A Wishology Storycoin
Science Fiction / Young Adult (YA)
“There goes Fin, punctual as always.”
“You know that’s a stupid name for a shark, right?”
“I don’t care,” he said, rolling his head from left to right as he followed the shark’s lazy path directly above them. “He’s my friend.”
“You’ve never met him,” she said, pointing upward. “We’re in a glass tube.”
“Well he follows me everywhere, so he has to know me!”
Fin swam on ahead, and they continued their walk through the long glass tube.
There were so many sea creatures to observe on their walk but none they hadn’t seen a thousand times already. For them looking out at the ocean was no different than looking out at your backyard. Colorful corals were no different than a flowerbed. Naming a frequent visitor shark was no different than naming a redbird with a routine of gorging himself at your bird feeder.
At the end of the tube, they entered a large glass dome with several smaller domes attached around it. Each smaller dome had a thick metal door swung wide open and standing in the doorway of every one was a smiling teacher.
“Let’s do science first today,” he said with bright eyes.
“Why? It’s just soil sampling again.”
“Please, El,” he begged. “I love that we get to stick our hands in the ocean!”
Eleanor glanced back and forth between the science classroom and her little brother.
“Fine,” she sighed, wondering whose dumb idea it was to implement the Review Program for older students to spend time in the classes of their younger years.
She arrived at the classroom door after her brother, who had sprinted to it.
“Welcome back, Eleanor,” the teacher said with what Eleanor thought was a forced smile. “Are you excited to help Ajax learn today?”
“Oh, yes. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,” Eleanor said sarcastically.
“I can think of a few things I’d rather you do,” the teacher said, straining to hold her smile. An awkward silence passed between them before she spoke again. “Have a seat around the wet porch, and we’ll begin in a moment.”
Eleanor walked around the edge of the room, weaving through the desks that were all pushed to the glass wall, and seated herself next to her brother. A square opening in the floor about three meters wide allowed access to the ocean right at their feet. The classroom dome sat low enough that the ocean floor was mere inches below the water’s surface, except for a steep drop off near the edge of one side that created a gap big enough to swim through.
The floor was already wet from the students lined around the edges splashing each other while they waited. Eleanor’s pants were beginning to feel soggy. She hated everything about this program.
“I wish we could swim in it,” Ajax said, studying a droplet of water as it fell from his finger.
“Don’t even think about it, Ajax. Remember the current.”
“I know,” Ajax said, hanging his head in disappointment.
“Okay, my little guppies, let’s get started,” the teacher said as she struggled to pull the metal door around, leaving it cracked open.
“Actually, a guppy is freshwater, Ms. Menkis,” a student said.
“Not entirely,” Ajax said. “They adapt really good and can live in brackish water and—”
“We aren’t starting that today,” Ms. Menkis interrupted. “Now, if you haven’t already latched yourselves in, please do so.”
The students, including Eleanor, all grabbed a strap attached to the floor beside each of them and latched the other end to a D-ring on the hip of their uniforms.
“Bryson, let’s start with you today. Go on and fill your test tube.”
Bryson quickly shoved a test tube through the water and down into the sand beneath. When he brought it back up, a tiny hermit crab climbed out of the tube and dove for its life. It entered the water with a plop and all the students laughed.
“Quiet down, please. Bryson, what do you see?” Ms. Menkis asked.
“Um… Sand and…” he squinted at the test tube, going crosseyed with it so close to his nose. “Shell pieces!”
“Excellent,” Ms. Menkis said, not missing Eleanor’s big rolling eyes. “Pieces of broken shells are all over the ocean floor. They are buried in the sand over and over again. But I think there might be something more exciting in store for us today, if… if we just…”
Ms. Menkis paused mid-sentence to stick a finger in her ear. She wiggled her jaw around and the students giggled.
Popping ears was a phenomenon caused by pressure changes, but the city’s air was kept at a constant and precise pressure. She hadn’t felt the sensation since she was a little girl, when she first came to the city. The feeling was curious but not alarming, so she continued the lesson.
“If, uh… If we just keep digging. Ajax, why don’t you go next?”
Ajax eagerly leaned over the side of the water and, even though he was safely latched in, Eleanor felt her right arm tense up ready to grab him should something go wrong. Of course, she remained steadfast displaying her disinterest in what was happening.
Ready to plunge his arm into the water, Ajax held his test tube out. But as he began to lower it, the water rose to meet it. He jerked his arm back and marveled as the water spread out over room’s entire floor.
Eleanor unlatched herself and hopped to her feet, but the younger students were too panicked to do the same. She and Ms. Menkis looked at each other and then back at the students. Immediately, they sloshed through the already ankle-deep water, unlatching every student as fast as they could.
“Everyone to the door! Stay calm! Stay calm!” Ms. Menkis yelled over the noise of the sloshing seawater.
Just as the freed students reached the dome’s hatch, all of the lights in the room turned red, and the door swung shut with a bang. Its big wheel rotated clockwise on its own, and they could hear the door’s metal latches clicking into place. All the students began to scream.
