You can say what you want about the whole thing. Call it protecting the people, call it a clear and present danger to society, call it extra-species terrorism, I don't care. That's all politics and it kinda gets up my nose. The point is it doesn't matter what you call it, it’s still a stand off.
The great thing about stand offs is: the longer they go on, the easier they are to break, and we had been victims of these things for almost a decade now, and damn it all, I wanted to go swimming again.
I didn't really have a plan. I thought I would just wing it and see what happens. The worst? I get eaten, like all the ads say. But I'm something of a hobbyist biologist and my old man, bless his soul, had a chest full of books hidden away in his attic when he knocked off. A chest which is now in my attic. After reading a few of them, I learnt that maybe, just maybe, the information we've been fed for the last few years is dead wrong.
Still, though, when I found myself one summer morning, sitting on the rocks down at the beach, I was rather nervous. The water was as clear as I had ever seen it and a few tiny fish flipped around in the shallows, doing whatever it was that tiny fish do. I knew further out would be the other things, things that had started this whole back and forth about swimming in the ocean.
The water lapped around my feet and it was surprisingly warm for a little before 7, so like an idiot who hadn't swum in the ocean since he was a kid, I dove right in. Out in the breakers, just off the rocks, the water was like ice. And it’s not like it was winter or anything, in fact it was well into summer. Lesson learned.
It felt so good to be out swimming again. The mouthfuls of salt water and the tiny bits of sand that cut any exposed flesh reminded me of what I hadn't been allowed to do and I just totally forgot about the ocean swimming ban.
The trick is to get out past the breakers. Out into the ocean proper. It was so calm, and for the first time in so long I was free. I lay on my back and closed my eyes, enjoying the early morning sun. It took a while before I remembered what I had done this for, and as much as swimming in the ocean - a direct violation of what was virtually international law at this point - was a fun goal unto itself, there was the whole thing with the boat.
For those of you who are unaware, my father ran the largest boat-relevant business out of the city here. He offered chartered fishing trips, corporate events, anything you could fit on a boat, he could offer it to you. While these enterprises were fun and profitable by themselves, he had a second layer to his business which, while not illegal, had gathered him some serious attention from people you don't really want a lot of attention from. My father was a salvager. Meaning he went out and found shipwrecks, which were staggeringly common, and grabbed what he could from them. As it happens - and this is actually coincidence - one of his missions was the trigger for the ban I was out here flouting.
The last trip he went on, just after the ban, was to try one last time to get what he could from a wreck that was more or less impossible to get to. It was his obsession and he wasn't going to let the ban keep him from trying.
He went out late at night, much to my mothers chagrin, and sometime before dawn, his boat and all hands, including his, were at the bottom of the ocean. Mum left. The business fell apart and I was left with three-fifths of fuck all. Despite all that I don't hate him. I don't particularly like him, especially given the clear warnings literally everyone gave him before he went out, but I know what it’s like to set your mind on something and come up against nothing but criticism.
So here I am, swimming in ice cold water, looking for the wreck of my fathers boat that, since the accident, had been left under water, bodies included. And, if I was lucky, the other wreck he had gone to get.
It took almost an hour of swimming, then treading water before I found anything, but then, out of nowhere, I saw the bow of his boat, sticking out of the seabed some 20 or so meters below. I pulled my little air tank up from my neck and dove down.
The boat wasn't empty, all of dad’s things were still here, along with what I assume were the belongings of his crew members. There were no bodies that I could find, but that wasn't a terrible surprise, the boat had been down here nearly a decade. What I did find was the map with the only known location for the other wreck marked on it.
Now, I'm not a very well known person. I made some small waves some time ago about the ridiculousness of the ban after reading some of dads books, but that died down quickly and no one really pays me much attention. I obviously have some opinions on the open water swimming ban, but that was entirely based upon a life on shore and dad’s old books.
The thing is, nothing I had read, or argued had prepared me for what I saw when I came out of his old boat, map in hand.
Dead in front of me was the biggest sea turtle I had ever seen. It must have been 100 meters long and 20 high. Its flipper alone could have swatted me to an early grave, but it just sat there, watching me with intelligent eyes and a knowing smile.
It was all roughly the same colour, which was mostly seaweed green, with a touch of grey and blue thrown in. The shell was covered in moss and weeds and little fish. The only thing that was different, the thing that stopped me running was the streak of red blood dribbling from the corner of it’s eye.