It seems only right that certain people - and certain creatures - should have an affinity to different environments, different scenarios. It's where we get those terms - like a bird to the air. Like a fish to...
From a young age, Jessica showed a real desire to play in the water. She wanted to dance in the sea, prance in the ocean... and it was a desire that sat well with her parents. Thusly, it seemed only right then, that a simple trip to the swimming pool should help prepare her for the future. So one day, they could move back home - as a family.
"It'll be okay!" her mother had promised, "You'll love it!"
The pudgy little shark girl did have to admit, she was excited. Nervous, scared, yes... but excited. It was her father who'd first suggested the idea. A tall, dark, slender man, he seemed cut for the ocean - as if he could slice through it's very waves without so much as a care in the world. He'd come to the land for more work opportunities, though his long departure from the sea only seemed to cause him to crave it further. The house was filled with images of crashing waves, a shelf filled with casettes of people and animals swimming and dodging gracefully thought great depths. Jessica had watched them over and over, end to end. Sometimes she'd wait for one to finish, only to stumble over and rewind it all the way to the start - just to slump down and watch them all over again. She was enamoured by them, often begging her parents for tales of the deep blue.
As her mother now helped her into her first little bathing suit, she repeated back one of those tales. Jessica could only look up in awe, smiling away. Her mother was a rare beauty - a model often deemed 'exotic' by the magazines through pure virtue of her journey from the far beneath. Whilst Jessica's father was made to journey the waves, her mother was made to be as water, a flowing form with an almost radiant presence. Jessica hoped one day to be just like her. Sure, right now she was a tiny thing, characterised by scraggly hair and a little pot belly... but she knew one day she'd grow to be a beautiful princess, with a big fancy dress which would float up around her in the ocean and twirl and spin with her every move! Of course, the Leisure Centre was a far cry from the ocean... but we all have to start somewhere! Walking her by the hand, her mother gave her a comforting, warm smile, before leading her out to the poolside and into the care of the instructors.
Taken to the shallow end of the pool, the first thing she could notice was just how... fluffy everyone was. All the other children paddling around certainly seemed to share her height, her age... but they all looked so... grounded? A squirrel here, a cat there, even some form of mongoose - all playing around and splashing about with each other. Still, she payed it no mind - the water was beautiful, and it made sense that any and all would come to share so joyously in it. Gently, she moved one foot forward to dip it in the water...
A hand came to rest on Jessica's shoulder. "Here, 'Jessica' was it?" the shark looked up to see a cheetah standing over her, "You want to be with the other group." Gently, he guided her over, further towards the deeper end of the pool. There stood the advanced class - filled with young teens all standing a head or more taller than her. Confused, she glanced over to her mother, who just returned a nod and an encouraging smile. Jessica was a shark, and sharks could swim, everyone knew that! Whilst admittedly she'd not had the opportunity to do so in the past, it was felt that her natural affinity for the water would see her far surpassing even the eldest members of her group. It was just about getting her in there, and getting her to do it! Even if she did struggle at first, well... she'd be in no danger from it would she?
They would start off easy enough, first of all simply getting into the water. The other members of the group made their way in with a level of variety. Some of them simply hopped in and let themselves float back up to the right level. Others clambered their way down along the wall, sliding into position. One particularly nervous-looking youth even clambered down the rungs of a nearby set of steps, having to swim around to join the rest of the group. Until all that was left... was Jessica. "Come on sweetie, your turn," the cheetah spoke, an air of encouragement to his voice. The chubby girl put one foot forward, dipping it into the water... only to snap it back quickly. She never considered just how cold it would be... She was expecting it all to feel more... warm, inviting. This was nothing like the baths she'd taken at home, warm and comfortable, surrounded by bubbles and little toy ducks. It was just a smooth sheet of cold at her feet leading down, and down. With a quite literal display of cold feet, Jessica looked once again to her beacon of comfort, hoping maybe they could try this again another day. And in response, there came once more that hopeful smile, and the mouthing of two words that melted all her worry away; 'Go on.' Nodding, the young girl took a deep breath - and sat on the edge of the pool, both legs dangling into the water. It was cold, yes but... but it wasn't so bad! Slowly, gently, she slid her way into the pool, until it was all the way up to her shoulders. Clinging to the side and glancing around, she took a second to take it all in. She was there. She was in the water, and her mum looked so proud, and dad would be too whe he was told, and she was in the water! Looking down at the pool now inches from her nose, a huge smile enveloped her face. She did it!
