guided her to climb on the back of the porpoise. The water rose higher and he swam with strong strokes beside her as the porpoise moved here and there around the other creatures in the room. The water kept rising and soon it was just a few feet from the ceiling. There was a bell hanging from one of the chandeliers and he swam to it and rang it, once. The creatures began to dive, one after another and he swam to her, pulling her off the porpoise into his arms.
There was a loud rushing sound and the water began to lower, and as it lowered he held her tight and swung her into a tumble. They tumbled and rolled together as the water lever kept dropping and the creatures settled back onto their bases. One last tumble and they felt the floor of the gallery beneath them. She had starting laughing in sheer joy as they tumbled and as they pulled apart she laughed again.
“I have made quite a mess of your seaweed coat,” she said.
“Ah, well, that’s the beauty of seaweed, you see,” he said. “There’s plenty of it.”
“I still think I might be dreaming,” she said.
“That’s for you to decide,” he said. “Would you rather this be a dream? Or real?”
“Real,” she said. “I’d rather my real life be this intoxicating. Given the choice, I’d rather have more fun awake, than asleep.”
“Good choice,” he said. “Real, it is, then.”