A Lesson writ in Water

Corey Danaris; If one were to describe him, one would say he was a person that didnít accept simple answers. If someone told him not to do something, he would always want to know why he shouldnít do it. He always inquired as to how machines worked; it wasnít sufficient to tell him that it worked and to leave it at that. He wondered about many things in life and that curious attitude tended to get him into trouble on more then one occasion.

Should one desire a description a flaw of Coreyís family, they would find out that said family had a bad habit of not explaining things. Coreyís parents resisted telling Corey about the why of everything simply because it was too tiring for them to do so. They had a bad habit of directing Corey to his older brother William. Sometimes the lad would provide his younger brother the explanations he so desired; other times, he would make up a story. However, as Corey grew, those stories didnít satiate him on the level that they did when he was a kid.

When Corey decided to satisfy his curiosity, he always brought a friend along with him. While curious, Corey was not a fool. Should he hurt himself or otherwise end up in trouble, he wanted someone there to help him out of said misfortune. As long as Corey had a friend (or family member) with him, he always felt they were a sort of safety net, that should anything happen, heíd be just fine. To put it simply, if Corey knew he had a safety net of some sort or another, he was a risk taker; when he didnít have a net, he tended to remain on the side of caution.

One hot July day when Corey was seventeen and William was twenty-four, they were going for a walk in a forested area a twenty minute walk from Williamís house. Corey was off for the summer and William had the day off from work.

Since William had moved out, he and Corey hadnít of had a lot of time to spend with each other. Corey was grateful for the time he had to spend with his brother.

Coreyís parents had been badgering him to get a summer job, something that Corey was reluctant to do.

"Hey Will, I have a question," Corey said as they walked along the trail leading through the woods.

William resisted rolling his eyes. "What is it?"

"How come Mom and Dad always tell us not to swim in the falls along this trail? Is the water toxic, deep, or something? Are their sharks or some other predators in it that will try to eat us? How can a shark live in that water, isnít it too cold?"

William honestly didnít know the answer to that question. When he was a child, his parents had told him the same thing. He remembered imaging there were monsters in that lake. As he grew older and stopped believing in what he saw as fables, he wasnít sure what was wrong with the water. He knew that sharks or other predators couldnít live in it. If it wasnít contamination then William honestly had no ideas.

"I wish I could tell you but I honestly donít know."

"Come on, you just donít want to take the time to tell me. Did something happen there and they donít want to risk it happening to anyone else?"

"Seriously man, I donít know. Iíve overlooked those falls before and I never saw anything wrong with them," William said.

"Then why not go for a swim there? We can show Mom and Dad the water is perfectly safe," Corey said.

"I dunno; there must be a reason theyíd tell us not to do it. I mean, why would they lie?"

Corey shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe they buried treasure or something down there that they stole as kids and donít want us to find it."

"Come on Corey, thatís crazy," William said.

"Yeah well, not knowing sucks," Corey said.

William had a feeling of what his brother was proposing. When the youth took off to an almost run ahead of him, William had no choice but to give chase. The pursuit lasted fifteen minutes and William was running out of breath as they reached the wooden bridge that crossed over the river that the falls flowed into.

Corey was standing halfway across the bridge, looking at the falls. William felt the familiar spray of the mist from them.

"Itís just a couple of waterfalls, whatís the big deal? It looks and smells clean! Why would they keep telling us to stay out of that water? Theyíll always change the subject if I ask, itís maddening!" Corey said.

"I wish I knew but why risk hurting yourself?" William asked.

Corey turned to face William. "Oh come on, what can happen?"

William just rolled his eyes. "Famous last words."

"Maybe but I can swim and the water is clean. Look, if something starts going wrong, Iíll get out of the water okay?"

"I Ö I guess," William answered.

Before William could say or do anything more, Corey had removed his shirt, socks, shoes and shorts and placed them on the bridge. William watched Corey make his way down the incline leading to the lake at the base of the falls. Williamís heart pounded and he felt the urge to run and tackle Corey to prevent him from going into the water. Something however held him back. William held his breath as Corey reached the water, waved at William and dipped his left foot into the water.

William gasped a sigh of relief and resumed breathing when nothing seemed to happen to Corey.

"See, itís just fine," Corey said.

"I guess itís okay. Okay, you can walk back now."

Corey just laughed and waved his hand at William. The young man felt his stomach contract as Corey walked into the water. Much to William's relief, nothing grabbed Corey or pulled him under and the lad didnít grow ill. Corey in fact, seemed to be enjoying himself.

After twenty minutes, William relaxed enough that he was able to walk down the incline himself. Standing just in front of the water, William looked up at the falls; they were even more beautiful from this angle. The area around them was majestic; like a small piece of paradise right in their area. He wished heíd brought a camera.

