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THE TALE OF THREE TURTLES
- A Story for Children -
"Free Beings" vs. "Chinese" Series
By Kai Chen 陈凯 (Written 4/20/1993, Reprint 4/20/2011 www.kaichenblog.blogspot.com )
陳凱 著（写于九三年四月二十日，自译中文再版 2011年4月20日 www.kaichenblog.blogspot.com ）
这三只小乌龜都有一個閃亮的綠色外殼。 他们的柔軟的小腦袋上都有一雙明亮的小眼睛。 一個尖尖的小尾巴拖在他们每一个的身后。 每天他們的父母給他們帶來食物，并在有危险时保護他們。 他们的父母也教他們了解在世界中的事物。小乌龜们從來沒有擔心过什麼。
一只小乌龜的外殼上有一個黑记，所以父母給他起名叫小斑点。 一只小乌龟喜歡扭动他的尾巴，所以父母給他起名叫小蠕尾。 一只小乌龟有一個非常堅硬的外殼和超龟的勇敢。 有一次，他失足從懸崖上摔下来，摔的很重。 但他咬著嘴唇，一颗眼泪也没掉。 所以父母給他取名叫小勇士。
不幸的是，他們居住的沼澤地里充滿了让乌龟们厌恶恐惧的東西。 腐爛的樹枝，樹葉和毒蘑菇無處不在。 成群结队的咬乌龟的蚊蟲每时每地盘旋在他们的脑袋上。 傳染性的龟病到处肆虐。 各种寄生蟲在泥濘中爬行窥测。 更不要说那些食乌龟的動物像蛇和鱷魚满塘皆是。 他們的食物，幾乎全都是綠色的藻類青苔。 他們真是厭倦了那些没味儿的食物。 更要命的是沒有乾淨的水喝。 他們只能飲用沼泽地里的臭水霉水。 在潮濕的沼澤和肮脏的泥濘中，小乌龟们的身上開始发霉长毛。 那腐霉越长越多，越长越厚。
小乌龟们出生不久後，他们的父母死了。 母親被鱷魚吃掉了。 父親死於一种可怕的傳染性龟病。
三只小乌龜很傷心，对自己的未来很不确定，并由此非常恐惧害怕。 從此之後，他們不得不自己出去尋找食物，照看自己的安全，取得他们自己的舒適和快樂。 在这个冷漠无情的沼泽地中，他们勉强挣扎着维持他们的存活。
.... 隨著時間的流逝，三只小乌龜漸漸長大。 但他們仍旧住在發霉的沼澤地中。 他們仍旧吃着无味的藻類青苔，喝着腐臭的髒水。 他們仍旧躡手躡腳地躲逃着那些危險的食龟動物。 他们仍旧每时每刻擔心他們可能会感染上那殺死了他們的父親的疾病。 他們 越来越对他们自身的前景倍感担忧与无望。
… 每年春天，鳥兒们從海洋那边飞过沼泽地。 有的鸟儿们会停留歇息。 他們都有長長的脖子和長长的嘴。 他們奔跑在池塘的周围尋找着昆蟲和小魚吃。 他們筑了自己的巢并產下了卵孵小鸟儿。 他們高声地啼叫着，仿佛总是愉快地歌唱着生活的乐趣与美好。
小乌龜们越來越对鸟儿们的生活状态好奇。 他們越来越被鸟儿们的快乐吸引。 他们想知道沼泽地外面的世界。 他们开始对鸟儿们询问他们想知道的事儿。
這些鳥儿们总是告訴他們有關海洋的讯息，因为他們就是來自那里的。 他們告訴小乌龟们說，海洋是如此之大，沒有谁能達到它的邊緣，即使是飞鸟。 他們告訴小乌龟们说海浪是如此之高，即使是沼泽地里最高的樹丛也無法与之比擬。 他們告訴小乌龟们说在海洋里有鯨和鯊魚。 他們是如此之庞大，只要一個就可以填滿整個池塘。 他們告訴小乌龟们说在海洋里与海滩上有五顏六色的貝殼和价值无比的珍珠。 他們还告訴小乌龟们说有龐大无比的船只在海洋上航行、、、。
