Slow Sea Season

by Vanessa Mancos

Everything around us is poison. Out in the distance, the sea is glowing neon. Everyone is floating above the beach in their sea pods. Hundreds of little orbs bathed in the rainbow lights emitting from the water. The waves roll up-up-up-up. Higher than the highest skyscraper in the world. Just before cresting, they flash to an electric shade of blue no one can decide on a name for, and then everyone cheers. Except me. It feels vulgar to encourage the sea. As if this is all for our entertainment, when really it is a big toxic mess of our own making. We have been hovering for two hours and my elbows are sore. When I glance down, I notice I have been mimicking the rise and fall of the waves with my arms. I guess we all celebrate things in our own ways.

Locals call this time of year Slow Sea Season, because the light gives the impression that everything around you is moving in slow motion, but if you’re not from around here you would probably refer to it as the bioluminescence. Many thousands of years ago, the sea would glow from an extinct species called dinoflagellates. But ever since the Great Event, humans have had to recreate natural wonders using materials we no longer have use for. The neon signs from the ancient city Las Vegas line the sea floor here and once a year they turn them on so we can enjoy the spectacle and pay tribute to the way things used to be. It doesn’t matter that the water gets polluted since it is already so bad.

At midnight, it is tradition to stand on the beach with your romantic partner and hold hands and stare out at the glowing prism of waves and think about what a beautiful future the two of you will build to keep yourselves sheltered from this noxious world.

I am not thinking about any of that. I am thinking about how most of the couples out on the beach have two-person sea pods so they can share airspace and drink Red Tide Wine and hold hands inside. But you chose to stop on the way home from work last week and buy us these individual sea pods even though you knew I wanted the two-person model. And it was because you wanted to observe Slow Sea Season alone, together. And it is always what is best for both of us until that is different from what you want for yourself. I am thinking about how we look like a couple of dorky astronauts in marshmallow suits out here over the beach while everybody else is probably naked in their sea pods, whispering the cities they will travel together and the names they will give their children, words rolling leisurely through the air, while the Slow Sea Season radiates her blessings over their plans. My shield is getting foggy from breathing so hard and the neon hum of the waves feels far away.

Hundreds of years ago, when we first met, you thrilled me by bringing me Eggs Benedict in bed one morning. I remember how you watched me; eyes wide while I scooped the first forkful into my mouth. I mentioned in passing that I had never tasted eggs because the town I was from banned them when all the birds started dying before I was born. And your favorite egg dish was Eggs Benedict and you thought it was criminal that a person could go their whole life without tasting it. I still cannot imagine how much it cost and how much trouble it must have been to find safe eggs. How you howled with delight while I licked the plate clean. How good it was. You called me your Egg Princess for many years after, but not for a long time now.

Some of the sea pods dip into the water. They are scooping up poison. It is popular among younger people to drink it on retreats in the mountains. It will give them visions, expand their minds, reveal to them the secrets of the universe. It is really just a short cut to something we will figure out at some point, whether we injest a neurotoxin or not.

From the slow sea comes a loud CRACK; my heart skitters around my ribcage as gases shoot into the sky, mingling with filaments already hanging around to form a tie-dye cloud. It is almost jaw-dropping enough to make you forget what it is made of.

These helmets are suffocating. I look over at your face, squinting, pretending to appreciate Slow Sea Season even though I know you are really just waiting until you think we have been floating long enough to say it is time to go home. I want to smack you in the shield and say, this is all how I feel when I am with you. Like my brain has been poisoned. Like I am not allowed to breathe. Like everything I touch is toxic.

Instead, before I even realize what I am doing, I have disconnected my helmet from my protective suit and wrenched it off my head. I am sick of feeling like I cannot breathe. One million hot razor blades race down my throat. It is bad, but not as bad as the time I found her panties in your pocket. It is painful, but not as painful as when you left me standing on the curb last winter without any way to get home. It is scary, but not as scary as the crushing loneliness that can strike in the presence of another person. You are yanking my arm out of its socket, you are screaming, you are trying to reseal my helmet, but it is no use because I am nearly gone from all this air that is just so awful for everyone. My god, what a relief.

Vanessa Mancos is a TV writer living in Los Angeles. Her flash fiction has previously appeared in NY Tyrant, The Coachella Review, and Memoir Mixtapes, among others. She spends most of her spare time hanging out with her fluffy Calico cat, whose Quinceañera recently went viral on Twitter.
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