Corey swam over and walked up waist deep in the water in front of William. His brown hair was soaked and a mess; it made William glad he had a buzz cut.

"See, itís fine, nothing has happened to me," Corey announced.

"I guess not. But if youíre perfectly fine then why would Mom and Dad warn both of us?" William asked.

"Meh, you know parents," Corey said, waving his arm as if to dismiss the warnings.

William looked out into the water and considered wading into it. Something caught his eye when it glimmered for a few seconds between the two waterfalls. "Whatís that?"

Corey turned his head. "What?"

"Between the two falls, I thought I saw something," William said. Smiling, he shook his head. "Donít worry about it; it was probably just my imagination."

The object shimmered again, William knew that Corey had seen it this time.

"Wait, I see it now. I wonder what it is," Corey said.

"Corey, donít, it could be something dangerous!" William warned.

Corey shook his head and smirked. "Relax."

William watched Corey swim under the water, resurfacing shortly thereafter just ahead of where the shimmering object was. Corey appeared to study it for a few seconds, rubbing his hands over it and shrugging his shoulders. He swam back under the water, again resurfacing just in front of William.

"It was a stone or something. It looked like there was writing on it but I couldnít read it. There was a picture on it below the writing, looked like a seal or something," Corey said.

"Could be a memorial to a pet that loved to swim here or maybe there was a colony of them here a long time ago, who knows," William said.

"Hmmm, thatís weird," Corey said.

"What?" William asked, his tone almost urgent. He feared that this stone was what their parents had warned them about and Corey was about to fall ill from touching it. Since William was the one to point it out, he would see such an occurrence as his fault.

"I just remembered a couple of swimming lessons. I think I took them. This is weird."

"Corey, maybe you should get out of the water; maybe itís making you hallucinate or something," William said.

Shaking his head, Corey just smiled. "You worry too much Will, I feel fine. In fact, I feel great!"

William could only watch as Corey re-submerged and stayed under longer then heíd ever seen his younger brother do. His eyes going wide, William considered running into the water in case Corey was in trouble. He had his black tee shirt off when Corey surfaced and smiled. William could have sworn that Coreyís skin looked tanned and that his hair was shorter. It must be my imagination.

"Coming in bro? The waterís great!" Corey said.

"Dammit Corey, you scared me, I thought you were drowning or something!"

"Sorry for scaring you bro but this is too much fun!" Corey said.

William stood there baffled. Corey was a half-decent swimmer but he was normally never this casual. William sat down on a rock to his left just watching his brother almost jump out of the water as he swam back and both, seemingly lost in the sheer joy of it.

After twenty minutes of it, Corey finally walked onto the shore beaming. Williamís eyes went wide when he looked at his brother. Almost all of his hair was gone (in fact, he was down to a buzz cut level of hair!), his skin was well tanned and his pupils were dilated. The youth hadnít of been drinking (unless it was the water, but William doubted there was anything intoxicating about the water itself) but even if he had, that wouldnít have explained his skin or hair.

"Corey," William started, his voice trembling. "Are yÖyou all right?"

Walking up to William, Corey beamed, allowing William to see that the ladís teeth seemed sharper. "Iím better then all right, I feel wonderful! Man, I want to go back onto the water!"

William grabbed Coreyís right arm before he was able to go any further. Williamís eyes went wide when he felt that the skin on his brotherís arm felt almost rubbery. "Corey, listen to me, somethingís wrong with you. We need to get you to a doctor or Ö something."

"What are you talking about? How can something be wrong with me when I feel so wonderful!" Corey said.

"Look at your skin, feel your hair!" William said as he let go of Coreyís arm.

Corey did just that, running his right hand over his head. William saw momentary shock in his brotherís eyes before Corey gasped as William watched Corey feel his near total lack of hair. "Thatís not right." His expression was only serious for a few moments before changing back into a smile. "But who cares, I canít be sick, I feel too great to be sick!"

William was unable to react before Corey ran back into the water. William considered pursuit and had his shoes and socks off when Corey again surfaced. This time, his skin was much darker and his head and body hair was gone. Even his skull appeared different with his ears smaller and his nose and mouth taking on an almost muzzle like shape. When Corey waved his right hand at William, he saw that Corey not only had webbing developed between his fingers, they had also increased in length!

"Corey, get out of there!" William yelled.

The youth ignored his brother as he dove under and swam back towards the falls. William gasped when he saw Coreyís boxers float up to the surface of the water, although the lad being naked was the least of Williamís concerns.

Heís going to be fine, this is just a dream or a hallucination, yes thatís what it is.

William was down to his shorts when Corey (or what William thought was Corey) surfaced. His brotherís face was barley recognizable. His eyes were totally black and his skull had the shape of a seal lion. Although everything below his chest down was underwater, William could tell from the dark, smooth, rubbery skin and tapered torso that his brother was possessed that the changes extended well beyond there.

