November 2020

"marine flora"

They would eventually come looking. Even she didn’t know what she dialed into the gateway, but they would try to figure it out. They’d scour the logs, maybe dust for prints. If they got it right, then they’d be dropped into this plain of water, too. But that was impossible.

Some questions are never asked and yet still demand an answer. She’d had one her entire life: What was missing? Even when surrounded by people who loved her, who studied her work, who called her a genius, she was always moving on rails. Watching, as a spectator, her life through a pane of glass. At her best times, that glass was a few inches thick. More often, it was miles wide.

It took no time at all. Just some random coordinates. A few keystrokes. They were probably in the chamber already, trying to undo what she did. But the math only allowed a one-way trip: point A to point B in an instant. The first of its kind. Everyone called it a triumph before she even finished building it. The whole time, she just felt sick. 

Her life’s work. She never felt alive. So many nights she’d get wasted and sit in the lab, staring at the machine’s exposed components. I should fucking destroy you. I should smash you to pieces. Now, she floated alone in an unfamiliar sea, no land on any side of her. This could be anywhere, she thought. Maybe not even Earth. It didn't make a difference.

This time, she had run further than ever. She never could say or admit from what, but she was always running: Running and running, until it became running toward her work. Sleeping in the lab, destroying relationships, missing holidays - denying joy in all its forms, just to create something to help her sprint like never before. Her whole soul snarled. A teleporter. She knew that person. She was always that person.

She thought it could be the Caribbean. The water was warm enough, and she admittedly liked the idea: When she was a girl, she would sit with her father and flip through books on coral reefs. He was a marine biologist. She recalled those moments as peaceful ones, and would occasionally catch herself ruminating on them: vibrant dart-shaped fish; anemones with iridescent peach tentacles; small pearlescent shells; weightless kelp forests.

What was missing? Eventually, always, invariably, that question would loom again. It would seep in through the floorboards of her childhood room and push out from behind the paint of her dorm. Sometimes it was an unspeakable fear, and she'd work for days straight. Other times, it was a dull hum in everything. It never let her rest. It mutated everything she touched. Her colleagues would ask about her sleep cycle. Reporters would dub her the "new DaVinci." She wanted to torch her home and disappear.

But now the writing was on the wall. There were no boats on the way, no floating rings to grab. No home to burn. No land to swim toward.

She wondered, when it was all done with, if she’d break down and become algae, or plankton, or a bioluminescent coral. She hoped she would transform. For as long as she could remember, she had thought about becoming something else: something that wants nothing, that lives moment to moment. A living point on a graph of many living points.

Whatever she became, she wondered if it would have beautiful colors.  I can see it now, she said in her mind: stripes and spots of blue and green; kaleidoscopic wheels of yellow and white; an endless swath of blue; reams of light we can’t even name.
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