All posts by sleemanmunk

No Place Like Home

This is a screenplay I wrote for a creative writing class in college.  I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be. A pilot for a television show with extremely short episodes? I had to restore it from a PDF I found in my email, and I tweaked it just slightly as I was correcting the conversion errors. Anyway, enjoy. 

No Place Like Home

(After title screen continue with black for a little bit. Cut to a close up on John, a white male of about thirty wearing business casual clothes. He is sitting in a chair like at an airport gate.)

John: (with a start) Where am I?

(Pan camera to Cixot sitting beside John. Another white male, apparently twenty years old, rough and wearing a leather jacket)

Cixot: You’re in hell, Tenth Circle!

John: What?

Cixot: Ha ha, Naw, I’m just kiddin’. (John starts to relax) You’re in the Ninth circle.

John: What?

Cixot: (snorting at his own joke) There is no Tenth circle.

John: I’m in Hell?

Cixot: You’re in hell.

John: Hell?

Cixot: Yes, Hell.

John: Why does it look like an airport terminal?

Cixot: (shrugs and screws up his face in a “hell if I know” expression) I guess you don’t like airport terminals!

John: They’re kind of annoying, I guess.

Cixot: Alright, that’s a start! Welcome to Hell!

John: But – I’m not dead!

Cixot: Died in yer sleep.

John: No I didn’t! I wasn’t sleeping!

Cixot: Like Hell you weren’t (explodes with laughter)

John: I wasn’t! I was

Cixot: (interrupts) Dozin’?

John: A- No!

Cixot: (interrupts)Snoozin’?

John: No! I-

Cixot: (interrupts)Restin’ yer eyes?

John: Shut up! I was just getting a Diet Coke from a vending machine, when I was suddenly sitting in this airport terminal.

Cixot: Hell.

John: (annoyed)Yes, Hell.

beat

Cixot: ‘dja have a dark, disturbed feeling when you saw the vending machine?

John: What? What are you- (realization) wait, actually yes. I had the strangest urge to get as far away from that vending machine as possible, but I just- I just shrugged it off. (disbelieving) It’s not really sensible to go around avoiding things just because they give you bad impressions.

Cixot: As a matter of fact, it is. (flashes a smile) Possessed vending machine.

John: (incredulous) What?

(Camera spins around to face Kyle, a twenty-something fellow, snappily dressed and sitting backwards on the seat in the row opposite and leaning forward, paying rapt attention.)

Kyle: Demon possesses a vending machine. For all intensive purposes it becomes a tool of the devil. Then a mortal uses a tool of the devil, betraying God. Quid Pro Quo, here you are in Hell.

Cixot: (to Kyle)Absolutely right. (to John)Welcome to Hell. (pause, Cixot looks stupid for a second.)

(to Kyle) Have we met?

John: But-but I’m not dead! And what about the bad feeling!? What does that have to do with it!?

Kyle: Second of all, the bad feeling is your soul trying to tell you to, like you said, “Get as far away from the vending machine as possible” God knew demons would try and fool human, so he put little sensors in your souls that would warn you when an object is possessed. Unfortunately, nowadays people tend to ignore that sensor, what with all the hoopla about human reason and what is and isn’t possible. First of all, as for why you’re in Hell before you’re dead, well betrayal takes your soul right away, and you end up here.

Cixot: Shit! (slaps forehead) You’re right! Article 84, Clause 14-B, The sin of treachery is, er, punished instantaneously and without reprieve!

Kyle: Good! I bet you aced Sins 341! Now what’s that clause known as colloquially?

(Cixot stops to think for a moment)

John: But what happens to my body? Do I just, what, collapse in a pile on the ground?

Cixot: Danté’s clause!

Kyle: (to Cixot) Right you are! (to John) A-

Cixot:(interrupts) A demon takes control a yeh fer the rest a yer life.