“這些鳥儿们只是在吹噓胡扯。 他们把海洋讲得那么玄就是想讓我們嫉妒他们，就是想貶低我們。 母親和父親活着的时候就一直告戒我说這沼澤地是我們乌龜们生活的唯一去处。 我們的祖父母们就生在这里也死在这里。 我不相信這些長脖子长嘴，全身长着羽毛的丑八怪似的魔鬼们。 再说，這是我們龟们的沼泽地。 這是乌龜的地方。 我生是沼泽地的塘龟，死是沼泽地的塘龟，就像我的父母与祖父母们一样。 再说，生活在哪儿还不都是一样。 生活的定义就是學習如何生存活着。 生活就是要去学会如何忍受煎熬痛苦和如何打發時間。 母親和父親就是这么说的。”
小蠕尾聽了鸟儿们的故事。 他感到很困惑。 他拿不定主意：
“父親和母親總是告訴我們除了乌龟之外不要相信任何其他的生物。 但似乎鳥兒们的生活的确比我們乌龟们的生活快乐自在。 他們能飛得那么远，吃上那么多好吃的，每天都能喝干淨水。 他们甚至还跳舞、唱歌享受生活的乐趣。 一定是那海洋给了他們力量与精神使他们能那么自由自在地生活。 我真是厭倦了这渾濁，污臭，發霉，有毒的沼澤地。 我真想赶快離開這裡。”
小勇士聽了鸟儿们的故事。 他的眼睛开始炯炯發光。 他的思緒飛到了那遥远的、陌生的但迷人的地方。 他夢想着有一天他會像鳥兒们在天空飞翔一样，無憂無慮地在廣袤的大海中畅游，探索那無尽的珍寶，了解那些他从没见过的新奇的生物并与之对话沟通。
“我不想像其他乌龟们一样生活。 我不想像我的父母一样生死在痛苦与默默的絕望之中。 我要更自由的生活、更充實的生活、更快樂的生活。 我要属于我自己的生活。 有一天我會像所有的生物一样，也会死去的。 但是，當我瞑目的时候，我希望我能夠對自己說：'我度過了一个美好充实的一生。 我是我生活的主人；我是我命运的船长。 我的一生沒有什麼好後悔的’。 ”
… 小蠕尾和小勇士执著地艰难地爬出了沼泽地。 他们载着他们閃亮的綠色背殼。 他們尖尖的尾巴拖在地面上。 他們爬呀爬呀。 他們向那太陽每天都會升起的方向爬去。 他們向那鸟儿们飞来的方向爬去。 他們向那海风吹来的方向爬去。 他們爬呀爬呀。 他們爬過小山和丘陵。 他們爬過沙漠和草原。 他們爬過湍急的河流。 他們爬呀爬呀。 他们没日没夜地爬。 他们穿過暴雨、狂风和熱浪。 他們爬呀爬。
他們的腳掌布滿了水泡，他們的腳趾不停地流着血。 他們的背殼上集满了灰尘与污垢。 光滑的龟壳上充滿了被岩石沙砾划刻的印痕。 他們柔軟的頭布满了伤疤。 他們的尾巴下面也长出了厚厚的茧子。 然而，他們繼續向前不停地爬着。
在小蠕尾的心中脑中，那沼澤地的恶臭、无聊与危险记忆犹新。 他最受不了的就是那另龟窒息的气候与环境。 他討厭那些他不得不吃的平淡無味的食物。 他憎恨那些无时无刻不骚扰他的嗜血的昆虫。 他害怕那些他不得不小心躲避的食龟兽。 他希望找到一個最理想的地方-- 在那儿他不必活得那麼辛苦那么累；在那儿他不用花太多的精力；在那儿他能是绝对的安全；在那儿他可以丢掉所有生活的負擔与责任。 他盼望着這個嚴酷的旅途快一点儿终结。
在小勇士的心中脑中，他似乎已经看到了鸟儿们告诉他的那些五彩缤纷的貝殼。 他似乎已经看到了巨大的鯨和海象在海洋中游泳戏耍。 他似乎已经看到了自己在斑斓的珊瑚礁和五顏六色的魚群中穿梭往返，採集着大自然的美麗和壯觀。 他真的著迷鳥兒们告訴他的一切 -- 那浩瀚神秘的海洋。 然而，他知道他必須付出努力去學習如何生活在海洋中。 他有信心。 他有堅強的意志。 他並不害怕。 他知道他必須追逐自己的夢想。 他的那些夢想有一天终會成真。 他很高興他正在努力使他的夢想成為現實。 每當他想起了他的夢想，他就會忘了他身上的傷疤、疲劳与创痛。 他爬得更快更稳。
