December 4, 20177 min read

He jumped. The kelp entangled his legs until he could not distinguish its grasps from the weight of the wet clothes hanging onto him. Fern had never realized clothes had a weight so heavy and formidable. He had never helped Mother lift the baskets of laundry up the attic steps nor had he stuck his twigish, pale arms into the bowels of the washer to switch a load; never had he felt the weight of duty and obligation.

“Too busy” were the constant words he told Mother through a mouth full of twizzlers, slushies and whatever else his friends were eating. Fern wasn’t lying. Fern wasn’t a liar. What he was was a boy competing with a world that said he was Fern and not Sage or Lavender or Parsley or Daisy. At least now he could be kelp.

By this point, Fern was Kelp. Obviously due to the way fish — shocked first by his entrance — had mellowed back into the currents. Although the kelp swayed before the eyes of Fern (now Kelp), he could still watch the way Fish would accept Kelp into the pupils of his large spherical gaze. Kelp could watch as fish darted between the tall kelp trees in the invisible kelp forest (invisible while he was Fern on land, rather than as Kelp in the sea, due to the above-mentioned jump). Occasionally, Fish would dip to the seafloor where the sand grew kelp bushes instead of kelp trees. Fern was so entranced by these motions that the growing prickle in his lungs almost didn’t bother him. Almost. Then Fern — as Kelp — got the best idea of his life!

“Why don’t I just become Fish?” he pondered, remembering not to speak aloud since he still had lungs and realized water could be a very bad thing.

And, really, it was as easy as that. DISCLAIMER: for someone not of Fern/Kelp/Soon-To-Be-Fish’s malleable character this act would be more absurd, but since Fern first met his older brother, Winter, he had been practicing on how to be someone else.

Fern who had been on land became Kelp who had been in water became Fish who moved in water since Fish had decided it would be better to move than to be suffocated and ensnared in the life of Kelp. Fish was very happy with this progression of creation. Sometimes, Fish felt like God.

Fish wiggled his lanky frame against Kelp’s strong bonds until he was released more so than escaped. Then, he used the fins sprouting from fingertips to wipe the blonde hair algae out of his eyes as he approached something close to freedom. Feeling limitless, Fish shed the jeans and shirts of boyhood to flaunt the gills and scales possibly hidden in his flesh all along. Finally, Fish was ready to swim.

Swimming felt like a forever stretched as long as fingers to toes or sand to surface. Fish attempted to twist his body in the ways of the fish. He pressed his arms to his sides and cupped his ten fingers into two fins. He glued his legs together as well to form the back fin that would propel him forward. Slowly, his eyes moved apart and his ears disappeared and the blonde algae hair fell off. Fish’s movements were hasty and all together unlike the smooth wave of motion the other fish possessed. Yet, Fish didn’t give up.

Anyone looking on (impossible due to the underwater aspect of our scene) might have gone on to speak of the magic that caused Fern to transform into Fish; few would realize magic was nothing more than Fern’s natural trait. For Fern (of land) had transformed many times before and was likely to transform many times thereafter. God might have sworn that Fern was not Kelp or Fish or Lavender or Daisy, but Fern had overcome this obstacle by first transforming into God. He was an imitator born with the desire to be anything that he could in the hopes that one day a skin could fit better than the skin assigned to fit perfectly. And, in yet another attempt, he pressed on to the land of following currents rather than footsteps.

He adjusted to the watered world surrounding him. Just like fish, he dipped to the kelp bushes and sprung back up. Fish could have swam forever in between the kelp trees that had once defined him. But, once again bound to the puppeteers of fate, he could not.

Fern’s lungs burned now. They seized and gasped and pounded so hard that all of Fish’s scales fell to the sand below. Air commanded him. It forced his fins to propel into arms and legs. A thunder of heartbeats drummed his body into an action that lifted himself directly to the sea’s surface.

His blonde hair flopped into his eyes as his head broke the waves.

The saltwater streaming into his eyes was so potent he began to cry.

His hiccuping sobs were not loud enough to be heard over the sound of waves crashing into shore. Thus, with no audience, his cries soon subsided.

Fern floated onto his back and willingly watched the gulls flying overhead. For once, he did not wish to steal their wings. For once, Fern accepted his boyhood and willingly floated onward.

Next time, he supposed, he would not do all his friends asked of him.

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Alisa Caira

Alisa Caira is a senior at Newton North High School. When she's not writing her poetry or short stories, you can find her involved in activism or working on her clothing brand not your dad's. She is currently working on her second novel and first poetry anthology. However, for now, she is focusing on enjoying her final year of high school and the friends she has there.