Jack yawned and then looked at his computer. There was nothing on his mind that he could put on the machine that would let him be free of this curse of the deadline. He had to finish the assignment in the next two hours and he had no idea what he wanted to draw. It is said called a writer’s block but he was having it right now, and really badly. The only solace was that even if it was bad, he would at least be rid of the work. If that wasn’t in his mind, he would have probably stopped working altogether and just wept.
“Good or bad, it will end,” Jack said once more and tried to draw the picture of a unicorn kissing a dragon while the fruit loops all danced around happily. It takes a long time to come up with a genius idea. This idea probably took three seconds. Jack picked the rough sketch that he had drawn hastily to show how it would look on paper to the creator of the idea – Kareem. He had promised a great idea above and beyond what he had drawn – a unicorn kissing a dragon while the fruit loops danced. He had not succeeded in topping it as of now.
“This will sell fruit loops?” Jack asked.
“This will set fruit loops.” Kareem had responded positively. Jack didn’t see it. How can a unicorn and dragon kissing sell fruit loops? But he wasn’t the golden boy and he wasn’t going to argue with the hand that fed him.
Jack drew the exact same sketch that he had in his hand and then closed the screen. I will get back to this in thirty minutes and see if my mind can conjure up something better.
Jack looked beyond the window and sighed. He had started questioning his life a lot in the past few weeks. He had come to Earth a few months ago and was suggested to work here as the fastest way to know most people. He had a couple of years here and he didn’t mind getting to know people intimately. After all, what’re a few years in his life. Being a phoenix, he had eons of rebirths ahead of him, unless of course, he was killed by his boss for his shitty submission.
In the past few weeks, the daily drone of life had become tiring. He hadn’t met many people and anyone whom he met was similar to the previous one.
“I guess it’s hard to develop a unique personality in a just few decades,” Jack bemused. Or perhaps he was too alien and thus, they all looked the same to him. Same goals, same drives, same fears. “And often, so similar looking.”
He missed flying in the air with his gigantic wings. He didn’t dare try that here as he was the size of a small airplane and even at night, his plumage would be clearly visible to the whole world with the shine and glean it had and the bright light his feathers would sometime emit. He would sometimes change into his original form and stay in the house but that was life stretching in a cage.
“Jack? In which world are you lost?” Inga asked.
“Nothing. Just wishing to stretch my wings.” Jack said. He was being literal but he knew she would take it metaphorically.
“I know what you mean. This place is like a jail, only trying to curb your creativity. If only we didn’t have to pay for living, right?” Inga said and giggled.
“If only. Maybe, I should go back to where I came from, where I could spread my wings, where I could feel free.” Jack mumbled. He was really missing home today. Even if that place had actual dragons that were less interested in kissing and more interested in biting, burning, and devouring other creatures.
Inga looked at him, biting her lip.
“You don’t feel at home here?” She asked.
Jack shook his head. “It’s not like that. It’s just different.”
“I know the city is new for you but it has been months. If you don’t feel at home, it’s my fault. Be ready. Tonight, we will do something exciting. Something, that will change your life forever.” Inga said and strutted off confidently. Jack almost smiled. He didn’t understand how to explain it to her that it’s not the city but the entire world that was alien to him.
When the conversation ended, Jack went back to his laptop and read an email that was both boon and a curse for him.
“The meeting is postponed until tomorrow. Yes!” Jack said and punched his hand in the air.
‘What’s the plan for tonight?’ He messaged Inga. ‘My evening got free.’
‘6:30 pm. Jolly’s!!!’ Inga replied.
Inga and Jack met at the Jolly’s and ate dinner. He had been here once and liked the food. Although the music was a bit too crude for his sensitive ears. He could hear all the notes separately and without the important transition frequencies added in the middle, it sounded cacophonic to him.
“Thanks for dinner. It really helped lift my spirit.” Jack said after the meal.
“This wasn’t the plan. I just like to eat early.” Inga said and giggled.
“So? What’s the plan?”
“The plan is a hundred miles from here. Let’s get in the car.”
“I don’t have a car.”
“I know. Let’s get in my car.”
Jack and Inga were on the highway.
“Where are we going?” Jack said, a little worried. When he left for Earth, one of the guidelines was to not venture too far off from the city. Now, he was skirting the guidelines.
“You remember you told me once that the thing you loved the most about your home was gliding.”
“Yeah,” Jack said.
“Well, I can’t build that for you but I think I have something equally good. In fact, dare I say, better.”
“Intrigued,” Jack said.
“You just have to wait a bit longer,” Inga said.
Jack and Inga reached their destination in around one and a half hours. Jack could hear a distinct sound almost five minutes before they reached, a sound that he hadn’t heard before on Earth.
“What’s that sound?”
“That’s the sound of water.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look,” Inga said pointing towards the waves crashing on the shore.
“What is that?” Jack said, his eyes widening.
“That’s an ocean, silly,” Inga said laughing.
Jack remembered. Giant water bodies on the planet. He was seeing one for the first time. Soon, they reached the beach, and Jack and Inga were walking around.
“The best thing about this beach is that it’s open for swimming 24×7.”
“I don’t have any swimming costume.”
“Don’t worry. We can get from there.”
Inga and Jack changed and were swimming in the ocean.
“This is wonderful. Swimming in a pool is nothing compared to this,” Jack said.
“I know, right?” Inga said and splashed water at Jack who returned the favor.
After almost two hours of spending time in the ocean, both of them got out.
“How far does it go?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know. It’s an ocean. Probably covers half the planet before it reaches another land.”
“I’m glad you liked it. So, what do you want to do now?”
“I want to swim more.”
“I’m so glad that you loved it. Unfortunately, I’m too tired. Let’s do this. I’ll take up a room at the hotel on the beach and doze off. You can swim as much as you want and we can head home tomorrow early morning.”
Inga checked in the hotel and Jack and Inga kept their bags in the room. Jack hugged her and ran towards the beach. This time, he didn’t stay within the boundary set for human limits. He slowly swam farther from the beach until he could see the size of the fishes getting larger and even with his eyes, he was barely able to see the beach. Then, he started swimming deeper. His eyes were burning a little with the salt in the water but he knew it was only for a few moments.
Once deep enough, he changed back into his natural form. Giant maroon wings flapped in the water, gliding and cutting through it and the water shimmered with the red and mustard flashes. All the fishes swam away, scared by the sudden appearance of a giant creature in the ocean. Even a few sharks which were swimming curiously towards the human scampered off from the creature they had seen for the first time.
Perhaps for the first time in the history of the Earth, a phoenix was swimming in the ocean. Jack took a giant gulp of air from the surface and then went into the ocean. The density of the water was much heavier than air but he felt the same freedom he had felt back home. Seeing the other interesting creatures in the ocean made him realize that this world isn’t full of just three or four variety of creatures. He was mesmerized looking at the whales which were larger than many of the dragons he had seen before.
Jack swam for hours and it was only a couple of hours before sunrise, he came out of the sea – as a human. He would go back to the office, do the work, and then come back. He had never been more sure of anything before.
He looked back at the ocean.