by Andrew Savage © 2002

She sent out the verification signal, waiting for the reply. It came back faster than she thought it would but badly distorted. Electromagnetic radiation from the storm was clearly to blame but the gateway was unstable enough without added distortion.

Ahead, it shimmered, a gaping maw as black as the void through which they were about to pass. She allowed the secretion of more serotonin, counting on it to calm her during the transition. As matriarch of the group, she shouldered the responsibility for all of their safety, and passing through the gateway was a dangerous business.

She queried again, this time the signal came back cleanly from the other side. Her eyes told her that it was unstable, but she trusted her other senses far more than her vision. The signal hadn't lied to her in all her many crossings. She would get them through, but their window of opportunity was closing fast.

Increasing her velocity she urged the others on to greater speed. They needed the pace to breach the gateway's membrane. Quietly she enjoyed these final moments, the rush of the world racing by, the smell of the wild. They almost made the deathly half-life of Transition worthwhile.

Not long now. She prayed the gateway would remain open long enough for them to pass through safely. It was finally time for her kind to return.

And then they were upon it. She breached the membrane before the others, quickly sending out a burst of signal to let the receiver know they were on their way. She screamed when it returned to her in a swirl of backwash and white noise. The connection was broken, if they made it through, there would be no going back.

She tried to stop but they'd reached terminal velocity. There could be no backing out now. She closed her eyes, knowing that this time the transition was final.

* * *

"Oh my God!" Sally lifted her arm, thrusting a finger towards the sea. "What the hell's that?"

Kyle shrugged, but looked anyway. It was all the same to him. He'd brought her out here to watch the lightning and maybe get lucky. At least that was the plan. In the direction she was pointing, he could make out dark shapes, clearly visible against the thrashing whitecaps.

Then the realization of what he was seeing struck him. "Whales," he shouted, running towards the water. Sally joined him, wrapping her arms around him from behind, using him as a shelter from the biting wind.

He fought against the emotion that boiled through him at the memory of the great beasts from his childhood, breaching, splashing and playing in the warm waters of the bay, as tears threatened to well in his eyes. But that was all they were - memories.

"How..." Sally's voice faded, her eyes wide.

He shook his head, unable to give a decent reply, eyes following the great beasts as they paralleled the shore.

He vaguely felt her cold fingers squeeze his arm. "Where did they come from?" she asked softly.

He had no answer.

The wind that whistled across the sand was the only reply. They stood together in wonder, their eyes taking in every detail of the sea as it buoyed up the great creatures that had been extinct for thirty years.

x x x

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