Descending was always Keira’s favorite part of scuba diving. The light blue water fading to navy, and below, into an inky black abyss. Her body, tank-heavy, dropped through the ocean layers easily and admittedly—a bit dangerously.
She loved it.
Pop. Left ear equalized. She squeezed her nostrils through her mask to get her right ear to do the same. And about fifteen meters down, she entered “the womb.” It was a depth that wrapped around her like a cocoon. Calmed her nerves. Elevated her spirit. Right in that pocket was where she became a giant fish—gills, dorsal fin, flapping tail.
Tink. Tink. Tink. Keira kept a 4” brass bolt snap on a D-ring handy for tapping on her tank and getting Bo’s attention. Even though she trusted him with her life, he had a tendency to drift—physically and mentally—under water.
Bo turned his head in her direction. He was hovering about twelve feet away, slightly above her and checking out a reef pillar that was all too familiar. Bubbles floated above him in jiggling discs. In some weird way, she thought it made him cuter than usual, but Keira was used to having weird thoughts underwater.
She and Bo had been diving this area of the Great Barrier Reef for over a decade, and every time, her imagination went wild. She’d daydream of her and Bo becoming sea turtles, or finding a mermaid. Sometimes she became so mesmerized by the life and colors around her that she’d forget time and space, but Bo would always reel her back in with an aquatic gift—a sea cucumber or cowry shell.
Keira loved sea cucumbers. Bo knew it. He paid attention. He enjoyed her happiness as much as she did.
And this part of the reef—it was her happiest place. It was their chance to be totally together as a loving couple, floating away from everything else, taking a break from sound and gravity.
But the reef had changed. What was once a wall of florescent sea anemones and a kaleidoscope of crustaceans only two years ago was now a slimy blanket of rotting animals.
Global warming was very real to Kiera and Bo. Only last year, this particular part of the reef shifted from rainbow to a bleached white—the color of bones—a coral skeleton. Sun and heat ate it alive. This year, what was left was a disturbing tower of decomposition. Brown. Oily. Creepy.
Keira bit down on her regulator and kicked toward her husband who stared at the rotting coral. Through her wetsuit, she could feel the cold and warm currents. Sunshine reflected tiny jellyfish and sea debris, and Bo turned to face her. His eyes narrowed, smiling. She smiled back as best she could without opening her mouth—a shared grin in spite of the dead reef.
They were always good about making the best out of bad situations, and maybe that’s why he tried. He reached out his hand to greet her. Keira touched it. Then Bo kicked away, around the corner of the decaying reef—out of sight. A school of moonfish scattered. Keira paused, waiting for her surprise.
A red curtain drew in front of her, lowering her visibility to zero. She screamed into her regulator and kicked backwards. Outside of the cloud, she could see everything. The reef was drenched in crimson. Her husband was caught in the mouth of a great white. His body limp, draped through the jaws. Tank torn away from his torso. Legs dangling out one side of its mouth. Chest, arms and head out the other. And in Bo’s left hand—a sea cucumber.
The shark turned away. Keira couldn’t tell if she was crying or not. She wanted to. She knew she should, but she was frozen, paralyzed by her husband’s carcass being carried off into the distance like a bone between the teeth of a stray dog. And they were gone. Disappeared into the liquid horizon. A cold, enigmatic couple.
Then the pain. Another red cloud. Keira ran her hands across sandpaper skin. She struggled against its grip—but eventually went still. The shark dove.
Descending was always Keira’s favorite part of scuba diving. The light blue water fading to navy, and then below, to an inky black abyss.