"Corey?" William asked.

"Come on in, this is incredible!" Corey said. He waved his right arm, or more so, what was left of it. His hand appeared as a flipper and his arm was now very sort. His voice was lighter and excited sounding.

"Please Corey, stop this!" William yelled.

Unfortunately, Williamís cries were in vain was Corey dove under.

"For the love ofÖ"

William couldnít help but gasp when he saw that Coreyís legs werenít legs anymore but now part of the long torso of the animal his brother was becoming. William knew he had to stop Corey. However, when Corey resurfaced for the final time and swam towards the shore, William knew it was too late.

Corey was undistinguishable from a natural born sea lion. When he barked as his brother, William almost fainted.

"Now do you see why they told us not to swim in there?"

Corey looked right at William; the later expected the former to panic over what had transpired. Instead however, he barked an almost joyous bark and clapped his flippers together.

"Wait a minute, you actually like this? Corey; youíre a sea lion and you think this is perfectly all right?" William asked.

Corey nodded his head and made his way back into the water.

Great, so now what do I do?

It was then that William remembered he had his cellphone with him. He had little choice but to call home and tell his parents. That was a call he wasnít looking forward to.

He watched Corey swimming through the water, jumping out of it and flipping in the air. His brother seemed so content to be doing such a simple thing. William wondered if there was a way to reverse this and what would happen next. Certainly, Corey couldnít just go home like this!

With a sigh, he retrieved the telephone from his pocket and dialed home.

* * *

Twenty-five minutes later, Corey and Williamís parents stood on the shore before the lake. William had since put everything back on. Corey was back on the shore, looking up at his parents from very different perspective. He saw the concern on their faces and honestly didnít understand it. He wasnít in pain, he still remembered who he was and seemed to have retained his intelligence. The only problem he seemed to have was that he couldnít speak.

The look on Coreyís parentís faces was more disappointment then surprise. Theyíd give the same look if he took a cookie from the cookie jar after them saying not to. This of course was something they couldnít just send him to his room for.

His parents shook their heads after looking him over. Heíd seen them do this when he said he didnít need to study for a test, and ended up doing poorly. It was as though they were telling him Ďwe told you soí.

Corey on the other hand just wanted to go back into the water. Technically, he was skinny-dipping and he loved that he could get away with it. He felt no embarrassment at all over his family seeing him like this. As a human, heíd be mortified if his parents saw him naked. Now however, he didnít feel exposed at all.

While he still knew what clothes were, they didnít feel like something heíd ever want or need to wear. Without that, the part of Coreyís mind with his idea of modesty was silent.

"This is why we told you two not to swim here!" their father said.

The young man couldnít understand why his parents were so upset. Sure, he was a sea lion but it felt wonderful. Corey saw endless possibilities of not only what he could do and experience in this form but what he could get away with. While perhaps this form would limit him in terms of human things, for some reason, Corey found that he wasnít as interested in human activities any more. Swimming was so wonderful that he couldnít imagine being as happy doing something else. While he didnít mind that he couldnít go to school like this, not being able to play video games should have bothered him. Corey wasnít sure why it didnít.

"Why didnít you tell us this would happen?" William asked.

Their mother petted Corey on the head. "Knowing you, you would have tried it anyway just to see what it felt like."

Well, duh, this is me weíre talking about!

Corey nodded his head. He was a curious person after all, someone that wanted to know about everything.

This feels great but I canít play games and do other human stuff. Why doesnít that bother me?

"Why didnít you just say the water was toxic or something?" William asked.

Corey barked and nodded. He was curious, but even he wasnít crazy enough to go messing around with something that could make him sick or even kill him!

"You know your brother; he would have asked why itís toxic and how it happened. Sure, we could have made up a story about that but as he grew older, heíd figure out it was a lie and try to get to the bottom of it," their mother said.

Okay, theyíre probably right but still, why not tell me the truth?

"So, what happens now? Where in the house will you keep a sea lion? What will you feed him? Youíre not going to just release Corey into the wild are you?" William asked.

"No, weíd never do that to him!" their mother protested.

William seemed to think for a second. "How did you know it would do this anyway?"

Yeah, how did you know?

"Itís happened before," their father answered.

"To whom?" William asked.

Corey looked at his father, wanting to know exactly whom else this had happened to and what became of them. What had happened to him had done little to effect his curiosity. This was an interesting form but he didnít want to spend the rest of his life like this! Now that the initial euphoria over this unexpected course of events was fading, spending the rest of his life as a sea lion was sounding frighteningly possible.

Without realizing it, Corey was barking, his voice echoing through the woods. His mother held him as though she were holding a frightened child. Corey took comfort knowing no one would realize this was he and not some lost animal.

"Itís all right Corey, youíre not like this forever. Just let me explain."

Corey calmed down and looked at his mother after she released the hug.

