“You hum in your sleep.”
I drift awake to the gentle rocking of the Caspian. My dreams are getting more realistic. The voice is so lifelike that I can swear it’s someone standing right beside me.
“You’re rather flatulent, too.” I startle, nearly soaking my belongings, and look behind me.
A pair of humanlike eyes stare back at me, bored, as I try to fathom what I’m looking at.
“You’re a sea lion,” is all I can think to say.
“Seal, actually. What else you got?” He blinks and yawns.
“You’re talking,” is my next brilliant observation. “Pusa caspica.”
His nonexistent eyebrows raise. He’s impressed.
“Finally, something useful. Clearly you don’t study marine life. So how did you come to know of my species?”
So soon into this odd exchange and I already have to face the problems I aimed to leave behind. I don’t know how I know things. So much of my life hasn’t been making sense and I’ve started to lose my grip on who I am. I don’t want to say all of this to a stranger, though.
“I don’t know how I know,” I say. The seal looks at me for a long time, calculating. As soon as I begin to relax a bit he jumps onto my boat, making an unnecessary ruckus.
He talks, a lot. He tells me things I have never spoken out loud, much less to another person. He talks about my family, my fears, my friends, or lack of. I am soon hoping he’ll jump back off and join whatever bob he came from.
“And last but not least,” he continues, “my name is Caspo. And I know that you sail this boat into the horizon hoping to fall off the edge of this world. Am I wrong?”
I shake my head.
“Are you aware of the time shift?” He knows what I know, so I wonder why he still asks questions like this. I shake my head.
“Many sailors have gone to the edge only to find that life continues. But once you pass the edge, you’re unable to come back. You can only move forward. Are you ready to leave all else behind?”
This is all simply too much. I’m not here. I can’t be. But I am. I’m sailing with a seal.
“Yes, I’m a talking seal. I would’ve thought you’d move past that by now.”
“You hear my thoughts now, do you?” I can see my feet. In my dreams, I cannot see my feet. But here they are. Covered in old wet socks.
“Focus,” he says.
I don’t know why, but I know I need to listen. I know there’s a point to this. Strangely, this is starting to become the only moment in my entire life that has ever felt real.
We sail further and further into the dark blue chasm and it’s freezing. Caspo makes me talk every fifty feet or so but my lips are numb. Eventually we notice a dot in the distance. Caspo tells me stories of sailors who got caught in the middle of the time shift. They were never able to leave the sea again and their ships remain, standing tall. From where we are now they look like tombstones.
Fine. He’s done it. He’s made me second-guess.
We move closer and closer to the abandoned ships and near the end we can make out symbols embedded into kayaks, boats, ships, and yachts. Family heirlooms painted onto masts and ancestral names mostly faded away. We see a boat about the same size as my own and Caspo peers over at me. He’s waiting for me to realize something.
“I’m stopping here,” I say. Something doesn’t feel right. That boat looks exactly like mine. The yellow is faded but there is the cobra etching. My family name is in the same font. That is my boat.
Caspo sighs. “Are you there yet?”
“Did I die here?”
“Yes and no,” he responds.
“That was a future version of me?”
“Yes, it was.”
“I wanted to come back.”
He didn’t respond. It wasn’t a question. Suddenly I knew. I knew I didn’t want this. Caspo clapped.
“Really, you’re a clapping seal now?”
“Hey, it’s one of my few joys. I’m pleased that you got there quickly, I have a few other visits to make.” He hops into the water before I could blink.
“Wait!” I need to hear the answers that I already know. Caspo turns back to look at me.
“The sea is always calmer on the other side, isn’t it,” he says. And he swims away.
As I make my way back to land, I turn back frequently and watch myself fade into the distance until I can’t tell it apart from the horizon it’s caught in. I wanted to cross the time shift and return to where I am right now.
There must be something that I deemed worth living for.