It’s my turn to add to Amy’s Neverending Story of Awesomeness. Go read it if you want anything resembling an explanation.
The mermaids led Red and Blue to the edge of an underwater cliff. “We don’t exactly know why you are here, but we’re pretty sure you should meet Pompy,” one of them explained. “He lives at the very bottom.”
“Okay then,” Red responded, and she leaped onto Blue’s back and got ready to swim down off the cliff.
“Wait! If you go down too fast you’ll get hurt! You’re going very very deep, and there’s a lot of pressure. We’ll come with you. Swim slowly, and zig-zag downwards, and take deep, even breaths.”
Red and Blue looked at each other. How far down were they going? Blue smiled at Red, as if to say “Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?” Red grinned.
They set off down the cliff, keeping pace with the mermaid sisters. The water got colder and darker. The sisters gave Red a beautiful new scarf that looked like it was made from sea-foam and black ink, and she wrapped it around them both to stay warm. They took deep breaths to let the pressure equalize.
As the light dimmed, Red saw glowing spots in the water below her. The mermaids explained that some fish glowed to provide light for everyone in the deep ocean.
Blue was getting tired, so they took a break. Red saw a dancing ring of Firefly Squid a little way off, swimming lazily in hypnotic patterns. It was very beautiful.
Once Blue was rested, they started off again. They left the Firefly Squid above them, and the water got darker and darker. Red could still see the lights of other glowing fish, though. The beautiful gem-like lights danced like stars in the water around her.
Red gestured to Blue, and they chased a few of the glowing lights. But the fish immediately ran away and would not come nearer.
“Why can’t I see those fish?” Red asked. “I want to know what they look like.”
“Nobody ever sees them up close,” one of the sisters answered her. “They believe that a creature’s true beauty is the light it creates, and that is the only part of themselves they will show.”
They swam on. The water was almost black now, and it was getting very cold. Suddenly the water started getting warm again, and the lights were obscured by a purple haze.
“Careful!” one of the sisters called. “Come back out of the smoke! It’s very hot!”
Blue turned and swam back to the sisters. Red looked around and saw billowing purple smoke rising through the dark water.
“We’re getting close,” one of the sisters told her. “The smoke is muddy water from a hydrothermal vent. It’s a crack in the ocean floor that allows water to get heated up by the heat at the center of the world.”
The sisters turned to go on. “The smoke is hot enough to burn you at the center. Stay close enough to keep warm, but don’t go in it. Shout if you can’t see us or the other fish-lights.”
Red and Blue swam carefully. They got closer to the ocean floor, and then the sisters stopped.
“Pompy is there.” One of them pointed to a red creature below them, swimming slowly in and out of the smoke. “But we shouldn’t go any closer. He’s sad, and he’s been sad, and we don’t know why, and he won’t let us talk to him any more. We’re very worried about him. We think you might be able to help.”
Red nodded. She would help Pompy if she could. She and Blue swam down towards Pompy.
As she got closer, she realized that Pompy looked like nothing else she had ever seen. He had a long red body with what looked like a thick coat of tendrilly white hair, and instead of a face he had a group of feathery pink tentacles. But he looked so sad as he swam that she could not be afraid.
“Who’s there?” she heard a voice say. She knew it was Pompy, though she couldn’t tell how he made the noise.
“I’m Red, and this is Blue,” she said. “We came to meet you.”
“May I see you?” he asked, extending his tentacles. She said yes, and he gently brushed her face, feeling her shape.
“May I ask….what are you?” she asked.
“I am a Pompeii Worm,” he replied. “I am a creature of the deep places of the world.”
He sounded so sad as he said it. “Why are you so sad?” she asked.
to be continued…
(You can see pictures of more awesome hydrothermal vent animals here, by the way. At least, I think they’re awesome.)