A comely fisherwoman rowed her boat out into the bay at dawn one morning. Down, down, deep down, a flash of light caught her eye. Through such clear water, she just knew what lay on the bottom: gold! An ancient idol, she imagined, or a trove of coins. A treasure chest overflowing.
The water was too deep for her net, so she dropped anchor, intending to dive, but the rope was too short. The current carried her boat away. She shrugged and rowed on. After all, she was a very successful fisherwoman with a very nice hairdo.
There was but a single glimmer of gold on the seabed, but there were plenty of fish in the sea.
A pearl diver rowed his boat out into the bay several mornings later. The same flash of light caught his eye. The same types of imaginings filled his mind.
Accustomed to anchoring at such depths and more, he had woven a much longer rope. When he felt the weight touch bottom, he took a deep breath and dove in. Down, down, deep down he swam until he reached the shiny treasure, and indeed it was gold! To his dismay, it was buried in slimy muck. He snatched his hand back and fled to the surface.
Anchors away, he would not stay.
A group of renowned treasure hunters sailed out into the bay after hearing tales of gold. Upon spying the telltale flash, they anchored their fancy ship and dove down. Accustomed to slimy muck and worse, they had no qualms about sticking their hands in to root around. What glee! They found coins and bangles and baubles, barely covered by the ick.
After hauling their loot back to the surface, they oohed and ahhhed over the sun's light upon the gilded gleam. Down and back they swam, until they were certain they had snatched up every piece.
Only one large hunk remained—the original glint that had called them down—but it was lodged in a hunk of buried wood. It felt like a handle. A treasure chest--had to be--stuffed to the brim with jewels and crowns and pearls and more! But try as they might, they could not get it open or even pry it off. One by one, they ran out of air, then ran out of patience.
They sailed back to shore with their baubles galore, and bragged how rich they were now.
Another treasure hunter heard about the largest piece of gold the others had abandoned. He was not nearly as famous, but far more wealthy, and renowned as stealthy by those who knew him best. He rowed out before dawn and waited for the sunlight to show him the prize. Accustomed to holding his breath for a ridiculously long time, he dove down with a prybar. There he succeeded in dislodging the weighty treasure.
Upon hauling it to the surface, he confirmed: it was indeed a handle with a very fancy lock. What such a lock could be guarding he could only imagine. A king's treasure chest at least! Or perhaps even the whole ship was buried in the muck.
The treasure hunter dove back down to find out, but now without the telltale shimmer on the bottom of the seabed, he lost his way. For months he came back to that same spot.
He dove again and again, but it was lost to him.
Many fishermen and fisherwomen and their fisher-children and more came and went in the bay. Tales of the mislaid loot grew ever more legendary each time they were told.
Occasionally, someone would get the bright idea to dive for it.
Occasionally, someone would drink too much and dare his equally drunk friend to dive down in search.
Occasionally, someone would swear they had glimpsed a flash of light down there, but nobody ever found anything.
Down, down, even deeper down, the mermaids all snicker and laugh. The flounders all giggle and the sea urchins chuckle and the sharks let out mighty guffaws. The dolphins, in their dances, try to tell the truth, but the silly humans mistake it for play. The whales just roll their eyes.
For you see, they were right all along, those divers and treasure seekers, those fisher-people and dreamers. The flash of light had not lied. There was buried treasure down there, yet even the most imaginative had never envisioned its true value, for it was not an object they could grasp, drag away, and possess.
Deep in the slimy muck, cradled by the rotten carcass of an immense vessel--long crashed, long sunk, long broken apart on the floor of the sea--lay the treasure chest. Within that chest, there were no coins, no baubles, no bangles like what had been scattered about. The complicated lock did not guard a trove of gold. The shiny handle did not lift a lid that hid bejeweled crowns or strands of pearls.
The chest was a doorway.
The door led to another realm, one of starlight and darkness, sunlight and moon, honey and cayenne and love. A place quite similar to this one, but where magic still exists.
The mermaids know. The creatures know. And so does the sea, who holds her myriad secrets.
Like this one.
THANK YOU, HANNA MERMAID, FOR TAKING US DEEP, DEEP DOWN.