After he anchored his boat at the reef, the ichthyologist let us choose—Richard opted for aqualung, Joyce for snorkel.
Here, not far out from George Town, the Grand Cayman Island capital, we looked down through perfectly clear Caribbean waters at black bat shapes gliding across the white sand bottom.
A moment later, we swam among them. They looked like B-2 Spirit strategic stealth bombers.
We should have been frightened of creatures that looked so lethal. In fact, the Australian conservationist and zookeeper, Steve Irwin, died after accidentally disturbing one and receiving a sting to the chest.
Yet, we felt no fear. We felt charmed.
As Joyce snorkeled near the surface, rays flew up and swam with her, gently flapping their huge wings. She felt surrounded by friendly dogs.
Richard, near the bottom with his aqualung, found himself escorted by a squadron of the black animals, each the size of a dining room table. One swam up from behind and wrapped its wings around him, scuba gear and all.
And what Richard would always remember, looking into those brown eyes—sentience.
Maybe humanity doesn't need to go as far as the stars.
We can find intelligent alien life here on Earth, and in its waters.
—Joyce & Richard