Ocean Skin

Introduction

“Unbelievable.”

“Inconsiderate.”

“A complete waste.”

Those were the words they spoke at my funeral as they viewed by lifeless corpse inside that travesty of a wooden box.

They were bothered to have come, as if my death inconvenienced them.

My own friends and family, complaining at my funeral. I mean, I was the one who died. Couldn’t they spend two hours of their lives celebrating my life or at least feeling some sort of pity about my passing.

No, they only thought of themselves. How completely selfish. Maybe they truly thought I took my own life, or maybe they truly thought me a bad person. If that were the case, would they have even shown up? I must have mattered to them enough for them to attend this occasion. I guess it could have been for appearances?

It almost hurt to hear the cruel words as they were murmured under their breath.

Almost.

Ah, but they weren’t aware of how true those words were… all aside from the inconsiderate part.

I mean, everything I did in life was at the sacrifice of my own being. I always considered everyone else first. I used to go out of my way for everyone, helping them move from place to place, fixing broken things without question, cleaning their houses, having their back in every situation even when they were in the wrong. Loyalty, the kind only love for those around you can buy. The deepest of affection, never expecting or accepting anything in return, aside from love and friendship.

Besides, things are not always as they appear.

They really had no idea and neither did I.

We would all find out soon enough after the shock and fear wore off.

The guilty parties sulked around in the back of the room. Grieved with regret, yet relieved that nobody would tell the tale. They were about to find out that things in this world were different than they seemed. We were all in for one hell of a ride. I guess at least we would all be there together.

But before we continue, a little back story:

Part 1

Hi, my name is Adam, but my friends call me Beast…

I was born in June of 85. Things in my parents’ lives were separating them further and further apart.

My father was famous for his disappearing act as a young man with a motorcycle. He spent most of his time perusing his own interests while my mother was stuck taking care of three kids and a baby on her own. She would soon find happiness, marry another, and give birth to her fifth and final child. Life was interesting, but it only grew more complex.

As a child, I favored music, games, and time spent with loved ones. As I grew older, my interests changed but my loyalty to family and friends only solidified. Eventually I spent too much time indulging in substances to fill an empty part of myself that I didn’t even realize was there. It wouldn’t be too much later that I would discover the comforting embrace of the ocean and its hold on me, as well as a raging addiction to sushi.

It was the ocean that started all of this, as strange as it might seem.

You see… one week during the winter, our weather had given us a break. It was in the high seventies with hardly a cloud in the sky.

I had nagged my buddy Chris to come with me to the beach. We indulged in our ceremonial beach tradition at his place and made our way there. Once we left his truck in the parking lot, we enthusiastically charged the ocean and went for a long swim. We found a strange peaceful meditative sensation just beyond where the waves broke.

It was like paradise.

The problem was, the water was much colder in the winter and your stamina can take a huge hit as it’s drained at a much faster rate.

Without much warning, the ocean started to swell more with each wave, dragging my friend and I further out to sea. We fought valiantly, but with every foot we gained, we lost an additional five. The waves and current were far too strong to counter.

Our efforts seemed useless.

The world around us started to seem morose. I remember feeling like my last moments on earth were before me and that I was ready to give in to the sensation of letting go. After an excessive amount of fighting, I finally did. Waves crashed over my head, giving me little time to refill my lung. The ocean overpowered me and soon I was gasping for air, yet breathing only thick, salty, water.

I panicked at first but then came to peace with my defeat.

I started to fade.

Soon after, I could feel myself moving.

I was somehow swimming through the violence with energy I didn’t have, with life I was sure I let go of.

I grasped Chris. Together we breached the sand, only to lie drained, just above the touch of the tide. As we regained our strength, we laid there in shock and silence for a good while. After the adrenaline started to wear off, we talked about what had just happened and how our lives had nearly been lost to the ocean. Chris recapped on his experience and how he had the feeling of giving in just as I did. I told him about my experience in detail. About how I gave up. About how I don’t recall saving myself. About how I found my body taking over and helping him back to land.

As we sat there in an intense locking of eyes, realizing the danger we had put ourselves in, we both started to laugh. I’m sure my comments were mildly disturbing to him. What an awkward situation to discuss. But we were alive and defeated the oceans grip on our life.

