The Wind and the Waves

The little boy and his two little sisters found her at night on the seashore. She was not moving. The lower half of her body lay in the water. Cold, salty air was blowing.

            They had come out in the dark with a small flashlight, heedless to their sleeping parents’ warnings about the giant waves that swept small children away, because they wanted to see the full moon shining over the ocean and hear the dolphin pods swimming into the sea caves.

            They looked closer at the figure under the shine of the flashlight, which the little boy held.

            “A fish-girl,” the first younger sister said.

            She and her brother recalled the princess from the underwater kingdom in their picture books of foreign fairytales, and they pondered over what to do: call out for her parents and her sisters in the sea or go and tell the dolphins to take her home.

            As the small children discussed the matter, a fisherman in a windbreaker and a worker’s cap, with a kerosene lamp, rowed inland several meters down the shoreline. He got out of his small old boat, pulled it onto the beach, and brought out an empty vinalon fishing net. He noticed the glow of the flashlight in the distance and the three tiny forms. He slung the net over his shoulder and walked with his lamp in their direction.

            “Oi, pups,” the man called out. “It’s very late now. Where’s your mother, eh?” He stood before them. The children looked up at the man. They recognized him from their excursions to the pier at the far end of the fishing village.

            “Uncle, look!” the little boy exclaimed, pointing. “We found a fish-girl!”

            The fisherman knelt down and cast his lamplight over the body half in the sand and half in the water— thin puffy eyes, naked chalk-white skin, long dyed yellow hair.

            “She’s not a fish-girl,” he said. “She’s a foreigner, and she’s drowned.”

            The children looked on silently. They could hear the voices of the dolphins crying in the sea caves amid the sound of the wind and the waves.

            “Likely she’s from one of the Chinese or Russian tourist ships,” the fisherman guessed. “Doesn’t look like she’s been at sea for too long, though.” He stood up with his kerosene lamp. “We’d better get to your parents now,” he told the children. “We’ll need to secure the body before the waves get stronger and then notify the Coast Guard Corps.”

            He put the little boy on his back and lifted the two little girls into his arms. “Which way?” he asked.

            “That way,” the children pointed, and he hurried. Beach sand entered the sides of his weathered canvas shoes.

            The fisherman arrived at the house, put the children down, and knocked on the door. Their parents, red eyed and anguished looking, opened it. The little children ran inside and hugged the tall legs.

            “We went to look for you on the beach,” the mother said, kneeling and holding them. “We saw your footprints disappear at the water. We thought the waves swallowed you up.” She was shedding tears. The little children hugged their mother tightly.

            The fisherman was holding his kerosene lamp. He explained that the children found a foreign young woman washed ashore and lifeless on the beach.

            “Uncle said she’s drowned,” the little boy reported.

            “What a terrible thing for our children to see!” the mother gasped, shocked. She said she would take the children to bed immediately. The fisherman told the parents he needed help to bring the body further onto land and to inform the authorities. The husband got an extra kerosene lamp.

            The men arrived at the beach. The midnight waves were rising fast and dragging the dead woman back into the sea. The startled men dropped their kerosene lamps. They dashed to the water, grabbed the limp arms, and struggled against the force of the frigid, powerful waves that crashed about them.

            The two men fell and rose under the smashing blows of the roaring, surging water that threatened to drag them under. Seconds turned into eternities as they pulled and pulled, yet with the intensifying waves, the men had to let go, retreat to safer ground, and watch the sea claim the body into its depths.

            Soaked and heaving, the men fell onto their backs exhausted. The fisherman turned his left cheek into the beach sand. He saw the three little children and their mother running forward, and he fainted.

            At daybreak, after the men had recovered, the Coast Guard Corps received the fisherman and took his emergency message about the young woman in the sea, but there were no person-overboard alerts from the foreign ships or vessels sailing in their territorial waters.

            The little children were on the seashore, going to their fishing village kindergarten and crèche. The boy and his first younger sister talked about the woman. They understood she was dead, but they could not decide if she was a fish-girl as they had believed or if she was a foreigner as the fisherman had said. They asked their little sister what she thought.

            “A dolphin,” she answered.

            “Why?” her brother and sister asked.

            “Because the dolphins were crying,” she said.

            The three of them stopped walking. They looked at the grey ocean. The two older siblings held their little sister’s hands. Sea water ebbed and flowed on the beach, as white foam drifted on the waves, into the sea caves.

 

Alzo David-West is a writer, poet, and academic. His creative writing appears in Abstract Magazine, Antimatter, Balloons Literary Journal, Cha, Cultural Logic, Eastlit, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Grief Diaries, K'in, Missing Slate, Offcourse, Star*Line, StepAway Magazine, Tower Journal, Transnational Literature, and 365 Tomorrows. He is also the editor of scifaiku and tanka translations in Silver Blade and Star*Line.  

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