Author: LunaoftheLight PM
Roma liked to pick up things that washed onto the shore. But then there were the things which were a little sinister, a little grim, a little off.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Supernatural/Fantasy - Words: 2,547 - Published: 03-21-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2901123
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A broken bottle, a a rusty key, an acorn miles from any oak tree. A ratty stuffed bear, a crushed soda can, a plastic bag filled with seawater and gravel. These were the treasures that lay on the shore, waiting for someone with the right eyes to see their beauty.
Roma liked the things that washed up on the shore. They were like her, in a way; broken, misfits, cast out to sea, but not yet completely destroyed by the ever-threatening waves. She could walk for miles along the shore, tasting the salt in the wet air, feeling the cool breeze that sent ripples across the water, cut off from the world by the tall, jutting cliffs cloaked with green grass. The hazy fog threatened to obscure her, and sometimes she imagined it did- that the fog would come out to greet her, wrap her in its softness and turn her to mist, becoming one with the sky.
The most prized objects in Roma's collection were always the oddest. Some were messages in bottles, faded to the point of being unrecognizable. Jars with colorful labels in foreign languages, bottle caps from soda that hadn't been made for twenty years. The head of a china doll that was missing its eyes and a good portion of its skull. The skeleton of a little bird. These were shards of someone's life that could never be replaced, things that were lost forever. A pair of child's scissors. A shoe.
Some things were different than the others. These things weren't displayed on the windowsill or on top of her dresser. They had their own place in the tin box under her bed- where they were cloaked in darkness, and the world was protected from them. They seemed a bit sinister, a bit off. A tooth. A ring set with a black stone. A blue marble. A foam green piece of fabric. A little carved dog.
At first, Roma had only found a couple of things that had that feeling. An old style calligraphy pen, the tip smeared with a dark substance that was decidedly not ink. She didn't want to consider that it was blood.
Not so long ago, the things had appeared more frequently. An arrowhead. A toy pistol. A tiny painted teapot with a crack through its side. A shard of deep red glass. They scared Roma, and she didn't want them touching the outside world. At night, when winds howled over the water and rattled the old glass windows, Roma thought she could hear the things under her bed rattling too.
It was in late spring that Roma found it.
The waves were gentler than they normally were. Instead of crashing at the rocks as they tended to, they hesitantly lapped at the shore, as if in fear of something to come. The shadows cast by the towering cliffs darkened the sand to just the point where it became ominous, and even the glistening rocks scattered about the seaside seemed grim. The wind was all wrong, Roma told herself. She ought not to go out on a day like this. But something seemed to pull her to the shore, and Roma knew not to disobey the signs of the earth. Wrapping herself in a threadbare sweater, she stepped out onto the front stoop of the tiny stone cottage she called home. The wind gently licked at her face, sending strands of golden hair into her vision. Roma brushed them away thoughtlessly, and began to walk down the beach.
A golden bit of foil. A christmas ornament. A cork. A plastic frog. Some tangled Mardi Gras beads. A steak knife with a well-worn handle. A tea cup.
The sand was just a tad muddy, she said to herself, as her bare feet squished into the ground. As if something leaked into it. The sun on the horizon was a little more orange, and not orange like an orange peel or orange soda, but orange like an oil paint or an Indian paintbrush. Deeper, with touches of red. It worried Roma, but the pull was still there. So she wandered on.
A styrofoam coffee cup. A half full spool of twine. A bent spoon with the initials AE inscribed on it. A red checkered handkerchief. A pair of aviator sunglasses missing a lens. The arm of an action figure. A tiny green lightbulb.
Roma's feet ached. She could only walk so much further down the beach. The pull was more insistent now, impatient. It tugged at her, and she had no choice but to obey. That was how the universe worked.
A thick, silver coin. A half-melted grape lollipop. A dented can of tomatoes. A tiny sailboat. A mannequin's hand. A broken wooden flute. A dead snake.
