1024 Words

Into Deep

Virginia Muzik

To this day, he waits on the sand. Staring out over the waves as the white foam rolls in and tickles his toes. The water's coldness registers in a small part of his mind that isn't consumed with the memory. He could be standing on hot coals and still, he wouldn't move. Wouldn't even shift from foot to foot.

There was once a pattern to his vigil. Each day, he stood on the beach at the same time, peering across to the horizon. Watching. Searching. Waiting. At the same time every day. Six o'clock, regardless of the season.

That's what time it was when she first came to him.

Three seasons have come and gone since and as the weather cooled, he decided to vary his guard. He's been there at dawn. At noon. At midnight. He's charted the cycles of the sun and moon with his patient pattern. Shooting stars have dropped through the blackness at night. Clouds have darkened the sky and rain obscured his vision. He's even been there for a lunar eclipse. But he wouldn't know. These are superfluous.

Tomorrow, he'll go there again at night. Eleven. He might catch her then. He sighs and turns to walk away from the water, looking back, and looking back. Just in case.

"I chose you," she told him that first time. "I knew you would wait for me."

And he knew too. He would walk to the beach and stare out to the horizon until the sea became a glittering blur in the foreground. He knew he was waiting. Searching. Asking.

On a May evening she came. As the sun slipped down between the pale and deep blues, she saw him come to the shore. She watched a smile play at his lips as the waves broke gently and swirled at his feet. Her heart swelled as she prepared to meet him.

Blinking in the confusion of that twilight time, he noticed a stirring of water midway out near the island. A breeze whispered at his ear and made his skin goosepimply. He tasted the fine layer of salt left behind on his mouth as his gaze stayed fixed and he waded further into the surf. Adjusting his eyes to the steel blue haze of early evening, he watched as the slippery vision rolled in with the next wave.

Her long golden hair swam in the shallow water and caressed his calves as she knelt in front of him with an arm stretched up. A shudder surged through his body as he took her cold hand and helped her to her feet. She came up to his shoulders, this tiny, blue-skinned sea nymph, and laughing gently at his puzzled look, she answered his silent question.

"These legs appear when I will myself to the shore. What use is a tail on land?"

He covered her nakedness with his jumper, which itched her clammy skin, and they waded onto the sand.

"Do you know that we willed this to happen?" She asked, as they sat on the sand.

He wanted to nod in agreement. Wanted to let out a self-assured "yes." Instead, he stared out to the blackness. But he did know.

There were long silences in their togetherness. So much he wanted to say. So much she already knew. She touched his face softly and traced around his mouth with a finger. "Speak," she beckoned without a sound.

He didn't. Instead, he sighed and slipped an arm around her waist and drew her closer to him. They stayed this way until the moon was high in the sky. Casting his eyes now and then over her delicate form, his heart was full with something like love. His head heavy with thoughts he could not express. The silence was broken only by their breathing. Sighing.

And then she left him.

"Tomorrow, at dusk," she said. He nodded.

The next night, he was there with a dress for her and a towel to dry her wet skin. Again, the tide rose and she swam in to him. His own heart swelled as she again stood before him. She smiled warmly, touched by his thoughtfulness, as she tried on the aqua blue gown.

"It matches my skin!" She giggled, bringing a smile to his lips too. He wrapped his arms around her and held her for an eternity, feeling her coolness fade. Soon, her skin softened into a rosy golden tone. "Please stay," he thought.

"I'd like to show you my world," she sighed, looking deep into his eyes. "But I wonder if you are ready."

Startled by her frankness, he was again struck silent and returned her searching gaze. He shrugged.

"Try?" She asked.

And again, she left him.

"Tomorrow, at dusk," she said once more.

On the third night, when the tide was highest, she came in with a wave that rattled his lanky frame. He laughed nervously as salt water sprayed his face. His feet had sunk deep into the sand and he tried to free himself as she langoured invitingly in the shallow surf. For a moment, he was seized by a resistance. He stood his ground, ankle deep, against the pull of the undertow and she was drawn out deeper as the sand was dragged from around his feet with the tide. He hesitated. But when another wave brought her closer, she touched him, and he let go.

That night, he went with her to her world, where his breath didn't matter. Feeling safe in her cool embrace, the ocean welcomed him with a depth of promise and for a while he lost himself in trusting her. But the deeper they went, the dizzier he became. Dizzy with the pressure of the deep. His need to breathe returned with an urgency that frightened him and when she saw this, she let him go, seeing him safely to the surface.

She nodded as he started saying, "you answer questions I haven't yet asked."

"When you're ready, I'll return," she promised, with a deep sadness in her voice.

"How will I know when that is?" He asked aloud.

But she was gone.

Copyright ©2000 Virginia Muzik. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.

Story Bytes


May, 2000
Issue #49

1024 Words