The little mermaid took the colorful dress from the large metal closet and the tiny notebook that she was keeping inside a huge shell. Both items were tightly wrapped with plastic membrane in order to be preserved dry in the bottom of the sea. With swift moves, she swam outside the cabin of the shipwreck and headed towards her favorite coral reef.
It was a while since she and her family had moved in this enormous spaceship that had sunk many years ago during its attempt to land on their small planet. The passengers, as her grandfather told her, were all rescued and they were able to send a SOS signal back to their mothership. After they explored the planet and made sure that there was nothing that they could exploit, they left. This was the only time foreigners had ever visited Orion, as the inhabitants called the planet.
Orion was a tiny planet with 90% of its surface being covered with water. The few islands were dispersed in its oceans, covered with dense vegetation while every here and there the adorable wooden settlements of the Orians were showing up among the trees. Orians are wonderful creatures, clever and kind. No Orian had ever committed a crime. Well, in fact they had no idea what a crime is. They lived in the nature, growing up and learning to love everything around them and appreciating every life form. However, the seas are inhabited by the mermaids and the fishmen. The two tribes, even though they were very different regarding their looks and their customs, coexisted in harmony for centuries.
They shared everything the earth and the sea had to offer and they had never been in conflict with each other. On the contrary, someone could say that they actually admired each other. Orians were always impressed when they would see the fishmen’s skills in swimming even in the roughest sea or when the mermaids would manage to communicate even with the most horrifying sea creatures. On the other hand, fishmen admired Orians for their knowledge on forests, animals and birds of the land and cultivation of earth. The mermaids were particularly astonished by the skillful orian climbers who could climb even the highest tree with slick moves. That’s how life was on Orion. Calm and peaceful.
Now, today was a big day for our little mermaid. Her father was waiting for her at the coral reef in order to go and meet The Wise. The Wise was an Orian who had traveled the whole universe and knew more than all the Orians combined. That’s what the stories said at least. He had left Orion when he befriended one member of the foreign crew that crashed with their spaceship on the planet. The mothership took him along and since then no one saw him for a long time. When he finally came back he had many stories to share about the worlds he discovered. It was such the knowledge he brought back with him that the inhabitants decided to take their children to The Wise on their twelfth birthday in order for him to teach them about the things that existed beyond Orion. The Wise was now very old and lived inside the large hollow of a huge tree. Orians were saying that he should have been dead by now but he carried on living thanks to his Music. The mermaid had no idea what the Music was. She knew what songs are since her mother often sang her to sleep. She also knew the sounds of the animals, the song of the birds and the whales, the sounds of the waves breaking on shore and the rustling of the leaves. The music of the sea and the earth. But everyone was saying that the Music of The Wise was different. He had brought it with him from his travels. The Music of The Wise is magica, said often the mermaid to her friends, it has to be magic if it keeps him alive for so long. I can’t wait to hear it. And this day was finally here. The mermaid soon saw her father waiting for her at the reef. Excited she swam towards him.
– Happy twelfth birthday, he wished to her and kissed her on the forehead. Ready? He asked.
– More than ready, she answered.
– Let’s go then, he said and together they swam to the shore.
They dragged their bodies on the sand and they both wore the clothes they had brought with them. His father wore a long white dress and she her own colorful one. She loved that dress. She wasn’t wearing it so often since she rarely went on shore but when she did everyone would tell her how it matched perfectly with her wonderful light blue hair. The girl was staring at her green tail and waited patiently for the scales to dry and her two legs to appear. The mermaids and the fishmen did not go along well with their legs. They were seldom using them and for that reason they were very weak. After a certain age they could not go on the land any longer since their legs would be useless by then. When the scales disappeared they both got up slowly, bumping on each other. Eventually her father found a branch and he was able to balance himself. He helped the little girl to stand on her feet as well and then they both followed the way to the tree of The Wise.
– Have you met The Wise too, daddy? asked the little mermaid while they were crossing the forest with the gigantic trees.
– I went together with your grandpa and talked to him the first days of his return to the Orion.
– And? How is he like?
– Hmm, her father thought for a while, I would say … wise, said provoking the laughter of them both.
– Why does he live inside the tree?
– He can’t go out anymore, he is very weak and that is the place he chose to stay until the end of his days. I remember he used to be very active when he was young. He also liked the sea a lot you know. He is probably the most skilled swimmer I’ve ever seen and not belonging to our tribe. Now he has become one with the tree, they say. Which is quite possible considering the flexible nature of the Orians’ body.