Something was different.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was somehow changed. I could clearly remember giving up and breathing in water, yet here I was with my friend. I didn’t understand but I chose not to ask questions. Maybe I was delusional. I accepted my status and went about my life. So, we decided that we would celebrate after we left the beach, making it just another day in our lives.

I told few of my tale. When I did, I left out the whole part about giving up, and still surviving, at the chance of sounding crazy. I boasted more about the feeling of wanting to give up and overcoming that sensation. I became more spooked when I allowed myself to think on it later. Eventually, I would allow myself to forget it even happened.

A few years passed by and life had all kinds of exciting events and promises along the way…

One day I was hanging out with a couple of newer friends of mine, Dustin and Mike. They seemed like genuinely cool guys and fed off of my energy and happiness. When we were together, life was good. They were curious dudes and always seemed to get themselves into some kind of trouble, but nothing serious. I had to leave for a couple of hours because I had a family event to go to and I told them I would meet back up with them when I was done.

I spent some good time with family and shared in some stories, music, and time shooting the breeze. A few hours later I met back up with Dustin and Mike and we made our way to a promising party with lots of people. As the night went on we were deep into the drinks and they invited me into another room to try some new drug with a new friend of theirs. He went by Randy. I declined and asked them to reconsider. They wanted to be macho and chose to disregard my warnings. They all vanished into another room together with some others from the party. About thirty minutes later they came out of the room as one big group. As if they had all just watched a movie and were eager to get back out to the party. Everyone was acting a little strange.

They started to get after me for being a “narc” because I wouldn’t take part in the activity. I stood my ground and explained that it seemed like a bad idea, which only served to upset them. Their new friend Randy called me a few unpleasant names and gave me a look that led me to believe he was out of his mind. His eyes pierced through my soul and the anger on his face told me that he wanted to hurt me. I didn’t want to cause a scene so I offered to leave. Randy insisted that I stay because he couldn’t trust me. I chose to walk away, just like I was taught. That’s when he pushed me into the coffee table causing it to break and splinter, along with a vase and a lamp.

Randy then insisted that I broke all of those things and that I was too much trouble. He enlisted the others including Dustin and Mike, to help him teach me a lesson.

They let me have it good.

I was punched and kicked, almost to the point of unconsciousness. I weaved in and out of awareness and I could barely move. Everything got way out of hand and they started throwing objects at me. Randy insisted that I had enough and dragged me into the other room.

With Dustin, Mike, and a few others standing over me in the next room, Randy ordered them to finish the job. Whatever new drug they had taken had caused them to listen to his every command.

They grabbed a pillow and smothered my head until I was no longer breathing. Yet somehow, I was still observing everything as if from a third person perspective.

They all worked together to dispose of my body. They had come up with several plans that they thought could keep them in the clear, but they still didn’t seem too concerned.

Finally, they made their choice.

What better place than the Ocean? They concluded.

They took me to the beach and dragged me across the sand.

They were pretty careless about their trail and pushed me in the water.

They went in with all their clothes on and pushed me further and further out to sea until I was floating away with the waves. They left the scene and went back to their party with Randy.

The Ocean took me in and carried me away…

Part 2

It would take a couple of days, but eventually my body washed back up onto the beach and was discovered by a couple of skim boarders. At first approach, I am sure they thought I was a dead seal wrapped in an abnormal amount of seaweed. One of them though strangely enough of the pile to actually investigate further. That’s when she realized that it wasn’t a seal, but human body. While they were both shocked by the situation, my body didn’t show any real signs of trauma or bloating. In fact, it appeared as if I was freshly drowned at best. They called 911 and even tried very valiantly to resuscitate me with CPR but resigned once the ambulance arrived. Thanks to their kindness, my body was returned to my family and a funeral would soon be held. The cause of death was determined to be drowning. Many thought that I was being careless and swimming in the ocean again, which was seen as pure stupidity due to the violent nature and reputation of our local waters. As a child, I was always warned about the undertow and strong current just off the coastline. Everyone I knew thought I was dead because I didn’t listen to their warnings, which seemed to make it easier for them to justify.

The day came for my funeral to take place. It was a pretty well executed ceremony considering the fact that it was last minute. They chose to have a closed casket ceremony, figuring I would be all bloated and too gross to look at. While everything seemed thoughtful and detailed, I just couldn’t get over that crappy wooden box they picked out for me. I mean. seriously… the thing reminded me of a pressed wood box for shipping pottery across the world by boat. It was like something out of a movie where people smuggle drugs in wooden crates.