John: (speechless)

Cixot: (smiles maliciously)We’ve got a screen if you want to see what yer doin’ now.

John: um

Kyle: You don’t want to see.

Cixot: What?

Kyle: Trust me, John, you don’t.

John: How do you know my name?

Cixot: (to Kyle, frustrated and suspicious) Who are you?

Kyle: (to Cixot) Nice to meet you, I’m Kyle. (to John) John, do not look at that terminal, trust me.

Cixot: I’m Cixot. Nice to meet both of you. (incensed, grabs John)We actually were just leaving.

Camera cuts. John realizes with a start that he’s in a booth now with a terminal in front of him.

Cixot: (muttering) Who was that? Kahyle.. Caile… maybe it was Caine? But what about the mark? Caine’s always got that stupid mark!

(Cixot pushes a button on the terminal and it starts up.)

John: Window’s Vista?

Cixot: Shut up. Lets see, start menu… all programs… ah DemonCam!

(Cut to terminal screen. “Please wait while DemonCam connects to server…” On the screen John is walking down the sidewalk finishing his Diet Coke. When he’s done he throws it in a waste bin.)

John: This isn’t so bad.

Cixot: Are you kidding? That was recyclable! Think of all the long-term damage that’s going to cause!

John: (scratches head) I guess that’s kind of evil.

Cixot: He’s just getting started, anyway. He wanted to finish the evil soda.

(John on the screen strolls into a gun store and starts applying for a gun license.)

John: My wife isn’t going to be happy about this.

Cixot: You have a wife? Ooh, this is gonna be great!

(The color drains from John in the airport’s face)

(John on the screen is filling out an application for a gun license)

(Kyle appears and grabs John. Suddenly, they’re in a cave. The camera is behind them, looking at the airport. Huge, black stalagmites and stalactites surround it, one is penetrating the roof, as if the airport had been built around it. Gigantic nuclear coolers stand in the distance, billowing brimstone. John looks around, startled.)

John: Goddammit, that’s so freaky! What’s with all the teleporting!?

Kyle: I don’t know what you’re asking to be damned, but it probably already is at this point, so don’t waste your breath. As for teleporting, Hell isn’t really a physical place, it’s sort of half, maybe three-quarters all in your mind, so you go places just by having the intent of being there.

John: I didn’t intend to be here!

Kyle: That’s the other half. That fella in the airport and I have higher privilege than you here, so we can

take you places just by intending to take you there.

beat

John:(resigned) So this is Hell. Why is there an airport?

Kyle: I should be asking you. You put it there.

John: Huh?

Kyle: You must really hate airports.

John: Not so much, actually.

(Kyle tries to exchange a knowing look with John, but John responds with a look that says “What!?”)

beat

(Johns eyes lazily wander around Hell, but when he turns around to look behind him he gasps.)

John: Whoah! Jesus Christ!

Kyle: Not here.

John: A lake of fire!? (pan to show lake of fire)

Kyle: Yes, that’s a lake of fire. Would you mind terribly stepping into it?

John: What? Yes I’d mind! It’s a lake of fire!

Kyle: That’s the way out of here, John.

John: That’s ridiculous! I’m not going!

Kyle: (sigh) fine.

(Kyle reaches his hand out to the side where it disappears as if behind an invisible wall and types

something. The lake of fire disappears and is replaced by a stretch of volcanic soil with a door standing freely in the center.)

Kyle: Just go through the door

(John pauses for a moment, but starts walking towards the door. When John’s almost halfway there Kyle reaches his hand out and pushes an invisible button. The land disappears and becomes a lake of fire again. John falls into the fire and starts screaming in agony.)

John: AAAAH! FUCK! It burns! THIS HURTS SO FUCKING BAD!!! AAAAAUGH!

Kyle: (shouting from the shore, show the camera distantly) Think of your home!

John: WHAT? AAAAUGH!

Kyle: You’ve got to think of your home, or you’ll just appear in the airport again!

