Back in April, I submitted a short story to The Writer magazine for one of their writing prompts: “An Ocean of Possibilities.”
Although I didn’t win, I feel my story is still worth sharing, and I’m very proud of it. If you’d like to read the winner’s story it can be found here: http://www.writermag.com/2015/06/17/short-story-contest-winner-normal/
One of the main complaints of the judges was that most entries were about death. Well, when you’re writing about the ocean, death is going to come up. It is a force of nature that takes lives on a daily basis. In any case, the winner they chose wrote about death as well, so I don’t know why they were complaining. Also, many awesome short stories end in death or have something to do with it. That was the topic of pretty much every short story we read in 9th grade English class. Anyway, my story is posted below. Feel free to let me know what you think of it!
When the sea calls to a heart, as it sometimes does, there is no course but to answer. It beckons with promises of beauty, wildness, freedom. It tempts the sensibilities with delicate offerings of peace and comfort. But one must take caution, for the careless are easily misled by this duplicitous seductress. Like so many facets on a glistening stone, a soft embrace can swiftly become cold, suffocating— fatal. A whisper to the soul’s deepest longings may be the last words you ever hear.
I should know; the sea has taken everything from me. Yet I stand here in the wreckage that remains, and it still has the audacity to pull at me, tease me. Even now, it tauntingly offers to unlock a wildness in my heart that only one other has ever inspired. It is ironic, I suppose, and perhaps fitting, that the two I loved best are now forever one. It was he who introduced me to this sapphire realm: his first true love. I never envied his devotion. I became as infatuated as he. But the sea is a terrible and jealous lover. It has taken my love, and I now stand an outsider, forever separated from both.
“What was it like when you took him under?” I whisper to the tides lapping at my feet. “What were you thinking when darkness finally ended the pain that you so callously inflicted? Did he curse your name, forsake you in his final moments—you who he adored above all others?”
I pause, wiping dark, salt-drenched hair out of my eyes. “Or was he faithful even then?”
I dare the sea to account for itself, to offer any justification however inadequate. But it remains ever and maddeningly silent. “You didn’t deserve his love,” I spit. “You are as insatiable as a desert. You took everything from him and gave nothing in return until there was only one thing left, and you took that too. He needed no other siren to call him to his grave—not when he had you.”
I gaze out across the gray expanse, alternating between feelings of rage, longing, pleading, and acceptance, just like the pulsing rhythm of waves crashing on this broken shore. What I am pleading for at this point, even I cannot say. The waters keep pulling at my legs, almost as though they are pleading with me as well, begging for my forgiveness. I know better than to listen. I take a step back out of reach.
“Are you at last content?” I question. “Or will you now focus your unending hunger on some other weak soul?”
I blink a few times, trying to keep the tears in. I wrap my arms around my waist as tight as I can, as if I can lessen the pain by suffocating it. “I remember his smile,” I continue, as if the sea cares to hear my pitiful words. “It shone through his eyes like sunlight on crystal waves.” How I regret that I was not there to save him, that the only one there to witness the final light in those eyes was the very one stealing it.
“You have no pity,” I suddenly scream, running into the waves and kicking them with all my strength. “You have no shame!”
As always, my efforts are in vain. My anger is drowned out by the repetitive sounds of the shore. I stumble to my knees, water and sand seeping into my clothes, into my skin, filling me with cold. An ashen wave foams around me, heedless of my presence as it continues its unending cycle of forward and back. Somehow it lulls me to a strange state of calm. When the next surge pulls away from me, it snares the insides of my torn heart and draws everything forth along with it. Sorrow pours out of my chest and disperses into the indigo depths, to places no man alive has ever seen. It is no more, and I am blank.
I don’t know how long it is I stay here on my knees, but it doesn’t matter. With every passing wave my knees skink further and further into the cold sand. As I sit, I imagine the tiny grains slowly covering first my legs, then my midsection, then all of me until I am nothing more than part of the land itself.
But I don’t want to be part of the land. All that I have imagined, all that I have dreamed, all that I love, and hate, is in the sea—is the sea. No matter how I may rail against it, still I cannot escape it. I do not wish to. I am captivated by salty winds, azure waters, and the mystery that lies beneath countless fathoms. I am filled with awe when rampant waves pound upon a resistant rocky shore, slowly but surely eating away even the most steadfast of cliffs. I am horrified when mighty storms rage and cause the very ocean to boil and churn, rising up like some living entity to destroy all life in its path. All of these are the same sea, and to love one is to love all, for you cannot offer such a beast only half your heart.
The tides rise, and the call becomes more intense. The echoing darkness offers me peace from my turmoil, rest from my pain. I close my eyes as the churning waters cover my head. My hair floats from my neck and drifts above me, suspended in the in-between like dark mats of seaweed. I stop resisting and let the current take me. I follow the sweet whisper that draws me ever onward towards the longing of my heart. Slowly, my eyes open and I look out into a world I’ve only dreamed of, a world of infinite wonders, and it is beyond imagination. I am no longer the outsider. I have given everything too, and it will forevermore be I, he, and the beautiful, treacherous sea.