Horace never knew real happiness. He was a freak, an anomaly, in some eyes an abomination. In every respect he fitted the label ‘hippopotamus’ save one: pigmentation. Not content with being albino, Horace’s genetic mutation had turned him translucent; so much so that he absorbed the colours of his surroundings which meant that, instead of the perfect camouflage he stood out, a garish mix of contrasting shades and tones.
For years he was shunned moving from from one waterhole to the next, laughed at, mocked. Until the fateful day he reached the sea. There, on the horizon loomed a small conical island. Perhaps, mused the now desperate Horace he could find sanctuary there. Gingerly, for he had not experienced waves before, he stepped in the water, letting its cooling properties take effect, soothing his nerves and calming his beating heart.
While he paddled in the shallows, getting his bearings and plucking up his courage to begin to make the dangerous journey, another hippo appeared out of the bushes and made for the water. Horace sank as far as he could, hoping the hippo, a girl as he could see, would not notice him.
‘Oh my god. I can see you.’
Horace’s heart sank. He began to turn to begin his dangerous swim.
‘No wait. Don’t go. You’re the first hippo I’ve been able to see. My eyesight has a defect meaning I can’t see hippos but I can see you. You are there, arent you? You are real?’
‘Yes,’ he said cautiously.
‘Oh my heavens. You’re beautiful.’
‘Yes. The way you shine. It’s like you’re a diamond.’
Horace, who had become used to ignoring himself looked down. Sure enough, the girl was right. The sparkling water had turned him into a scintillating vitreous hippo-shaped globe. He circled round and surprised himself by doing a somersault.
The girl laughed. ‘Why can I see you and no other hippo? You must be so special.’
Special? Horace had never thought of himself as special. He smiled at the girl who smiled back. ‘Please,’ he said, ‘Join me.’ He swept a space in the water and allowed his new friend to join him. The island could wait.
This story is in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt