‘Physalia physalis’

In the sun all day, there’s not much to think about. I’m out here, blowing along, who knows where to. From high up on your cruise ship, I might be just another folorn plastic bag. Oh, if only you knew me. If you realised I had all this underneath. Then you’d pay attention.

Being a colonial siphonophore, I’m composed of three types of medusoids. There are gonophores, siphosomal nectophores, and vestigial siphosomal nectophores. I don’t expect you know what those are. Mustn’t forget the polypoids, dear observer, four types: free gastrozooids, gastrozooids with tentacles, gonozooids, and gonopalpons. The dangly bits, I suppose you’d call them. A bit like hands, but more stingy.

Anyway, they all hang down beneath my pneumatophore. Did you say that out loud? Pneuma, to do with breathing. From the Greek. Like pneumonia. Pneumatic. Pneumatometer. It’s filled with gas. My floaty bit. You might say I’m bloated; I say that’s bullying, and I’m reporting you to your manager.

I’m translucent, and sometimes a little bit pink. Mauve in the right light. If you poked me (and I certainly wouldn’t advise that) you’d be surprised how soft I am. They all are. And then… Wait, I’m getting distracted. See the ridge; like some kind of crown. But it’s more than that. It’s a sail, and it takes me anywhere… Well, anywhere I get blown to. Don’t have much of a choice. But wherever I end up, that’s probably where I wanted to go anyway.

You know, once I was sunbathing on a beach and this kid came up to me, saying I looked like a Cornish pasty. Very funny, little chap, I said. He got away as well. If he’d come a little closer my nematocysts would have given him a tickle. That’s what happens when you mess with me. A little dermatitis, perhaps. A little venom to your lymph nodes.

Gyoza. An amoeba. A rubber johnnie. I’ve heard it all. I’m a man of war, I’ll have you know, and you’d better watch your back.