by Elizabeth Cobbe
Welcome to Ocean Paradise Lagoon, LLC! Please read the following safety guidelines carefully before entering the lagoon.
1. Only swimmers age 12 and older may participate in our Luxury “Swim with Dolphins” Adventure Package.
2. While in the lagoon, you may interact freely with the dolphins. Those whistles and clicks you hear mean that a dolphin wants to use its powers of telepathy! Go ahead, relax into the dolphin’s long, soulful gaze, and allow your mind to meld with these good-luck creatures.¹
3. No need to go chasing after a dolphin for conversation! They love to meet new friends,² and they will swim right up to link their consciousness with yours.
4. Please notify our staff in advance if you are currently taking any prescription antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication.³ Telepathic communication with animals should be pleasant and enjoyable, and we want to ensure that your dolphin encounter goes smoothly.
5. Swimmers may not bring any food or beverages with them into the lagoon. For an optional fee⁴ of $85, you can purchase a bag of live jellyfish⁵ to offer the dolphins during your adventure.
6. Our most popular dolphin companions include Trixie, Aphrodite, Tycho, and Slasher, who are all cheerful and eager to chat with our guests.⁶ Swimmers are encouraged to interact with this main group, and don’t mind any loner bulls (males) who might not fit comfortably within the hierarchy of the pod.⁷
7. Swimmers should not worry if the pod occasionally gangs up on a single dolphin⁸ and teaches him a lesson by ramming their snouts into his flank over and over. It’s all right, that’s just what bulls do, and dolphin blood is harmless to humans.⁹
8. However, please notify staff if any dolphin declares that he is unhappy and seeks the ocean.¹⁰ We will pair you with a more suitable animal right away.
9. Visitors should keep to the clean, clear water of the lagoon at all times.¹¹
10. Once you’ve finished your conversation, our dolphin friends¹² are prepared to offer dorsal tows, foot pushes, and maybe even a bottlenose kiss!
11. One more friendly reminder: don’t swim with any of the dolphins out into the open sea! No matter how much he asks.¹³
Thank you for choosing Ocean Paradise Lagoon, LLC for your marine wildlife encounter. We hope your experience is everything you’ve dreamed!
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1. Please do not share your passwords, bank PINs, or social security number with the dolphins.
2. This is mostly true.
3. On occasion, one particular dolphin’s inability to adjust to life in the lagoon has led him to access the deepest sorrows and worries of an already vulnerable swimmer’s soul in a misplaced bid for sympathy. Like grapefruit juice, this sort of prank may interfere with certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs).
4. We accept credit cards, Paypal, and Venmo. Our dolphins are not able to accept payment telepathically at this time.
5. Do not attempt telepathy with the jellyfish. They do not have brains, and it stings a little.
6. Examples of safe and fun topics of conversation include how to count to five, ways that dolphins differ from porpoises, and the various jellyfish snacks available for purchase at any time during your visit. They do not include the effects of long-term captivity on mammals, or the color of the open horizon as day fades slowly into night.
7. All right, we’re referring to Johannes, the young rescue bull who can be identified by the chunk missing from his dorsal fin and the bite scarring along his left flank. Johannes is most often seen swimming along the southern end of the lagoon, occasionally battering the underwater fence and attempting to leap over the artificial barrier to the sea. The rest of the pod understands and appreciates the boundaries of the lagoon, but Johannes has unfortunately refused to accept these limitations.
9. All the same, swim with your mouth closed.
10. He may try to bring you under his influence by telling you singsong tales about the vast, open water, about leaping above the ocean’s surface to breathe in the warm Gulf air, and of fisherman’s nets. Don’t pay any attention. Don’t believe him if he tells you there is a wider world beyond the lagoon, a vast underwater realm where only he can guide you. Listen: no one returns from the deep unchanged. If pressed, tell him no! “There’s nothing there for you in those cold, dark, and polluted waters,” you should say. “No, you must stay here with us, among your own kind. We’ll teach you to relinquish your dreams, if you’d only let us help you. Why won’t you let us help you?”
11. It happens like this: once the others have paired off, he’ll swim up cautiously. He’ll reach out with his mind, and ask if you know what it is to sit down after dinner, picking the remaining jellyfish bits from your teeth as you review your quarterly Roth IRA statement, observe the limitations of your days, and wonder, “Can this really be all there is?” Johannes dreams of more than shallow tides, but don’t be fooled is all we’re saying. Do you think Tycho and Slasher have never felt discouraged? Is Johannes really the only dolphin who’s meant for greater things? Who is he to defy the pod and seek his place in an undefined expanse?
12. Not Johannes.
13. Besides, it would incur a great deal of liability. So come away from the gate. Leave Johannes behind. These small dreams we offer inside are more than enough.
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About the Author
Elizabeth Cobbe is a playwright, arts critic, and software developer living in Austin, Texas. Her fiction has also appeared in Fireside, and she is a graduate of Viable Paradise. She is currently at work on a fantasy novel about motherhood, miscarriage, and magic.