Under the planet’s churning blue waves, the sandy seabed sparkled from Vis Decor’s two suns. Nothing lived directly under the surface for the suns’ radiation wiped it out, but about a half mile down, the rays twinkled on a blooming coral reef. On top of it, fifteen-year-old Alphi McClure lay.
Around her, red coral spiked up in the water in a splash of color, and pink formations slithered over rocks like worms. Green brain coral snaked around the orange tubes, which lay motionless until—Plop! An Alpha popped out of the tube. Then another, and another, their smooth, off-white scales glistening as they swam out of their houses.
“Malcorianism meeting!” one of the Alphas said. He tightened the thin membrane that attached his legs. They clamped together and he swam off, pumping his newly formed fin.
Alphi stared at the huge diamond-like formation, the Pinoe, a distance away. The Pinoe jutted out with slates of green and red coral, and every single Alpha in the village swam to it.
Except Alphi. She rested beneath a blue arch, playing with her feet as cool currents breezed past her webbed fingers and toes.
“Alphi.” One woman stood next to a pink arch. Her skin was barely white enough to be called a Pure, and many mothers surrounded her, pearls hanging from their skinny white necks.
“Megna.” Alphi pulled her feet apart, the fin turning into two limbs as she slapped away the fish that swam around her head. She rose to her tall height, her chest heaving.
“Will you go to your mother’s speech? Or will you hang around with the Greys?”
The mothers around Megna snickered, their deeply sunken eyes glistening.
“Oh, Megna! Look.” One of the mothers pointed a webbed finger at a fat five-year-old who swam through the arches, his scales like graphite.
“Don’t,” Alphi sputtered, but Megna swam up to the dark-skinned child. Alphi hopped over some spiky coral and stared at Calt, her golden hair billowing behind her.
“Hello,” Megna said.
“Megna, just leave him alone—”
But Megna stared at the boy. The difference in their skin, hers, white, and his, grey, became even more noticeable. “You can’t swim near us Pures. Don’t you know?”
“S—Sorry. I—I didn’t see you.” Calt looked down. Alphi shook her head. Don’t speak.
“So you’re blind too,” Megna said.
The mothers tittered. Just like the rest of the Alphas, they rose many feet off the sea floor. Hair cascaded down their backs, billowing behind them through the currents.
Calt turned helplessly to Alphi. “W-will we play in the trench today? My mother wants you to come over.”
But Alphi smiled, trying to swallow the fear that crept inside her. Calt didn’t know what his words meant…. “Sure.” She didn’t dare look at Megna.
“Are you joking, Alphi?” Megna yelled.
“He’s five years old—”
“We are Pures. We don’t live in some dirty trench, like him and his dark parents.”
“Yea,” Calt said, “but Alphi loves coming to my house.”