One more day. The last batch of landers left awhile ago; the last show of the day over. There's nothing to do. Nothing. That's what I get when I ping my surroundings. The wall is curved; the bottom flat. That's all, but I knew that already. I see it every day. All I do is swim around and around in a never ending circle. There's no where to go. Although I sometimes dive to the floor just to watch bits of fluff and bubbles go swirling down the drain. How many hours do I spend doing that? I don't know. What difference does it make anyway? Today was just like yesterday, and tommorow will be just like today. The sun will come up once again, the landers will arrive and perch all around the enclosure (my entire world) like huge, ugly, featherless birds. The same old music, and, once again, I will jump and tail-stand, and the landers will make their incoherent scheeches (pleasure, I think?) and point with those useless wings of theirs, and the female lander will give me enough fish to feed me if I jump well.
Today, I didn't jump well. I'm so sick of it I can't do it anymore. So I didn't get any extra fish. I am hungry now. What these landers find so fascinating, I can't begin to comprehend. Jumping is nothing special; we tail-stand to see farther. Maybe I wouldn't mind so much if there was really something interesting to do? If only they'd let us try new things. The female always acts nasty to me when I try new things. Especially, like today, I tried something different in front of the other landers. Then, again, I long ago gave up on trying to comprehend the lander mind. I suppose they use all those low, barely audible frequencies for communication? They spend a lot of time making those sounds at each other, but it seems that it takes them forever to say anything. Does lander-life do that? Does it make them that stupid? I wish I knew...
The lander female (and yes, I know it's a female as she sometimes swims (if you can call what they do in water "swimming") with us and I ping her) seems to have a name for me: "Skipper". I tried learning how to repeat it back to her. That wasn't easy. I don't know if she even understands. Sometimes she pats my head or gives me an extra fish, but she won't try to learn to talk to me. I wish she would so I could tell her I don't like it here. Perhaps she's not so bright as once I thought. Perhaps none of them are.
Around once more. Same featureless white wall. OK, here's the transparancy. Is that ever weird: I ping it and it's even more featureless than the rest of the wall, and yet I can see through it. Sometimes, I see my own reflection in it. The little landers like to press their... beaks (is that the right word?) against it to gawk in that way landers do. I suppose that's because they can't ping? (Unless they do it only around themselves.) Then the big ones move them along to be replaced by more little ones. There is no one there now. Little landers: these must be the young ones, correct? Internally, at least, they seem to be built the same as us. Not like birds at all. Lander children...
Once I was happy here. Back when I was taken from the sea and my family, when I was still counting the days, three years after I was put here, the landers brought a female my own age. At first, I liked her. She was pretty, had a great way about her... really nice personality. Then, one day, I really liked her. I never had those feelings before, and neither did she. We talked often of this. We'd ping each other and I'd get these cold shivers up and down my spine. We'd touch and I'd get warm all over... like never before, except with mother... I never thought I'd feel like that ever again. It was nice. It got better: we'd snuggle and stroke each other and chase each other around the enclosure, and nip at each other. We would glide past one another, rubbing our undersides. We'd tickle each other's slit, and then, one day, we held each other really close and just felt the warmth as I slid deeply into her, over and over again. She'd go all tense and just shake with her eyes closed, and mouth half-open. We'd do that till our lungs burned for air. Then, one day, I pinged her and found something I'd never detected before. Something tiny, barely detectable, and indistinct. The older sea-born female (she seldom spoke of her life at sea, too painful for her), "Granma", we'd call her when she wasn't listening (how she hated that nick-name) explained what was happening. She used a word I never heard before: "pregnancy". That meant I was now a father, like my father, and Mirii was going to be a mother. It makes sense now, but it didn't then. Perhaps I'd've known these things if the landers hadn't come and taken me before I learned our ways. Fortunately "Granma" knew all about it. Good thing, because neither one of us knew. So Mirii spent lots of time with her, learning about her pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. That was before they came and took "Granma" away, to that small, shallow pool where you can't get away from groping landers. That's where you go when you can't do tricks anymore well enough to please the landers. That's where dolphins go to die. Just like "Granma".
When the landers finally saw that Mirii was pregnant, she got out of having to do tricks, and she got extra fish. She liked that. Sometimes, she'd even have enough extra to share with me. I knew our child was a female, and I was looking forward to the birth of our daughter. However, the day that she started to deliver, the landers came and took me from her. I fought them for the first time, but it was no use. They put me all by myself in this small pool. All I could do was lie on the bottom and cry. I didn't do my duty to help comfort Mirii. I missed seeing my daughter's birth. To make matters worse, they put Mirii and our daughter in another pool. I could see them sometimes, but that was all. Why did they do that to me?