John: FUCK THIS! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

Kyle: Don’t just say it! Do I look like a good fairy to you!? Keep an image of your home in your mind!

Think about what it’ll be like to be there!

John: AAAAAAAUUGH! It burns! It’s hot! GRAAAAGH!

(John sinks into the lake of fire.)

Kyle: (whispers to self) shit.

(John is in the airport)

Cixot: Long time, no see. I brought you the terminal this time.

(Cixot has a television on a wheelie stand. John on the screen is waiting for a bus.)

Cixot: He’s got the gun. He’s going to K-mart to buy the bullets now.

John: Why didn’t he just buy the bullets at the gun shop?

Cixot: He wants as many as he can get for your money. This demon’s an old friend of mine, and he knows how to cause suffering, trust me. Just be patient.

John: Oh, shit! Where’s Kyle?

Cixot: Would you shut up about Caine already? That fucker took my last three victims!

(Kyle appears)

Kyle: Come on, John.

They disappear. Cixot roars in anger and shoves over terminal, which explodes and sets the floor on fire. He screams again and tries a few times to snap his fingers. When finally he does manage to snap them, the fire and terminal scraps vanish, leaving the floor clean and pristine.

Cixot: Fuckin’ Caine!

(In front of the lake of fire)

John: Holy crap! He’s gonna kill us!

Kyle: Don’t worry about that guy, he’s just an imp. He probably thinks I’m one of his superiors playing a prank on him.

John: You’re not Caine?

Kyle: No, I’m Kyle. (sounding it out) Ky-le.

beat

John: So now what?

(Kyle gives John a look)

John: No.

Kyle: Do you want to get out of here or not?

John: So I have to die? Is that it? I die and somehow I end up back at home?

(Kyle nods impatiently)

John: Can’t you just shoot me or something?

Kyle: (Like explaining to a small, not particularly bright child) No I can’t shoot you. It has to be in the lake of fire. The lake of fire.

John: (mimicking Kyle’s tone) Why?

Kyle: The lake of fire is the connector between the circles. Dying by a gunshot wound will just put you right back at your rebirth location every time, but privileged people can send a soul that’s died in the pit of fire to different circles. Then I can override the system a little bit to give you the controls to go to the zeroth circle, i.e. The mortal realm. I’d just send you there myself, but you might end up in the wrong body. Like Cameron Diaz or a fish or something.

John: Hold on. I’m not a complete moron. Circles of Hell? Dante’s clause? I read The Inferno in

sophomore English. The ninth circle isn’t hot! It’s cold!

Kyle: Because Lucifer was blowing wind through it, but you don’t see him here either, do you?

John: What?

Kyle: An awful lot has changed since our buddy Alighieri had his little tour.

John: What?

Kyle: Look, Einstein. I’m not here to explain to you the history of Hell. I’m just here to get you out. Now do you want to get out?

John:…Yes I do.

Kyle: Then start walking. And remember, think of home.

(John starts trudging towards the lake of fire, but balks at the edge.)

Kyle: Come on!

John: This isn’t as easy as it looks! This stuff burns!

Kyle: Yeah, it’s fire! Now hop in!

(Cixot appears, livid)

Cixot: What the fuck are you doin’?

Kyle: Whoah, hold on there, fella. I’m just helping this guy get to the right circle. (to John) Go! Go!

John: (mumbling) There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

Cixot: You ain’t Caine. I went to Caine’s house lookin’ fer ya an’ he said he’d never heard of a Kyle. Who are you?

Kyle: I’m Beelzebub.

Cixot: Checked there.

Kyle: Mephistopheles.

Cixot: Nuh-uh he’s off duty. Mephistopheles never deals with mortals on Thursdays.

Kyle: This is a special exception.

Cixot: Mephistopheles doesn’t make exceptions.

John: There’s no place like home…

Kyle: Enraha (hoarse whisper to John) Get in there!

