A girl seeks refuge in the ocean.
|They said that I survived the drowning when I was a child, even though I had been dead for ten minutes. There was a certain tranquility to filling my lungs with water, watching the world fade around me. I felt cradled in the sea, as though someone was holding me, whispering to me, "You'll be mine. Safe. Forever." And although my family told me to stay away, from that day forward, it was all I could think about. I couldn't swim, but being near the water and feeling the breeze made me feel as though I was being filled again. It was exhilarating.
I wasn't sure that death hadn't gripped me in those moments. Even when I was saved by my brother Evan, I could feel the sea reaching out for me even harder, wanting me to stay. I promised my family I wouldn't go in. I stood in the sand, hearing the voice on the wind that had spoken to me so softly, so confidently. My clothes were heavy. My mother made me wear several layers of clothing since the incident, but no matter what I wore or what they fed me, I was becoming as blue as the sea. My sun bleached hair was now the blue of the deepest parts of the water, my eyes had changed to a deadly white, and my lips screamed hypothermia.
The doctor tried to cure my illness. He was sure it was shock and dead cells that had changed with my trauma. My family, unable to move away from the ocean, sent me away instead to the middle of emptiness. No water to swim near, and only my aunt and cousin in the hot dusty sand that surrounded their house in Arizona. Their attempts at healing me were even worse. The further I was from the water, the more I felt like I was actually dying, like a fish being hauled into the air and laid gasping on a boat. My only release was the shower, and it wouldn't fill. My family was certain I was going to attempt suicide, longing for water in the oddest ways.
Therapy was the next option. I was swallowing ten pills a day just to stay appropriately "safe". I spoke every time about my beautiful release into the sea, the voice, the sensations. Near death was traumatic, my therapist said. He only spoke as though I had just been too close to death, and that in the last moments my brain had tried to comfort me. But the sea was screaming for me, aching for my presence.
I went to my cousin's high school with him as soon as they thought I was ready. I was so drugged by that time that I was a model student, a child who focused purely on her work and ignored the sweet release her body always sought. They wouldn't let me take swim lessons, or join the swim team. In fact, they had someone follow me to the bathroom every time I went, which made my option for friendship completely null. But I had nearly forgotten the sea in my own drowning amount of pills. I could only hear the voice in my sleep, lulling me back into the blue, clear heaven that had been taken away from me. "You'll be mine. Safe. Forever."
Eventually I was allowed to go back to my family on the condition that I kept going to therapy and taking my pills. By then my old friends had drifted away from me, doing what any normal person would do living by the sea. They swam and dove, bursting out of the water, breaking the surface and shattering the tranquility I so desperately wanted. When my feet touched the shoreline, letting the water cover my toes slip over my ankles, the voice was even stronger. The sea reached for me, and the sun scorched my skin, refusing to allow me any release. The tan I used to be became just a pale blue, the look of suffocation. There were rumors that I was in fact dead, but somehow still moving. Just like any ghost, I wanted to be where I died, eternally searching for release from my unfinished business. But death had no hold on me anymore than life did. Something was down in the sea, and it was the only thing that dragged me through my continuing existence.
By the time I was a teenager, people had come to accept my looks. I was far too busy to visit the sea like I used to, and school became my life as I tried to get into the best college possible. My eerie childhood made for excellent writing, and the liberal arts schools wanted me for my "creative talent". Little did they know I barely embellished the truth.
The sea was a darling little thought in my mind, a hope and a dream I once had and that my family tried to have fond memories of. They omitted me from the pictures in their head, like I was a disease that washed up onto the shore rather than their own family. Even my brother, Evan, who had been dear to me when we were younger, drifted away from me, not only because of my precautions from childhood, but also because I was convincing myself I could get into a college as a woman. My mind must have been adrift, losing it's own sanity, and I was a joke to them as someone who was already dead and already unavailable as a woman. There were never whispers of me gaining marriage, but instead whispers from close friends who apologized to my family profusely for their burden. I stayed with my writing though. It was the only way I could reconnect to the voice from my childhood, the strong insistence that I was a living woman who had ideas and was going to be saved by what I thought was a man. Even if he was a merman or some other creature that came from those ever comforting penny dreadfuls. They knew what I had seen. They knew what the transformation was like. And even if I couldn't convince my own society, the little society I had, that I was normal, I liked to think that they were real, and the writers were screaming out just as I was to get.