Either way, a decent number of people showed up, but I did have a big family, so it would seem that they were obligated to come. A few friends made the journey, but were irritated about my thoughtlessness and expressed it to each other from time to time. Dustin and Mike joined in on occasion in order to keep the attention on my careless behavior rather than thinking up other potential situations. But they generally kept to themselves and seemed to be overcome with grief and guilt.

The room fell quite as the last few people spoke their words about the life that I led and how they thought I would just want everyone to be happy now. The feelings were overwhelming, and I mean for me. You see, I remember feeling like I was there the whole time, but not in my own body. It was a strange feeling of needles and pins... like a limb fallen asleep, but all over my whole body.

At this point, many of the people had left the room and went to the reception area nearby. Dustin and Mike had made their way near my box and were having a quiet conversation.

The energy was palpable. There are no words to describe. I was coming back and my rage was beyond measure. At first it was painful but I could feel my body healing. My memories of what transpired came flooding back in a rush of pure energy and it caused my brain to feel as if it were being torn from my skull. My fist crashed through the top of the box, splintering it and sending shrapnel in several directions.

Mike and Dustin ducked and stood hunched in shock… they couldn’t figure out what was happening. Some of the others that were leaving the room had to collect their senses and see what was taking place.

I tore my way out of the casket and screamed at the sky while my body contorted and morphed into something different. I roared a deep horrific sound as my skin turned into small blue scales and my teeth turned into fangs. Claws had torn their way from the tips of my fingers and webbing formed between as it all stretched out. Everything about me was larger. The decent suit they had placed me in was in shreds and nearly torn off. I stopped in shock for a brief moment but then my instincts took over. My senses were enhanced and I locked on to Dustin and Mike who stood there like a couple of confused sheep. Everyone else in the room was in complete disbelief at what they had just seen.

It wasn’t even close to over, yet.

I swung my claws at Dustin and severed his head. It flew across the room and busted through one of the windows. His body stood for a couple of seconds and then buckled and hit the floor. Mike decided to run, which was a huge mistake. I came after Mike with even more fury as my prey was trying to escape. I grasped him by his shoulders and tore him clean in half and watched as all of his entrails spilled out all over the carpet.

I felt bad for the poor schmuck that would have to clean up this mess.

By now it was pure pandemonium as friends and family were screaming and trying to escape the room. And the building, for that matter. Many had come back to the room to see what was happening and soon found they could run faster than they ever thought possible. Good thing that even in this state, the creature I had become chose to bust through a wall and leave, rather than hunt down my loved ones.

I could smell the ocean, it seemed so close, but subconsciously I knew it was still some distance out. I didn’t have any kind of control. I remember it was like running on pure elevated emotion. I let my body do most of the work and fled the area through forested land, off-road, as I made a straight shot for the towns nearby that had beaches. Unfortunately for vehicles, fences, houses, people or animals in my way, they were all but destroyed or severely injured as I made my escape.

Part 3

It was like a lucid dream… A slurry of rage, love, and sorrow. I couldn’t explain it. Nothing seemed real anymore. I always knew something was there but now it had surfaced and shown its face. My body had taken over control and followed an intense primal call from the ocean.

Unaware of time and how long I had been asleep, I woke up on a mysterious beach, covered in sand. There was a dense mist floating through the air with beautiful shafts of light coming through the gaps as the sun desperately tried to burn it off. I was somewhere on the edge of a dense coastal forest. There were ferns, moss, and vines everywhere. If I hadn’t been through such an extreme and confusing situation, I might have relaxed and indulged in the surrounding environment for a while. I couldn’t ignore my instincts. I felt more like myself again, however, one look at my hands only proved that the whole thing actually happened. I was still this strange creature. Only remnants of clothing clung to my body. I didn’t recognize this place at all, but it seemed familiar and alluring. I had an overwhelming sense of belonging. There was a force here calling to me.Something was telling me investigate the nearby area and seek shelter. I wasn’t always good about listening to my gut feelings, but this time I had chosen to embrace it based on past experience. Besides, what did I have to lose? My whole world was turned upside-down. Everything I knew or was taught seemed to be a fabrication. What was the worst that could happen? I could die for a third time… It didn’t seem that I had much of a choice anyway. I had to figure out where I was. The one thing I knew was that I was definitely far from home. Whatever that meant anyway.