小蠕尾感到震驚。 他從來沒有聽到过那么震耳欲聋的声响。 如此震撼，如此可怕，如此勢不可擋！ 即使是鱷魚的咆哮也无法与此比拟。
小勇士则興奮无比。 他終於到達了他的目的地！ 汹涌的海浪雷鳴般的咆哮，就像吹响了一個巨大的號角，召唤他爬得更快，召唤他冲入那神秘叵测的海洋，探索那有着无限魅力的未知。
… 當他們終於爬到了海灘上的时候，他们看到像小山一般的波浪從水与天的缝隙中层层向他们滚来。 那海潮吼叫着，翻腾着，狂暴地衝擊着海岸。 那银白色的泡沫与沙硕被夾在翡翠般的波涛中，被一种无名无形的强力暴虐地抛击在褐色的礁石上，粉身碎骨地被撞散成大片的云雾。
他小心翼翼地爬到了海水边，把他的腳趾頭浸入水中。 海水是冰冷的。 然後，他伸出了柔軟的头泯了一口海水。 呀！ 那么苦，那么咸！
“那些该死的海鸟儿们。 他们從來沒有告訴我海洋是這樣儿 -- 这么冷漠无情，这么苦涩难容，这么咸不入口。”
一個巨大的浪潮猛然向他袭来。 他想跑开，但已經來不及了。 他被咸涩带沙的波浪打翻在地。 他慌了。
他叫着、喊着、哀嚎着。 他哭了。 他拼力摆平了自己，没命地从海浪中脱逃了出来。 他逃離了大海，就像兔子逃避狼的追捕一样。 他快步朝着与海相反的方向爬去，向着山地和丘陵，沙漠和草原爬去，向着那他想逃离的發霉骯髒的沼澤地爬去，向着他的出生地与祖地爬去。
“回來！小蠕尾。 這儿多雄伟，多好，多有趣儿啊！” 小勇士喊道。
小蠕尾爬着爬着，然后他突然意識到，沼澤地也不是什么好地方。 單單想到了霉菌，寄生蟲，疾病和天敵就使他胆寒发抖。 但他想去哪裡呢？ 回到沼泽地去见小斑点太丢脸了。 小斑点会说：“怎么样？！ 我早知道吧。”
“小斑点會嘲笑我對我的生活作出的所有決定。 是我自己要去找大海的。 现在我自己又反悔了。 我怎麼去面對他？”
再回头去爬向大海？ 也不行。 那海洋太无情，太恐怖了。
小蠕尾就这样在犹疑不定中徘徊在海洋和沼澤地之间。 他也并不喜歡这儿。 在这旱地上太陽晒得真猛。 風刮的太烈。 地上太多沙石。 食物太稀少。 又沒有足夠的水。 真是诅咒啊！ 他真的不知道该到哪儿去。
… 沙漠的沙磨厚了小蠕尾的背殼。 風和太陽吹干了曬乾了他的鱗片。 岩石和沙土磨利了他的爪子。 他的脖子越伸越长，因為他必須不斷地找水找食。 他变成了一只旱龟。
… 當小勇士看到像透明的翡翠山峦一样的海潮向他劈头盖脸地扑来的时候，他的心被激情的喜悅震颤了。 他終於走進了这一望無際的海洋。 他終於可以享受那对無限未知的尽情的探索。 他终于可以自由地漫游漫遊、品味大自然所创造的所有的美麗与神奇。
小勇士没有害怕。 他沒有将他的脖子缩到他的背殼里面来。 他面對着那汹涌暴虐的海洋，面对着那无尽的未知与宝藏。 他感到欣慰。 他感到自豪与骄傲。 他满怀喜悅和快樂去迎接那前所未有的挑戰。 他感到了自己的力量与意志在主宰着他自身的命運。
他向海洋的最深处猛冲过去，拼力扑蹬着他已經疲憊的双臂双腿。 带盐的海水刺痛了他的眼睛。 他的身體被冻的打颤发僵。 他的身体的运动越来越不穩定。 他有点儿晕眩。 但他毫不犹豫，毫不动摇，一直向大海的深处游去。
