By Colin Foord of Coral Morphologic
(Spoken from the first person perspective of this coral, The Coracle)
I am a hybrid. I am both a bastard and the chosen one. I never knew my parents. And my parents never knew each other. I was born of an orgy that took place beneath the late summer moon some years ago.
Dozens of species, thousands of corals, and millions of bundles of eggs and sperm rising upwards to the surface; to the moon. Like all sperm, I was searching for an egg to fertilize. The right egg. My mother’s egg. Without reaching an egg, the sperm are but futile explorers in the inky black liquid space. Sure losers. My mother was an elkhorn coral. And my father was a staghorn. You humans like to talk a lot about species.
You need concrete boxes to categorize your world. Borders. Black and White. Hierarchy. It’s not really the way reality works, but you are still figuring it out on your own. You will get there. My kind have just been around a lot longer than you. You think you are intelligent. And it’s true.
You are intelligent. But you haven’t quite worked out the realities of reality just yet. The reality is, the Universe is fluid. Life is fluid. Water is the spirit molecule of your world. And my world. Of all life. It is a magical liquid that can solve nearly anything. You are conceived in a fluid world. Really no different than I was. But my womb was the ocean. And my parents, unable to choose their mates, put their faith in the Moon and let the magic of chance encounters dictate the destiny of their progeny.
In my case, my mother and father were of two different species. Don’t blush, this is reality. Little ‘mistakes’ like me are born all the time. You have the freedom to just get up and leave if you are uncomfortable.
I am cemented in place. I have to deal with whatever reality serves me. Like my parents. No choice but to adapt or die. And hope to grow, clone, and eventually participate in one of these annual cosmic orgies under the moonlight. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Once I was conceived I had to find a home as a tiny larva. First I was swept northward by the great Gulf Stream. But then I was pulled inward. Closer to shore. I saw the lights. Like a million stars. I was drawn to Miami like a magnet. Or maybe it was the tide. The Moon again. The dusty Moon is envious for our Oceans, tugging and pulling like clockwork. High tide, low tide, high tide, low tide.
The Moon cannot escape Earth, and life cannot escape the power of the Moon. I was drawn to the mouth of your city, dirty as it may be. I found it to be perfect. Human-made heaven for a coral like me. Hard rocks unlike anything my kind is familiar with. Granite from the Appalachians bathed twice daily by blasts of blue water from the Gulf Stream. I found myself a Goldilocks in someone else’s bed. A fly-on the wall in some else’s business.
I owe my existence to the entrepreneurial powers of men and women. And dynamite. And international trade. This was the perfect place for a little weirdo like me to settle. Premium real estate. I even have a canopy of trees to afford me some privacy while I clone myself to adulthood.
What I saw before me as I started to grow, was a city of lights and life and sweat and sex. There once was a time when your city was not much more than a swamp —Or you could call it a ‘magical estuary of life.’ Or the Fountain of Youth. But the land had been many things before what it was when you found it. It has been grassland. It has been a forest. It has been a coral reef. It has been salted and it has been cleansed.
It has at times been brilliant white and at others it has stunk of rotten eggs and black death. But ultimately, the fate of Miami has always been dictated by the sea. And perhaps most famously for being a beach. When Miami is a beach, it is at a crossroads between submersion and emersion. The middle point on the hourglass. And me and my kind are just waiting for the water to rise so that we can call your buildings home. It shouldn’t really be much of a surprise though; any intelligent being knows that beaches are ephemeral. It’s always just a question of time.
Time is one of those concepts of reality that your kind hasn’t fully grasped. But it’s no surprise when so few of you recognize that we are living on a cosmic clock. Corals have been around for half a billion years. And even this is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of the Universe. But that is more than enough time for us to recognize the workings of this clock as we gazed upwards towards the cosmos through a shallow lens of clear water. We were the first astronomers on this planet. Over time we synchronized our lives with the cyclical movements of the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun. We’ve also been around long enough to know what real catastrophes are.
Meteors. Asteroids. Rocks from outer space that can send incredible shock waves of calamity across the plant. A world that can change instantly for all life on Earth. Death from above. This is one of the true tests of survival for life on the planet. Like having all the cards thrown into the air. We’ve handled cataclysms multiple times before. Like all life, we’ve had our casualties and extinctions. But even in the immediate aftermath of disaster, windows of opportunity arise.
You humans have a hard time grasping the concept of time. Never enough time. Too long to wait. Your species has come a long way since it began building cities about 5,000 years ago. But it’s still not enough time on Earth to appreciate all its cycles. The last major shift in sea level occurred 10,000 years ago when the glaciers of the last ice age melted and the sea level began to rise.
Back then Miami was just a forest of trees and pines over the limestone bedrock of a previous era when it was once submerged. And so as the glaciers melted, the oceans rose, as they continue to do until this day. But you humans are funny. You always strive to make life easier, but you also don’t like things to change. You invest for the future, but you fail to recognize the difficulty in adapting when you are carrying too much loot. You strive for speed, but neglect the brakes.
The highest natural elevations of South Florida were built by corals just like me, striving, reaching ever upwards to the surface, to the sky, to the Heavens. My ancestors were the planet’s first real estate developers; colonizing, monopolizing, urbanizing. Until the water retreated, and the pioneers were left high and dry, just waiting for a new kind of real estate developer to emerge and make use of their skeletal foundation.
Henry Flagler is a man that has influenced your kind and my kind in extraordinary ways. A barron with no limits to his goals. He unknowingly landed the first blow to our kind when he built his train tracks right down the backs of my forebears, filling the gaps between islands all the way down the Florida Keys. With railways to permanently connect us, Miami became a destination. And Key West beyond it. The weather was good here. Most of the time. But the summer heat was unbearable and the mosquitos were tortuous. It would take the stubborn strength of men, and the savviness of women to sell and build and sell this swampy town.
But what Miami has is its location. Located at the tip of the Floridian peninsula, at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Everglades. A point of convergence for freshwater and saltwater and for land and sea. A cosmopolitan meeting point for all kinds of diverse and colorful life passing north or south, east or west.
Air conditioning, pesticides, combustion engines. These are the technologies that made Miami a carefree destination. But it was the Port that supplied the city with everything it needed to buy and sell. I’m well aware. Every week I see the thousands of people coming and going on cruise-ships, floating skyscrapers, box after box of Chinese cargo. And the late-night passages of square groupers tossed overboard from fleeing speedboats. I know what built your city, after all, I am absorbing everything that dissolves.
You might say that your city is a lot like where I come from. The reef. From the great expanse of space, the human network is visible. Interconnected and bustling with activity. But it hasn’t been like this for all that long. We corals have been for ages building cities that are clearly visible from space. Your cities are a lot like our reefs; always bustling with frenzied activity in an eat-or-be-eaten world. But there are few cities whose destinies overlap with the coral as much as this one. Miami is built from the limestone bones of my ancestors. Your buildings are the coral reef reincarnated.
In the future, when the seas rise, we will return, and like a great ouroboros we will recolonize Miami like an artificial reef.