By Victoria Bromley
A piece of creative short fiction by our team member Vic!
Sometimes I wondered if I was the most insignificant thing on earth. Half an atom, a minute grain, a lonesome speck. Worthless in size and magnitude to the mighty roar of the churning waves which crashed upon the shore. Futile like an empty shell or unheard silences when all was black.
My body was lifted by water’s sweeping claw, dragged in and out under the influence of the moon. Up above it looked as insignificant as I was. A toenailed crescent, copper and cheap. Sometimes bathed in warm light, half dipped in cream, the other side masked by a shadow, unseen.
There were more stars in the sky than grains of sand on earth. Constellations fizzed and burned upon the inked canvas. Millions of golden flecks shimmered all over the universe which I could never outshine.
Forwards and backwards I was pulled down the beach, limp in the embrace of water’s grip. Suspended within the silky waves, I was carried by the fabric of the sea. Within the swash of a broken wave, I surfed over the crest and was spat out back to the shore. Saturated, I swelled into a slightly larger microscopic speckle of dust than before. Then I dried out back to the size of the tip of a strand of hair.
Some days I didn’t travel at all. Compressed between other grains. Imprinted by the weight of something strong with skin clothed in bright colours. They often came out when the brightest star in the sky was at its highest point. Sometimes the light went out completely and I couldn’t even see the stars, suffocated by a sheet of material for hours and hours until it was lifted then I was free once more. Other times I was prodded by a stick which was swirled and spiralled within the sand, accented with flicks and dots.
I was weightless, lighter than air when the salty breeze carried me in long gusts of wind over tufts of marram grass and sand dunes.
I was eternal, infinite in the history of this shoreline, ever evolving and shapeshifting in this natural dynamic cycle.
I was nothing, another tiny cell in the anatomy of this coast, a clone of other grains, with no purpose but to exist.
An invisible thing.
Obstacles lined the beach. I was trapped by the dominant stance of an ugly wooden structure protruding from the sea. It grew in height and strength as it travelled away from the tide. The movements of many other pieces of sand and dirt and shells were blocked by this beast.
I was shovelled up with the pile of sand that had accumulated and was emptied into a cage. Tightly compact. I couldn’t breathe.
Tap, tap, tap.
Something battered the surface. We all shook in unison. Then the world was flipped upside down.
Tap, tap, tap.
‘Where are we?’ I asked the grain beside me.
‘It’s just a bucket, they take em’ off after a few minutes,’ he said.
‘Have you been in one before?’
‘Oh, all the time. It’s just a pain if no one knocks em’ over. I was locked in a castle for almost a week once.’
‘Castle?’ I asked.
‘Sandcastle,’ he said.
With a flourish the bucket was lifted, and we all stayed moulded together, stuck within the imaginary walls. ‘What now?’ I asked.
Time doesn’t exist when you stop counting. The castle collapsed under the pressure of a foot or the wind or maybe it got bored of being a castle and everyone began to slump with exhaustion of staying in the same pose for so long.
I thought the waves would reclaim me. I thought I was destined to stay here forever. But I was wrong.
I was resting upon a bed made of a worn out sole when I was squished to the bottom. By the time everything stopped moving, I was poured out onto a cool wooden floor. Light shined in squares onto the ground. The sound of water was fast and fleeting, nothing like the sea. Then it stopped, then powered again, then stopped. It came from a level above where the giants could reach. They walked with heavy footsteps which made me bounce and roll around this foreign land.
I didn’t know how long I would be staying here. However not much time passed in this new place until one of the giants bent down, their features ballooned to the size of the sun, entire oceans in their eyes, and scooped me up with something long and feathery like a bird’s wing. But with a sudden flick I was launched upwards and caught within the fluid of the giant’s eye, milky and wet, until it probed me out with the juddering force of its finger.
I could finally breathe again.
With the rest of the lost travellers, we were emptied outside where the sun reached our faces. We mustn’t have gone too far from home as a circulation of seagulls above signified that the coast was near. The song of rolling waves hummed in the air. A familiar rhythm which had rocked me to sleep many nights.
A welcoming breeze whistled through the evening air. It was a recognisable tune, one which caught me within its arms and carried me back to where I was supposed to be. Where someone like me was meant to be. A place where I belonged.
I careened over the humps of sand, round and full, as I migrated with the dune fields towards the sea. One final gust of wind swept me further away.
At the end of the beach, it curved out like a tail, a rolled-up tongue resting within the mouth of the estuary. There everything was wet and thick with salt. It was as if the water had regurgitated the sand and spat it out at the edge of the beach. Once I flowed behind the barrier of sand, I was thankful for the rest.
Saltgrass and shrubs sprouted from the mud in the marsh. An abundance of flora thrived in the salt, silt and clay, an overgrown coastal paradise. An ecosystem housed by crabs and mussels and creatures I couldn’t name.
For the first time I was tired of moving. I made my bed in the salt and mud and gazed up at the stars burning and burning out. I was glad I wasn’t a star; it seemed exhausting.
I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to find me.
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