… 他看到了鰻魚，鯊魚，鯨与海豚。 他聽到了海豹，海象，海獅的吼叫。 他採集品尝到了海藻、蝦、蟹、海参、、。 他永不停息地去走向那無尽的探索与询问。
… 他在海中的暖潮中游过。 他在金色的沙灘上歇息过。 他爬上过北极海中的冰山。 他探索过赤道海底的火山。 他在溫暖的陽光下与柔和的海風中与海鸟儿们交谈、、、。
他的眼睛逐漸適應了咸海水的侵蚀。 他的外殼變得光滑而有光澤。 他的腿与臂变得又平又阔。 他的四肢变得像扇子和桨一样，帮助他游得更快更稳。 他的尾巴變得更加靈活有力。 他可以比其他海洋生物游得更远。 他变成了一只海龜。
小斑点从鸟儿们那里聽到过許多有關小蠕尾和小勇士的故事。 他聽說他們不能适应不同的氣候而水土不服。 他听说他们不习惯不同的飲食。 他听说他们被当地那些可怕的恶霸强盗们欺负、虐待、歧視。 他听说他们的生活与命运是悲不可言的。
“你看，孩子们。 小蠕尾和小勇士本来應該聽我們祖先的话。 他們本不應該離開這片沼澤地的。 你们都见过小蠕尾叔叔。 他现在得忍受那么多不幸与痛苦。 他已經变得那么丑陋不堪。 但至少我有时候还可以从远处看到他。 至于小勇士，我甚至不知道他现在在哪儿。 他可能已經死了，被鯊魚吃掉了，冻死在冰块儿里了，或病死了餓死了。 谁知道？ 也許他还活着，只是没脸见我而羞于回来了。 你们可千万别异想天开地去走他们所走的路，犯他们所犯的错。”
他说完这些话后，感到很宽心，很满足。 选择了让祖先的智慧为他选择是太对了。 留在沼澤地里度过一生是最正確明智的选择。 至少他知道他自己是他祖先的好后代。 他抿着嘴笑了，感到说不出的驕傲与快樂，甚至感到高龟一等。
… 幾個月後，小斑点死了。 他死於他一直害怕的那种龟死病。 就像他的父親一样，所有常饮沼泽地中的污水、霉水、臭水的龟们都逃不脱这种龟死病。 他的屍體在泥濘中沉沒下去，无影无踪，就像所有的龟们一样。 昆蟲，蝇蛹和霉菌很快聚集在他的尸体周围。 他的外殼逐漸腐爛，逐渐被蠶食。 最后什麼都沒有留下。 他消失在虚无中了。
“那小蠕尾和小勇士呢？ 他們在哪儿？ 他们生活的如何？ 他们的结局也像小斑点一样吗？ 什么也没有留下吗？” 你可能會問。
小蠕尾在沙丘上寻食的时候被部落里的人打死了。 他的外殼一开始被人製作成一個碗用来储水饮水。 後來，他的外殼被人用旧了，用碎了，最后被遺棄在沙漠里。 它逐渐化为灰粉，漂浮在荒漠的微风中。 在那微风中，你仍旧可以闻到小蠕尾的恐惧。
小勇士也死了。 他是在攀登一艘遠洋巨輪的时候出了事的。 巨轮上的強大的螺旋槳打碎了他的龟体。 他的外殼被打破成碎片，散落在海中。
… 你在海滩上散步休闲的时候，如果你留心观察你脚下的沙砾，你依然可以看到小勇士外殼的碎片。 它们是淡綠色的，光滑闪亮，透着美与勇气的辉泽。 它們播撒在五彩繽紛的貝殼中，播撒在世界各地的海滩上。 在金色陽光的照耀下，它们反射着耀眼的光，豐富着世界上那些无尽的奧秘，柔声细语地传扬着那些無休止的童話故事和民間傳說。
THE TALE OF THREE TURTLES
- A Story for Children -
"Free Beings" vs. "Chinese" Series
By Kai Chen 陈凯 (Written 4/20/1993, Reprint 4/20/2001)
A long, long time ago, three baby turtles were born in a swamp.