Cixot: Are you serious!? Enraha is a giant eyeball! He never leaves that stupid pyramid!

Kyle: (Pauses for a moment)

Cixot: Who-

Kyle: Alright, you found me out…. I’m Lucifer. (Kyle’s eye twitches and he shoves John face-forward into the lake of fire)

John: There’s no place like-whoah!

Kyle: I have returned.

Cixot: That is the stupidest thing-

Kyle: You’d better fucking believe it, Imp. I’m the king of Hell.

Cixot: What? I’m a gog, thank you very much! I worked hard for that title! And you are not the king of hell.

Kyle: Oh, I’m sorry Mr. one-step-above-imp. Hey, where’re your horns?

Cixot: They’re on layaway. I should get them in a week or two.

Kyle: They’re making you pay for your horns now?

Cixot: Well, yeah. We’ve been doing it that way for a few hundred years now. Who are you, exactly?

Kyle: I’m Lucifer! A lowly gog questions my authority?

Cixot: Show me some proof. Lucifer is the size of a mountain!

Kyle: …I don’t need to prove anything to you, Gog. Go on your way

(Kyle looks over his shoulder at John, who is sinking into the fire screaming “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!” at the top of his lungs)

Kyle: Idiot.

(zoom in on John’s hand reaching out of the lava as it sinks completely in. Suddenly, John is standing in front of a counter with his hand on a credit card. A clerk is looking at him expectantly. He looks and sees a heaping stack of bullet boxes on the counter)

John: Oh! Uh, I’d like to, um, cancel.

Clerk: I’m sorry?

John: I just realized I don’t need (eyes a heaping stack of bullet boxes on the counter) …however many bullets that is.

Clerk: (bewildered) Oh.

John: Bye!

(John leaps away)

Clerk: Sir, you left your gun!

John: Keep it!

John dashes toward the door, but Kyle is standing in the doorway. The automatic door keeps trying to close on him.

John: oh, Kyle! Thanks! Are you, uh, going to be ok?

Kyle: Yeah, I’m fine. That Gog’s pretty confused, though. He’s probably going to get demoted back to imp.

John: That’s too bad.

Kyle: Oh shut up, don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a demon!

John: Whatever.

Kyle: Listen, I just wanted to say you’re the luckiest damned moron I’ve ever met. And I mean that literally. Not everybody gets the slowest Demon in hell to possess him.

John: Well, gee, thanks, Kyle. You’re… what are you?

(Whirring noise of automatic door opening and closing)

Kyle: (screws up his face into a mock smile and puts his hands on his hips) I’m a servant of the Lord.

John: Yeah, right.

Kyle: No, really I’m just a regular guy.

(John is not impressed)

Kyle: Alright, fine. (glares wildly at John, still smiling) I’m Lucifer!

John: (Disbelieves again, but Kyle’s smile disappears. He looks suddenly rather imposing. John doesn’t press the subject)

Kyle: (grins) Well, don’t you have a wife to go see?

John: My god, I was so scared! You have no idea! Thank you again!

(John waits for the door to open wide enough for him to slip past, and runs out. Happy music starts to play.)

Kyle: Oh hey, John. Could you do me a favor?

John: What?

Kyle: If you see ol’ Cixot again, just say his name and tell him to go back to Hell. That oughta take care of him.

(The happy music stops abruptly.)

John: Whoah, whoah. I thought I was out of this!

Kyle: (holding up hands) I don’t really think it’s going to be a problem, I just think you should know. Just in case.

John: Ok, fine. “Cixot?” Just say “Cixot?”

Kyle: No, no his whole name. There’s a weird old rule on the books that if a mortal says a demon’s whole name the demon has to obey their instructions. What actually qualifies as a legitimate instruction has gotten all gunked up in bureaucracy, though, so just stick with telling him to go away. You can be all like “Returne from whence ye came” and stuff if you want, but just “go to Hell!” should work fine.

