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Sea Monkey Manor - Joel Hall

When I took my summer vacation during the last week of August, I was more than ready.

My first thoughts, however, weren't which friends I was going to see, which places I was going to visit, or which movies I was going to watch.

My first thought before I took my vacation was: Where do I put my Sea Monkeys?

About a month or so ago, I started raising a Sea Monkey colony, which I wrote about in a previous column. Since then, I had taken them to work once to prove to my co-workers that they really do exist.

During that particular visit, the hot Georgia sun had quite a negative effect on the Sea Monkeys. While I had devised a way to get the Sea Monkey colony to and from work without any water seeping out of the bowl, the trip made the Sea Monkeys slow and docile.

I knew after that day that the Sea Monkeys wouldn't survive a 10-hour drive to Virginia Beach.

I had to make a decision. I could take the risk, put the Sea Monkey colony in a bowl, and pray the bowl didn't tip over and the liquid contents inside didn't evaporate.

The other choice was to leave them on my windowsill, give them as much food and oxygenated water as I could, and hope for the best.

With a heavy heart, I decided to leave my new pets at home without a Sea Monkey sitter. Before grabbing my bags and getting in my car, I gave them an extra scoop of Sea Monkey food and took one last fleeting glance as I closed the door behind me.

As I got on the highway, I started wondering if leaving my Sea Monkeys to fend for themselves was the right thing to do. Irrational fears started to settle in my brain.

What if I came back and they were all dead? Would the PETA people come after me for Sea Monkey abuse? If they were ready to put Michael Vick's head on a pike, what would make me any less susceptible?

By the time I got to the South Carolina border, I started to gain my composure. My thoughts started to focus more on home. I got to Charlotte, went to a barbecue, and stayed the night at my brother's house. In the morning, I drove to Greensboro and had breakfast with an old friend.

When I got home, I walked the beach, went to a dentist appointment, ate Thai in the trendy historic Ghent section of Norfolk with my parents, and saw the ping-pong spoof "Balls of Fury" with my mother (although we both thought it wasn't as funny as it could have been).

All the while, in the distant reaches of my mind, I thought about the Sea Monkeys and the trials they may be facing on my windowsill back in Clayton County.

When I got back to my apartment, the Sea Monkey tank was the first thing I checked, even before putting down my bags.

From a distance, I could see that the algae that had started to grow throughout the tank had settled to the bottom. At first I feared the worst because I didn't see any movement.

Taking a closer look, I noticed that there weren't as many Sea Monkeys in the tank as before, but the Sea Monkeys that were still there were huge. In only a week and a half, the surviving Sea Monkeys had grown from the size of a pin point to the size of small army ants.

A few of the Sea Monkeys had grown long, wispy tails - the longest one about an inch long. In addition, I noticed a behavior that I had never witnessed before: Sea Monkey aggression.

Before my vacation, the Sea Monkeys floated around aimlessly, mindful of their surroundings, but indifferent to each other. Now at certain intervals, they were attacking each other and fighting for food.

Had the Sea Monkeys broken up into tribes? Had one or two radical Sea Monkeys plotted against the others in my absence (et tu Sea Monkey)?

Signs of a great struggle were apparent, but the true fate of the other Sea Monkeys may never be known.

The lesson I have learned from all this is to never turn your back on a Sea Monkey.

Joel Hall covers government for the Clayton News Daily. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 281 or via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.