by Belen Lopez
That day the ocean decided to swallow him whole.
He set sail just before the dawn. The sky was still tinged with blue and stars peppered the disappearing night; the sun was barely peeking its head through the water, slow and sleepy like a man reluctant to wake. He adjusted sails, tested the tightness of knots, and, as the boat begun its slow tread into deeper water, he waved good-bye though only the docks and the seagulls could see him.
For days he had waited for the opportunity to ease away with no one watching. And he had finally done it. Not for a moment did he stop to think of what the town would say, how they would whisper to themselves that he had gone mad, that some fever had seized him, turned him around and filled his mind with dangerous thoughts of exploration. His thoughts were constant and steady, fixed on going farther than anyone before. Fixed on looking deep into the sea and not falling in, not being lulled by it into a sudden dive or fall.
The sea was calm that day; it was all anyone would remember. She, as they had come to call the sea, barely moved. She was still, only the edges of her bobbing cautiously against the shore and docks as if afraid of disturbing something within. The sky, too, seemed unable to grow darker than a pale shade of aquamarine. Cloudless, as if a storm were only a tale fishermen invented to scare the boys away from the water.
In the afternoon women gathered at the shore, ankle or knee deep in the water, searching for rocks, or clams, or seaweed, for whatever it was that day’s ventures required. They gave little thought to the boy that had set sail before they had woken. They could only see into the cool brown and teal edges of the sea and the sun, a single, glittering orb above their heads, heating their bare arms.
By that time he was out far enough that even if they had cared to risk going after him, it would have been too late. Only a bird, following steadily behind, sometimes settling at the mast, was able to catch him, and he only out of the hope that the boy might catch something and give him a piece. In time though, the bird, its gray wings finding a steady rhythm, lifted up and went back to shore, unable to wait any longer.
The boy kept going. He could feel the day shifting slowly into night, the sun easing across the sky, dipping lower with each passing hour. He realized, without quite knowing why, that this was the farthest he had ever gone. For a few moments he thought of May, the girl he had dared to kiss on the bluffs not too long ago, and wondered if she would wait for him. He wouldn’t be gone long, he told himself, surely she can wait. But he sensed that this wasn’t true, that May would marry the first man that showed her any promise of a future. And he, at sea, could not give her this.
He fell asleep without meaning to. The boat had carried on without his guidance continuing the course as if it knew already where he needed to go. When he woke he couldn’t recognize anything around him. The world that engulfed him was dark, deep and black. He could hardly see his fingers stretched out before him as he tried to find a rope to hold on to. Something, small and fluttering, began to thump inside his chest as the boat cracked from a lulling swing into a winding, tripping rock. He could hardly move. His hands seemed tied together as he held on to the rope.
It was only as his eyes caught the forming of a wave, large and outstretched like the fingers of a giant, that he sprang free and moved to try and steady the boat. The boat resisted, preferring to do the water’s bidding than to fight it. When the wave came down upon him, he kept his eyes open, watching for an exit, for a crack between fingers. What he found instead were eyes. White and turquoise, the only source of light he had seen since waking to darkness. A hand reached out to touch him and then another to grip him. Before he could rise to protest he felt himself suspend by two pairs of pale arms, smooth like water stones that quickly pushed him to the surface.
He took in a single breath of air, his lungs expanding, his head growing light from the sudden rush of oxygen, before they pulled him under again, just as the wave came down ready to seize him. What they were he couldn’t tell. He only knew, somehow despite their lack of voice, that they were trying to save him. They came around to each side of him, each taking one of his hands. Above him the sea was destroying as much as she could, the edges of the waves extending and reaching for something to crash into, but he could only see the depths of the sea illuminated by the eyes of these two creatures.
They led him farther, deeper down and he went willingly, the thoughts of breathing and sunlight replaced by the promise of bright eyes and pale arms.
Belen Lopez is a student. Currently working on an MA in English Literature, she's been writing forever, but only seriously for about a year now.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Until My Love Stops Roaming'
'Chatter of a White Scaly-Gull'