A Million Oysters For Chiyoko
by Caroline M Yoachim
Nanami was the oldest of the ama. A Japanese mermaid, the tourists called her. She dove for oysters, lobsters, sea urchins--most anything edible fetched a good price these days, seafood had become so rare. For decades, Nanami had gone diving for shellfish without any special equipment, but tourists brought more than just money to her sleepy fishing village. They also brought change. Starting today, all the diving girls would wear wetsuits and breathe with fish-gill masks that drew air out of the water. Nanami embraced the new technology, despite her age. It would give her a way to search for the remains of her daughter, Chiyoko.
She plunged into the cool ocean water and resisted the urge to hold her breath. Nanami wondered what Chiyoko would have thought of the fish-gill breathers. She probably would have approved. The girl had always loved the water, diving deeper than Nanami dared, with the adventurous boldness of youth. Her daughter had joked that she would find a million oysters, more than anyone could ever eat, and every single one would have a pearl.
Even all those years ago, the ocean had been too acidic for oysters. Dozens of oysters made a good find, and a million oysters was nothing more than a wistful dream. Now, the shallows were stripped bare, and anything left would lose its shell to the acid sea soon anyway. The only dive sites with anything left to collect were at the base of the limestone cliffs, and even here the acidic ocean made sea urchins with stunted spines and thin-shelled oysters and mussels.
This was where she'd taken Chiyoko diving, the day her daughter disappeared.