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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Short Story: Sky Serpent

Diary of an ocean dweller girl 6,000 years ago

The sea is only blue if the sky is blue. If there are clouds, it takes on a gray murky quality. Should there come a storm, it becomes as dark and dangerous as the atmosphere above. At this I shudder, recalling the threatening drum rhythms and the knives the One sends out to punish the people of the World for their sins. Although I was only a girl of thirteen summers, and thus is considered mainly innocent, the terrible things the One commits frightens me even in my dreams.

Right now the sky is blessedly clear, so the ocean is azure. There comes a loud, rushing sound from it, almost as bone rattling as thunder as the enormous body of water forever stirs. They say it never ends, and its water floods as far as the roots of the Great Tree that grips this World.

The rippling surface is etched with silver grooves, and green hills arise before crashing into a force of waves, foam collecting at the bulges which is the saliva of the sea. It weakens before transforming into a thin sheet of shine that descends onto the shore, dappled only weakly by the foaming stuff. The sand briefly darkens, but is forgotten as a layer of dryness sweeps down into the water. Small bubbles of air escape and make pores. My footprints are erased.

The wet curving shore feels like mud, or so my parents say. I’ve never been in the mainland, where a forest wakens up. Instead of sand being there, there is soil. I questioned them what that is. They informed me, It’s dark and filled with grasses, similar to the ones here but not as stiff and prickly, and it has clay in it as well. Dried clay is what our ornaments are made of. The mainland people even make pottery out of it.

I don’t understand what’s so special about clay, but I know that the beach is covered in a lot of pretty things: smooth colorful pebbles, dark elegant shells, scraps of wood washed up on the shore from the ocean. Does that mean there’s a forest growing under the sea? I don’t know. Sometimes the fisher men take their boats and go far out to catch big fish and the occasional shark. I’ve asked them this, politely of course, but they replied they can’t see the bottom of it.

I paused to fix my long hair, which has been made untidy by the wind that blows constantly. It’s strung with hollow shell beads to weigh it down for this purpose. Of course, I find it unattractive on its own. By my feet water suddenly gushed around my ankles, as fast as I can run. It is crawling with little mites that resemble shell-less crabs. They tickle my toes and I giggle.

Seagulls, which are big white birds with black-tipped wings, wheel above me, releasing discordant cries that are polluted with loneliness, as though living in this forlorn place has left scars on their souls. The females are nimble and with a red spot on their beaks, and meet the previous description. Males, meanwhile, are a lot larger, and brownish-gray. I don’t like them much, because they have learned that humans mean food, and constantly fly down to the ground in a massive, screeching huddle and beg for meat when they see it. I find them lazy. They are skilled fishers, and know to drop an oyster from a tall height in order to crack the shell.

There are other less pleasant things on the beach as well sometimes: sticky, icky wads of seaweed. There is a broth of seaweed in the water as well when the tide is warm. Normally the ocean is cool even in summer. It was a very bad idea to swim in that mess. The seaweed had a clinging and scratchy pull as it worked against me. I very much dragged myself through it. It still threaded through my hair days later. It was simply horrific. It is also negative experience when there is a deposit of shells several finger lengths thick, and as sharp as hunting tools. Oh, and I neglected the jellyfish: a fury if stung, but also unpleasant when hundreds of the dead creatures wash ashore, more like shiny transparent globs without stingers. They have a strange feeling, for they have a wet sensation even when dry, and are mushy yet firm at the same time. Whenever I find any that have scarlet tendrils inside I bury it with sand, for fear it still may  contain the poison.    

The sun begins to die, because the sky is gradually blemishing pink with its blood, and all the clouds are tinged golden. The ocean reflects all this majestic color, its flanks still sighing even during the growing dusk. Its horizon is a vague blue, and to my right, the ocean is a blinding white from the sinking orb. The clouds are in an odd formation, a think rectangular swath arcing over my head like the quick shelter we would build from the rain. It is a sign. I must return to my family, or a certain danger would occur. One must listen to her wise starry ancestors.

As the sun lowers into the night, the surreal silver moon is more pronounced, and stars twinkle into existence. There is more than I can ever count. Tonight the moon is half closed. It is the single eye of the Sky Serpent, a massive blue snake that coils around the World. It takes it forever to blink, thirty or so days.It routinely sheds its skin, and those flakes are the clouds. The stars are its scales, which you can only see at night.

When it rains, that is its tears, tears is gives up for us. Once, at the Begginning, its tears were salty, for it was jealous of our freedom, and it killed all the plants. People began to starve. Repenting, the Sky Serpent asked the One to collect all the water into one big place, the sea. But as a reminder, the One made all the people's tears salty as well, to show us to never sin or there should be consequences. The One was born inside the Great Tree. It controls everything, the weather, or good hunting. We pray to it so it may gove us good fortune.

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