This was new. Freddy felt it most as he was drifting in water at night, his mother, the head of the shark academy, just a few corals over. Ray was teaching Freddy to be a somebody. The little while Freddy had been attending the academy, he had only succeeded in learning the opposite, that he would always be a nobody. A Great White, was he becoming that? The creature that was him in blood of course but not thought. Ray was not teaching him to crave, necessarily, no. He was teaching how to put on a shark show. How to act out a craving that wasn’t there yet.
It had been months since that fateful day in which Freddy had accepted Ray’s request. Ray had started him on a regimen. He had begun one day on the ocean floor, dashing and dancing, urging Freddy to follow. The old stingray would spin and wriggle, slip into a sort of trancelike dance. He would let loose. And “Let Loose” is what he would name the lesson. A very hard lesson to begin on since it was rather hard for Freddy to let loose, always on the ready for someone to come and pick on him. Plus, his cartiledge only let him thrash around and he would get disoriented. Ray paid no mind, he went on with his own trance and did not take the time to look over even once.
And this lesson lasted a little longer than a month. Freddy was not sure what was being gauged. He did not seem to be tested on anything yet, like the teachers did to him at the academy. You were tested for feeding there, for swimming, for living! Ray would give a short command and let Freddy be for the rest of the time. And then he would command him to go home. Every once in a while he would say odd things like, “The water is free. The water does not flow straight while it runs over land, but it makes the greatest canyons”. Freddy wouldn’t know what these words like ‘canyon’ meant but Ray seemed in awe as he said them so Freddy pictured big, grand. Ray sounded like a completely different creature while he talked sometimes but Freddy didn’t think all that much on it. If the teacher needed this to be understood, he’d probably let Freddy know, is all Freddy thought.
The next lesson took the two into the homes of the little creatures living on the floor. Freddy never questioned aloud but during this time he would wonder when they would move further to the surface, to where there were big things and big lessons to go along with them. Big stuff. Great White type stuff. Ray never told of the next lesson. He never let on where this was leading them or that Big Things were even going to be in the future. “Look at this rock here Freddy. What do you see? What do you really see?” Ray would ask these things over and over. “Rock”, “sea urchin”, “pink coral”, “rock”, Freddy would say. That is what he would see. Ray did not say much of these answers. He was indifferent to them, they were plankton in his face. He kept at it. Each day along the way to school and hours after the school day, Freddy would describe objects and small sea life on the ocean floor. It became a slow torture almost but Freddy just slipped into his Oh Well zone and things were all right. “Rock”.
But then one day, after school, the old stingray took Freddy to a stretch of dipped ocean floor. As Freddy began listing off objects, something extraordinary happened: they would change. In puffs of smoke the rock would become a coral, and then a rock again. “What do you see now, kid?!” Ray shouted, laughing that laugh of his. “Tell me exactly what it is you see!” Nothing was concrete all of a sudden. Rocks were not rocks, they were clouds or sand or seaweed, things other than rocks. Something began to clutch at Freddy’s stomache, maybe the days vegetarian lunch. Things were closing in around him and he began to involuntarily twirl in a tight circle. He was pushed out of realms he thought he knew. “A rock is not always rock, kid. Life is never what you see it as, it’s always changing, like the currents of the sea.” Ray glided over to a rock and dipped his wing around it. Bringing it up, it began to change and shift and swirl into the color and texture of his wing. “This is an octipus, not a rock like you called it earlier.” He placed it back on the ocean floor, did an about face, and started swimming to who-knows-where. Freddy got a hold on himself. He watched the octipus stretch out its tenticles and reach across the sand, pulling itself away and finally disappearing into thin air. He didn’t know what was happening or what he should think but something new was pushing his thoughts around. He followed the trail of his teacher, subconsciously wondering if it really was a trail and if Ray really was his teacher or even if Ray was Ray.