Man From Atlantis: Saving the Selkies
For the last half-hour Mark Harris, aka, the Man from Atlantis, sat stone-faced on the bleachers closest to the Olympic sized pool and gazed at sea-animals as they frolicked and performed tricks for amusement and fish treats. He and Dr. Elizabeth Merrill were requested to visit a new theme park – Sea Planet – because the trainers claimed the animals, and seals in particular, acted 'weird' and 'crazy.'
Elizabeth approached the bench and lowered her bucket of fish guts. "I knew bringing you out here wasn't the best idea, Mark. But you insisted." She held his arm. "Maybe we should go now."
"No, Elizabeth. It is fine. I want to stay for the rest of the performance."
Elizabeth sat beside him and shielded her eyes. The sun beat down fierce since the morning and by noon she was glad to have spent a lot of time in the pool cooling off with the dolphins. "Okay. but it doesn't look like you're enjoying this."
"I do not enjoy watching sea creatures in captivity. I am merely observing for strange behavior as requested. They have much more fun and freedom when they play in the ocean."
"Absolutely, that's where they belong."
Mark spent the better part of the day monitoring the animals in the tanks and pools and his soothing presence relaxed them. One seal prodded Mark urgently. She swam circles around him, pecked his cheeks, and behaved jealously when he turned his attention to the others. When Mark stared into her gentle eyes he glimpsed a profound sadness. The trainers named her 'Velvet' and she was supposed to be the main seal attraction. Little by little she grew disinterested in performing, to the point where she hid from her trainers and barely touched her food. The trainers remarked that her mood-swings were like that of a real woman.
"Elizabeth, do you see how Velvet reacts? She is in dire need of something. And she is lonely." Mark pointed out a slender and shiny black seal with beige spotting.
"How can you be sure? In need of what? Maybe she's ill. I'm still running tests."
"No. Your tests will be negative. She is not physically sick, she is homesick, Elizabeth, and misses her family. Did you notice how she attached herself to me? She wants me to help her."
"How can you? Does she want to escape? I would think all animals feel the same way."
Mark leaned on the pool railing. "I am not positive, but I think she wants me to help her find her child."
Elizabeth could only nod at his assumptions. She never failed to be amazed by Mark's clear intuition. He had a way of reaching out and understanding most animals in the sea and on land. However, the 'language of fish' still eluded him.
Elizabeth ran a brush through her wavy blonde ponytail and shook it loose. She just changed out of her black and blue wetsuit into a pair of blue jean bellbottoms and a pale blue button-down shirt. She looked forward to going home for a long soak in a warm bubble bath.
"The poor thing is a very long way from home, Mark, and she senses the distance."
"Perhaps. But right now Velvet senses that she is very near."
"Her daughter. I wish there was a way I can bring them together." Mark lowered his green eyes. He twirled his mouth, unsure if he should reveal the next truth.
Elizabeth knew how to read Mark like a book. It was near impossible for him to be deceptive, though he caught on to human attributes very quickly and knew how to put them into practice when necessary. She held her hips and forced his gaze.
"What is it, Mark? There's something else bothering you."
Mark squared his broad shoulders and faced her. "I will not lie. Velvet is not an ordinary seal, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth grinned. "Mark, you are not going to start on those myths and legends again, are you?"
Mark stared at her incredulous. Scientists were renowned for skepticism, but he thought Elizabeth of all people would believe him. "My kind, whatever they may be, are said to be a myth, but I exist, don't I? I know it is near impossible for a human to understand, but Velvet is a Selkie."
Elizabeth suppressed a sigh and folded her arms. "Fine. Supposing she is? Then why doesn't she just turn human and try and find her own child?"
"Because it is not her time. A Selkie can only become human at specific periods. For Velvet, should she choose to do so, it is every ninth night. So she has three days to go." Mark glanced forlornly at the pool. "Velvet has walked amongst humans for years now and has never been discovered. Right now she is trapped just like the other animals. The sad part is that she is fully aware of her situation. Despite their animal form, Selkies can still have human thoughts."
"I'm sorry, Mark. I never knew much about Selkies. I was more of a mermaid fan." Elizabeth said.
"Mermaids are known to be far more vicious. Selkies are generally sweet and gentle shape-shifters. At least the females are."
"Oh. That's good. But I also heard they're capricious."
