Nothing could compare to that feeling as Chris dove deep into the ocean's depths. He loved everything about the sea: the frigid embrace of the water, the brilliant spectrum of fish and corals and sea life, the calming, swaddling feel of the pressure around his body as he dove deeper and deeper into the rainbow, flowing candy land of the sea. At this depth, the sun's rays still penetrated the water, illuminating an expansive metropolis of coral, seaweed, eels, fish, rays...
It was stunning, but it wasn't what he was after. Making the final adjustments to his mask and breathing apparatus, Chris swam into the heart of the towering coral structures, looking for a particular secret he had discovered. It took several minutes, but soon he found the tight, yawning, cave-like entrance that was tucked between a large branched coral and covered with the wiggling, waving tentacles of a sea anemone. He shone his flashlight into the opening, sending several spooked clownfish away in a brilliant orange flash. Inside his mask he smiled, happy he remembered the correct location.
Chris had a theory, though most people thought he was utterly insane. Despite what conventional science would have the population believe, Chris was convinced that merfolk were real, and he had a feeling he was getting very close to finding that proof. He kept most of his theories close to the chest for obvious reasons, but one day he would have the proof he needed.
Though, part of him wondered if he would even tell anyone if he did find proof. You see, he wasn't out to make a name for himself, or exploit the scientistic community. He didn't want the merpeople to be lab rats; captured and put in elaborate tanks like some kind of exotic Sea World. No, deep in his heart Chris knew he didn't want to -know-. He wanted to see them...see how beautiful they were. Learn how the lived, how they loved, how they ate... did they make crafts and clothes? Did they hunt and net fish? Did they tame dolphins or rays? What about breeding? Did they lay eggs and spawn like a fish, or carry their young?
Though most people would have been hesitant to dive head-first into a cave under the ocean, Chris knew this was perhaps the key to his next big breakthrough. You see, though it looked like a cave, the opening was actually just a small tunnel, that soon opened up to an expansive, though hard to get to, valley under the ocean. Most of this whole area of the ocean floor was obscured from most detecting equipment due to the expansive maze of coral reefs above him. Unbeknownst to most people, Chris knew the ocean was full of these hidden alcoves, hard to get to without specialized diving suits, and it was his theory that this network of shaded reed-forests was where the merpeople made their home.
He dove further still, looking for the ocean bed. While it sounded counterintuitive, the floor of the ocean was often hard to locate though the massive networks of kelp, seaweed, anemones, and other life that teemed in the sea. Finally, he made a curve around a particularly rocky outcropping and found himself looking upon a virtual plain of ocean floor - flowing and ebbing in the current of the water. It was mostly sandy, with several patches of weeds that seemed to dance in the current. He swam into the middle of the clearing, a glimmer of something in the light catching his eye.
As he got closer, it seemed to be some kind of pearl, or jewel. Maybe a piece of smooth sea glass? He reached for it, hoping beyond hope that it was some kind of a proof of merman craftmanship. But as soon as his fingers touched it, it seemed to come alive. In the span of a few seconds, the little bead of light raced toward him and hit him square in the stomach; ripping through his specialized deep-sea suit like tissue paper and lodging itself firmly into the skin of his navel.
There was a rush of fear, his hands immediately going to his stomach, trying to dig the stone-like object out of his flesh. There was no blood, but the little gem was firmly embedded. In his struggle to try to remove it, it was several minutes before Chris realized he couldn't breathe. Panic swept through his mind as he quickly tried to adjust the mask and controls to his oxygen tank. He fiddled with the knobs and tubes, futily trying to take in gulps of breath. He could feel his pulse beginning to pound in his head; he could feel his vision getting blurry. To his disbelief and dismay, Chris realized that oxygen was flowing just fine, he just couldn't breathe.
Out of instinct, or a flash of enlightenment, or some kind of divine intervention, Chris yanked the mask off his face and took a gulp of water. Amazingly, as he felt the water flood his lungs his body relaxed, and he could breathe again! He tried to take another experimental breath, but the water wasn't going in and out of his lungs. Confused for a moment, a tilt of his head made him jerk - the skin on his neck suddenly very sensitive. His hands reached for his neck and gently ran his fingers over the new flaps in his neck. He winced, they were super-sensitive, but he knew immediately what they were. They flapped slowly in the current of the water, in a natural rhythm that mirrored his previous breathing patterns; they were gills!