John: What’s his whole name?

Kyle: That’s a good question. Nowadays demons tend to make their full names entire backwards songs, and then just go by the title. I’m not up on popular culture, though, so I can’t help you with that.

John: (incredulous) So I have to sing an entire song backwards?

Kyle: (defensive) I didn’t say it was going to be easy! Oh, and don’t practice. If you say his whole name while he’s not here, it might summon him.

John: (yelling) I have to sing an entire song backwards on the spur of the moment without practicing!?

Kyle: You know what!? Fine! Fine! You don’t want my help, you won’t get it! There’s no way you’re the one they want, anyway! I’m out of here!

John: What? The one they want!? Oh, no you don’t! You are going to tell me what’s going on, and you are going to tell me

(Kyle vanishes)

John: …now. (camera zooms out to view larger K-Mart area. Everyone is staring at John)

John: What!? What are you guys looking at!? Go away! (mumbles) Ah, what the hell is going on!? Cixot… what song is called “Cixot?”

(Play credits to Britney Spears’ “Toxic” played backwards)

(the song continues a bit after the credits end, and the dialogue starts the second it ends. Close up on the fang-filled mouth of a major demon, complete with red skin, goatee, and horns. Dressed in business formal and wearing tiny glasses at the end of his long nose.)

Namdnas Retsim: …Otherwise known as Cixot. (Zoom out to show whole face while Retsim looks up from his paper) May I call you Cixot?

Cixot: (looking sick with worry) Please do.

Namdnas Retsim: Now, it says here that the soul under your jurisdiction somehow ended up back in

its mortal body.

Cixot: I- I can explain, really!

Namdnas Retsim: (adjusts glasses, looking back down at paper) ahem, you will be glad to know, Cixot, that Neeuq Rellik was returned immediately to Hell unharmed.

Cixot: (slightly relieved, but still quite terrified) I was acting under orders!

Namdnas Retsim: Yes, it’s all here. (slightly amused) From Lucifer himself, I see!

Cixot: It was Lucifer! He said he was Lucifer!

Namdnas Retsim: Perhaps… he wasn’t telling the truth? Did that thought enter your mind, Cixot?

Cixot: He said he was Lucifer! I’m not supposed to question Lucifer! Article 16-A, clause 8,433!

Namdnas Retsim: Settle down, Cixot, it’s all here. You’re not in trouble.

Cixot: (surprised) …I’m not?

Namdnas Retsim: No, no, no…

(Cut to John energetically hugging his surprised wife and children, Retsim’s voice plays over)

Namdnas Retsim: We just need you (cut back to fanged mouth) to get that soul back.

(Cut to black)

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It Boggles the Mind

I visited my friend at the beach this weekend, and was treated to four and a half gallons of ice cream. The story is that the first trip to get four half-gallons of ice cream got one of the four half-gallons wrong. The second trip saw a deal where if you buy three half-gallons, you get two more free. This deal was too good to pass up, so we ended up with nine half-gallons of ice cream.

The flavors of ice cream included:

  • Colombian Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • French Vanilla
  • Natural Vanilla
  • Pistachio Almond
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Triopolitan American Dream (blueberry, vanilla, strawberry)
  • Triopolitan Mint Cookie (vanilla cookie swirl, dark chocolate, mint chocolate chip)
  • Black Cherry

This abundance made it my solemn duty to eat as much ice cream as I could over the course of the weekend. Between two bowls on the first night, a delivery of another bowl to the beach, and a black cherry and vanilla milkshake, I have at the time of writing probably covered close to one half-gallon myself.

Besides the boggling quantity of ice cream, we also played a game of Boggle. True to the style of many old games like it, this was secretly several games of Boggle, with the final sum of points determining the final victor. After a few anemic 3 and 2-point games, I got frustrated and decided to try brute forcing the dictionary by guessing as many words as I could, not worrying whether the words were real or not.