There was something glistening in the sand. Roma reached down to pick it up and brush off the sand. The instant her fingers touched it, she felt as if she was feeling the first real thing in her life, for this thing had only absolute properties. It was absolutely smooth. It was absolutely black. It was absolutely a pinky's length long. Yet staring into it, you would believe it went on forever.
A finger. A bottle opener made from a deer antler. A pair of cheap binoculars. A tangled cassette tape. A ruby slipper. An ivory hair comb.
Fascinated, Roma held the thing in her hand, and became aware that if she wanted, she could put her finger in it. Her whole hand. Her whole arm. All at once, it seemed both liquid and solid, like the Mars goop they sell you when you visit the planetarium. So she did.
A pair of monkey fist cufflinks. A bubble wand. A stick of rock-hard gum. A kazoo. A policeman's badge. A fake mustache. A nail file.
At first, it was pleasant, neither cool or warm, neither soft or hard. Yet as Roma put more of herself into it, she had the sudden, panicky feeling that she wouldn't be able to get out. She began to struggle, but like a fly in a spider's web or a wildebeest in an alligator's jaws or fingers in a chinese finger trap, the more she moved the tighter and more stuck she became. It seemed to expand, to wrap around her like a second skin, like she was coated in oil. Only her mouth was uncovered now, and she gasped for air, eyes and nose forced shut. There was no sound. There was no sight. There was only black.
A chewed-on pencil. A pink rubber band. A pointy hat. A blue velvet drawstring pouch. A hollow plastic panda bear.
Roma felt, for a few minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, utterly alone. No senses. No air. No food. She wondered if she'd died, and if this was what death was like.
A beret. A golden chain. A framed photo of a doberman. A plastic duck that winked suspiciously. A smiling green martian, the kind that come from vending machines. A roll of film.
She didn't remember falling asleep, or becoming unconscious, or whatever it was when she was in that state. There was no jump in her memory- one minute she was in this cocoon-like state, and whenever later she found herself waking up.
A feather butterfly attached to a bobby pin. A hard-boiled egg. A tube of Crazy glue. A screwdriver with no head.
She was on a beach, yes, but it was a different beach. There were no cliffs, and the horizon was tinged pink, and it was pure sand, no rocks of any kind. It was baking hot. Cars buzzed on the freeway behind her, and lights flashed in what Roma could only imagine to be some sort of city. There were people on the beach, the kind of plastic, blonde, tan skinned kind you'd see on TV. But Roma didn't watch TV.
A toothbrush. A palm-sized bible with all the pages ripped out. A lamp. A brick with flowers painted on it. A box filled with live white mice.
They were oblivious to the fact that a strange, much too pale girl had suddenly materialized on the shore in front of them. They simply sipped their pink, probably alcoholic drinks and stared out at the sunset. Roma began to think that maybe she hadn't materialized, that maybe she'd been here all along.
A pair of handcuffs. Fuzzy dice. Fake teeth. Toothpicks with little frills on them and toothpicks shaped like swords. An alarm clock with no insides. A plastic lei.
A man walked over to Roma and sat down in the sand next to her. He wasn't wearing a bathing suit like the rest of the beach goers. He was wearing a pale pink suit that matched the sunset somehow.
"Do you remember how you got there, Roma?" It didn't seem odd that he knew her name.
"Yes. My mother left me on Aggie's threshold in the middle of a wind storm."
"And what happened to your mother?"
"She walked into the sea."
"And what happened to Aggie?"
"I let her drift away into the cave under the cliffs."
"And where were the cliffs?"
"They were at the shore."
"And where was the shore?"
"I don't know."
A knitted sock. A syringe. A birthday candle. A smashed guitar. A big red thumbtack. A glass eye.
A couple on the beach laughed as they smoked cigarettes. They couldn't see what was happening.
"And why don't you know?"
"Because Aggie didn't tell me."
"And why didn't she tell you?"
"She wanted me to be safe."
A young woman walked down the beach, clutching her sides and crying an ugly cry, but not the least bit ashamed.
