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The day she fell



Neri remembered nothing before the island. When she was little, Father taught her how to tell which fruits were good, which creatures were friendly, and to take only as much as she needed. But Jali taught her how to swim and breathe in the sea.

It was the day she almost died. It was hot, but Father would not let her swim in the ocean yet. She was bored with the still pool; everything was too still and suffocating. But maybe if she ran, maybe that would feel like a breeze was flowing past.

So Neri ran and ran through the forest, pulling the kite Father had made for her, shaped like the creature with delicate wings that drank sweet liquid from flowers. She ran so fast she did not see that there was sky between the trees ahead. She ran and ran and ran until her feet slipped suddenly and the ground was gone.

She fell. Down the cliff she fell until the foamy salt wash swallowed her.

Now there was salty blue in every direction and no air. Which way was the surface? She couldn't shout for Father -- she knew she shouldn't try -- and the pent-up fear made her chest hurt. Which way was up??

Something bumped her then. In her panic, Neri hadn't noticed the great dark shape rising below her, until it was pushing her up, up, to where she could breathe again. As she lay on the smooth-rough surface, a rush of air and water sprayed up near her face. The surface was alive.

Little one. it said. But she didn't really hear the words. It was more like feeling than hearing. Feel pain?

Neri shook her head and sent a grateful feeling to the creature. A jali! she realized -- Father had said there were giant creatures like this in the ocean, and they were called jali.

. . . .

Ocean Girl (c) Jonathan M. Shiff Productions
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