Stella the Sea Anemone
by Helen Robertsoon
Stella was fed up. She’d been stuck - quite literally - in the sand by herself for far too long now.
Living on the Californian coast was supposed to be fun. She could feel the warmth from the sun hitting the surface of the water above her, see the surfers as they headed out to the depths, and the clownfish that swam past her were always talking about the parties that they were off to that night. Seeing them splash past made her so lonely, and it wasn’t made any better by the fact they got her name wrong whenever they saw her. UH-NEM-OH-NEE. It really wasn’t that hard to get it right was it? But no, ‘Hi sea anenoome!’ they’d shout over to her as they swam past, flipping their fins as they darted around one another. I suppose they’re trying to be friendly, she thought to herself sadly, but it only made feel more alone.
It hadn’t always been this way for Stella. She’d loved growing up with all her brothers and sisters, living in a pretty cove with nice warm water and plenty of shrimp to eat. She thought of her family fondly - they’d had so much fun playing together in that cove and she wished more than anything that she could see them again. Everything had been going so well until those snorkelers had picked her up to stare at her through their big scary goggles. They’d carried her far from her family and discarded her in the shallow water near the shore, and she didn’t know how she would ever get back to her home. She wished she could swim like the clownfish could - she used her tentacles for eating, not for moving - and even if she could swim, she didn’t know which way to go. All of the sea looked so similar, and she didn’t even know how far from home those snorkelers had carried her. So here she was. On her own, stuck near to the shore.
The sun hitting the water above her was suddenly interrupted. Long shadows from the surfboards above made the water around her chilly and dark, and their owners were shouting to one another as they returned to the shore. Out of nowhere one of the surfers took a tumble and fell from their board into the water. He was coming straight towards Stella! Panicked, she ducked down into the silt below, pulling her tentacles in, but there was nowhere to hide in the flat bottom of the sea. As the surfers feet hit the bottom, Stella was thrown into the water and span over and over in the spinning ocean. Honestly, she thought to herself, how can this be happening to me again? I must be the unluckiest sea anemone in the world. She tried to focus on where she was heading as she tumbled back to the silt, but everything was moving so quickly and she was so dizzy. As she hit the bottom again everything went black.
Stella opened her eyes. She didn’t know how long she’d been asleep for, and everything seemed topsy turvy. Plus, there appeared to be a dent in her side from where the surfer had collided with her. She blinked, trying to figure out her surroundings and stop everything from spinning. She was definitely awake - or so she thought - but if she wasn’t dreaming then why did she appear to be staring back at herself? Perhaps she was just confused after all the chaos of the collision, or maybe it was those fish again, perhaps they’d gone and found some of that polished glass from the smashed bottles that sometimes made their way into the shallow water. Yes, that must be it. She was just looking at her reflection. She swayed to the right in the current and watched her mirror image move with her. Sadly, she lifted up one of her tentacles to wave at herself...but...wait! Why wasn’t her reflection waving back? And why was her reflection suddenly grinning at her? Stella definitely wasn’t smiling. ‘Hi!’ Her reflection said enthusiastically. ‘I’m Ella!’. Stella stared back. How could another sea anemone have appeared out of nowhere? And why did they look so similar? She didn’t know how long she’d been asleep for, but surely if some more snorkelers had come past she’d have woken up from the disturbance.
‘Well!’, said Ella, ‘aren’t you happy to see me?’. Stella started. “Yes, of course’, she spluttered. ‘But where have you come from? And who are you?!’. Maybe she was still dreaming after all.
Ella started laughing. ‘What do you mean?’, she said through giggles, ‘We’re the same!’. This was all too much for Stella to take in. She’d been burrowed in, minding her own business on her own for months, then she’d been displaced again by a wayward surfer, and after all that this strange doppelgänger had arrived out of nowhere, and was claiming that Stella had something to do with her arrival. She might have been lonely by herself, but at least she knew what was going on.
‘What are you talking about?’ she said to Ella, who was bobbing up and down in excitement. ‘We can’t be the same, I’ve been on my own for ages now, ever since those snorkelers dislodged me from my family. And I don’t need like being teased - did those clownfish send you to play a trick on me?’.
’No!’, Ella exclaimed. ‘Didn’t you know already? Sea anemones have a special talent called regeneration! You see that dent in your side? Well after an injury, sea anemones can repair themselves, and they can even make a whole new sea anemone from just a tiny piece of themselves! Not many animals can do that you know, and certainly not those clownfish. And not even the snorkelers, they can’t do it either - but I bet they wish they could, it’s really rather useful’.
Stella thought for a moment. That couldn’t possibly be true, she wondered, could it? Although... come to think of it... maybe she had looked very similar to some of her sisters. So similar that you might have said they were identical twins, even though some of them were much older than her. She hadn’t really thought about it before, but what Ella was saying now could - maybe - make sense.
‘Although there are some other animals that can do it as well’ Ella explained. ‘I think those sponges that live further away in the deep, cold part of the ocean can regenerate too’. Stella hadn’t seen any sponges before, but she’d definitely heard the clownfish talk about swimming to see them in the deeper part of the ocean. Maybe Ella was right - after all, she didn’t have a reason not to believe her, and it was probably much nicer being with a friend than being by herself in this new part of the sea.
‘Well, I suppose you can stay’, she said to Ella. It was getting dark after all, and after everything that had happened to her recently it didn’t seem very fair to send Ella off into the sea on her own too.
And so, Stella didn’t have to be by herself anymore. For the first time in a while, she was happy. She did miss her brothers and sisters from the cove, but now she had a new sister to hang out with, and although the clownfish still came along, she didn’t really mind when they got her name wrong. Plus, they thought it was pretty great that sea anemones could regenerate and make copies of themselves. ‘I wish we could do that!’ they all said, ‘that would be the best party trick!’. Stella agreed. After all, of all the skills that an animal could have, been able to make a copy of yourself seemed like a pretty cool one to have. And that made her very proud to be a sea anemone.