i. Home: sickly, sullen, desolate. it used to be the iridescence that brought me here, but the waters washed away purple sea urchins, slimy green kelp leaves, pairs of yellow seahorses. but i return again, hoping to introduce the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef to one who’s never felt the love of the ocean. i hold my little brother’s hand, and he squeezes back, shivering despite the warm waters hugging us tightly, and the sun beating down on our backs. “why aren’t there any colors?” he whines, desperately searching for a flash of vibrancy-- like we saw in the pictures. his question is met with silence, a mind racing through ashen skies smothered lost seagulls unable to return home, gills coated with thick layers of dull oil, boat propellers tearing fins off wailing dolphins. he’s too young to understand the horrors. “look, it’s a Jellyfish!” he cries out, pointing to the right. i turn my head, the path ahead of us blurring with bleached coral clusters among grey floor. my heart nearly breaks as i look into his innocent eyes, and i can’t bear to tell him the truth. that’s not a jellyfish, it’s a plastic bag, i want to say to him. but instead i tighten my hold on his hand, trying to protect him. ii. we emerge into a warzone. through my brother’s dazed eyes, i see the waves washing onto the shore, but the water is no longer blue, the sand no longer soft, the dolphins no longer dancing. melancholic song fills the air: notes of crying waves launching against rugged cliffs, staccato droplets bouncing on forgotten bottles scattered along the beach, wisps of polluted air and coughing animal carcasses stranded, dehydrated. red bleeds into the sky above, the sun disappearing from view. light scatters and illuminates the scars left from years of neglect. abuse. i see rotten fish bones and plastic toys floating through mounds of bottle cap chains. i see the oil spill into shiny tentacles, charging into lungs of sea turtles, strangling the surface with scarlet and staining the world with ink. but i also see my little brother—clenching his teeth from the pain of glass-littered sand— his eyes widen, filled with images ingrained into his mind. his hand grips mine tightly, but nobody’s by my side. my tears drop onto rusted bottle cans as he walks away along the empty waters. iii. crowds of eager volunteers smile and chat on the ivory sands. metal glints in the early sunlight, children run towards their parents, excited to be helping, carefully trying to untangle sea life from transparent shards. i wonder if i would live to see a day when the oceans would shine, smoke would be a distant memory, and i could swim with my baby brother to see the rainbow coral reefs. night turns to day, and he’s pacing across pearly linoleum floor—telling me of stubborn companies refusing to listen to the screams of agony emerging from the depths of the earth. their voices are broken and lost, more desperate than those of that winter sunset when my brother cried himself to sleep over blood-stained beaches and helpless creatures. his look of determination and the morning shine in his eyes. he fights; iv. the Sister drifts as an eternal body, decorated by seafoam blue. her pristine eyes pierce the suffocating clouds of noxious gray: the first breath in a hundred years. bright turtle shells surround her lithe figure, protecting her, welcoming her back from centuries of injury-induced coma. flashes remind her of terror that has never left her—ships tearing her dress to shreds, oil turning hair from blonde to black, her fingers endlessly reaching through pipes and sinks and shower drains. She wonders about the boy from her delirious dreams. She shielded him from the burdens of mankind, shoved at his tiny silhouette until he had to make a change. but it was all a dream, She thinks, so She hesitates before the sand, remembering of glass stabbing her heart until blood ran green against algae blooms and toxic waste. instead, a warm familiar hand meets her ethereal waves, shimmering against gold shores. smog is nothing but white clouds, speckling the deep blue aurora. zephyr brushes through her body and, at last, She’s home.
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