“Home.”

I really didn’t know where I belonged anymore. My family had witnessed the entire event. Maybe not all of them, but some saw something take place and I am sure they would share the story with each other. I would have to get over it if I were to move forward. Sometimes things happen and you need to embrace the change.

I entered the forest and traversed what appeared to be untraveled ground. In fact, it appeared as if the only things to come this way were small creatures and the wind. The surrounding area was in pristine condition. The beautiful greens from the surrounding plant life really had a way of making you feel at peace. It only seemed to get denser the further I traveled. After making my way through the maze of brush for what seemed like an hour, I came upon a large round pond that was a brilliant blue. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that it had to be incredibly deep. I could see pretty clearly through the water, but even so, it just got darker and darker the further down it went. I knew I had to go in, but I wasn’t exactly sure what good it would do me. All the questions that went through my head, like, “How long could I hold my breath?” “Is there something else in there?” I was one of those kids with the unreasonable fear that a shark or alligator might be hiding in the swimming pool when it was dark out.

I was starting to block off my instincts by overthinking the situation. I needed to let my body get back in control and shut my mind up if I was to find whatever it was I was seeking. It took me a while to overcome the strong urge to over analyze the situation. What did I have to lose? Where else could I go? Besides… I was remotely certain my new body got along well with water. So, I jumped in to continue my search. My body did most of the work, but it was an amazing experience. I could see so clearly in the water, even where it got darker. It was as if I were able to illuminate the world through my eyes, no matter how deep I swam. I was also breathing water… At first, I didn’t even notice it but soon realized that I could feel the cold slurry slip in and out of my lungs. The pressure of it inside of me would be hard to explain but it felt so good. It was so smooth and southing. It just felt right. The sensation of being this creature was extraordinary. The connection was unreal.

I felt overwhelmingly blissful and at ease, yet full of rage and sadness. It was a strange blend of emotions, but it was gratifying. It felt like a runners high or extreme meditative state. As I swam deeper, I only felt more intense. I could feel the strength of my muscles assisting me through the water as if it was my natural habitat. I glided through the water as swiftly as a runner moving downhill. The whole experience was poetry. As I reached the bottom, it occurred to me this pond was more like a giant well. It was circular the entire way down, until I reached a little alcove in the side at the very bottom. It resembled an archway but ended with a flat stone wall.

Something about the wall seemed different. It wasn’t as coarse as the rocky edges of the rest of this place. It was mostly smooth but appeared to have some kind of weathered writing on it. The symbols seemed otherworldly, but I recognized them. The longer I stared at them the more my brain would start to put meaning to them. Moments later, I found myself saying the message aloud. “In this world, time holds no meaning. All other things are temporary. Beyond lies the eternal. Cast aside your thoughts and repeat the phrase of the old world: By the shroud of the eclipse, I become pure. I cast aside time and other falsehoods. I return to myself. I return home. Provide me passage to Vanaheim so I may conquer the trial of the all worlds.”

I could feel a large earthly rumble beneath my feet as the stone wall in front of me started to turn and roll out of the way. It was intense and mysterious, but satisfying to witness. It only caused to accelerate my interest to investigate. The call strengthened and it seemed my instinct and mind were working hand in hand. I proceeded through the opening. It was dark with bits of phosphorescent plants growing on the cave walls. It reminded me of something out of a 90’s glow in the dark display at one of those gimmick stores in the mall. It was so memorizing, yet, unreal. I had loved glow in the dark things my entire life. This was a sign that I belonged.

This passageway was long and I could hear the opening close again after I traveled down it a short distance. As I went further along, I started to see natural light at the other end. I was swimming into a large watery cave just below the surface. While this part seemed more like a large deep pool, it was much more shallow and open than the blue pool I entered from. I was in no rush to breath air again, but the sight of bright green and sunshine just outside the cave entrance accelerated me into an excitement I could not describe. I soon made my way to the edge of the cave and started to climb out of the water. As I made my way up I had to climb stone stairs to exit the hole. I finally came up to the surface area only to witness the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. A true paradise unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I had a strong feeling that this place must be the “Vanaheim” mentioned by the scripture on the tunnel entrance. The text stated something about a trial of all worlds, which meant I was in for more than I expected…

[To be continued...]