Flotsam

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By Joshua Bekker
 
Nate inspected the acute angles that overwhelmed the petite fern leaf. Its design was so intricate, but yet so simple. The monumental goal nature achieved by creating this menial object, but still managing to make it unique, baffled him. As he crouched to the ground – getting closer to study the mesmerizing biological architecture of the leaf – he was caught off guard by what he speculated was something shining in the water. He looked up and saw nothing, so he passed it off as an encounter with a piece of glass or a broken CD. He continued indulging in his fascination with the leaf when the glinting of the mysterious object reappeared. Determined not to miss it this time, he quickly lifted up his head and saw a small rectangular box.

It was a pale blue colour, and was speckled with barnacles. He gently placed the fern leaf on the ground and strode over to the box. Upon further inspection, he noticed it was an undersea camera, decorated with tiny chrome sea horses and the occasional chrome fish. The camera was dotted with dents, cracks, and some splotchy algae patches. He quickly checked the lens on the front of the camera, and to his surprise it was undamaged. Nate’s stomach started to lurch with excitement as his mind raced about what surprises the camera film may include. He gave the camera one last inspection before placing it gently in his backpack and hauling his oceanic treasure to the nearest camera store.

Nate had never pondered the production of film reels and certainly never watched the process unfold before his eyes, but being an impatient eleven-year-old boy, even waiting five minutes was a struggle. He waited in line for what felt like an eternity until he heard the high pitched squawk from the lady at the desk saying, “Like oh my god, whoever is next in line, hurry up, I’ve got a nail appointment in twenty minutes.”
He ran up to the counter with a small smirk creeping across his face and placed his oversized backpack in front of him. Nate stuck his long dangly white arms into his slender backpack and pulled out the pale blue camera. The lady at the counter lost her smile and a slow confused expression began taking hold of her makeup caked face. She picked up the camera and shared the look with it until turning her back on him and walking to the back of the store. Nate shouted after her, ‘How long will it take before my pictures are developed?”

She shot back, “They’re done when I say they’re done.”

Not liking her response, Nate zipped up his backpack and stumbled outside. He looked around the store front trying to find a suitable place to sit down, preferably one that wasn’t covered in dust, dirt, or unidentified sticky spots. He glanced slowly from the left to the right searching for a place to sit until he finally found it. A little red bench perched by the camera storefront window. The thing barely looked used so Nate trotted over to the bench, dropped his backpack, and sat down.

The time seemed to pass so slowly that he thought it had completely stopped. Then, a miracle happened. A different girl then before stepped outside and called out to him saying, “Hey kid, your pictures are done….and umm, they’re pretty…. interesting to say the least.”

He jumped up and shouted, “Thank you, I’ll be right there.”

He grabbed his backpack, flung it over his shoulder, and ran with the speed of a thousand cheetahs inside to the front counter. The lady handed him the camera and the package of pictures. He kindly received them and then paid the bill of twenty-four dollars and eighteen cents. Nate’s heart was thumping with tremendous speed, beating like he was beginning to have a heart attack. He ran down streets, crossed through alleyways, sprinted past parking lots, until finally making it back to white sand beach where he had initially found the archaic camera. He shot past his parents who remarkably hadn’t even noticed he had left and exchanged in an exasperated look to each other after Nate’s bullet entry passing them. He ran down to the water’s edge, tossed his backpack off to the side, and plunked down in the cool sand, readying himself for the awesomeness that he was hoping to experience.
He opened up the long rectangular envelope that was almost bursting at the seams. Reaching his hand inside, and removing the fat stack of photos, he began to flip through them.

They were incredible.

The pictures were in the highest quality he had ever witnessed, colours and textures so vivid, he felt like he was actually at the scene depicted for him. Now he understood why the lady at the camera store was so baffled by the pictures, because they were exceptional.

