Flash Fiction No. 20


A Short Space of Time

The sea crashed against the shoreline, angry clouds whipping the horizon like a slave driver. He scrunched up his face as the sea spray smattered him with its frothy encore. Understanding what had happened was a slow process. His mind felt like a squelching mass of seaweed; waterlogged and tangled up.

His eyes edged anxiously to the fervent froth before skittering away again. He couldn’t look up and see it. It was safer to observe the sodden sands. It was too much for him to handle.

These things didn’t happen except in story books.

Seagulls circled, whirling lower as if he was merely a piece of driftwood cast across the bay. Maybe he would have been as dead as driftwood if she hadn’t…

He swallowed down the memory, trying to understand it. Days ago… Hours ago, he wouldn’t have believed it could happen. He would have said it was some kind of delusion.

It’s funny how things can change in such a short space of time.

The ship had been so steady when they’d set out. Josh had sailed it so skilfully. But then the storm came up. It hit them out of nowhere and Josh had been knocked off the boat. He’d tried to reach for them, but the water swallowed him whole, sucking him down to the depths. The vessel had been lost in that moment. The girls had screamed, knowing that all was forsaken.

“Are you ready to look at me yet?”

The voice brought him back. It was silky and soft and almost filled with too much empathy. He hugged his knees tightly to his chest, closing his eyes and shaking his head. It was too much. Far too much.

His stomach clenched, churning with sickness. It was as if the waves had somehow slunk down his throat to crash around his insides. Things like this weren’t real. He wouldn’t accept it.

“You have to look at me sometime…”

He squeezed his lashes together.

“I think it’s rude not to thank someone for saving your life…”

“But you’re not a someone!” he squeaked, seeing only the look of terror in Josh’s face as he fell from the ship’s bow. It made him sick to think that his brother and best friend was gone from the world.

The others were still aboard when he’d slipped into the brine. He’d hit his head on the side of the boat and sunk. At first, he’d thought he was dead when he opened his eyes. He still wasn’t sure that he hadn’t died.

“I am a someone. Just because I’m not like you selfish creatures with your funny stumps doesn’t mean I’m not a someone!”

He opened an eye. “But you’re… You’re a…”

“Ugh!” the girl cried. “You humans! You’re never grateful! Always rude and nasty!” She put her hands on her hips. “Well, that’s the last time I help one of your lot. Next time you can drown!”

Both eyes opened as she angrily flipped away, spraying sea foam in his disbelieving face with her tail fins.

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