A colander. The bell from a gramophone. An Elvis record. A toy pirate sword. A necklace made of claws. A braid of fiery red hair.
"Safe from what?"
"I don't know."
"I know. But there are things, Roma, things you could never understand."
There were things which simply were, things which had to be.
A fake pearl necklace. A deflated balloon. A typewriter. A poorly formed clay pot. A hideous purse made of mock snakeskin. A toy race car. A tall leather boot.
"Some scientists say the world is losing mass slowly, over time."
"I've never met a scientist."
"I am a scientist," says the man who is most definitely not a scientist.
"Well, these scientists, they're right. The world is losing mass." He looks expectantly at Roma, but she says nothing. "It's getting smaller."
"Things are… disappearing, shall we say. Trash, mostly. But some things aren't meant to go away yet. They feel like they have a purpose." The man adjusts his pink suit.
"Like the things that rattle."
"Yes, the ones you keep in a box under your bed. Those things. The world wants those things back."
"Why does the world need them?"
"Because someone in the world needs them, and they're not just lost, like a wedding ring or a favorite toy, they're part of something that could change many people's lives. End many people's lives."
"Can we fix it?" The man smiles, a too-wide smile.
"That's the thing, Roma. It's already happened, it's happening now. It's always happening, and it's going to happen."
A blue flyswatter. A bouquet of daffodils. A penny caramel. A hand mirror. A blue mitten. A ball of rainbow yarn. A croquet mallet.
"I don't get it." The man grins wider, if that's possible.
"I said you wouldn't." The man and the woman smoking have fallen asleep now, as the sun sinks deeper below the horizon. The edge of the heat has gone away, and the beach should be crowded. People should be partying. "You're special, Roma. You do something I never could."
"What?" The man stops grinning, abruptly. He recites as if from a poem.
"The shores of time are your walkway, the cliffs of broken promises your home. Our detritus will be your possessions, our dreams your novels. The sky will open up for you, will rain for you, will cry for you. The waves sweep away what was never yours to begin with. Sleep, broken child, without any mother or father. Sleep and wake to the shores of time."
"That's a lame poem. It doesn't even rhyme."
A Pez dispenser. A trashy romance novel. A string of painted macaroni. A TV set with no screen. A shiny brass button.
"Do you see it now? Do you see that you are unusual? Do you see your role in it all, this grand play?"
"I'm… the garbage man?" He frowns.
"Somewhat. I prefer the term 'curator of life.' Sounds a little more dignified, not to mention a little more descriptive. You don't throw things out, Roma," he says, making eye contact with her. "You save them."
There is a silence, and Roma looks out at the water. Maybe he is right. Of course he's right.
"So what about the things under my bed? What do I do with them?"
"They've gone rotten by now." Roma didn't ask what he meant. "Throw them back to the ocean. They need another life." The man stood and brushed the sand off his suit.
"A pleasure, Roma my dear." He turned to walk towards the city.
"Who are you?" She called after him. He turned back to her.
"I haven't decided yet, but I could be Harold. I'm sure I'd make a fine Harold, or maybe a Frederick." The man who may have been Harold or possibly Frederick was suddenly not a man, he was a woman, but he may also have been a child, or a dog, or a tree, or something altogether not earthly, maybe something black and liquid and solid and smooth and the length of a her little finger. The only thing Roma was certain of was the suit, and that it was pink. A pink like the shiny inside of a shell. The being who may have been Harold or possibly Frederick gave a little wave as he/she/it walked off, melting into the cityscape, becoming one with the lights.
A warped stick. A milk carton. A battery. A blue feather. A shiny, translucent stone. An earring shaped like an umbrella. A rubber ball. A red elbow-length satin glove.
The couple with the cigarette looked at peace now, under the stars. Roma didn't think about what had happened, because if she thought too hard she knew she would un-understand it all. She knew what she had to do, and she would do it. She would save the things no one else could see the beauty in. She would save them so time was not so ridden with waste. Without any hesitation, Roma slipped into the water, walking out until the water covered her head and further, until she was swept back to the shore of time.