Introducing Ko of “The Widening Sea”

Ko came to herself among her shoal as light kissed the tops of the kelp of their creche. All around, silvery tails and white limbs were jumbled together in slumber.  It was cool and she moved slowly. Others stirred, but none were as curious as Ko to see what the day might bring.  So she rose toward the great light shining through the water above her kelp home.

The surface was a place of potential danger.  All manner of creatures might see her there, creatures above, but mostly those below.  Ko carefully looked around her over the upper fronds of the kelp forest as she rose toward the thin air of the heavens.  Since her father had taken her up one night to marvel at the bright points of the stars above even the dry air of the heavens, Ko found the surface fascinating.

Ko looked at her face reflected in the barrier between her world and the one above as she approached the divide.  She was older now, unspeckled, serious, more realistic, less a little minnow with wild dreams, but this curiosity remained to her.  With a rush she broke the surface.  Ko combed her silvery hair back from her face.  Lazy thrashing of her tail kept her head and shoulders above the glittering surface.

Their cove was still shadowed, Ko turned and turned.  The black stone cradled them, white wisps marked the blue of the sky.  Nothing new today, it seemed, nothing like the surface folks wind drawn contraptions or even the great flying whales like the one she’d seen high in the sky, its droning cry echoing off the water, no surface dweller upon the shore.

Nothing to see then, thought Ko as she slipped beneath the water and spiraled down toward the kelp tops.  Ko carefully watched to assure no predator followed.  When she was young she wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but that was before the others came and killed so many.  Now she was cautious. She slipped from the kelp forest into the brightening reef.

Ko pulled her catcher free from her shoulders, beneath her silvery hair.  Long, clever, fingers spread and disentangled the kelp fiber netting before taking it up in her left hand. The woven bag was all she needed to snare the unwary prey or to carry the bounty of a successful hunt back to her shoal.  Likely they would gather to harvest a larger catch together, but Ko liked to hone her personal skills and maybe find some new thing, some unlooked for treasure.

With a flip of her tail, Ko shot out over the reef.  Small fish darted and hid, but they had nothing to fear from her.  She was looking for something that might supply a bite for the whole shoal before the labors of the day.  The grouper never saw Ko coming, so intent on her own hunt was she.  Bagged and head thumped hard on the reef, she would feed the shoal.

Ko looked up toward the surface, far above the agressive fin set of a shark warned of danger, but it was a far off danger.  Ko turned for home. With a start, a moment of fear, Ko realized she had been stalked. “Te! You frighted me.”

Little Te looked pleased with herself, “sneaky now,” said Ko’s youngest shoal mate and oft times shadow.

“Best be careful, Te, you never know when Smiley or one of his cousins might be looking to make a snack of you. Ko thumbed toward the shark’s sinuous progress above them.

“Smiley,” Te skoffed, “you keep safe.”

“Let’s go.  I caught breakfast.” Ko took Te’s small speckled hand in her long white fingers and together they swam toward home.