A Little Boy

Once upon a time, there was a boy, a young and unseasoned little boy who lived on an island in the middle of the big, vast ocean. The island was beautiful and comfortable – it had everything the boy needed as he was growing up.  It had ample fish in the ponds, succulent fruits on the trees, firewood to keep himself warm… it would seem foolish to leave such a paradise, he thought. Days became weeks, weeks became months… and the boy started to become restless. He felt that his routine and unchallenged lifestyle had lost its luster long before he realized it. Life became a bore and growing up became a chore.

Now and then, he would look far into the distance, but all he could see was the majestic sun in all its blazing glory cresting the sky, and the enormous expanse of azure blue water with gentle waves rippling through it. As the sun rose and set in the horizon, the boy quietly wished that he could soar into the skies and see the world beyond his eyes.  All he had known in his life was everything on his little island. He wondered, is there something out there to be discovered? Surely, my world can’t be just this tiny island forever, he said to himself. Determined and longing to leave, the boy started building a raft the best he could, as fast as he could, so that he could sail away from the island he called home for so long.

The boy did not know what to expect, but he knew one thing: what he was about to do would change his life, and possibly change him as a person. He knew that life might take a turn for the worse at wherever he may end up, but he was certainly willing to take a leap of faith and sail off without any regrets. Pushing his makeshift but sturdy raft out to sea, he turned back and cast a final look at the shoreline. I’ll be back, the boy said, but he was doubting himself ever so slightly. With those last words, he turned back around, facing the open sea with steely and confident eyes. He let the sail loose, letting it catch on to the easterly wind, the wind which would take him to wherever fate may take him.

On that first night, the boy was awestruck by the beauty and wonder of nature. He saw how bright the stars in the sky were at night when there wasn’t any fire burning to drown out their light. He saw many different species of fishes swimming in the clear waters, many beautiful, colorful corals littering the depths, funny looking creatures he had never knew existed… it was all so wondrous and amazing. The boy knew he was counting his lucky stars on this maiden voyage; the seas were calm, the wind was strong, the fish were plenty… it seemed like the gods were happy with his choice. But alas, he thought, how many days has it been, since I last saw and felt solid ground… days, weeks, no…. months?

The boy had no idea. All he felt was the feeling of liberty and freedom, the unbridled joy felt by the unshackled and the unworried. He was comfortable riding the waves and doing absolutely nothing, enjoying the carefree life as it was. This is the life! He smiled and looked up into the sky with serene eyes and a peaceful heart.

But one day, while he was hungry and fishing for food, he heard faint and soft, but agitated clicking noises. Curious and puzzled, he turned and saw beside the rudder, an injured dolphin with a gashed, lacerated left fin and bite marks on its left flank. It looked at him with such innocent, ingenuous eyes, but deep inside he could sense its distress and pain; it was clearly suffering and in deep pain. Cautiously, he reached out a hand and stroked the dolphin. It seemed to understand him, and immediately calmed down, but the fin was limp and useless. The boy could see that the dolphin was in dire straits if it could not swim properly and catch food for itself.

So the boy decided that he could not bear to see the dolphin alone in agony and that he would stop sailing and stay with the dolphin until it could swim again. He knew that the dolphin needed to eat to recover, and it wasn’t going to do that by itself. Everyday, the boy woke up early and caught as many fish as he could. It wasn’t easy; fish tend to stay away from the raft because the dolphin was near. But the boy was patient – he had time on his side and he was certainly not going to let the dolphin suffer from hunger. He would talk to the dolphin, soothing it with calming words and stroke its injured fin with tender love and affection. The dolphin would reply with cheerful clicking sounds and nuzzle his hands with its snout playfully, which made the boy very, very happy. He had forgotten how it felt to have a friend.

One morning, the boy woke up in a startled shock as he felt the cold sting of sea spray on his face. Was a storm on its way? He jumped to his feet, looked up at the sky and expected the worst. But it was clear and sunny. Then the boy looked down at his feet, where a pile of fish lay on the deck flopping, fresh from the sea. A head popped up from the ocean surface, and he saw more fish in his companion’s snout. The dolphin, as if in joyous delight, splashed water with exuberance at the boy with its fins. Stunned by the sight, the lips on the boy’s face slowly turned upwards into a smile, and tears of joy welled up in his eyes. The dolphin was reciprocating his care and expressing its gratitude by catching fish for him! Touched by the gesture, all the boy could think of was to hug the dolphin. Without a second thought, he jumped into the sea and wrapped his arms around his new-found friend.

As he looked into the intelligent, lively eyes of the dolphin, he saw a hint of mischief in those beautiful, glimmering pupils. Grabbing hold of the dorsal fin on the dolphin’s back, he braced himself as the muscular frame beneath him propelled forward with a mighty kick of her powerful tail. He was going on an adventure! Without warning, he felt himself lurching forward and downward. Instinctively, the boy took a deep breath. He was now underwater, riding on a back of a dolphin, and he could not believe what was happening. He felt pressure in his ears as they dived deeper and deeper until he thought they would pop. Then suddenly, just as unexpected as the plunge was, he felt the dolphin flex its body and accelerate upwards. The boy felt his heart skip a beat as he knew what was coming.

The water rushed past him as his vision blurred; he tightened his grip as he felt the driving force pushing him backwards. The light grew brighter and brighter… until his face broke through the water surface and felt the cool sea breeze on his cheeks. Am I dreaming? He thought. Then he looked down at the water below him. No, I’m flying, he laughed. He let go of his grip on the dolphin and spread them out by his side, imagining himself to be an eagle, soaring through the skies. For a moment he forgot that he was human. He felt weightlessness, as if he was a feather floating in the wind. Exhilarating. But, gravity, oh cruel gravity reminded him of his mortality, and brought him back down to reality. He entered the water with a painful smack.

The boy woke up on the raft, rubbing his neck painfully and touching his chest gingerly. How did I get back here? He wondered. A series of clicks interrupted his thoughts, and he saw his friend bobbing in the water a few feet away from him, looking at him with earnest eyes. Smiling, he threw a fish at her, which she immediately caught with her beak. Thank you, the boy said. The dolphin seemed to smile at him, but he couldn’t be sure, for he had no idea if dolphins could smile anyway. She started swimming away, but stopped and looked back at him. She did it for a few times, and the boy soon realized that his friend wanted him to follow her. The boy frantically released the sail and guided the raft towards that direction.

After a few hours, the boy saw a strip of mass, long and large on the surface of the water, up ahead in the distance. He squinted his eyes and struggled to see what it was. He saw the faint but identifiable glitter… of sand. A coastline! Emotions broiled within him – elation, nervousness, excitement….and sadness. The boy had found what he was looking for, but he could not help but feel a tinge of sorrow. He looked at his friend, and immediately felt a wave of melancholy sweep over him. He knew that he had to leave her behind to continue his journey. He knew that he couldn’t possible live out in the sea forever with her, as much as he wanted to. They belonged in two worlds. Life must go on.

Gritting his teeth and holding back the tears welling in his eyes, he slipped into the water and swam towards his friend. He wrapped his arms around the dolphin’s neck and realized that he did not want to let go. The dolphin seemed to understand the boy and kept still in the boy’s embrace. Finally, as the sky was getting dark, the boy gave a final kiss goodbye to her and made his way onto the beach. As he turned around and looked back at the horizon which was tinted red, and he saw a silhouette leap out of the water and arc over the setting sun. He raised his hand and bid farewell.

“Good night, for we’ll meet again.” He whispered… the wind carried his words away, as they drifted into oblivion.

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