"This happened to me when I was your age," their mother said. Corey barked and William stared at his mother with his eyes wide. "I swam here just like you did and touched that rock. I changed quickly and it felt Ö great."

"But youíre human now!" William said.

"I was with some friends at the time. They managed to get help. While we kept it quiet, we were able to find somewhere for me to um Ö live until it wore off. You know the marine park just outside of town?"

Corey and William nodded. Corey realized that this park, which had now expanded considerably, could very well become his new home. He wasnít sure how to react to that; the idea of living among natural members of his apparent new species was a little frightening to him, while at the same time, intriguing.

"They were able to give me a place to live. After what they told me was a month, I changed back. Well Corey, if you were looking for a summer job, it seems you might have one. They have that sea lion show there and Iím sure that once we explain everything to them that theyíd be happy to Ö employ you for a month or so."

Wait, so I can actually be one of those seals they have at those shows? That is so cool. I remember going to those shows as a kid and always wondering what it was like for them. Iíll probably make a ton of money too!

"Iím surprised you guys arenít more freaked out my this. You too Corey," William said.

"I had a feeling something like this would happen sooner or later. Anyway, we know heíll eventually change back. At least now, you two know the truth. In a way, itís a relief that we donít have to worry about hiding the truth from you two anymore," their father said.

So, whereís this sea lion thing? I want to show them all the cool stuff I can do!

"Oh yes Corey, donít worry if you feel a little different mentally. Some changes are normal. Once youíre human again, youíll be back to normal," their mother said.

Corey nodded.

"What do you mean by changes?" William asked.

"Corey probably doesnít feel naked. As well, itíll be hard to him to get interested in doing things a human can do but a sea lion cannot. Heíll also find he has a craving for fish rather then his normal favorites."

Corey nodded to indicate that this was true.

"Donít worry Corey, itíll wear off once you change back. Letís just keep this quiet okay?" their mother asked.

"Well, weíd better make some calls. William, may I borrow your cellphone?" their father asked.

* * *

A week later, Corey found himself standing (for lack of a better term) before a curtain that led to the stage. The last week had been an utterly bizarre yet also fascinating experience. Theyíd fed him raw fish, which didnít bother him at all. In fact, heíd loved it!

Being unable to speak, while frustrating, was also fun in strange sort of way. The people at the park seemed to understand his situation and had given him a week to grow used to his new form. Corey himself had wanted to experience performing at the show; he wasnít willing to wait, especially knowing this form would last just a month.

At least now, I donít have to worry about watching my grammar or about what I say. No one expects an animal to have manors.

Corey heard the crowd gathering outside. Heíd never preformed in anything except for a walk-on role in a school play back when he was in the third grade. Now, he stood there with two others of his kind. These two, both female (much to Coreyís short-lived embarrassment which turned to amusement) were named bubbles and violet.

He felt little stage fright. Perhaps it was his curiosity in wondering how it felt to actually be one of the creatures in these shows, he wasnít sure.

When the announcer announced the show was ready to begin, the curtain parted and Corey and the other others walked out onto the stage, coming to a rest on pedestals with their names engraved on the front.

Corey saw the large crowd that had gathered and felt wonderful. All he had to do was a few simple things and these people would be enthralled.

He suffered perhaps a slight stage fright. The age-old advice of picturing everyone in the audience naked (or in their underwear) didnít seem to help him. Experiencing existing in a form that didn't need or want clothing had Corey wishing the humans could live without it. Thus, imaging them in what to him was now a more comfortable situation would not help him.

One look at the audience told him there were many attractive young ladies (some with what he gathered were younger siblings) watching him. Corey didnít mind them seeing him at all. Heíd have chuckled if he werenít worried theyíd somehow be onto him.

"Let me introduce our newest guest who will be performing here for the next month; Corey!"

The young man turned young sea lion had been so preoccupied with his thoughts that he hadnít of paid attention to the man running the show. Now, all eyes were in Corey and everyone was clapping.

He hadnít of done anything yet; he was just there and they already loved him. Sure as a human, there were handshakes and standard greetings. However, Corey knew the second he opened his mouth that people were already judging him. Now, they were happy that he was just there. He was someone new in their and that was enough.

Perhaps it was an automatic reaction (whether by instinct or just by his having seen other members of his new species doing it). Corey clapped his flippers and smiled (as best as one could with a muzzle). He knew what they wanted to see and giving them what they wanted felt great.

They love me, they really love me!

Soon, Corey and his two companions were on the stage in a semi circle playing a game of catch with a beach ball.

The admiration felt wonderful. Corey realized that the next few weeks would probably be relaxing and fun. Heíd never have to worry about cleaning up his room, he could swim all he wanted, have free food and two cute females to swim with.

Corey had a feeling this was going to be the best summer job heíd ever have.