Each of the three little turtles had a shiny green shell, a pair of bright eyes on his soft tiny head, four feet layered with scales and a pointy tail attached to his behind. Their parents loved them very much and played with them often. Sometimes the little turtles took a swim under their parents’ bellies. Sometimes they crawled on their parents’ backs for a ride. Every day their parents brought them food, protected them from outside peril and taught them to understand things in their world. The little turtles never had to worry about anything.
One of the little turtles had a dark spot on his shell, so the parents named him Spotty. One of them liked to wriggle his tail a lot, so the parents named him Wriggly. The third on had an extremely hard shell. Once he fell from a cliff, he bit his lips and didn’t even shed a tear. The parents’ named him Toughie.
Unfortunately, the swamp where they lived was full of things they didn’t like. There were rotten branches and leaves and poisonous mushrooms everywhere. There were hordes upon hordes of irritating insects. There were infectious diseases. There were parasitic worms crawling in the mud. There were dangerous predators like snakes and crocodiles. There weren’t too many things to eat. Their food was almost always green algae. They were tired of it. There was no clean water to drink either. They could only drink from moldy ponds and even then they had to first make sure that the water was not poisonous. The swamp was damp and muddy. Mildew started to grow everywhere inside their shells, behind their necks, between their toes.
Not long after they were born, their parents died. Their mother was eaten by a crocodile. Their father died of an infectious disease of the swamp.
The three little turtles were very sad, very uncertain, and very afraid. From then on they had to look for their own food, for security, for comfort and for happiness. They struggled hard in the beginning just to survive. But after a while they got used to it and managed to get by on their own in the cheerless and precarious environment.
..... As time passed, the three little turtles gradually grew up. But they still lived in the moldy swamp. They still ate the bland algae and drank the dirty water. They still tiptoed among the dangerous predators and worried that they might catch the disease that had killed their father. They grew more and more dissatisfied and bored with what they ate and drank, more and more tired with the way they lived, more and more anxious about their own future.
Every spring, birds came from the ocean. They all had long necks and long beaks. They danced around the ponds and whooped through the bushes, looking for insects and small fish to eat. They built their nests to hatch their eggs. They sang with their high-pitched voices.
The little turtles were more and more curious about the birds. They were drawn closer to the birds and asked questions about their lives, seeking information about the outside world.
The birds mostly told them about the ocean where they came from. They told them that the ocean was so big that no one could reach the edge of it. They told them that the waves were so high that even the tallest trees in the swamp couldn’t compare. They told them that there were whales and sharks in the ocean. They were so big that one of them could fill up an entire pond. They told them about the colorful shells and pearls lying on the beaches and on the bottom of the ocean. They told them about the huge boats sailing on the ocean.
Spotty listened to the stories. He laughed through his nose:
“These birds are just bragging about the ocean to make us jealous and to belittle us. Turtles don’t have wings and cannot fly so there is no way for us to prove if what they said is true. Mother and Father told me long time ago that this swampland was the only place for us turtles to live. Our grandparents lived their lives here. I don’t believe these long-necked, lone-beaked, feathered devils. Besides, this is our land. This is the land of turtles. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. I am going to live and die just like my parents. This is the turtles’ way of life. Life is same everywhere. Life is about learning how to survive, how to endure misery and how to pass time. Mother and Father always told us so.”
Wriggly listened to the stories. He was confused. He became unsure of himself:
“Father and Mother always told us not to believe any creatures except turtles. But it seems that birds do live a better life than us turtles. They can fly afar, eat better meals, drink cleaner water, even dance and sing to enjoy themselves. It must be the ocean that gives them the strength to do what they are doing. We turtles can’t fly like the birds. It must be this dirty swamp that has disabled us turtles. I am sick and tired of the muddy, moldy, poisonous swamp. I’ve got to get out of here.”
Toughie listened to the stories. His eyes sparkled. His thoughts flew far away to those strange and fascinating places. He dreamed that one day he would be just like the birds, carefree, swimming in the vast ocean, exploring countless treasures, understanding and communicating with those strange creatures he had never seen before.
