Viola, clad in her tight scuba mask and with the weight of her oxygen tank pulling her towards the water, leaned over the edge of her small boat, and fell through the soft, smooth surface of the bay. Viola adjusted her eyes to the pale sunlight streaking the sands and oriented herself as she did every day. A fish, a common Gray Spout, swished by her face, narrowly missing. That’s funny, she thought, Gray Spouts are usually predators, but this one seems to be running away from something.
Just as she finished her thought, Viola saw a streak of glittering orange fly by her eyes. She looked after it and saw a fish that looked to be made of solid gold, unlike anything she had seen during her life by the sea. Viola had come by plenty of goldfish in her day, but nothing quite so massive. The girl immediately kicked off from a bit of coral, rocketing after the fish. Because the creature was going at a breakneck pace, it was quite a challenge for Viola to catch up to it, and the Gray Spout was long gone by the time she did. Viola watched the golden beauty retire into a home in a rock and disappear from sight before she realized what was living around it. Beautiful glittering seaweed towered above her, as far as the eye could see. It shimmered like nothing the girl had ever seen, and continued on in every direction. It was like a forest bathed in bright, full sunlight, the same color as that fish. Daisy would love this, she thought, thinking of her sister lying in her bed, yearning for the waves they had so loved in their childhood.
Viola snapped out of her awe and cut a small piece of the plant to inspect later, tucking it into a pocket in her wetsuit for further examination. She swam up, finally surfaced, and saw her boat nearly a mile away. Viola began the long journey home.
* * *
Viola arrived home, hair damp and very exhausted as she did every day.
“Daisy, I’m home,” she shouted.
“I’m up here, right where I always am,” a soft voice called back.
Viola leapt up the stairs, the seaweed in hand. It had a lovely odor, not one of salt water, but one of warm sunny mornings, a breath of fresh air.
“Look what I found,” Viola exclaimed as she entered her sister’s room. Daisy lay in her bed, very weak and pale from having been sick for one year. Viola showed her the plant, and the girl’s face lit up.
“It’s incredible,” she gasped. “Where did you find it?”
“Out on the reef,” Viola explained, telling Daisy of her adventures.
“I wish I could go with you,” said Daisy. “I miss the days when we went diving together. But that plant, it smells fantastic! I wonder. . . Could you perhaps make a wonderful tea with it?”
Viola figured that it couldn’t hurt to try, and the seaweed seemed so magical. . . If there was anything that could help her sister heal, it was the mysterious plant. She boiled some water and steeped the plant in it, then gave it to Daisy. To Viola’s relief, her sister didn’t die, but nothing else happened either. She called Max and in the meantime she began to inspect the plant.
* * *
“Mornin’,” Max called as he stepped into the lab that Viola had made from the basement; he could always count on finding her there.
“Max, you’ll never guess what I found!” Viola exclaimed, stepping aside so he could look through the microscope the plant lay under.
“It’s beautiful,” he murmured as he peered through the glass.
“I found it out on the reef,” she explained.
Suddenly, she heard a shout from above.
Viola sprinted up to Daisy’s room where she stood, overwhelmed with joy, staring at her reflection in a small hand-mirror.
“Are you alright, Daisy?”
“Look at me,” she said, trembling. “I look like I did before. . .” Her voice trailed off.
“Before you were sick,” Viola finished, noticing for the first time that Daisy’s cheeks were rosier, her thin face and limbs were no longer thin. She felt happiness that she hadn’t felt since a year ago.
“Daisy, you’re not sick anymore!” she exclaimed, hugging her sister closely.
At a floorboard creak, Viola turned and saw Max, stunned.
“Imagine how much money you could make from this,” he said, but in a tone Viola had never heard from him before. He sounded as though he had a horrible idea.
Viola suddenly regretted telling Max of the seaweed, remembering what he had done a year ago, when Viola had discovered a new sort of fish. Max had taken it and sold it to a marine biology center, which named the fish after him. Max told her he needed the money to help his dad recover from a broken leg, but his expensive car and the fact that she had seen his father up and walking the next day said otherwise.