I went to the sea one day, just to look at the people in their bathing suits and toys. They were playful, and the food being passed around was fresh and ready for the coming summer. Even my family was having fun, Evan with his fiancee and my mother and father enjoying the sun and lightly complaining about the manner in which the women were dressed. I was there, in the shade of the umbrella, wishing that I could have a pad of paper or some lead, just to pass the time. No one would look at me. Not one of the men there were without partners. It was like I was a squid, and the squid had something even squishier on its head. But I was hopeful for the day. I was hopeful that the tide would take me out with it, or the voice would spring up to everyone else so that I would either be dead or they would have to believe me. Neither happened that day. I was furious on the way home, and the more angry I became, the more the weather seemed to swerve towards my mood. The wind whipped up on the shady spots on the beach, the sun became violently sore, and the clouds at the horizon that were once fluffy and graceful in their movements became dark and heavy with what could have really only been my idea of literary expectation.
I crawled back down to the sea later, when it was still pouring and the water was sloshing around. My clothes didn't care; I had no inclination of leaving my bathing suit which made dinner rather odd for the rest of my family. I scooped up the soaking sand and let it dribble through my hands angrily. It had no force, and it was no comfort.
"You didn't come for me," I growled, "You invited me into your world years ago and then left me for dead, just like everyone else. I have no place here; neither on the ground or in the sea. It's pointless. Even the sky is pointless. Look at it!" I thrusted my hands at the sky, and it responded in kind, with a rough grumble and lightning that had passed hours ago. "I thought I had something. I thought I had a dream; a world that would make this... miserable life more worth it! But you lied to me! I'm not safe! I'm not yours! I'm not even myself!
Just as I spoke, I heard the voice screaming at me as well, and the wave rose high into the air, reaching for me even as I screamed and ran from what I thought I wanted. It spoke a different way, angrily, shockingly, and I pushed forward by the fear rising in my stomach and throat. No one was going to save me. No one would have thought to save me, given that I had always been told to stay away from the ocean, and a search for me would have been futile and unwanted. But I was grabbed by the very edges of the wave, the ripples violently grabbing me by my feet and ankles, dragged in by the riptide that suddenly was halfway up the beach. The sky was silent and clear, but by then my voice was so ragged from screaming into the sea that my words were drowned just as quicklly as I was. I had no hope, no wish. The memories in my mind that used to be so comforting and blue were now filled with a rising blood that twisted in the waves, and a green, icky squish that became the waves I thought were carrying me. My head was filled with its words. "You are mine. You were always safe. I need you now, and there will be no life beyond this."
It sounded a surprisingly a lot like a book for ladies trying to find a husband, but the force and sheer supernatural tones behind it only made me laugh as I drowned. I really had gone insane. Here I was, at the last breath of life, and all I could do was laugh into the bubbles that left my lungs. The green seeped around me in a gross way, like tendrils of moss or even lichen in a smaller pool of water. But it was still crushing me, and I was still alive.
There was a moment when I didn't live as myself anymore. I could feel it. I was certainly dead, but the tendrils crushing me were pulsing around me, keeping my body alive. My eyes opened and shut to a rhythm that wasn't natural to the human body at all, and whenever they were opened, I saw the face of a god. I saw his blinking eyes, writhing mouth, growling bubbles that inextricably came from every pore on his skin. I laughed again. A weird, dead laugh from a weird, dead girl. "Mine." it spoke. "Always mine. Do you think you could be you without me? Do you think that without me, you could have come this far? You are a piece of me. What you were when you drowned that day was already dead. I just sent you back up. A barnacle on my side that I've come to rip open and gain what is mine."
I felt the rip. I mean that in an almost metaphorical way. I couldn't feel pain, and the movement, the removal of my own flesh and limbs was almost like having a ghost replace myself. I had been a part of him. And what was coming out of me was not blood, was not a creature that I could even call a piece of me. It was something that had been growing in place of my limbs, my lungs, my life. Bubbles of laughter fell out of me again. What was I? What was I becoming? Was this consciousness even a part of me, or would it be ripped away just as easily from my body as my body had? I looked, once more, at the monster, my creator, my god. He was home, always safe, always needing me. It was all I ever wanted. And I had it in him. "Take my flesh away if you need to use it. I don't have a use for my life," I said, as I thought back. Before I had drowned, I truly didn't have a past, and I could even see him flaking me from his arm, the water and blood ripping from his flesh. If this wasn't my god, I had no sense of what creation was. And I was clever as much as I was insane. There was no afterlife for me beyond my god. It made just as much sense as anything I had ever heard. So he wanted me back. I wasn't dead. I was eternal. I was his tool. And now my blood and flesh was oozing up to the top of the sea for others to find, my consciousness left laughing bubbly into the sea. It was a release, a happiness that no flesh could have even known. For that moment, I had been a use. I had been whatever had been needed from me, perfectly. Never a child, but a growing pod that was now spewing with bubbles. Happiness. Flesh eating monsters. Whatever. I was with my god, and he was cradling me as his own. My last thought was even a laugh, as I thought of all the people being devoured, uncaring where I was just as much as I was uncaring that they were being violently deboned on their lovely beach.