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I am among the great rocks of the Rocky Sea, famous for the jagged pieces of granite jutting out from the murky and treacherous waters. They were a finiky and fickle bunch, crumbling beneath the unlucky explorer's feet when it suited their purposes, sending the poor man or woman to the sharks below. It was a tight partnership, one not to be interrupted by the ordinary, faint-hearted human being. But I am not ordinary.
I don't even think about the sharks much, contributing as much as anything else to the constant spray of white water in my face, as I leap from rock to rock, no. I am not here for the sharks or the rocks. I am here for something different, a rumor I've heard that's never been substantiated. I don't know whether it's true or not, and I'm sure anyone else would not care to know. But I must. Because I am not ordinary.
I am here for the alligators.
It was a whisper between friends, a spook story at a pub, a chain message on an email list. There are alligators in the Rocky Sea, say these unreliable sources. Great, ravenous alligators who can somehow survive salt water and who rarely get anything to eat besides seagulls and the occasional seaweed. They live in a cave near the bottom of one of the biggest rocks, a place no human has ever adventured before. They would love to meet and eat a human, the rumors say.
I would just like to meet them.
I leap to my next rock just in time - it crumbles into the sea, soon looking as if it were never there - and I am immediately almost upside-down, checking every side of this new rock for signs of a cave. None.
Then I hear the footsteps.
I draw myself up and wheel around, surveying every visible part of my surroundings. Nothing. Not a sound except for the crashing of water against rock, no movement except for the occasional crumbling. It was probably nothing, but I'll be even more vigilant. I return to my study of the rock.
Then I hear the footsteps again. I repeat the excercise of glancing around, but still - nothing.
I've now examined three sides of the rock. Just one more, though I doubt I'll find anything except solid granite. I lie on the nearly-flat surface of the rock and stare down beneath me, try to find . . .
A dark spot. I see a dark spot. An odd shadow, perhaps, but I don't think so. From my previous observations of less-perilous places, it's almost certainly a cave -
And that's when the alligator pounces.
Due to my superior sense of hearing, I have a few seconds' notice. I hear the racing footsteps and look up long enough to see the flash of green and teeth. There is less time to make a decision, but my trained mind immediately comes up with three options: try to leap to another rock to buy time, stay and try to fight the alligator, or jump into the water. I know that I'll never make it to the next rock: I'll simply smash against the side, which will kill me instantly. I also know I'll never stand a chance against the alligator - maybe if I had more time to prepare, but not this time.
Without another thought I leap up and jump into the water, taking my chances with the sharks.
I hit the waves like a stone, immediately dropping down six or seven feet, and immediately, the sharks are on me. Great hammerheads they are, biting, gnashing, each wanting a bit for themselves - and that is their weakness. I twist and writhe away from each of them, kicking each one who gets too close in the eyes, which propells me towards temporary safety.
But sharks are sharks, and I am simply a bag of bones. They are winning; they will win. Soon one of them will finally sink its teeth into me, and after that I am lost. Shark food. Maybe they'll share some with the alligators.
No, I suddenly think. No way. No way did I come all the way here to get eaten by a shark. I proved the rumor of the alligators, darnit, and darnit if I wasn't going to live to tell the tale! I wrestle off the nearest shark, and, using the next one's head as a spring, propel myself to the surface of the water.
My mouth opens just before my head breaks the surface, and the tangy taste of saltwater fills my mouth. Coughing a bit I swim as fast as I can towards the nearest rock. I'll make it, I know. I'll make it. Because I am not normal. I am not ordinary. I am exceptional. I am an explorer. I am -
I was just getting to the good part.
Oh, well. Spitting the taste of chlorine out of my mouth, I swim the rest of the way from the high dive to the concrete edge, grab a towel, and am sitting in my family's designated lawn chair by the time the lifeguard calls, "BREAK!"