‘What will you do now?’ Zenith asked.
‘I’m leaving,’ Cosmo said, ‘I’m not yet sure where to, but you’ve told me of the northern astronomers. I’ll swim their way until I decide.’
‘Do you want me to come?’
‘I need solitude for this journey.’
‘You may meet danger, Cosmo.’
‘I am danger.’
‘Avoid waste. You have much to offer any school.’
Oh for the skills of Alcyone now, thought Zenith. But Alcyone was dead. Zenith observed Cosmo’s departure and saw that he did indeed head north.
Many of the Southern School tried to contact Cosmo in the days afterwards, but failed.
We (deities of the Hereafter) observed Zenith taking steps to ease what he feared could be a hostile reception for Cosmo – should he ever win through to the School of the Astronomers five or six days hard swimming away. Meanwhile we followed Cosmo on his lonely passage.
Cosmo swam towards the Astronomers with only the vaguest intention of arriving. He could think of no reason to travel in any other direction, and only the north held something that had once been of interest to him. He swam fast, causing the acids to collect in his flesh until his muscles burned. Icy squalls lashed the ocean through the first night of his journey. He watched the stars that gleamed between flying clouds and recited their names as he raced onwards. He ignored hunger all the next day, and his bloodstream gradually lost its richness until there was hardly a calorie left.
Towards the end of his second night, with a three-quarter moon riding a clear patch in the western sky, he sensed a shadow in the blackness ahead. Rain swept the surface from a squall that had just passed. He scanned the sea and picked up full detail of a solid shape approaching, on course to cross his path. A tail-biter, triple his own weight. He knew its senses would detect his electro-magnetic fields even in the darkness.
It knows very well what kind of meal I’ll make, he thought,
The tail-biter followed him. Cosmo sped up to test its intentions. It stayed close. Tail-biters were the fastest and most agile sharks in the ocean. He slowed again but it slowed too, stalking him. Cosmo scanned its belly. Empty.
Good, he thought. Come and get me.
He swam slowly and the shark circled below him, awaiting its moment. The rain moved away eastwards and the moon gleamed as it floated high in the west.
There’s nothing left for me in the south thought Cosmo. And in the north? Only unknown dolphins with no reason to greet me kindly. Why do I go to them? In the hope they might help me reach the stars? But here’s a shark offering me a quicker path to the same destination. Who’d care if I were never seen again on the oceans of Azure?
He stared at the shadow below. Are you my solution? Feel free to send my spirit where all the best dolphins have gone before me.
The shark could not reply but Cosmo knew it would be keen enough to help him out.
Tail-biters dealt a cruel death, but tonight he hardly cared if he died tail-less and helpless, as long as his spirit was released. The shark moved closer.
It was clear to us as we watched from the Hereafter that Cosmo had run out of hope. Since he didn’t ask, we could not directly intervene. But I could send him a sign of hope. Wondering how I might do this, I studied the ocean, especially the weather and celestial arrangements, the rainsqualls sweeping through to the east, the moon high in the west, shining fitfully between the clouds. It gave me an idea. I discussed my plan with Sister Sterne and she agreed it would do no harm.
So, a little manipulation of pressure zones and breezes, just enough to re-arrange the placement of some falling rain. And . . . ah yes . . . well done Father Clement, even if you do say so yourself. But would I be in time? Now if that young dolphin would just look east . . .
With the hungry shark circling nearer, Cosmo took a last look at his beloved sky from the perspective of the planet he knew. His gaze swung to the west towards a patch of clear sky displaying the moon and stars. Then drawn by the darkness, he turned slowly to the east, where thick cloud created a wall of blackness no star could penetrate.
And there he saw something he’d never seen before in all his hours spent studying the heavens – something so rare, many who sought it had passed their whole lives without ever finding it. For a moment it was enough to make him forget, his grief for Maram, for Alcyone, for his lost parents. He even forgot the shark below, and certainly it banished his wish for the darkness.
It was the moonlight rainbow, glowing huge across the eastern sky; a geometrically perfect semicircular pathway, every one of its thousand colours silvered by moonlight into delicate pastels. It floated serenely, with Cosmo positioned exactly beneath the highest point on its arc.
There is no other dolphin within a day’s swim of me, thought Cosmo. This vision shines for me alone.
A cloud drifted over the moon. The vision faded, but remained burned in his memory. Suddenly he remembered the School of the Astronomers and thought, I’d like to tell someone what I’ve seen tonight. But who? A strange dolphin in a school of strangers? I’d rather tell Alcyone or Maram.
He became almost still, holding himself in place by gently swirling his flippers.
The shark was very close now. Shall I live or shall I die? Cosmo breathed . . . and made his decision.
He swam erratically to attract the shark. The tail-biter positioned for attack, all its senses focused on the prey. Cosmo slowed and drifted, twitching. The shark circled closer. Cosmo rolled belly up and spiralled slowly down towards it, his tail dangling, vulnerable and inviting.
This will be easy, he thought.
The shark moved away to gain space for acceleration. It turned towards the target, jaws gaping. The curving teeth protruded. It charged. Cosmo knew the pattern. One bite to sever the tail then it could feed with ease. A moment before the strike, the eyes rolled back, blank and savage. It struck. Cosmo flipped – head down, tail up. The jaws snapped shut on empty water. Teeth sprayed outwards in the impact. Cosmo’s flukes slid along the top of its head; almost a caress. He dived deep, spun round, rocketed upwards. Cosmo rammed its rib-less body at full speed behind the flipper. Whomp! He felt its liver pulping.
The shark limped away, hunger forgotten.
Please be sure to check back with us next week for an exciting interview with Tui Allen.
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Tui Allen grew up in an Auckland sailing family although she was born well inland in 1952 in Te Awamutu in the Waikato area of New Zealand. She trained as a primary school teacher, was teaching before she was out of her teens and taught for many years.
In 1973 she married Bill Simpson, an Auckland boat-builder and sailor. They lived on their boat for a year and a half and sailed the South Pacific. ‘Patricia’ was a small traditional yacht. They sailed the South Pacific on her for over a year. During all that ocean voyaging, the little wooden yacht weathered many storms that proved too much for larger vessels.
The couple had two children in the early 1980s, Leith and Heather. Tui separated from Bill in 1990.
She met Jeff Tucker in 1991 and the pair have been together ever since. They were keen runners and triathletes. They did Ironman together in 1996 in Auckland. Tui enjoyed long-distance open-water swimming and did most of the ocean swimming events on offer in Auckland at the time. The pair now focuses on road and off-road cycling in the countryside near their home.
Tui ran a sole-charge web design company called Tuiscope, from the mid-nineties to the present. She and Jeff moved out of Auckland in the year 2000 to start the new millennium in the Waikato, Tui’s birthplace. They live there still.
She has always been a writer producing children’s stories in dozens. Some were published by various publishers and some were sold internationally. She also wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, produced much written and photographic material for the web sites she created and wrote teachers’ lesson plans for Learning Media.
She wrote the first draft of her novel Ripple in 2009 and completed the third and final draft in 2011.
In 2012, New Zealand was “Country of Honour” at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. (Frankfurt is the world’s largest book fair) Ripple was chosen by the New Zealand Society of Authors to represent NZ literature at the fair. Tui made her first trip to the Northern hemisphere to attend.
For updates, visit Tui Allen’s homepage.