Xander Clem by the Sea
Sitting along the coastline of the Nincquontandle Peninsula on his twenty-ninth birthday Xander Clem, the future-youngest smarty of all smarties, discovered an anomaly. Here, at the edge of the world, in a place where his people were scarce the flying things communicated with the swimming things. He looked on in quiet wonder as the squirmers and snips corralled near the musks. The lengthy toomba swimmers, who like to chomp through clumps of little swimmers, circled the school as it formed a dark sphere in the water, a living marble just beneath the surface.
Caws and stripe-wings flocked above the surface diving down into the green water to catch mouthfuls of snip. All of this seemed perfectly normal - the small things being hunted and eaten by the bigger things. The flying things torpedoing into the water and emerging with fresh meals.
Then the anomaly: a button-nosed musk, a swimmer of high intelligence, arose from the water to join the caws and stripe-wings. Its fins extended beyond their normal boundaries as it hovered in the air among its new flock. Some kind of immediate evolution took place between the sea and the sky. Now like the other flyers, the musk dipped back into and out of the water, a guzzle full of squirmers in its beak. Other musks followed and a new species was discovered by the young fellow.
For the next three years Xander camped on the coast and watched the sea. His reports became more and more unrealistic sounding: A scientist at the edge of the world is training wild leg-crabs. A school of cormoran plankers laugh on command, fins across bellies, backs against the ocean. Two burst-tooth cham-chams (deadly predators of the very deep) available for saddle-backed sunset swims: Tourists welcome!
He meets a girl named Chlorephonyon his thirty-second birthday. She has come here to be near the water. She has heard of the young man responsible for talking to the sea. She makes her way to his seaside laboratory, occupied solely by him. He uses all of his good lines: “Do you come here often?” and “Wow, the weather is today!” and “I haven’t met you here before.”
She is not charmed by him because he has no charm within him. Yet, she stays on, offering her assistance to the one who speaks to the swimmers. Chlorephony had romantic ideals coming here, but they weren’t filled with the actual smells of the region. Swimmers and flying things eat from the sea, and they omit what is leftover near where they nest. Xander nests near these nests. She found herself holding her breath those first several weeks.
Just the proximity to a woman made in the shapes that women are made rendered Xander delirious. He concealed his pesky erection and took her to the sea. They boat far off the shore in an unimpressive little skiff. His mouth waters. His brow sweats. His teeth chatter. Any word configurations sprung from his lips are horrible slogs of confusion. Yet once they arrive, sitting above species of great danger he is calm, collected. He forgets Chlorephony’s scent and focuses on the slow approach of a beast in the wake of their boat.
Chlorephony takes her time acclimating to the sea. She does not wish to ride the sea beasts, nor does she wish to spend additional time with the scientist she sought. However, this place at the edge of their world is lonely. Often it is only the two of them for weeks on end as the only option for conversing, for any contact. He blunders. She cringes. He orchestrates a parade of leg-crabs to a song. She laughs. After a few months she offers her bosom to his hand. He keels over in excitement, eyes rolled back in his skull. More time passes. She decides she is ready for the sea and that she may as well settle down with this strange man, who is handsome enough, so long as he isn’t speaking. She plans to tell him that evening, she has forgone the company of another for far too long.
She dies. Of course, before this takes place. The moment he positions her atop the cham-cham, while out deep in the water, its mate bursts out of the sea and, mouth agape, snatches her off the saddle. He loved her the moment she arrived. He’d used all his good lines. She’d stuck around. That was enough.
The town wades through bureaucratic corrosion. Developers market the seaside. Then scientists fight the developers. Then tourists come to stay in the developments. The specialness erodes. Trash and build up, the natural beauty unprotected, wrinkles, and fades. The creatures take note. More children are eaten now than ever before by the beasties beneath. Xander Clem’s anomalies migrate elsewhere.
Xander’s work suffers from the distractions of quick death and newfound heartbreak. The scientist believed he was finished. When the phone rang at his edge of the world, and the curious proposition to discuss his findings with some scientists interested in space exploration he didn’t even pack a suitcase. He left the shoreline of his youth, in something of a hurry.