Almost six 'o'clock. The sun is low on the jagged mountaintops, deep orange and shrouded in thick grey clouds. The air is chilly, but heat rises from below, from somewhere deep beneath the rolling, ashen landscape of long-cooled primordial lava. A few metres ahead of me, warm water laps gently at the lake's edge. And the occasional splash heralds some lazy movement on the part of the creatures.
I sit on my coat watching the mirror-like surface of the water. It ripples hypnotically, amidst a landscape of rock-strewn waves that have been for frozen for aeons. The far side of the lake is halfway to the edge of the horizon. Between here and there, great herds of the creatures bob slowly on the water, like living sailboats with a coating of translucent green blubber.
Beside me she says, "That was amazing! They're such docile animals! I wouldn't have thought they were capable of doing something so… so… so amazing!" She wipes tears from the corners of her eyes with her thumb. "It was beautiful. And this is the only place left where you can still find them?"
I nod, reaching for my camera, turning it off and starting to fold the tripod.
She rests her head on her knees. "Humans must be stupid. That we'd not care about destroying something so beautiful."
A gust of wind ploughs in from one side, sending a cascade of small waves across the lake. The creatures turn languidly - some into the wind so that their crests of transparent membrane don't push them off course, others trying to catch more of the breeze to propel themselves across the surface of the water.
She turns to me and pulls on my sleeve. "How often do they do that?" she asks.
"Every day at five twenty-three," I tell her.
"So if I come here at that time tomorrow, I'll see it again? But does it get old the more you see it?"
I laugh and shake my head. "No, it's different every time."
"Wow," she says softly. "But always this beautiful?"
I dry my eyes on my handkerchief and blow my nose. "Always this beautiful."
"Will you be here tomorrow?" she asks.
I carefully slide my camera into its bag. "Of course. I always have to be here. Someone has to record all this before it's gone for good."
She stands, unsteadily, stretching her legs. "I have to go, I'm already late. Would you mind if I came here tomorrow?"
"Don't worry about me. You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't disturb them." I gesture to the nearest bobbing creature as it sifts the murky water with its soft tentacles.
She nods. "I can't wait. The day at work always seems to take so long. This'll only make it seem so much longer."
We exchange a little more small talk and then she leaves with a little smile. I hear her clambering over loose rocks behind me in her oversized Wellington boots. I watch the creatures as they slowly start to turn side-on to the setting sun, trying to catch the last warm rays of ruddy light. New behaviour, a response to the way the water's increasing pH breaks down the crest's thin membrane, makes it harder for them to cope with changes in temperature.
The days seem long to my new friend, but to me they go too quickly.