“I don’t want to live a life like all the other turtles. I don’t want to end up like my parents - living in desperation and dying in misery and pain. I want to live a freer life, a more fulfilled life, a joyful life, a life of my own. One day I will die. But when I die, I want to be able to say to myself: ‘I have lived a good life. I have lived my life and haven’t let my life live me. I have nothing to regret about my life’. I’ve got to do something to find meaning in my life.”
So one day, Wriggly and Toughie decided to leave the swampland. Spotty remained.
They crawled with their feet, carrying their shiny green shells on their backs, their pointy tails dragging behind on the ground. They crawled. They crawled toward where the sun rises every day. They crawled toward where the birds came from. They crawled toward where the briny winds blew. They crawled. They crawled over the mountains and hills. They crawled over the deserts and grasslands. They crawled through treacherous rivers. They crawled day and night, through storm and heat wave. They crawled.
Their feet were full of blisters and their toes bled. Their shells were dusty, full of scratches from rocks and stones. Their soft heads were dotted with scars. Their tails had callous. Yet they kept going.
In Wriggly’s mind, he kept seeing the swampland he had lived in all those years. He hated the damp stagnant climate. He hated the dull tasteless food he had to eat. He hated the insects that bothered him all the time. He hated the predators from whom he had to constantly hide. He hoped to find a better place where he didn’t have to work so hard to survive, where he could eat better food whenever he wanted without much effort, where he could be safe, where he never had to look after himself, where he could be relieved the burden of life he had carried for so long. He wished this ordeal of traveling would end soon.
In Toughie’s mind, he kept seeing the rainbow of colors from the seashells the birds had told him about. He kept seeing the giant whales and walruses swimming in the ocean. He kept seeing himself swimming among the coral reefs and schools of colorful fish, sampling to the fullest extent the beauty and grandeur of nature, tasting many varieties delicious food. He was mesmerized when the birds told him about the immensity and mystery of the ocean. Yet, he knew he had to work hard to learn how to live in the ocean. He had confidence. He had a strong will. He was not afraid. He knew he had to chase after his own dreams and one day those dreams would come true. He was happy that he was finally doing something to make his dream a reality. Every time he thought about his dreams, he would forget about the scars on his body and he crawled even steadier and faster.
When the leaves on the trees started to drop, when the salty smell from the winds grew heavier, when the soil under their feet became sandier, Wriggly and Toughie finally heard the sound of the waves.
Wriggly was shocked. He had never heard anything like it. So loud and frightening and overwhelming! Not even the roar of crocodiles could compare.
Toughie was excited. He had finally reached his destination! The thunderous sound of roaring waves was like a giant bugle, calling him to crawl faster into the mysterious deep water and the violent embrace of the unknown.
When they finally reached the beach, they saw mountain-like waves coming layer upon layer from a body of water expanding endless toward the sky. The tide whirled and seethes, pounding the shore with tremendous force. The brothy foam, with the sand sandwiched between the waves, tossed an turned, like the clouds they had seen before in a storm.
Wriggly’s guts shuddered:
“The seabirds never told me that the ocean was like this, so violent, so inhospitable, so unfeeling.”
He then crawled gingerly by the water and dipped his toes in it. The water was freezing cold. He then extended his soft head toward the water and sipped a little. It was bitter and salty.
“The seabirds never told me that the ocean was like this, so very cold, so very bitter, so very salty.”
A giant tidal wave surged toward him. He wanted to run, but he was too late. He was immersed by the sand-tossing salty water. He felt the relentless power of nature. He panicked.
He shouted. He cried. He struggled to exert all his strength to get away from the water. He fled the ocean like a rabbit escaping from a coyote. He crawled fast back toward where he came from, toward the mountains and hills, toward the deserts and grasslands, toward the dirty moldy swamp where he was born.
“Come back! Wriggly. This is great!” Toughie was shouting.
Wriggly kept going, pretending that he didn’t hear.
But on his way back to the swamp, Wriggly suddenly realized that the swamp was not that enticing either. The mere thought of the mildew, the parasites, the diseases and the predators made him shiver. But where would he go?
