Ceolbeorht tightened the last part with his tentacles. His invention was finally ready. No one believed it was possible, but he had done it. He had created a surfacing suit.
When he was younger, he was fascinated with the higher, brighter waters. Older jellyfish told him that he was being foolish. “The food is worse and there are more predators. Stay deeper,” they said.
“But I can see that there is a whole world out there, filled with creatures stranger than we could imagine,” Ceolbeorht said. “Some of them visit us. There must be a way to visit them.”
The elders would drift off, leaving Ceolbeorht to think. He trailed after the creatures from above, trying to examine their equipment. Unfortunately, they feared his poison sting and avoided him.
He came across a floating cave now resting on the ocean floor, abandoned by its owners. It was filled with technology that he was able to examine and adapt to his needs. It took a long time, but he finished the prototype.
Now came the hard part, venturing above. He waited until it was dark above and the creatures were hiding for the night. Ceolbeorht hesitated before swimming the last distance.
“You don’t have to do this,” an elder said. He had agreed to accompany Ceolbeorht on this historic test flight.
“I trust my efforts. The surfacing suit will work,” Ceolbeorht said.
“And if there is an emergency, you’ll pull three times on the cord and I pull you back, right?” the elder asked.
Ceolbeorht swam forward at last. It grew more and more difficult as he pulled himself and the heavy suit out of the water. In the end, he couldn’t pull himself all the way out of the water on his own power.
Now that the water was shallower, he was caught in a powerful current that he couldn’t avoid by darting below. The water rose and fell, surging past him. It carried him forward a little, and then back. It was a little frightening. Sometimes he could touch the sand with his tentacles.
He thought about letting go. He could let the waves carry him the rest of the way to the edge of the surface. But at that point, could he return? His tentacles were not strong enough to carry him and his heavy suit forward any further.
He would have to make all the observations he could from here, and then fight his way back before his strength was gone. He began to look around. The surface was bigger than he’d imagined.
There was light coming from above. A big round elder glowed, surrounded by younger, smaller lights. Was this yet another layer of the surface? Was there another layer above that? He began to wonder if there was a layer below them as well.
Perhaps, just as their communities stretched forward and back in time, always elders teaching the young, other communities surrounded them in all directions. Maybe there were more similarities than differences among those that moved.
Ceolbeorht glanced around. He saw plants and rocks and sand here, just like at home. He felt at peace. There were no mysteries here to discover, after all. He pulled on the cord sharply, three times. Then, he began to swim back against the current.
“Are you well?” The elder asked.
“Yes,” Ceolbeorht said.
“And what did you see?”
“That the surface is much like here, but it is not made for us. Let’s go home,” Ceolbeorht said.