My guessed words were:

  • Terp
  • Thap
  • Lape
  • Hape
  • Thad
  • Glunt
  • Plugist
  • Thag
  • Dath
  • Kreen
  • Rine
  • Ertist

None of these words were real according to the so-called “Scrabble dictionary,” giving me zero points, and looking them all up I nearly got kicked out of the game. Nevertheless, I feel these constraints are arbitrary. If I can be glunt, As an ertist I am not kreen to subject myself to them. I hape you see where I am coming from.2dldd9

This program is brought to you by mind control

Let’s take a moment to think about what an advertisement is. The goal of an advertisement is to encourage consumers to behave in a certain way, predominantly to encourage purchase of a particular product or service. Decades ago, they did this by appealing to a logical customer acting in his or her own narrow self interest. Commercials focused on the new features of each product and how it would make life easier.

Does that commercial look strange to you? Slow and needlessly technical? Well, chances are good that you are more used to commercials like this:

Or this:

First, they’re more engaging. You probably didn’t make it through the first commercial, but did the second two tell you anything about the product? Anything at all? Excepting the unlikely scenario that you didn’t know that Kia was a company that made cars or that Coca-Cola was a product that you could drink, these commercials are devoid of information that would interest homo-economicus. Well, I suppose she’d learn that Coca-Cola contains added flavors and no fruit, but that’s hardly likely to encourage her to make the purchase.

These commercials appeal to parts of our brains outside our rational decision-making. That is, they want to circumvent the parts of our brains responsible for what most of us would think of as free will. What’s that called? Is it a free exchange of ideas? Or is it  something else?

If you were offered the opportunity to see an episode of your favorite show in exchange for seven shots of a laser that beams associations such as “COCA-COLA :: FRIENDSHIP” and “COCA-COLA :: HAPPY LIFE” into your head, would you take it?

What if the laser was the entertainment? What if it told you “PHYSICAL THREATS :: EVERYWHERE,” and gave you a little chill of excitement to enliven a dull evening? Do you think it would be wise to take that laser? It’s free.

How about a laser that repeats opinions to you you already hold? You feel good for the validation, but there are other people whose lasers artificially validate their own opposing opinions. Good luck with the free exchange of ideas when mind lasers are making everyone utterly confident that their own opinion merits no examination.

What does it mean for democracy that so much money and talent is invested in controlling the minds of purchasing and voting Americans? Even if you personally avoid commercials and apply careful criticism to the other media you consume, what can you do about people who don’t? Buy your own mind laser and try to shoot them until they are ready to see reason? How has that worked for you in the past?

In a nation founded on trust in the individual’s ability to make the best rational decisions for himself and for the collective, the fact that private industry founds its strategies on the absence or weakness of public rationality should be deeply concerning.

Joining the Henna Yakuza

I went to a tattoo parlor party the other day and got a henna tattoo. I asked for a Yakuza dragon and the artist, Eli, was thrilled someone wanted something besides a flower. She had gotten through the mouth when I needed to take my leg down (it had lost all sensation after twenty minutes of holding it up on a table). It just so happened that another customer had arrived and asked for a flower, so I took a little break.

Later, we moved to a poolside sunbathing chair where I could sit more comfortably and she finished her work.   img_20180623_1647049691

Everyone agreed the face looked great, but the artist was the first to point out the body was a little weird. Only one arm and one leg, oversized, malformed claws. I figured it was just her first time drawing a Yakuza dragon on some guy’s leg, but then I looked at the source material.

Kiryu_Kazuma_Ouryu_design

The face looks great, but the body seems to defy all logic. It takes a few minutes to even begin to understand the contortions this dragon has managed to work itself into. Even if it is physically possible, it’s hard to imagine it’s comfortable. Gigantic claws pop out in odd places with all the anatomical intuitiveness of Trogdor the Burninator.

trogdor

So, yeah. Eli did a great job. I would feel perfectly comfortable taking this work to the henna-based yakuza as a demonstration of my between a week and a month’s worth of devotion.