One day, not too long after my daughter started eating fish, the landers took her away. Mirii was heart-broken. She wouldn't do tricks; she wouldn't eat. And she cried all the time. I heard all about it after "Crazy Shalimar" was put in our tank. Maybe it's not nice to say that. Too much time here drove her mad. When they finally took Mirii away to see the lander healer, she wasn't doing very well at all. No one ever saw her again, so I don't know what happened, but I fear the worse. It's still hard to think about it... Oh, sure, they bring me other females, but they're not Mirii, and I won't put them through that: so I'm careful to always ping them to make sure they aren't ovulating before we mate. The landers keep trying with me; they don't understand why there are no more young ones. If I'd've known, I never would have let myself get close to Mirii. Landers seem to be built like us. They must have children like we do. I've seen them, and they do seem to love and care for their children. So why can't they understand that we love and care for our children? Why do they treat us like that?(!)
Then there was that Delphinus, not too long ago. You should have seen him: smaller, sleeker, all white-on-black. I would really have liked to meet him, but I never did. He was in his own enclosure, and the landers tried to get him to do tricks. He attacked them instead! Hurt one real bad too. Why can't we be like that? I tried to suggest it, but they wouldn't consider it: too comfortable in their complacency. Sometimes I'm ashamed of my own species. Finally, the Delphinus killed himself by crashing into the side of his enclosure. Right in front of the landers, too.
I can't go on like this. I'm not for real. What is dying? After all, this isn't living...
In the main show tank, the music was starting and the cute twenty year old docent with the sun-tanned skin and sun-bleached hair with those short, short shorts and long, long legs was just beginning her speech. Skipper was at one end of the tank, away from the other dolphins, when he began pumping his powerful tail muscles furiously. He held his tail fin at neutral angle of attack, so made no forward progress. He pinged his range and target. Then he set his tail fin at maximum angle of attack and surged forward. He stopped pinging and closed his eyes. It seemed to take much longer than he thought, before he heard the landers scream, followed by the explosion in his head and the flash of white in his eyes. Then came the blackness.
It seemed to Skipper that conciousness was returning. He had failed. He awaited the searing pain from his shattered jaws. However, that didn't happen. He opened his eyes, saw, not the enclosure, felt not the hard concrete bottom, but rather the greens, blues, and violets of the open sea. Fish swam by, and a colorful coral reef grew up towards the light. He heard and felt a familiar ping and pinged back. Up from the depths materialized his old love: Mirii.
"Come, Skipper. It will be alright now". He settled into her pressure wave as they glided down past the reef, to the opening of what looked like an underwater cavern. He balked at going inside, and wondered why Mirii would do this. No dolphin ever goes into a closed space.
"Don't be afraid. You don't want to be late do you?"
"For what? Where am I? What..."
"Too many questions. You trust me, don't you?"
So he followed in her pressure wave into the darkest dark he'd ever seen. Even pinging did no good as there wasn't the slightest trace of a return. After unknown minutes, a light appeared ahead. It grew brighter and larger as they approached. Skipper seemed to be ablaze with the light for but the briefest moment. Mirii and Skipper broke the surface of a clear blue sea. Others were swimming and playing. Some he recognized: "Granma", and Shalimar. Others he didn't recognize. Finally, a black-and-white form glided up to him. He felt a brief surge of fear: shark. But it wasn't. The form was that of a sleek Delphinus: "Didn't think a Tursiops, such as yourself, had the balls to do that".
Skipper joined the pod, swimming as fast as they pleased. As far as they liked. With no walls to get in their way. He flipped through the air. Skipper tasted freedom once again.
The aquarium's Curator of Mammals was in a foul mood.
"I... I... don't know how it happened, it was so fast. I heard screams from the stands and he hit the wall just as I looked up. God... that sound... Poor Skipper: why...?" the docent's voice failed her.
"Gawd-Dam-Mit! That's the fourth one this year! And right in the middle of the day! Now we'll really have those F'kin' tree-hugger-save-the-whales-greenpeace-sea-shepherd-free-the-dolphins freaks all over us. I don't need this ... I F'kin' don't need this shit..."
"Get that f'kin' mess cleaned up", he ordered as he walked away from the main show tank.