Each day they would wait, the robo-dolphins. Eagerly they would
swim to the surface, antipating the arrival of the glimmering, flashing
rainbow light that streaked through the heavens. Finally they would
hear the tinkle of hooves like bells in the distance, the notes rising
in pitch as their anticipation rose. And then it was there, a shining
comet of majesty bolting across the unreachable purple mountains of
the sky. The robo-dolphins would try to chase this vision of splendor,
but they were never fast enough. But those few strongest swimmers who
managed to leap out of the water beside it brought back tales of
wonder. They told of a strange, powerful beast with four lean,
muscular legs. Its shining platinum body was graced with a flaming
rainbow mane and tail, and atop its head glistened a long, hard,
Squeaky the robo-dolphin dreamed of the unicorn every night.
Sometimes he'd break the surface, and the robot unicorn would be
waiting for him there, in all its rainbow glory. But as soon as he
finally had the courage to speak, it would dash away. Sometimes, he
would think he saw it somehow underwater. But as soon as he swam
near, he saw nothing but the shifting colors of cuttlefish tentacles.
Yet still, he felt there was something special about him, some kind of
unique connection between himself and the unicorn. Thoughts of it
plagued his every waking moment. At last he could stand it no longer.
He had to learn how to meet the unicorn. There was only one thing to
do. It wouldn't be pleasant, but there was no other way. He decided
to go visit the three sea witches who lived deep in a cave where no
light ever shown.
The next morning, Squeaky was ready to make the journey. He'd eaten
well on tuna the night before, and rested well. He surfaced and took
a deep breath. Then he plunged down, down, down toward the sea floor.
There was nothing to see but the flickering, disorienting lights made
by the bottom dwellers. But he didn't need light. Echoes still
worked just fine down here. He probed the rocky trench with sound,
feeling the pressure waves vibrate and buzz out of his blowhole, then
come rippling back onto his melon. Several minutes passed, then he
found it: a void from which no sound returned. He swam towards it,
then gradually he was able to feel the cave walls. He swam inside,
his echoes now reverberating close against the cave walls and
massaging his entire body. Jets of warm water coming from vents in
the rocky crags caressed him, then cold streams made him shiver and
And then he knew they were there. He wasn't quite sure how he knew.
His echoes wee still only bouncing off rock. But somehow he knew the
three witches were surrounding him, behind the rock wall in some
deeper recesses of the cave. He floated, motionless.
Then there was a soft whispering noise. He felt it at the same time
as he heard it. Voices twined out of the darkness. "Ssssspeak.
Ssssspeak. Ssssspeak. Tell ussss -- ussss -- ussss why you are here."
Tendrils of seaweed brushed against his sides, long, strong strands of
kelp he had not noticed before. No, not kelp. These tendrils were
moving purposefully, and they were firm and angular. They wrapped all
around him, binding him in place. Then he understood what they were.
They were the robotic tentacles of the sea witches. He jerked and
bucked, trying to break free, but they held him fast.
"Tell ussss -- ussss -- ussss," the voices repeated again. Or was it
one voice, echoing from three different places in the cavern? No,
surely there were too many tentacles for just one. He writhed and
twisted, but then he stopped short and remembered how far down he was.
Squeaky was a long way from air. He would have to save all he had.
One tentacle began to slowly circle the skin around his blowhole, as
if the witches had read his thoughts. He would just have to play
along with them, if he wanted to make it out alive.
"I..." He sputtered. "I need your advice. I need--"
"The unicorn. The robot unicorn. I-- He-- I need to see him. I need
to meet him. I-- It's important."
"We see, we see."
"Love. It is love. Poor dolphin."
"They are star-crossed, surely. From two different worlds."
"Yet what? Can you help me?" cried Squeaky.
"Of courssse we can. But will we?"
"Please! Please!" begged Squeaky. "I'll do whatever you ask! I'll give you anything!"
"You must give us each a gift then."
"I--I don't have much," stammered Squeaky.
"You have enough," said a witch.
"Your breath, for an hour."
"Your mind, for a day."
"Your body, for a year."
"My what?" Squeaky asked, afraid.
"In return, we will each grant you one wish."
"And our words of wisdom will go with you."
"Do you accept?"
"Yes! Anything, please!"
"The breath then," said the first witch. The robotic tentacle plunged
into Squeaky's blowhole. All his muscles went rigid at the shock. He
tried to gasp, but there were tentacles in the way. He began to grow
light headed. He felt like he was going to faint. The net of robotic
appendages surrounding him swayed him slowly backand forth. The fresh
water rolling across his face kept him barely concious. He felt
delirious from lack of air, yet euphoric with adrenaline. Time and
space lost all meaning. He felt like he was slipping into a dream.
Faintly, he heard whispers again. "Now the mind." "Lisssten,
lisssten well, young one." "You get 3 wishes!" "You will fail!"
"Follow your heart!" The voices were nearly tangible, a wall of sound
surrounding him like the echo of a great wall of anemones. They were
dizzying. "A fiery death awaits you!" "Chase your dreams!" "Over the
rainbow!" He felt like he was going mad. "If you run and swim far
enough, there will be a place that you can come together." "Aim for
the stars" "Persistence is futile." "Robot unicorns unite!" "May all
your wishes come true!"
Some time later, Squeaky came to his senses. It was still dark. The
tentacles still surrounded him, but they no longer bound him tight.
He still felt very disoriented, and he had never felt so starved for
air. He also felt hollow somehow. Something whispered in his mind,
the memory of a voice. "The body."
What had they taken from him? And then, with a slow, sinking feeling,
he realized what it was. He chirped off a few more clicks of sonar at
the cave around him. He'd assumed the witches were octopi, and that
they had spread their long robotic tentacles around him. But on closer
examination, there were no tentales at all. The entire cave wall,
above and below, was covered in prehensile robo-dolphin penises,
enslaved by the witches as payment for their favors. There was his,
drifting in the current next to a stalactite about the same size as
itself. How could he ever approach the unicorn without it? And what
else had the witches said? "Your body, for a year." He'd get it
back. He'd just have to be creative until then. But right now, he
had more urgent things to worry about. Air. Had he somehow spent a
whole day in a state of delirium while using up only an hour's worth of air?
He was too disoriented to think about it. Only one thing mattered. Up.
Squeaky left the cave and charged towards the surface, swimming faster
than he'd ever swum before. In a great spray of sea foam, he burst
through the surface and into the world above. He heard the sound of
bells, and he saw something shining.