He dropped his eyes back to the where his wetsuit was ripped around his middle. He pulled at the rubbery material, marveling at the beautiful, shiny scales that were forming on his skin; outward in a tessellation like pattern. His wetsuit was getting tighter, the split in the seam expanding, as his hips widened. He jerked from the sudden, strange sensation washing over him, nearly doubling over in his suspended place in the water. The deep pops and cracks could be heard through the muffled water as the oxygen tank and mask sank, now completely forgotten. It was painful, yet, somehow completely satisfying as his muscles and bones shifted under his skin. As sharp, fish-like fins ripped violently though the wetsuit at his waist, Chris gasped as he saw the scaly skin beginning to spread quickly over his thighs.
He knew, somewhere in his brain, he should be scared. But instead, his heart raced with adrenaline and anticipation. His feet and toes tingled, as if his feet had fallen asleep. As the scales grew down over his waist and hips, he watched as they began to seam together, knitting to one another, ignoring the separation of his legs. It was a strange, swaddling like process...the scales hugging close and locking his knees together, and completely erasing the separation between his thighs. As as his legs joined, the material of his wetsuit gave way in its path. The skin, just barely visible between the shiny scales, was soft and rubbery; yielding and allowing for a remarkable level of flexibility.
There was no stopping the transformation now, not that Chris would have even if he had the ability to. Out of his peripheral vision he could see his hair, now lighter and definitely longer, dancing in the water around his face. As the scales continued to zip down his thighs, he felt an electric tingling begin to rush up and down his spine. The spines coming out of his hips grew a beautiful, shimmering webbing; turning them into full-fledged scales. It was impossible to deny what he was becoming, and his heart raced with sheer amazement.
As the patchwork, glove-like scaling begin to trail down his legs, beginning to envelope his shins past the knees, Chris watched as his rubber swim flippers finally slipped off his feet. Where his feet had previously been, they now seemed elongated, and as he tried to wiggle his toes he felt only the dull tingling of a phantom limb. The bones were receding, in alien but not wholly unpleasant sensation, as he feet lost their boney structure and took on a finlike, thin sheen.
It was coming faster now - though while the actual transformation most likely took only a couple of minutes, to Chris every moment felt like an new adventure of exploration. He took a few seconds to revel in the feel of the cool water running over his gills. The way the scales on his lower half gleamed like jewels in the broken, mosaic like light that filtered through to his ocean grotto. There was no denying what he had become - from the waist down he was completely fish-like. The scales had completely enveloped where his legs had been, and thought he couldn't see it; he could feel the new muscles undulating over old skeletal system as his legs-turned-tail grew more flexible. For a moment he thought it was over, and he experimented with trying to move. He flicked his tail and found himself awkwardly upside-down in the water.
This would definitely take some getting used to. He moved again, trying to learn how to control his tail. Well, tail was a misnomer; his entire body form his waist down was now a streamlined, single limb. He tried to "kick," he muscles contracting and causing another jerky, powerful push that did little but spin him another loop. He was still upside down, but in the buoyant, space-like suspension of the deep ocean, there was no sense of dizziness or vertigo.
Before he could fully concentrate on new locomotion, another shudder ran through his body. It wasn't quite over just yet. His ears burned - the cartilage in the ridges exploding outward into pointy spikes as he gasped. He let his fingers touch the sensitive ridges, a yelp of surprise and excitement escaping from his mouth with the form of bubbles. His spine soon followed - the ridges of his spinous process bursting out through his skin. The last of his wetsuit top fell away as they grew out, his whole skeleton seeming to shift and change to accommodate the new anatomy. The spines grew, and like the ones of his hips, grew a shiny webbing between them, creating a smooth, single ridge of dorsal fins from the back of his neck to the tip of his new aquatic tail.
He wiggled his new body, swimming back upright, looking at his hands. Before his very eyes, webbing formed between them, allowing for greater freedom of movement in the water. It was surprisingly natural now, the way his body seemed to flow through the water like a bird in the sky.
Was this for real?
He ran his new, webbed fingers though his long, blonde hair. It felt so natural - so beautiful. His new body was both sleek and strong; he laid his hands on his scaly bottom, squeezing just enough. He could feel the muscles bulging under the smooth, shiny surface of his skin. His scales glimmered like pearls; beautiful and tropical with royal purple and golden yellow splotches. They covered his tail and continued up in calico-like patches, stopping just short of his mostly humanoid, well proportioned chest. It was stunning.
He tilted his head, just now realizing that his eyes could now see exceptionally well in the water; better than he ever could even before. He saw the remains of his tattered wetsuit and the abandoned oxygen tank... a remnant of a life that now seemed to be light years away. He was quickly forgetting what life on land even felt like; a new body and a completely new world lay out before him to explore.
He flicked his tail and catapulted forward. He sliced through the water, shoals of fish scattering and coalescing around him. The rush of water through his gills and the feel of the tug of the current though his fins was intoxicating. He would never see the surface of the water again, and he wouldn't miss it for an instant.