Tonight I Dream Of Devil Reef

That night he shed his human skin and slipped beneath the waves, never to return. His life as a man was over.

He swam for hours, days, that first night he met his brothers and sisters. It took no time at all to learn how to breathe through his new gills, no time at all really, and the water felt dark and cool flowing through his neck’s new organs. His scales were hard, and when he swam close to the surface and the moonlight, they gleamed. He touched his teeth with his tongue; they were sharp and arranged all in rows, shark-like. It was amazing how quickly his hands and feet propelled him, how sleek and beautiful he felt, as though his limbs moved the ocean itself; simply sliding the ocean around him while he stayed still.

He spoke in his mother’s tongue for the first time, and his family spoke back. It wasn’t like human speaking, good Catholic speaking, the politeness that had been beaten into him. Now he held nothing back. He laughed and he screamed, and he bellowed for joy at hearing the familiar words, words which had slumbered in his bloodline until his middle age. His human middle age – and now he was immortal.

The weeks became months, and he’d never felt closer to anything, never felt the way he did with his brothers and sisters. They swam together and they shared everything; food, dreams, lust, blood. They fought packs of sharks, plucked up cuttlefish and squid for snacks, hunted the great whales and slashed open their bellies, cornered dolphins and played with them before the kill. Glorious, they left blood in the water. They told him of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, and when he saw the truth of their words, he forgot God. He forgot walking on legs and breathing with the mouth. He forgot it all.

It was in his bloodline. It had always been. In another life, when he’d walked on land, there were scales beneath his skin.

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Xander Bennett rearranges words for fun and profit. Read a preview of his new book at

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