Before she went to bed, Viola took the seaweed and laid it in her bedside table, where no one could get to it.
Maybe I’m overreacting, she thought. Max had been a good friend to her when her parents left them, when she had studied to become a marine biologist and turned her basement into a lab, when her sister fell ill. He had apologized extensively for the mix-up and said he had gone back to try and change the name of the fish, but why then had it stayed the same?
* * *
Viola expected to sleep that night like she never had before, without worry over her sister or what was to come, but she was roughly awakened by a cacophony of crashes and bangs, then her sister’s scream. Viola jolted up, leapt out of bed, and dashed to her sister’s room. The girl tiptoed quietly up the stairs, listening to the sounds grow louder and louder. Viola heard another muffled shout, which drowned out a creak she had made from stepping down on one of the wooden steps. The girl heard a gruff voice speaking indistinctly when she reached her sister’s room. As noiselessly as she could, Viola opened the door. She saw a dark figure against the light of Daisy’s fish tank; whoever it was was ransacking drawers while holding Daisy in a headlock.
“Who are you?” Viola said, trying to sound unafraid even though her hands were shaking.
“Where is the plant?” the man shouted at her as Daisy looked up, and Viola realized with a pang of fear that the voice belonged to her best friend. Max.
“Don’t do this, Max,” Viola tried to reason.
“Tell me where the plant is,” he continued, as if Viola hadn’t said a thing.
“Why are you doing this, Max?”
“Imagine how much this thing would sell for. Think of it, a plant that cures all disease. We could be rich,” Max said, and Viola began to realize how obsessed he was. “We could be immune. Now just show me to the plant; don’t make me hurt someone you love.”
He pulled her sister even tighter.
“I will show you, but only if you promise to stay away from me and my sister,” Viola conceded, afraid for her sister, and hoping that she knew what she was doing.
They dressed in their scuba gear and in the dark, still night, a boat could be seen, very faintly, passing along the dark waters. The three dove into the bay, and in the harsh beam of the flashlight, Viola tried to find the coral she had pushed off from and the direction she had gone. The sisters held tightly onto each other, Daisy trusting Viola to save them both.
All of a sudden, a glow appeared, a golden one, the color of the fish Viola had seen and the seaweed she had taken. Viola swam towards it, and Max and Daisy followed. Soon, they were just in range of the glow, and they were stunned by what they saw. Hundreds of creatures swam in the golden lights, dancing beneath the illuminated seaweed that bent majestically with the waves. The light, they realized, came from the creatures, all of which were glowing gloriously. Viola and Daisy stared in awe, and Max tried to calculate the riches he would accumulate from the ecosystem.
Suddenly, from the corner of her eye, Viola saw something hit Max’s oxygen tank. She looked in his direction and saw that a small hole had appeared in the tank. Max gasped as he breathed in a mouthful of saltwater, and Viola saw an illuminated swordfish go by. It was what the creatures wanted, Viola realized. The fish that she had followed earlier that morning circled around her and Daisy then swam over to the other creatures, beckoning her.
Viola looked at Max, who was trying to remove his mask, then Daisy, who was looking, wide-eyed and longingly, at the creatures. She looked at the glowing light. It was so tempting. . . Simultaneously, the girls drifted toward the glow, leaving Max, who was desperate for air, then joined the dancing sea animals in the amazing glow. As they swirled around in the beings, Viola noticed her sister’s skin, bluish from the light of the ocean, slowly beginning to glow. She looked down and saw that her own hands were illuminating. Viola laughed and hugged her sister closely, and soon the magical marine life had become people, though not losing their shimmer. They were people the girls had never encountered and ones that had mysteriously disappeared from their town in the past. The sisters saw their parents in the distance, and soon Max appeared, smiling a normal, friendly smile.
* * *
Any lucky outsider who went diving in the early hours of dawn and happened to come by a festival of mystical golden creatures, would have seen two animals, a dolphin and a turtle, in the center of a glowing whirlwind. They would have smiled at the sight of the animals, like old friends, swirling around each other in euphoria, and then perhaps the outsider would take a small leaf of the golden seaweed beside them, and share its wonder with the world.