It was too shameful to go back to the swamp, to go back to Spotty.
“Spotty will mock me all my life about the decision I made to go to the ocean. How am I ever going to face him?”
It was also too shameful to go back toward the ocean again.
“Toughie will look down on me and think I am a coward. How am I ever going to face him?”
Wriggly spent the rest of his life wandering between the ocean and the swamp, hesitating to go either way. He didn’t like the dry land either. The sun was too hot. The wind was too fierce. The ground was too rough. Food was too scarce. There wasn’t enough water anywhere.
The desert sand thickened his shell. The wind and sun dried his scales. The rocks and stones sharpened his claws. His neck stretched out before him because he had to constantly look for water. He became a dry land tortoise.
When Toughie saw the tidal wave pelting down from above like a mountain of transparent jade, his heart trembled with joy. He had finally stepped into the limitless ocean. He could finally enjoy exploring the infinite unknown. He could finally swim freely and roam through all the beauty that nature could possibly create.
He didn’t flee. He didn’t pull his neck back into his shell. He faced it - the ruthless force of the ocean. He praised it - the limitlessness of the treasures. He welcomed it - the joy and pleasure and the unprecedented challenge to un-tap them. He was proud of his own power over his fate. He was elated.
He dashed toward the deepest parts of the ocean, peddling frantically with his already tired feet, balancing himself with his delicate tail. The salt in the water hurt his eyes. His body was numbed by the cold. His motion grew precarious. But he kept going toward the deep.
He saw eels, sharks, whales. He heard seals, walruses, sea lions. He sampled seaweeds, shrimps and sea slugs. He kept going toward the infinite.
He swam in warm currents and rested on golden sandy beaches. He climbed icebergs. He explored underwater volcanoes. He took naps in the warm sun under the ocean breeze. He kept going toward the limitless.
His eyes gradually adjusted to the salty water. His shell became smooth and shiny. His feet grew flatter and larger. His toes grew smaller and duller. His tail became more agile. He could swim longer and smoother than other ocean creatures. He became a sea turtle.
He saw someone similar to himself in the ocean - a female turtle. They danced and played together and nested on the warm sand of the shore. They had many babies. They all spread around the enormous ocean.
..... Seabirds flew over the sea, above the dry land and into the swamp, year in and year out. The tree branches turned from green to yellow, and then green again.
Spotty heard many stories about Wriggly and Toughie. He heard they were uncomfortable with the different climate, disgusted with the change of diet, chased and hurt by formidable predators, discriminated against by other creatures.
Spotty sighed to his own children, scratching a mosquito bite on his head:
“Look. Wriggly and Toughie should have listened to our ancestors. They should not have left this swamp. See, how much hardship Wriggly has had to endure. He has become to ugly and unhappy because he made the wrong choice in the first place. But at least I can see him sometimes when he travels to the edge of the swamp. I don’t even know where Toughie is now. He may have already died, eaten by sharks, frozen or starved to death. Or perhaps he is too sick and to ashamed to return. Don’t you ever do what they did.”
After he spoke those words, he felt relieved, assured that the choice he had made to remain in the swamp was right. At least he knew who he was. He laughed, feeling a sense of pride and pleasure, even superiority.
A few months later, though, he died. He died of a disease he had always dreaded, caused by drinking rotten water, just like his father. His dead body sank in the mud. Insects, worms and mildew started to gather inside the shell. The shell gradually rotted and was eaten away. Nothing was left.
“What about Wriggly and Toughie? Where are they? How are they doing? Did they die like Spotty?” You may ask.
Sure. Like every turtle, like every creature in this world, they also died one day.
Wriggly was killed by a human. His shell was first made into a bowl by the humans to drink water from. Later, it was abandoned and crushed. It became dust floating in the air above the dry land.
Toughie was killed while he was climbing a giant motor-powered ocean liner. The ship’s powerful propeller smashed him. His shell was shattered into pieces, scattered around the ocean.
If you go to the beach sometimes and take a careful look around, you may still see the pieces of his shell - green, smooth, translucently shiny. They were sprinkled among colorful seashells all over the world, radiating under the golden sun, enriching the world with their deep mysteries and never-ending fairytales and folklores.