Jessica's chance to bask in the moment was soon snatched away as the cheetah's voice raised up; "Alright, just a small warm-up before we begin today," they spoke, whiskers twitching slightly as they glanced between their pupils, "Just a quick swim to the opposite side of the pool and back again - whatever your preferred stroke. Off you go!" Before she'd any time to react, a torrent of water splashed around her as the young teens launched themselves from the wall. Without hesitation Jessica got herself ready - aaand turned around to give her mother another worried expression. Raising a slight eyebrow, the beautiful woman gave a somewhat bemused smirk in response. Tilting her head to one side, she gestured the young girl to follow - she was gonna have to take this step by herself. Taking a deep breath, the pup turned to glance to the other side of the pool, where some of her classmates were already preparing to make their return journey. She gave a few nods to herself, getting ready for her first ever swim... and kicked off the wall.
Okay, so, things weren't going QUITE as gracefully as she'd imagined. Her early motions in the water seemed to largely consist of staying stationary and floundering, making a lot of noise as she splashed up the water around her. Still, she soon discovered that if she angled her body and floundered in just the right way... well, she'd start floundering towards the other side! It was awkward, slow progress, like some form of half-baked doggy paddle. Still, given time, she made it the whole way across, touching down on the wall to the other side! A glance over showed Jessica's mum on her feet, clapping and grinning excitedly, offering an encouraging thumbs up, before a slight nod to the side to further motivate her to make the return journey. Kicking off again, her lack of speed became rather apparent as she looked to the other side of the pool. Where she had once started this small journey from, the others had already returned to, setting off on the next exercise the cheetah had designated them. He seemed to've not quite registered how far she was lagging behind, incapable of keeping track of one small student among the many he was teaching. As she made her way over, the teenagers were one-by-one ducking beneath the water - popping up behind her as they each reached the side she'd only just kicked off of. Still, this only urged her to push on, reaching the side from where she'd begun the first exercise... only for the instructor to no longer be there. Having journeyed around the pool, he was already issuing instructions to the overwhelming majority of the group who'd already managed to complete their second exercise. At a loss for what to do, she offered one more glance to her mother. She wasn't looking.
In all her vibrancy, she seemed to have attracted the attention of some of the other parents present. Chatting away, she had not yet registered the deperate look for guidance that Jessica had fixed upon her. Across the pool, the teens were beginning on their next task. She was lagging behind, and she knew it. Glancing between her distracted mother and her busy instructor, she came to a conclusion. She COULDN'T fall behind the rest of the group. She was a shark and... and she was going to make mummy and daddy proud! With a determined look, she took a deep breath - and plunged beneath the water! Sound became distorted. The chatter and trickling of water through drains above became a deep layered sound - as if the noise had been taken and transformed in some reflected dimension of a funhouse mirror. Everything became both quiet and loud at once as the world changed. Colour had become not as it once was. It was all, tinted, off. Incredibly familiar but strikingly alien. The young shark could only marvel at it as shimmering light danced across her arms. A delighted grin spread across her face as she breathed in the water around her. She was finally doing it! She just had to swim down to the bottom of the pool, tap the floor tiles, and resurface at the other side! Making her way down, she felt as light as air. Whilst on the surface she'd grown self-concious of her weight, down here she was weightless. Her grin widening, she experimented a little, attempting to swirl around as she neared the bottom! Aaaand then she smacked her face on the tiles. That wasn't NEARLY as graceful as she'd imagined. Rubbing her snout, she gave a little sniffle. That had hurt, and now she didn't feel like a pretty princess AT ALL. Still, she'd touched the bottom of the pool, now she just had to make it back to the top! Facing upwards, she stretched out, drew her arms back... and remained still. That wasn't right. Moving her legs around now, she tried her best to propel herself upwards, only to make no progress. Desperately, she made to move towards the steps, only to force her feet off the ground, twirling in the water before touching down again. She was... she was stuck. She didn't know HOW to swim, and now she was down here and noone had watched her go down and she was stuck! Desperately, she waved her arms around, flailing to try and make progress but to no avail. She called out for help, only for the water to eat her words away from surface ears. This wasn't right, this wasn't right at all! She was a shark, the water was meant to come naturally to her! She was going to be a beautiful maid of the ocean, and she... and she...
