The last time you trusted a strange voice, Kieran came to your aid. Despite the possibility of danger, you decide that the benefits outweigh the risks.
The next day, you visit Kieran’s hide -- a reasonably sized, artificial shell. A few branches of the native plants have been laid on top to form a sort of curtain over the entrance. You’ve visited here before, but the curtain was new.
“Kieran? Are you home?”
There’s no response. You wonder if he’s fallen asleep, so you swim closer and dare to brush the branches aside for a peek.
“Don’t come in!” he yells.
His eruption catches you off guard, and you jerk away from the entrance.
“Sorry, I molted a few days ago, and my exoskeleton is still reforming,” he confesses. “It’s kind of gross, so I don’t want anyone to see me like this for a bit longer.”
No wonder his presence had been scarce lately. You feel relieved that his initial tone wasn’t because of anything personal towards you, but dismay follows after. You had hoped to seek his general advice about interacting with other creatures who resided outside of the community. Not wanting to bother him further during his time of vulnerability, you offer, “Don’t worry, I understand. I’ll see you around when you’re feeling better!”
. . .
At last, the already dimmed aquarium lights make the transition to total darkness, save some moonlight coming in from the outside world. You wait a few moments and check to make sure everyone is either asleep or far from view. With a bit of effort, you squeeze through the middle-sized hole at the rear of your home. Under the cover of both the darkness and the thick plants, you leave town and swim west towards the filter flow.
The quiet of the night is so different in comparison to the usually carefree hustle and bustle of Myrio Ridge. You’re not sure how much time has passed, but you enjoy the peace for a while. Before you know it, the prolonged silence unfortunately allows you to lock onto your fears. No matter how much you try to think of anything else, the fear of the unknown intrudes and forces its way into your mind. Gart is a stranger and no one knows that you’ve left town. You’re not even sure if you’re going in the right direction.
This last idea thankfully quells all your prior fears, but brings a new one to light. There’s still no community in view, and you begin to wonder if you’ve accidentally strayed off course. Meeting enemies are now the least of your worries. Your heartbeat speeds up with the pace of your swimming. Desperation sinks in, and the value of time increases with every passing second. Being lost and alone is one thing, but it’s an entirely different thing when darkness is factored in.
All at once, a jungle of plants comes into view; they’re made up of broad leaves with tapered points, each leaf attached to skinny stems. Knowing that this is most likely the community you were looking for, you make a break for the flora’s shelter. Any creature right now would be a sight for sore eyes.
You freeze in your tracks. This is a mistake.
“Nice to finally meet ya -- properly, I mean. I’m Gart.”
There is only silence when you stare back at the amano shrimp standing between you and the vegetation.
Written by iAteTheRamen on 16 June 2019