The first picture was a school of giant red fish, nothing odd about that, but one of the fish was robotically inclined. Sections of its side and head were made up of gears and the intricate internal mechanics were visible from where the fins connected to the body. Nate’s eyes widened in astonishment, as he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He started flipping through and each picture would top that of the next. The following picture showcased what appeared to be a family of octopus enjoying a game of cards while all seated on some sunken furniture. There were two couches, two matching coffee tables that had glass tabletops and even three lamps that were on with the help of some electric eels. Nate placed his hand on his head running it slowly through his hair in utter shock. He couldn’t understand how any of this was even possible! He flipped to the next picture and it blew him away. At first it appeared to be some sea turtles taking a leisurely swim. But upon flipping to the next picture which was a close up shot, he realized that there was an entire city made out of shells resting on the turtle’s back. It was complete with roads, windowed shell buildings, even little creatures dotted the city scape.

At this point, Nate didn’t know what was real and what was fake. The pictures were something he had never seen before, and would certainly rewrite the history books. Each picture made him rethink what he had been told by his parents, teachers, even scientists on T.V. There were puffer fish being used as hot air balloons for small green fish. Giant starfish that had mini islands situated on their backs, even what looked like an ample theatre filled with red and orange crabs that all were holding up their claws clapping to the victory of a sea urchin who had beat up a small squid. But even to Nate’s amazement, there was one picture that beat the rest. It was so mind bending that he had to put it down, and take a few breaths.

The picture was of giant green sea anemones, but there were windows in each… lots of windows, and roads that intertwine through the oceanic landscape. There were glowing streetlights and cars…but not just any cars, they were squid. Purple-orange tinted squid. Riding on their backs were tiny green humanoid creatures with flowing tails instead of feet. They had green hair and blue eyes and donned the streets with small pet fish. Nate was beyond shocked. He couldn’t imagine how any of this was possible. He continued to flip through the pictures and was mesmerized.

One of the green creatures must’ve picked up the camera and was swimming down one of the streets, obliviously unaware that the camera was still taking pictures. As the critter swam, the following pictures became blurry so he skipped through a couple. Then there was a still picture and the creature had set the camera down on a ledge. The ledge overlooked a huge valley filled with sea anemone buildings, winding roads, sparkling street lights, squid vehicles, and more green fish tailed creatures. Nate couldn’t stop looking at the picture, the detail was so vivid, he was amazed.

Suddenly, in the corner of the picture, he thought he saw movement, but after looking more carefully, decided otherwise and was about to flip to the next picture, when he saw some more movement again. Far off in the background of the picture, a shark was swimming. It was moving, Nate held back the picture to see if his mind was planning tricks on him. It wasn’t, the shark was real and was coming closer and closer, becoming more visible and looked way too real. He was beginning to see more unusual movement in the picture when abruptly, water started to pour from the corners. In fear, Nate threw the picture on the sand and watched water start bubbling out like a broken fountain. The smell of salt water filled his nostrils as he stepped back, to his horror, he saw the sharks nose start emerging from the picture. The sounds of chomping echoed out over the beach as the shark’s body wiggled free.

Nate could feel sweat beads building up on his forehead as panic started to set in. He could hear people close to him screaming at the sight of the shark. He couldn’t believe what was happening to him. He thought for sure this was where he was going to die, on the beach, from a shark that escaped from a picture. Nate paused for a moment, the chaotic world around him became still. In that moment of stillness, he finally was able to accept what was happening, and it didn’t make sense. He recited all the events that occurred from looking at the leaf, to finding the camera and waiting for the pictures to develop, to viewing the pictures, and now finally coming face-to-face with a shark! Nate stretched out his arm as reality un paused, releasing the screams, smell of salt water, rumble of the ocean and sweat on his forehead. He moved his other hand over and pinched his arm briskly. The jolt of pain sped through his body sending tingles up his spine. He closed his eyes, reopening them to find he was still in his bedroom. The room was black and his alarm clock read 12:08pm. He sat up shocked at what just happened and looked around the quiet, dark room. There was no beach, camera or shark! Nate let out a sigh of relief, as he lay his head back down on his pillow, and fell asleep.

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