Christie Shary

Short Stories - The Sea Child

The Sea Child

"May you be cursed!" the young woman yelled. She stood at the edge of Dana Point, a great precipice which reached out into the Pacific Ocean. Her hands pointed toward the rocking sea as a bolt of lightning raced across the black sky, illuminating her amber hair as it blew reckless in the wind.

Bethany awoke with a quick start, as if she had been frightened. She opened her transparent blue eyes to gaze out the large window at the sea she had once loved so much, thinking of the many years she had spent on the small fishing boat, ‘Elijah,' with her adoptive grandfather, Zachery Hawthorne.

"I wish he'd never died," she moaned, brushing her long hair from her forehead. "But I'll punish you for taking him away from me!"

She rose from the bed and walked toward the tiny front porch of the fishing shack which overlooked the Pacific. The moon was just beginning to rise and it rays sent an iridescent glow across the water.

The fishing season off the Southern California coast had been awful. No bonita; no lobster, no halibut were being caught. Not even mussels were to be found by the local fishing boats which trolled the waters. It was as if the entire ocean south of Los Angeles had been sterilized.

The Sierra Club was very concerned, and EPA government officials were conducting tests for foreign substances in the water. But none could be found as they scoured both the ocean and its shoreline.

The public was afraid of being contaminated, so they stayed away from the beaches and water, so tourist businesses, which depended on the sea for their livelihood, were suffering as much as the barren ocean itself, going belly up on a daily basis, just as the creatures of the ocean were. Especially hard hit was the Dana Point area; a small fishing and tourist port about fifty miles south of Los Angeles.

But this lack of people did not bother Bethany one bit as she climbed down the weathered rickety steps which clung to the edge of the cliffs near her cottage to the deserted beach below. It was still early in the morning and the fog s clung to the cliffs and lingered in the water, enclosing her in its thick cocoon.

She loved the early morning fog. But more than that, she liked the fact that the beach was totally deserted. She hated all those beer-drinking tourists in their bikinis and thongs, who always smelled of scented suntan lotion. Even more, she despised the pop cans, styrofoam cups and other garbage they left behind in random piles, and the loud music which blared from their ghettoblasters.

For she much more enjoyed the white sand beaches free of anything but the occasional piece of kelp or driftwood that drifted ashore with the ocean currents, the sound of the waves as they rolled into shore and slid along the beach.

Stepping onto the warm sand and over the ropes which supported red flags which read No Trespassing—Contaminated Area, she laughed and tossed her head back. Then she dove into the sea, her naked body stiffening as the salt water engulfed it.

She swam below the surface, her eyes hunting for signs of sea life, but she found none. Not even a spiny sea urchin or a jelly fish could be found floating aimlessly in the water. All that remained were hollow shells of various colors, alongside fish skeletons, both large and small.

Being immersed in the water, reminded her of the day Grandfather Zak had caught her in is fishing net amid a school of bonita. For she had not obeyed the warning siren when it sounded from her underwater world.

When he tugged the fish-filled net into his small fishing boat, he was shocked to discover Bethany, gasping, unable to fill her lungs, which had never breathed air.

"Oh, my, a young girl! What are you doing way out here in the ocean? You could have drowned."

Bethany did not answer him, as she didn't understand what he was saying to her. She only looked into his deep gray eyes and at his sun-stained fisherman's skin.

Grandpa Zak didn't know she was from another world far below the sea, but thought her a missing child who had swam out too far. He was soon to discover that she was no ordinary girl at all.

For the next fifteen years, Bethany remained with her adoptive grandfather—a childless widower who considered her as his gift from the sea. Each day they fished together, pulling netfuls of fish aboard his boat as it rolled with the ocean waves.

"I swear you bring luck to my boat, Bethany," he always told her, his gray eyes scanning the horizon for a whale spouting or kelp beds, signs which indicated fish were nearby.

"I know I do," Grandpa Zak. "I am magical."

He hugged her close. "Yes, I think you are."

One morning when they were out at sea in the early morning fog, a huge wave appeared from nowhere and crashed over their boat, crushing their boat into many pieces, its motor quickly sinking to the depths of the ocean floor.

At the same time, a voice from the ocean thundered, "I want my daughter back! She is a child of the sea!"

While both Grandfather Zak and his fishing boat perished beneath the force of the wave, only Bethany survived. She did not return to her sea home, however. Instead she swam with powerful strokes to the shore, the great wave chasing after her.

"I'll curse you for this!" she cried out again and again as she lay on the sand in a pile of kelp. "I know that a strange power lies within me."

So every morning and night thereafter, Bethany went to the cliffs of Dana Point and called out her sea father's name, her words echoing against the cliffside and far out into the sea.

"Neptune, may you be cursed!" she yelled. "May you have no life in your kingdom!"

Several years passed and the sea remained void of life. And each day when Bethany stood on the cliff tops and yelled out to her father, her voice became less harsh and determined. She was lonely, and realized that her Grandfather Zak was not going to come back to her, no matter what she did. And she finally came to the realization that she needed someone or something special in her life. So one morning before the fog had lifted she left her grandfather's cottage for the last time.

She hurried down the steps to the beach just as she had so many times before and quickly crossed the sand, sheding her clothing as she moved toward the sea. Looking back at the fishing cottage for the last time, she bid it farewell and dove into the water. For she knew that she was a child of the sea and always had been. It was time for her to return home.