"Very. That is why Velvet is showing these mood swings." He gripped the barrier and his jaw clenched. "I don't think she can hold on that much longer, Elizabeth. She is dying."
Although he kept stoic, Elizabeth felt a grief radiate from Mark for the seal. She put her arm through his and patted his bicep as a show of support. "Maybe there's a way to get her out of here. I can tell the owners that she needs special attention at the Foundation and then we can try to find her child. If she knows we are trying that may help her situation."
Mark gazed down at her kindly. "That is a very good suggestion. I want to do that."
Elizabeth bit her lip and decided that the next day she would make a pit stop at the local library and brush up on her Celtic ocean folk-lore. Mark's unbridled curiosity always sent her scurrying to learn more about the world and his questions and discoveries opened her once narrowed scientific mind to wondrous possibilities.
Mark sensed the longings of all the sea animals to be freed from captivity. While examining the conditions at this new Sea-Park, he kept his angry emotions in check. People on land hardly understood the needs of the animal Kingdom.
The longer he lived among humans, the more he realized how little harmony existed between the two worlds. Humans didn't comprehend the oceans, but they tried exceedingly. When Mark learned the concept of greed, he felt relieved that humankind hadn't yet stripped the oceans of all its remarkable natural resources. Elizabeth was often assigned to find new forms of minerals and plant life because it was slowly and surely happening, but she had trouble explaining to him what the earth would do once they depleted the ocean. If there was one thing Mark respected about the ocean terrorist, Mr. Schubert, it was his reverence for the sea and its power.
A peculiar feeling came over Mark, and he paced the bleachers and cast glances from right to left.
"Mark, are you alright? What's wrong?"
"There is nothing wrong with me. I just feel something is about to…"
A splash echoed from the opposite end of the pool, but the trainers were too busy to notice as they swam the dolphins back into place in the smaller pools. The seals screeched wildly. They whacked their flippers and thrashed about. Mark removed his jacket. He hopped over the clear wall and leaped into the pool.
"Mark! What are you doing?" Elizabeth shouted. "Mark, stop!"
"I must get to her, Elizabeth!"
"Who? Where…Oh no! Hurry!" Elizabeth raced around to meet him.
A little girl of eight-years old jumped into the water and swam in the midst of the seals. They flocked around and nuzzled her face and chest. The trainers went in after her but this angered the seals and they put up a strong defense. They barked and smacked the trainers with their fins to back away. The child appeared overjoyed. She laughed and hugged them, unaware of the dangers.
Velvet perked up for the first time that week. She barked loudly and performed an amazing high dive. Velvet enveloped the girl, and dove under and over her. The child's joy turned to fright. Velvet's weight forced her underwater and she unintentionally held her down. Mark swam near and clutched the girl. Velvet backed away at Mark's quick urging. He surfaced with the girl and she sputtered and cried, and banged her small fists against his chest.
"No! No! They are my friends! They will not hurt me!"
Mark calmly floated with her to the pool ladder. "Shh, little one. You are not one of them, you are human and you would have drowned. They do not realize that."
"No! I am one! I am a seal! I want to go home! I belong with them!" She begged him. "Please let me go back. That is my mama!"
Mark gazed at her shocked, but he believed her. He carried her to the benches and whispered that Velvet entrusted him to find her. However, she would have to be patient. Although she didn't know this tall, handsome man, the child felt an immediate kinship with him. When she saw the webbings between his fingers, she understood why. They forged an immediate bond that could only be shared by beings of the sea.
The child lay her head on his chest. "Do you promise to help us?"
"Yes. You will both be fine, little one. Do you have a name?"
"Not a name people would understand in seal language."
Mark thought for a moment of the song that played on Elizabeth's car radio. It had a strong chorus that repeated over and over. "Just walk away, Renee, you won't see me follow you back home…"
Mark smiled. "I will call you Renee. We are going to play a game of pretend, but you must let me do the talking."
"Okay. I like that name. What is your name?"
"I was given the name Mark Harris. You can call me Mark."
Renee smiled sweetly at him as her worries subsided. Mark studied the tiny girl. She had long brown hair and coal-dark, winsome eyes framed by fair, delicate features. She was an all around beautiful child. A sense of urgency welled up in Mark. Without his help, she could die too.
Elizabeth rushed up to him. "Mark! Is she okay? Does she need a doctor?"
"I got to her in time, Elizabeth. We must get her back to the Foundation right away."
