Rachel Hope Crossman graduated Mills College, Oakland, worked as a preschool teacher, then substitute. She now holds a Montessori credential and laps at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA. "Swimmingly: A Lap Pool Fantasy" was selected as a finalist in BART Lines contest, 2022.

Image of BART Lines - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
The blue is still. It is a silent sheet of teal, turquoise, blue-green, aqua. Agua. Water, deep and wide, as smooth as glass. Each tiny atom of every one of its billions of molecules rests now, serene and dreaming. Microscopic arms linked fraternally across its unbroken surface. Water waits. Water bides.

Step by step, I sink into it. At the first break of surface tension, Water wakes, smiling with the gentle ripples my body makes. For a brief moment, it is just me and my splash buddy, Water.

Then others dive in and our six hundred thousand gallon friend Water sloshes and sprays, singing with joy, splashing and churning, its transformation instant and complete. No longer a plane surface, but dynamic liquid motion. No longer serene blue, but frothy, creamy, white.

Gravity loosens its pull on my feet, knees, and chest as Water embraces me. I submerge and feel myself suspended, held firmly above Earth's surface. I let Water swallow me, hold me, hug me. My hair flows back, my eyes peer through goggles into wavery, quavery depths. Water loves me and I love Water.

Bending my knees, I push hard, and glide, face in the blue. I blow, blow, then raise my head and inhale. Submerging again, I exhale as my arms slice, my legs scissor. Glide and blow, glide and blow as Water, my beloved friend, greets my passage with bouquets of wobbling bubbles.

External sounds are muffled and I feel only a cool pressure against my ears. Even the noise of my mind is stilled by the rhythmic churn as my neocortex and its barbed claws retract, the analytical brain and its billions of molecules becoming as soft and smooth as velvet, as docile as a sleeping baby.

I rise up and breathe in, air sluicing through mouth and nose, chest expanding, inflating.

I submerge and breathe out, and the air reverses course, its globules dispersing, enveloping me in bubbles. I raise my arms overhead, elbows straight, pull to the side, bring hands together. My legs swing, strong and straight, toes pointed, kicking hard, and the animal brain takes over, excluding any sensations beyond movement.

I have become a marine mammal.

A dolphin in the deep blue sea, I spin for sheer pleasure, leaping high into the chilled, salty air. Landing with a splash, I use powerful flippers to cut through the water, my tail flukes angled straight behind, my dorsal fin guiding the way.

Now I am a whale sounding the Mariana Trench. I can see it, straight and black below and I broadcast bellows which echo for miles. Hearing my song, our pod returns from the hunt, gigantic bellies full, their breath reeking of sardines. Breeching, I rise from the blue and arch my back, then dive again, down, down, down. There is no light, no sound here on the ocean floor, only the thumping reverberations of surface swimmers. Upward I rise, bursting into the air and blow. A cloud of spume rises from my glossy black head, fountaining down with a glorious splash and I sink once again.

Submerge and glide. Rise and breathe. Submerge and blow.

Joy overwhelms me. My brain is immersed in color and I soar. I am a bird, flying across the sky, riding the currents of warm air. I see only clear blue, feel only the passage of rushing air through my feathers as I wing across the sky. Earthbound creatures and their sloppy imprints on the planet are invisible from this height where only lush tree tops and thrusting, stony mountain peaks pierce my view.

Rise. Breathe. Submerge. Glide. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Far away, I see Red Shirt waving, hear his warbling voice over the sluicing waves.

It is the Lifeguard, and swim session ends in five.

I slow my pace, end my glide, let my feet sink and head rise. My friend Water runs her fingers over me once more like a lover giving a final caress as I step out, and gravity grabs me. Like a jealous lover, gravity takes hold of my body, forcing me to drag each heavy foot to the ground.

My transformation is instant and complete. I am a land mammal once more.


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