An Ocean Below the Surface

by Nicole Wolverton

It started with the very tip of Mamie’s big toe – just a dot. A bold blue pinpoint mark that hadn’t been there the day before. She tried to scrub it off, the soft nap of a washcloth giving way to the bristles of a nail brush, but it didn’t matter; it didn’t want to come off.

The second day, the dot grew larger. Instead of a tiny mark that looked as though someone poked her with a pen, it was the size of a dime. The day after that, the size of a quarter, and her toenail turned blue.

Her doctor stood and stared, cocking his head this way and that. “And you’re sure it won’t wash off?”

“I tried,” she said, thinking about trying scouring powder and a steel wool pad when she got home.

“Well,” He scratched his head, “it could—have you eaten silver lately?”

“What? No.”

“Maybe it’s your diet.”

And that was the extent of her doctor’s helpful suggestions. He sent her to a dermatologist, a skinny lady with green eyes who asked her the same question. By that time, Mamie’s entire foot was blue.

Every day, some new part of her turned the blue of summer skies. She began to imagine she could see fluffy white clouds floating over her cobalt shins and azure belly. Giant brown hawks swooped over her sapphire forearms, and pretty red cardinals darted down at her ultramarine belly button.

Weeks after that she detected a pirate ship sailing across the electric sea of her upper thigh. The captain waved to her and steered on toward the cape of her left hip.

Mamie took to wearing short skirts and low-cut shirts when she went out of the house to show off the hue of her skin, hoping someone else could see the action movie playing out across her body. People looked, wondering and pointing, but no ever stopped her say, “Miss, a dolphin is swimming in your clavicle.”

Eight months after the bold blue pinpoint  appeared on her toe, a miraculous thing happened: the waves began to recede. At first, it seemed like a good thing. The stain hadn’t reached her face yet. She hadn’t been looking forward to the tides on her cheeks calling to the moon. But then her skin parched and cracked as the color faded back to her normal paleness.

Within weeks, her skin was littered with the carcasses of dead fish.

“Can’t you do something?” she asked the dermatologist, her voice frantic and frightened as she scratched at the crevices that had opened up on the desiccated flat of her bicep.

The doctor tried not to look alarmed as she smoothed moisturizer onto Mamie. Something wriggled beneath her touch.

She pulled her hand away. A lake trout flopped in her palm, gasping for air.


Nicole Wolverton glows in the night, thanks to the nuclear reactor just outside her childhood bedroom window. She now lives in Philadelphia, PA, getting her requisite degree of dangerous chemicals from the municipal water supply.
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