4/19

Ciceros Strait—Two tours take us back to Ciceros Strait once again.

Ebiike was stuck in rush-hour traffic one day when he looked up and saw a city bus, and on the side of this bus, he saw a silk screened image of an Indo-Pacific Sailfish, probably advertising a new action film. Something about the savage grace of the creature awakened within him a desire to transcend the bonds of his dull, colorless life, to seek out adventure and discovery, to meet that noble beast on its own terms, reach out and grasp the source of its power. So he rolled down his window, thrust out his head, and cried to his chauffeur. “I say, James—to the airport—immediately!”

Meanwhile, in Madison, Wisconsin, a young student named Jeanne is playing another round of quarters at the local pub. It’s 1:30 AM and she’s losing—her quarters, her judgement, the buffalo wings she consumed for dinner. Her bleary eyes settle on the t-shirt her opponent is wearing—a clown wrasse that appears to be shouting, “I CLOWNED AROUND IN CANCUN! PIKES SPRING BREAK 2009”. It’s so damn funny she’s got to leave the table right away. In a moment of clarity as she’s hovering over the toilet, she thinks, “I gotta get out of this place…need to see something else in this world…get back to nature…”

And so they both arrived at Nineball Island today. I took Ebiike out first, returning to the North Canyon area after my fruitless quest for the mysterious sea shadow. I like this place—it’s teaming with large fish and tall basaltic columns that are fun to climb down and swim between. The only sharks onhand are the relatively placid pelagic threshers, which eat right out of my hand. The sailfish are a little more problematic—they’re fast and greedy and take they food away from deserving mackerals and sardines. We swim west to the wreck of the Pride of Athens. I’m trying something new tonight, diving in the first person view rather than the third. At first I thought this would be disorienting, but it’s not, it’s liberating. I’m not in my own way anymore, my motions seem more natural—it’s a more immersive experience. Funny how, even 84 hours into this game, I’m still discovering new things. It makes me realize, caught up in these searches, how little real exploring I’ve done. I’m so grooved-out on swimming (or maybe it’s nitrous oxide in my air tank) that I spend over an hour feeding fish, taking pictures, petting octopi. Then the cloud evaporates and I gotta wrap this up to usher in the next client.

Ebiike, Ciceros Strait

I take Jeanne to Valka Castle, first ascending the Spiral Tower all the way to the surface and look down on the bonnethead sharks circling below us. Then, after a detour into the Collapsed Gallery (always a waste of time), we enter the castle proper, with stops in the Armory and Treasure Vault, where a curious longtooth grouper inspects us.  I discover a coin and a new species—the sunset anthias, another of the many female-to-male transgender fish found here (Ciceros Strait is where nature gets her freak on). I’m in such a benevolent mood that I even feed the lionfish—I’ve always avoided their spines before. We find the clown wrasses she’s here to see in the Underwater Gallery, and before we leave, visit the Mermaid’s Ballroom.

Clown wrasse, Valka Castle

Ebiike was reservedly impressed by the tour (3,622 P), while Jeanne is gushing about how great everything was (3,924 P). They could’ve paid me in shin-kicks and I still would’ve been smiling.

And so, as the sun sets on Nineball Island, we leave our two tourists to return to their daily lives: Ebiike, newly refreshed to pursue that leveraged buyout; Jeanne, inspired to once again switch her major, this time to Marine Biology.

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