Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | January 16, 2009

The Salamanders

Near Killington, Vermont. August 31, 2008.

swimming salamander 8-31-08

The water is cool, and tastes like licorice. She wriggles her tiny body to and fro as she slips through the shallows.

Some little girls dream of becoming mermaids. Mariah wished herself into any swimming form: fish, or turtle, or salamander. Mermaids were okay, but why make the change only halfway? She wanted to see and smell and taste like a little water being, not just move.

The first creature Mariah spoke to was a tadpole. She caught it in a jar and held it up above the pond. “You know how to become a frog,” she told it. “Teach me how?”

Being only six years old, she wasn’t surprised at all when it answered. “Eat green stuff swim sleep eat swim!”

That was advice she could follow. Her parents thought the switch to all-green food odd, but she was an odd child.

She kept up the tadpole’s diet for a full week, but nothing happened.

So she caught a salamander. “Can I be a salamander, too?” she asked.

“I don’t see why not,” it answered.

“How?”

“Make a wish.”

Well, Mariah knew all about wishes. She was a wishing pro! Squeeeezing her eyes shut, she saw herself swimming like a salamander. She saw her legs shrink and a tail grow and she hoped and hoped that when her eyes opened, she would see…

Green!

“It worked!” she gurgled through the licorice murk.

“Of course.” Her salamander friend was not impressed. “All salamanders know magic. Weren’t you aware?”

Mariah followed the little brown creature far beneath the pond, to an opening beneath a rock. Inside, green algae coated the walls of a water-filled salamander paradise. The tiny lizard-like swimmers darted to and fro, carrying flowers, sparkly bits of metal and tiny bugs for food. A sparkling blue bubble floated at the top of the room.

Mariah swam towards it. Inside, was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen: a floating orb swirling with green and blue, surrounded by stars.

“It’s our world, as it once was…” a nearby salamander told her.

“What happened?”

“It’s a long story.”

Mariah wondered for a minute if her parents were looking for her. Which raised a disturbing thought: would she ever be a little girl again? Well, now was not the time to worry about that.

“Tell me,” she said.

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