Orians were indeed quite flexible from nay points of view. The orian babies are all white when they are born. They have white skin, white hair and even the color of their eyes is white. They get their final color during the first year of their lives and it depends on their experiences and the emotions that were caused by them. So if you ever visit an orian village you will see people with red, blue, green, yellow skin and accordingly hair and eyes of every color. Orians are in reality an explosion of colors. And taking into account that each one of us experiences things in a different way, no Orian has the same colors with another one. Each one is unique. You can see countless shades of color on Orians, colors you could never imagine that exist. Apart from this, Orians had another special flexibility. They are born with undetermined sex. They are neither girls nor boys, they are just … Orians. The determination of the sex, in contrast to their color, may happen quite late and it depends solely on each individual. They have been cases the sex was already determined in the first days right after the birth and cases when the sex was determined at a quite old age. Yet whenever it happened, Orians celebrated the event with a big feast. And then everybody was happy.
After plenty of walking, father and daughter reached the huge tree. An Orian with coral skin, black hair and grey eyes was sitting at the entrance of the hollow. As soon as he saw them, he got up and addressed them.
– Are you here for The Wise?
– The girl turns twelve today.
– Very well. She can pass. You will have to wait here with me, you know the procedure. The Wise is too old and weak to accept more than one person at a time.
– Of course, I am aware of it, answered the father and then he turned to his daughter. And ask whatever you wish, now is your chance. And don’t forget to take notes about anything you would like to remember afterwards, he advised her and tapped her small notebook with his finger.
– Yes dad, said the girl and hold the notebook close to her, in her tiny hands.
She entered the tree hollow with hesitating steps. In the beginning it was dark but soon she was able to see a light. She walked deeper and deeper inside and the light kept getting stronger. Along with the light, a weird sound could be heard louder and louder. Eventually the mermaid stood in an open space that was lightened by a small window at the back of the trunk. The strange sound could be heard perfectly clear now. In the middle of the room there was a thick bed carved on the wood of the tree. On the bed laid The Wise. He had truly become one with the tree. His skin was covered by the tree’s bark and was full of knobs, his hair looked like mosses, his long beard resembled ivy and his eyes were deep green. He turned around and stared at the girl and his neck creaked like an old oak in the winter wind.
– Hello young lady, he said to the mermaid. Don’t be afraid, come closer.
– I am not afraid, said the girl and stood next to The Wise.
The girl then realized where the strange sound was coming from. Beside The Wise there was a bizarre construction consisted of a large rotating black disk, a needle scratching it and a big funnel coming up right above it. The sound was coming from the funnel. She looked at it curiously.
– This is a gramophone, The Wise explained to her. And what you hear is music.
– Ah! Said the girl surprised. The Music!
The Wise laughed.
– How does it sound? Do you like it?
The girl concentrated to the melody for a while. Even though in the start it sounded bizarre to her, just like the gramophone, she realized soon that the Music was astonishingly beautiful. She had never heard anything like that in her life and she felt amazingly calm and peaceful. She wanted to close her eyes and hear nothing else but the Music. She felt enchanted.
– I knew it that Music is magical, said the girl enthusiastically.
– Ha ha, yes it is magical. Music has incredible power, my little lady. This one right here is classical music. You know, a human once said that life without music would be a mistake.
– What is a human? asked the girl filled with curiosity and opened her notebook at the same time.
– A human is an inhabitant of Earth, a planet very similar to ours but much bigger.
– There is sea also there?
– Of course. Water is a basic component of life. If water was not there, humans would not be either.
The girl took note of that.
– Are there mermaids too?
-No. Unfortunately there are no mermaids on Earth. So you are a mermaid. I love the sea you know.
– Yes, I do know, said impatiently the girl. You were once an excellent swimmer, when you were young.
– Yes, I was. I miss the sea a lot. Most of all I enjoyed diving into the deep blue waters, it is magical under the surface. Almost like Music, said and smiled. You should know that you are very lucky living in the bottom of the sea. For us, people of the land, it is like entering another world. Endless blue is all around you and you can go wherever you wish, towards whichever direction you desire, it is almost like flying. And it is so quiet down there.
– Yes, we have no Music down there, complained the mermaid.
– But you can come whenever you like and listen to the Music here.
– Really? she asked excited. Do you promise, mister Wise?
– I do. Well, you can now ask me whatever you wish, he encouraged her. Anything you ever wanted to learn more about. Anything. Go!
(To be continued…)