I am a middle-aged harbor seal, and my name is Shiny. I got the name Shiny because I’m silver with a few dark spots. I am eighteen years old and a little slimmer than the other seals; I’m slim like a bullet. Other seals have more blubber to keep warm in the ocean water. I guess for me it’s a genetic variation; I have just enough blubber to keep me warm, plus I’m always moving. I like to eat fish and the best part of eating fish is catching them. I’m such a good swimmer because I have a streamlined body and flippers, which are like big flat hands that help me move through the water quickly. I have sharp pointed front teeth for grasping and tearing my fish apart. I can conserve oxygen because my lungs and blood flow slow down so that I can stay under water for at least thirty minutes. I believe that I will just keep getting better and faster at swimming; I am the fastest of my kind.
I have three friends and we don’t really talk much any more, but we do still look out for each other. Our favorite place to go is the beach; well, it used to be. We used to love lying in the warm sand and soaking in all the sun after a few good hours of hunting. I still go without them, hoping that things could go back the way they used to be. Ever since I can remember, it has been getting hotter and hotter. My friends say that’s the main reason why they don’t like to spend that much time on the beach. Because of the heat, there have been a lot more humans hanging out on the beach. They don’t really bother me but I know that my friends don’t like them. Every time a human gets close to us, my friends rush into the water. I guess I’m used to them now. I mean, I go to the beach to do almost everything. I go there to sleep, rest, and warm myself in the sun because I don’t have a lot of blubber.
One morning three years ago, I woke up and something felt a little off. I couldn’t really put my flipper on it, but I knew something was different. Regardless of what I felt, it was still time for me to start my daily routine. All my life I’d watched the sea level rise but, once I got to the beach, I finally noticed the water was finally a lot closer to where I usually laid. I didn’t understand how this could even happen. Was water being added to the earth? If so, how was it getting here? I didn’t know how to find the answers to my questions or even if my questions were too silly. Either way, I wanted to know what was going on around me. I did know the heat was causing glacier ice to melt because every time the elephant seals came back from Alaska, they always told us about it.
I was starting to get scared that the water was taking up more of the land. I remember the questions in my mind: “Should I even be scared? I love the water too; that’s part of my life. I’m kind of torn between the two because I spend half my time on land and half my time in water. I like becoming one with the water while I take my little cat naps but, if this water keeps rising the way that it is, then I might not have a second home anymore. And what about my favorite rocks that I like to lie on? Will they soon be underwater too?”
Since the morning when I noticed that change, from there on out everything has gotten worse. My favorite rock is gone, along with my three friends. Other seals are dying, too, and every day I’m becoming more alone. Life has become a lot harder for us because we cannot spend as much time in the water. It’s deeper now and the sharks are hunting closer to shore. My friends and the other seals were not as good at swimming as I am; that’s the reason why they all became shark food. I never really have the time to rest so my body is getting weak, and because of all the shark attacks, one of my flippers is broken. I don’t eat much any more because I don’t want to risk going into the water to catch my fish; another shark might approach me and I won’t be able to get away fast enough. I remember when hunting for fish used to be my thing because I was so good at it. Now I’m lucky if I can even find a dead one.
It’s been a whole week and a half since the last time I ate, and during that time, I’ve been surviving off my body fat. My body is hurting and the rest of me is weak. I know that if I don’t go back into the water that I will die, or I could die trying to find food. I guess I just have to risk it. It takes me a good ten minutes to wobble my way back into the water. I can already feel the challenge, because the water pressure is making it harder for me to swim with my sore, tired body. I just keep going until I find the spot where I usually hunt for my fish. I see a really big shark, so I swim to the bottom of the water, where I see a rock. It looks a lot like my old rock that I use to lie on. I hide behind it. It seems like the shark doesn’t see me; it starts to swim away. I continue my hunt. I catch a fish! Being able to have that taste in my mouth again and being able to tear apart that fish the way I did are the only things that feel normal. I know that I have to stuff myself because I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to eat a good meal like this again. I used to eat thirteen pounds of fish per day.
An excruciating pain I have never felt before tears through my flesh. I can’t feel the lower half of my body. I’m trying to swim away but I cannot move through the water the way that I want to. I’m bleeding heavily and my body is getting weak because I’m losing too much blood. My brain is going blank and I can’t see; everything is a blur. It’s dark and cold and everything that I have ever known starts to fade away from me as my body finally hits the bottom of the ocean. I’m food for the sharks that have invaded the coastline that used to be my home.