Monday, 15 February 2016

Flashfic: God of the Sea

One of the joys of playing FridayPhrases is when I fall in love with the little idea/image/mood composed for an #FP micro-fiction so much that I can't let it go straight away and I end up playing with it for ju-u-u-st a little bit longer. Sometimes, it escapes my head and ends up on paper as a piece of flash fiction.

This post is one of these.

This was the original #FP microfic:
He walks by the sea after a good day selling fish. He spots turtles hatching & smooths their sandy path to the ocean. A thankyou&reward.

This was the slightly longer image which developed in my head:

God of the Sea

The sun is rushing down to the horizon. From the east, dusk is gathering, casting the first whispers and words of darkness. These will soon thicken into veils, and then blankets, of night. But for now, the sky is still a gentle, soft blue and the little wisps of clouds are tinted in colours of warm light – into sweet amethysts, oranges and peaches.

Phin strolls barefoot, watching absently as the sea runs up to kiss as much of the sand as it can in its ceaseless dance of forever. The waves rush gleefully over his feet, erasing his footprints into soft indentations which quickly disappear. Sometimes, he wades into the water so that it is up to his calves and he enjoys the effort it takes to walk slowly, feeling and reading the pull and push of the tides at play. The evening air is cool now, a counterpoint to the day’s salt-laced humidity.

Phin is content. The ocean has been good to him today; a good catch with good pay, which will soon be delighting the restaurants and the tourists on the other, bustling side of the Point.

Phin doesn’t want to head straight home. His friends will have heard of his good luck from the sea, and will greet him with hard-luck stories featuring holes in their pockets and sorrows that only he can wash away. Miss Popo, the local village beauty of whip-quick wit and long eyelashes, will be willing to smile at him tonight, and not at those who wear suits and work indoors everyday. But Phin has realised that he would like to speak to and receive smiles from Miss Jai – the quiet, bespectacled, older sister to Miss Popo. This is a recent discovery and one he wishes to explore carefully, not while he is everyone’s best friend for a few nights.

Phin has been standing still as his thoughts have drifted to Miss Jai. The waves have quietly been sweeping the sand around his feet, softly burying them as though trying to reclaim him for the ocean. Phin smiles to himself and pulls his feet free. He leaves a dimple in the flat wet sand that the waves energetically rush to smooth over.

He looks around him. Light is a sombre net now, the sky a soft, kind indigo, and the clouds a sleepy grey. The wind and the sea are singing to each other, their duet more noticeable at this time of day. The beach is deserted, as it usually is. People will be retreating from the darkness and gathering at the bright lights of their favourite watering holes inland, enjoying the cooler nights.

Something in the white sand away from the water catches his eye. Something small and dark is scrabbling. Phin moves towards it, his eyes widening as his lips shape a soundless ‘oh’.

By the many gods of the island, it is a turtle! A baby turtle. It moves through the white sand with a slow, scrabbling, swimming movement, and with undaunted, single-minded purpose. A few steps to the ocean’s shore for Phin is many, many steps for the baby turtle. A human footstep in the dry sand makes a mere dent, but to a baby turtle, it is a valley and then a mountain – many valleys and many mountains – to be surmounted over and over before the ocean can be reached.

Impulsively, Phin drops to his hands and knees and, crawling backwards before the baby turtle, he begins smoothing its sandy path.

Part of him is glad that it is now past dusk. He would have a job explaining his actions to anyone! But another part of him feels as though he is bowing to the very God of the Sea, whose spirit is alive in its tiniest, most vulnerable new child before him. If he was asked to put it into words, Phin probably wouldn’t be able to explain why he needs to make this gesture, to somehow obscurely explain his thanks, his gratefulness. All he knows is that, in the work his hands are doing to gently smooth the sand in a straight line down to the water’s edge, he is somehow giving back to the sea. He is doing something to show he knows how his livelihood, his being, all depend on the abundance, the gifts, the rewards of the sea. This is something in his hands, in his power to do.

Phin watches as the baby turtle moves from the yielding dry sand into the densely-packed wet sand. It is so close to the ocean now as it makes the lightest of tracks across the wet sand. These are quickly washed away when the sea rushes up to embrace the baby turtle and to carry it home.

More movement catches his eye in the dry sand as more baby turtles appear and begin their trek to the ocean. Phin smiles and settles himself in for the evening. By the light of a quarter-moon, he watches, smooths their paths and at least twice, picks up baby turtles who have confused the distant glaring street light with the guiding light of the moon and who start heading the wrong way, and places them onto the sand towards the ocean. He does not carry them to the ocean. This, he feels, would not show the God of the Sea due respect.

It is only when the moon has travelled across much of the sky, and when he hears the first signs that the world is beginning to stir itself awake, that he feels sure all the baby turtles have at least started the first step in their ocean journeys safely.

He walks slowly home, happy and somehow bemused at his good fortune, to steal some sleep, before he will return to his ocean, knowing he has helped its heart continue to beat.

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