Her voice called to me in the night, musical and haunting; calling from beyond the crash of the surf. I could still see her swirling through the turbulent waters, her long, flowing hair trailing behind her like flames from a fire.
Image by Rose Moxon
Now, away from her, I felt like a lost child pining desperately to be reunited with a comforting face. The intense ache of separation pulled at me; my world blurred into a surreal state where a euphoric light-headedness accompanied thoughts of her.
I sat near the ocean by day and by night. I heard the muttered comments of former friends and originally good-intentioned family. They obviously didn’t understand; but why should they? They weren’t the ones being called to by a glorious siren in the deep. I didn’t resent them for their attitudes, but I felt a pity for them, that they couldn’t know what I knew.
A love beyond the waves terrified me as much as it thrilled me. I used to have a passion for the ocean, before I nearly drowned. I could see the churning surface far above, and felt relief that the turbulence had disappeared. My air bubbled away from me, abandoning me and struggling to the surface; I would have done the same if I could. I passed through violent panic to a place of calm, and the burning pain in my lungs faded.
I should have drowned, but I didn’t. I saw her in the water beneath me, moving gracefully, fine bubbles rising in the wake of her delicate gestures. This was my last memory of that night, until washing ashore. She saved me. I couldn’t have made it to shore on my own. Her face had seemed angelic, her skin radiant. She was so at home here.
Since that night she called to me. I sat near the waves with tears of frustration running down my rigid face. My love was calling me to her, but I was too afraid to go. My vision of her played over and over in my mind’s eye, yet I sat as if paralysed. ‘Come out to me my love. Swim down to meet me and we can be together forever.’ A beautiful reason for swimming the ocean appeared to me the same day that all capacity to do so was removed.
I hadn’t been back to work. I couldn’t bear to leave the ocean shore. My friends came to talk, telling me to see a doctor, but only to pacify their own concerns. There was nothing wrong with me that a doctor could fix. I closed them out. All of them. I didn’t want them around anymore. I had described my memories of the night on the water, bared my soul, and received muttered comments, sidelong glances and clicking of tongues in response. If disapproval was all they had to offer, I didn’t need it. I knew they couldn’t understand, so I stopped trying to make them. I wanted to concentrate on the words drifting to me with the ebb of the evening tide. Nothing else was important anymore.
The moon rose behind me, and the ocean shimmered silver. I looked again for a glorious vision to rise from the water, yet none came. I sat silently some nights. Other nights I raged to the water’s edge at the cruelty of my love to leave me alone and abandoned for so long. Yet I knew the fault wasn’t hers. She could not come to me, I had to go to her, and deep down I had known this all along. It was my fear that was keeping us apart. She spoke to me supportively, gave me encouragement and reassurance. I knew these words were meant for me alone, as I was the only person to hear them. All I needed was courage, and we could be united again. My saviour waited patiently for me to come to her.
In the morning I stood again by the shore, watching the horizon where the sea and sky merge. The sea breeze blew gently, caressing my face and ruffling my hair. A number of seagulls drifted overhead, calling to each other. My resolve was firm. I would go to my maiden of the sea today. With a final deep breath, I stepped into the wash of a receding wave. I walked out, feeling the sand flow beneath my feet; the tug of the surf aiding my progress.
My love swam in the depths now through some magic I didn’t understand. She had been sailing with me until the boat capsized, but I didn’t see where she was thrown into the water. Then I saw her beneath me as I sank, mouth open and eyes wide, spiralling slowly down. Her long red hair billowed around her, at turns obscuring then revealing her features. She lived under the water now, and had saved me from drowning. I’d heard her voice in my head, ever since that night; but we should be together now, and I know we will be reunited under the ocean where she waits for me.
© 2007 Damian Herde
A story I wrote initially as an experiement in emotion!
It inspired the lovely Rose Moxon to create an image, so was my first RedBubble collaboration!
This story was a finalist in the first Challenge Cafe comp!