“Don’t panic, everyone! We’re going to be alright! Calm down!” Ms. Menkis pleaded.
Ajax beckoned his sister to hurry to the door with a frantic wave. As she freed the last student from a latch, the water began rushing in faster. By the time she had waded over to her brother, the water was waist high but for most of the students, up to their chests.
Eleanor scanned the room for Ms. Menkis and found her heading to her desk on the opposite side of the dome from the hatch, which made Eleanor believe Ms. Menkis herself was panicking.
“Ajax!” Eleanor said, grabbing her brainy brother by the shoulders. “Do you now how to get through this door?”
But Ajax wasn’t looking at Eleanor. She followed his gaze up to the top of the dome where he was watching a circling Fin, but for the first time, he didn’t seem happy to see his beloved pet shark. Fin circled a couple of times until he began to spiral downward around the outside of the dome. The shark appeared to understand how the water was getting in and was on his way to investigate the larger gap under the floor.
Eleanor looked back at Ajax whose terrified eyes were now staring right into hers. Barely audible over the churning water, he whispered to his sister.
“I don’t want to meet Fin.”
And he floated off his feet.
“Eleanor, grab onto the hatch!” Ms. Menkis screamed. Eleanor did as she was told but wondered what good it would do. “Everyone grab hold of Eleanor!”
The children clamored to grip Eleanor anywhere they could. Most took fistfuls of her uniform, but one preferred clinging to her hair. Eleanor winced, but she wasn’t about to shake the girl off.
“Everyone hold tight to Eleanor and get ready!” The room was now flooded up to Eleanor’s neck. “When I hit the button under my desk here, you’ll all be swept into the larger dome where you’ll be safe! Hold tight! 1… 2…”
“Wait!” Eleanor cried. “What about you?”
“The button has…” Ms. Menkis choked on the seawater lapping at her face. “It… It has to be held down! Safety protocol!”
“But… how will you…” Eleanor couldn’t finish her sentence as the water reached her mouth. She had never heard of any kind of safety protocol, but she understood Ms. Menkis enough to not let go of the hatch.
A loud buzzing noise sounded and the hatch swung open. The children and Eleanor rode a torrent of water out of the room. Once they had been deposited into the main dome, Eleanor sprang back to her feet, coughing water from her lungs. She tried to make her way back into the classroom to rescue Ms. Menkis, but it was slow moving against the force of the water still gushing out.
“Ms. Menkis! Ms. Menkis!” she called.
Eleanor reached the classroom, but as she was pulling herself through the doorway, Ajax’s shark went sailing past, barely missing her with a snap of its teeth. The surprise attack made her lose her grip on the doorway, and she went tumbling back into the larger dome.
Sitting up from the ground, Eleanor met eyes with Ms. Menkis one final time.
“Save them!” Ms. Menkis commanded her.
The buzzing noise stopped and the hatch began to close. As it did, Eleanor watched in horror as a fin gliding out of the water reached Ms. Menkis. The teacher who had saved them all disappeared under the water, and the hatch sealed shut.
The water in the main dome area settled, and the room grew eerily quiet except for the sobs of a few frightened children. Ajax crawled over to Eleanor and sat up on his knees.
“El,” he said, pulling at her sleeve. She slowly turned her head to look at him. “What do we do now?”
It wasn’t until she got to her feet that Eleanor realized they weren’t the only class that had been violently deposited into the main dome. All five of the classrooms had been flooded and their hatches sealed shut. Now, in the ankle-deep water of the main dome, there were five teenagers, only one of which she knew from her own classes, and over two dozen fifth graders. But no teachers.
Eleanor was about to speak to the teenager she knew, but a muffled boom caught her attention. Turning to survey the city through the clear glass behind her, she saw a plume of giant bubbles rising from a distant dome’s location.
“That’s an implosion,” Ajax said with a quivering lip.
Another muffled boom went off vibrating the floor, and they saw a larger plume of bubbles floating away from the city. Eleanor realized immediately that their dome’s failure had been a lucky one because from the looks of the city there were hundreds of unlucky people. People were running through tubes and more domes were collapsing. It was a catastrophic city-wide failure, and from the randomness of it, she doubted there was any such thing as a safe area.
Eleanor slowly turned to face her fellow teenagers and the children. Taking a big gulp, which still tasted like nasty seawater, she decided what to do now. It wasn’t a safe option, but it was the only option that might do what Ms. Menkis had asked of Eleanor with her final breath—save the children.
“We have to find their parents,” she said.
“What? All of them?” a teenage boy screeched with a cracking voice.
“Yes, all of them!” another boy agreed.
“Uh… I’m not a babysitter,” the girl that Eleanor knew said.
“Fine. You can stay here then,” Eleanor said, and she meant it.
The fifth teenager didn’t say anything. He only gave Eleanor a slight smirk and shyly stared at the water he was moving around with his foot.
Eleanor knelt down in front of Ajax and wiped a tear from his cheek.
“I’ll get us back to Mom and Dad. I promise,” she said.
But she wondered if she hadn’t promised more than she could deliver.
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Featured illustration by Ryan Rehnborg