Sitting down at the bottom of the pool, she began to sob. The water stole the tears from her eyes, leaving her to wallow without crying. Around her, the alien blue of the water became less beautiful and more like a stranger, holding her down and trapping her. The world above was no longer existent. Instead headless bodies moved across a twisting ceiling, their owners paying no mind to what sat below them. Seconds ticked away like hours. Had they forgotten her? She'd never been here before, what if they didn't even remember she'd been there? Had mummy even noticed, or was she so caught up with conversation that her daughter's dive had gone completely unnoticed? Even if the lifeguard saw her - would they bother to come for her? From there perspective, she must just be a little shark girl playing beneath the waters, what possible trouble could she be in? If they dived down to get her, they'd be putting themselves in danger - from their perspective, they must've been at greater risk than her! Placing her face into her hands, she begun to shake. The water that had made her feel so light now felt like a great weight on her back, pinning her down here. Each breath of water was like a foreign ooze invading her body, punishing her from the inside for being so... so worthless. So useless. She hated it, she hated the water, she didn't want to be here, she-
A sudden heavy splash from the end of the pool announced the rapidly approaching presence of another in these blue depths. Spinning around, her eyes wide with fear, her face reoriented itself just in time to catch sight of the figure before she was swept into it's arms. Down here, her dress flowing out of control as the water stole the jewellery from her body, Jessica's mother was an almost incandescent beauty. She radiated warmth, comfort, love - everything to this poor lost little girl. Smiling gently, she traced a finger down Jessica's reddened puffy cheeks. "Shhh..." her voice rang elegant and soft even through the heavy waters, "I'm here now. There's nothing to be afraid of." The young shark didn't say a word, simply clinging to the safety her mother so gently represented. Glancing around, the elder shark took a moment to take in the beauty of small landscape around her. Lights danced across the floor, shaped into moving patterns by the liquid's unsteady surface. The soothing blue called out to her, and her body called back, feeling weightless in it's comforting embrace. It had felt so long since she had been one with such waters, too long. Looking down to her daughter with those beautiful eyes, she just wanted to share this moment with her. Let her experience a world so different to the one she'd known, feel the joy and magnificence of floating freely away, not controlled by the confines of the earth. Kicking off the ground, she looked ahead as they spiralled with ease through the waters. Coming to a wall, she twirled away, gracefully flicking her tail up to cause a wave across the surface. Mixing in with the motion, she allowed the current to carry them, before plunging back down, weaving backwards and around to feel the liquid rush past and around her. Caressed by the momentum, her hair and dress kicked up briefly, before elegantly and slowly settling down around her form. With a big smile, she looked back down to the young girl. She was ready to see the face of her little princess, filled with the wonder and enthrallment that had bought them here this day. Instead, that face was buried deep into her side, only the girl's mess of hair visible as those shoulders jerked up and down in choked sobs.
Her heart sank. Her body rose. That moment of exhilirated motion left in depths as mother and daughter arrived in the still stale air above. Flustered apologies perforated the otherwise silent poolside, warranting response and yet recieving only an empty nothingness. The car ride home echoed the hollow feeling. Whispered words of warmth and comfort had overlayed the cries and shudders of the changing room, but even drying the young girl off seemed only to serve as a revelation for the tears streaming down her face. Jessica had wanted to leave so badly... her mother only wanted to go back. The grumble of the engine was the only sound left now to drown out the ever-quieting sniffles - until the mechanical melancholy was all that was left to fill the ears.
"...Mum?" the young girl spoke up, her voice hoarse and broken, "Are we going home...?" Jessica's mother was left to think of their house. A confined space designed only to provide closer confines within. Where motion was limited by the up and down of the stairs. Where the crashing of waves was flattened to the motionless images on the wall. Where the rawest of power was in the sound of the vaccuum and the motion of the doors. Were they going home? "Mummy...?" Jessica spoke up again, a growing concern in her voice.
"It'll be okay," her mother promised, "Everything will be okay..."