Terrestrial Fauna of Terra Australis Incognita

 

A whole new low

(pictures are on the way)

The intercom pings. It is time for the next dive. Has it really been an hour since the last dive? You roll out of bed, hastily change into your swimsuit and rush to the deck.

First thing you put on is your wetsuit. You take one off the rack, make sure it’s the right size, and pull it up and over your body. Unlike in your training, this one zips up in the front.

You brought your own boots, mask and fins. You de-fog the mask with special de-fog liquid, hoping that it won’t re-fog underwater, forcing you to let a little water in and slosh it around. You Carefully put on your weight belt – it’s heavy and you don’t want it to swing and hit someone in the face.

You have to wait to put on your fins. You are on the dive platform, inches above the turbulent waters. You try not to slip and fall onto the metal lattice as you render your feet unfit for walking one at a time.

You turn to your partner and give the universal diver’s “ok” – a circle made from the index finger and thumb with the rest extended. Then you leap in.

Your wetsuit is so called because it does not keep you dry. The Australian winter water seeps in behind your neck and runs down your back. The warmth comes from this water getting stuck and collecting body warmth rather than constantly being replaced with new cold water.

You open your mouth to breathe, but get a mouthful of saltwater as a wave crests over your face. You reach to your left and grab your respirator. You sound a bit like Darth Vader, but more importantly, you are no longer dependent on the fickle outside air.

The guide signals you and you’re off. You follow several other novice divers to a rope and pull yourself along the side of the boat through frothing water to the drop point.

Another signal from the guide. “Ok” and a thumbs down. Thumbs down doesn’t mean bad in diving. It means “go down.” You signal back and let the air out from your bouyancy compensation device (BCD). The water rises up and swallows you whole.

From the start, an enormous school of fish swarms around you. Some of the fishes mouths curl upward, quietly amused at the foolish sight of this land mammal playing at being a fish.

You feel the pressure on your ears as you continue down. Clamping your fingers on your nose, you blow as hard as you can until the feeling stops. As silly as this process sounds, it works.

At the bottom of the shallow ocean, you see the wavy sand. Huge headless slugs, sea cucumbers, sit motionless on the sea floor. Part of the sand seems smoother than the rest. When you approach to investigate, a stingray rises from the ground. It glides along the surface and comes to rest again a few metres away.

In moments, your guide is tapping on his air tank. You turn and see that he has put a fist to his head. A humphead maori wrasse is rushing towards you. You remember your training and grab the huge green fish on the lips and push it to the side. It continues past you as if nothing had happened at all.

The reefs are enormous and sharp. When you are confident in your ability to keep control of your motion, you swim very close. Tiny yellow and blue fish slither in and out through the red tendrils.

Your guide puts his hand straight up and to the side against his forehead. Indeed, a little shark undulates past high overhead. These sharks are nothing to fear.

Your guide taps his palm – check your air. You make a T with your hands – half air.

Yellow fish swim on their side, as if the reef has overruled gravity itself.
Long skinny pole shaped fish hang diagonally and watch you swim by. Enormous clams sit open, exposing their marbled insides. A sea turtle swims by and away through rays of ocean-filtered sunshine.

Another tap on the palm. Check your pressure gauge. At a third left, you’ve managed your air well. You could go a bit longer, but the guide gives the thumbs up. It’s time for the group to surface.

You return from breathing perfectly well underwater to gasping and timing your breaths against the waves above once more. Hanging on the side of the boat, you remove your fins, one hand hanging, one removing each fin.

On board, your gear that freed you to rise and fall at will now reasserts its full twenty kilograms (40 lbs). you take off your BCD and your mask and weight belt. You remove your wetsuit, wash it in the provided tub, and hang it up again. Then you’re free to go.

Eat a meal, talk for an hour, and then it’s time for the next dive.