He's been following her all her life...
|The first time I saw him, I was three years old.
I was running through the sand dunes, not really watching where I stepped, when I heard a seagull cry out above me. I stopped and stared up, trying to find it in the clear blue sky. It dived down and landed close to me. Enchanted, I ran toward it, but every time I got close, it hopped away again. This continued until it had lead me back to my dozing mother. Then it disappeared again, dwindling to a dot on the horizon as it flew.
I later learnt that, near where I had been running, was a deep pit of quicksand. I’m certain that if the seagull had not distracted me, I would have stepped into it and sunk like a stone, to be found many years later as a mummified corpse.
The second time, I was seven.
I had been enjoying myself playing in the forest behind the house, when it started to rain. I hid in the den I had built, but the drizzle turned into a downpour and the downpour turned into a thunderstorm. Before I knew it, it was dark and I was lost. I heard an ominous creaking, but I didn’t know what it meant until I heard the seagull call again. It seemed like a sign - the white bird gliding among the trees, almost shining, like a beacon.
I followed it, and it lead me back to my home.
The next morning, my father came back from inspecting the forest to say that one of the tree’s had fallen down. I went to take a look, and my den was crushed beneath the heavy pine.
Again, I was sure the seagull had saved my life. Even then, I was starting to notice a pattern.
The next time, I was fifteen. My family had moved closer to the ocean in the gap between seven and fifteen, and I was on the beach when I lost track of the time. I was usually very good, and had never been trapped by the water before, but my watch had stopped working and I was stuck in the bay as the tide came in.
Somehow, when he alighted on the rock next to me, I knew it was him. He showed me the right way, guided me to each hold as I clambered up the cliff face.
I knew I wouldn’t fall. He was there, keeping me safe.
The fourth time, I was eighteen. I had been swimming when a jellyfish had brushed against my legs, and the pain was excruciating. I gasped, took in a mouthful of salty water, and floundered.
He was flying in circles over my head, but there was nothing he could do. I wasn’t lost, I wasn’t trapped, I was drowning. He dived down, and the moment he hit the water he became... something else. I caught a glimpse of whitish grey hair, the color of seagull feathers, and a flash of silver fish scales, then felt strong arms wrap around me as he towed me to shore.
As I lay on the gritty sand, I felt his touch move over the jellyfish stings. My whole leg tingled, then the pain was just... gone.
I glanced down, at his legs, and instead saw a tail of silver fish scales, glinting rainbow in the sun.
It was then that I saw he was gasping, flopping like the trout I had caught once in the river behind my house.
I dithered, not sure what to do, before dragging him into the surf. He dipped his head under the water and breathed deep, surviving on the same liquid that had almost killed me a few minutes before. I sat on the sand and watched. A few seconds later, he called out. ‘I’ll only see you once more.’
I just nodded.
I’d always thought of myself as down to earth, a scientist. And now it was proven that things like him could exist, I didn’t know whether I could deal with it.
He understood, I could see it in his eyes. He flicked his tail and left.
I sat on the beach, staring into the water, until a lady walking her dog asked if I was alright.
‘Yes.’ I said with a quick grin. ‘Never been better.’
Then I went home, and lived my life.
I only ever thought about him fleetingly, the musings of an old woman who wasn’t quite sure what she’d seen any more.
Now I am dying, and he has not held up on that promise to see me a fifth and final time.
I decide to try once more, and turn to my daughter behind me. I ask her to take me down to the beach. I stare over the waves, feeling my body weaken almost by the minute, until I see a flash of silver. I tell my daughter to leave me for a while, and she does.
He comes as close as he dares, and smiles at me.
Then he does the only thing he can to help me, just as he did when I was eighteen and fifteen and seven and three - so many years ago - and takes away the pain.