"Mark, what are you saying? This is someone's child, we can't just take…"
"Please let me handle this, go to the car and wait for me."
The trainers ran over, they finally calmed down the seals and returned them to their tanks. Everyone was justifiably angry. A tubby, sloppily attired man in a checkered polyester suit marched to the pool. He looked as though he never stepped foot near water, but he certainly knew dollars and cents.
"I'm the manager of this sea park! Name's Rex Starling. Do you realize your daughter could have been killed, mister! I should call the cops on you for neglect." He shouted.
"No, please. There is no need to call the authorities. I am sorry. Renee is my niece. She is a very curious little girl. She loves sea-animals, and was only being friendly. The seals are her favorite."
"I don't care if she thinks she's a little mermaid, "If anything happened they would have shut us down permanently! I refuse to have another lawsuit on my hands."
Mark frowned and realized that money meant more to Rex Starling than a girl's life. He bundled Renee closer to him.
"And I would have lost a child! We will leave you. No harm has been done. There is nothing physically wrong with your seals. They will behave normally now, as long as you show them proper care and respect. That goes for all your money-making exhibitions."
Mark turned fast on his heels and stomped to the parking lot. Elizabeth opened the station wagon and hurried toward him. She went along with this unusual plan because he seemed angry and was very intent on keeping the child.
"Mark Harris, you better explain this to me right now. This is called kidnapping!"
"Elizabeth, there is no need to be strident. I know what I am doing. I have not kidnapped her. She belongs to no one, at least no one on land. We cannot leave her alone, because she needs my help. She must go back to the sea and her mother must go with her."
"What? Are you saying she's one of your kind?" Elizabeth's scientific curiosity overcame her irritation. Mark never did anything without reason. However, this was probably the most daring thing yet.
"The most daring thing on land." Elizabeth corrected her thinking. Mark knew his natural habitat inside and out. Whatever creatures and places he stumbled on beneath the surface never frightened him. He was always prepared to investigate and explore the depths of his true home.
Mark placed Renee in the backseat and bade her to wait. She slunk down and plucked at the ruffles on her over-sized damp blue dress.
"Elizabeth, Renee is a Selkie child."
"Oh Mark, more old Celtic folk-lore? How can you be so sure of this?"
"I sensed it, and she told me so. Children are more honest than adults, Elizabeth."
"Most of the time."
Mark smiled. "I saw how the seals reacted around her. They do not even behave that way with me. She has a deeper connection to them. Velvet is her mother."
Elizabeth didn't know what to say to that announcement. She slid into the driver's seat and drove off. She looked at Renee through the rear-view mirror. The girl stared glumly at the Sea park entrance and hummed a celtic tune. When she saw Elizabeth staring, she smiled and wiped the tears shining in her eyes.
"You have beautiful hair, Miss Elizabeth. It glitters like the sunshine and rolls across your shoulders like the ocean waves. My mama is beautiful too, but her hair is ebony like the night sky." Renee complimented her.
"Well, thank you very much." Elizabeth patted her hair down and stared at Mark. "She is very poetic."
"Most creatures of myth are, Elizabeth. And I believe she speaks the truth." His green-eyed gaze burned into her and the corners of his mouth turned up discreetly. Elizabeth flushed. She whispered thanks and turned back to Renee. "Okay, little miss, my friend Mark tells me that you are something very special. I believe him, but there are some tests I'd like to run."
"Elizabeth, is that really necessary?" Mark asked.
"Yes, we did it for you. Don't worry, it's nothing strenuous."
"What do we tell CW and the crew?"
"We are playing pretend, Elizabeth!" Renee blurted out. "Mark said I can be his niece. Can I be your niece too?"
Elizabeth grinned at her. "The others know that Mark has no siblings, at least…we never met them if he does. It's okay, I can talk to them. After all the adventures we've had, they'll understand."
"Are these school tests? Do I have to do math and spelling?" Renee frowned. "I never went to school. Seals do not need it. It's boring."
Elizabeth stifled a laugh as she turned the car into the Foundation parking lot. "No sweetheart, these are science tests, and I'll be doing all the writing. Mark, I'd also like to test her ability in the water."
"Okay, but I do not know what you expect to find. Selkies are not water-breathers."
Elizabeth patted his arm. "I didn't know what to expect with you either, but I was more than surprised."