This is for the Labyrinth forum writing contest. Enjoy! Prompt: The story begins on a deserted beach shore. It involves only two characters, who washed up on the shore from some type of accident. One of them is blind, one injured, and neither know each other. At some point in the story one has to have some kind of emotional attack. The story comes to a close with them stumbling upon some sort of civilization.
Fairy Fire and Salt Water
Captain Isaac Sullivan awoke with a start, but his head hurt so fiercely he didn't open his eyes. He tried to sit up but realized he was lying on his stomach. Strange, he thought. He never slept that way. Now that he thought about it, something was wrong. This wasn't his bed. This wasn't a bed at all. He was lying on sand! Last he remembered, he had been on a ship; his ship, The Lady Beth. The finest merchant ship that flew the American flag.
His eyes flew open, but he didn't move. The rays of the mid-morning sun felt like a dagger stabbing him in the head. He took no comfort in what he saw after getting past the pain. Captain Sullivan found himself lying on a deserted tropical beach with tall palm trees that led into a deep island jungle. A tree covered volcano sat above the jungle in the distance. Waves crashed gently behind him.
The pain in his head got worse with each wave, making his eyes get heavy. He had to stay awake, but they waves were so soothing. Captain Isaac Sullivan passed out again.
"I CAN'T SEE!" screamed a high pitched voice.
The shrill squeal roused Captain Sullivan violently. So much so that he inhaled a mouthful of sand. Coughing, he tried to push himself up, but his left shoulder exploded with pain. He fell back down to the sand, couching and moaning in agony. The shoulder was dislocated, of that there was no doubt.
"Who's there?" squeaked the little voice.
Captain Sullivan turned over onto his back with a groan. The pounding in his head had subsided to a degree that was barely tolerable, dwarfed by the radiating pain in his shoulder.
"Who's there?" the little voice squeaked again. "I'm warning you. I'll...I'll blast you!"
Blast him with what? Sullivan told himself he must have heard that wrong. Who was on the beach with him? The voice was too small and high to be one of his men. Even the youngsters had a deeper timbre to their voice. Oh no, his men! Sullivan sat up and scanned the beach. None of his men were in sight. Then who was talking to him? Had his head wound caused delusions?
Something red hot flew past his face, causing him to throw himself back onto the sand.
"Cease fire!" he bellowed in his deep captain voice.
The small voice gasped in fright. "You aren't fairy-kind."
Fairy-kind? He looked to his right, where the voice had come from, and saw no one.
"Hello?" he asked, looking to his left and gingerly turning to look behind him. No matter which way he turned, there was nothing but sand. Unless sand had learned to talk and shoot projectiles with precision while he was unconscious, Captain Sullivan saw no source for the little voice.
"Are you human-kind?" asked the little voice, trembling slightly.
"Pray tell, what other kind would I be?" he replied while he rubbed his head with the hand attached to his good arm.
"I thought you were myth. No human-kind has been seen on our island for well over a century."
Now, Captain Sullivan was certain his head injury was severe. A disembodied voice was talking to him about mythical humans. He forced himself to sit up with some difficulty.
"Are you hurt?" the voice asked, sounding a little less scared. "I can't see you. I would go blind the one time a human is on the island. I had to fly over the water. Where are you?"
Captain Sullivan looked around again, searching for the source of the little voice once more. Sitting in a divot in the sand was a little... woman? The being was undoubtedly female in nature, but Captain Sullivan had never seen a woman who only grew to six inches tall. She was unusually clothed as well, wearing only a small dress made of leaves. Her tan skin was topped with wild braided red hair. She was looking around like she was searching for something, but she smiled in his general direction in spite of her blindness.
"I'm but a few feet in front of you," he replied cautiously. How, when he had never seen such a creature, could he hallucinate about something so odd? "Do you know how I came to be here? I can't remember anything before..."
The previous evening flashed briefly into his mind. He had been on deck, checking the watch. The watch officer was the newest on his ship and a jumpy sort of fellow. They were days from land, but an island had appeared to starboard, causing the watch officer to panic they had strayed off course. Before he could check the charts a strange...
"There was this other worldly light. It came towards my ship from this island, bobbing up and down above the waves." He rubbed his eyes, and turned back to the tiny woman. "Then I found myself here. Do you know what happened?"
During his speech, the creature had climbed to her feet, her unseeing eyes drawn wide in terror. She stared in his direction in silence for a time before breaking into hysterics and falling back to the sand, tiny tears streaking down her tiny face.
"It was an accident!" she screamed, sobbing into her knees.
Captain Sullivan cocked his head to the side. How he hated hysterics. It was the main reason he had never married, for the fairer sex was far too prone to them for his liking, apparently even the tiny ones cried. Wait, what was an accident?
She regained some composure but still cried as she began babbling on endlessly."I was on the beach listening to the waves and watching the stars over the water when I saw the... what did you call it...your ship? I saw your ship. It looked like a massive boat to me. Like the ones we put on the streams so we can ride down. I wanted a closer look. Queen Sint has always said I was too curious for my own good. 'Fairies are not meant to go fly over the water,' she says, but I wanted to see. Then I got hit by the spray of a wave when I was close to your ship. Salt water makes out wings clump together and our sight fade until we dry out which takes a long time, sometimes days! I didn't know it would hurt anyone, I swear!"
She fell into hysterics once more, leaving Captain Sullivan confused.
Had this tiny creature, this fairy, done something to harm his vessel? By the sounds of it she had, but it had been an accident. Normally, Captain Sullivan was more skeptical about such claims, however, this time he found it hard to believe something so small and apoplectic could do anything out of malice.
"What happened, fairy? I'm sorry you haven't told me your name," he said in what he hoped was a soothing voice. In his years as captain he hadn't much use for compassion. That was what first officers were for. Today, sadly, there was none to pass the burden of consolation to, so he did his best.
The fairy calmed herself enough to speak once more. "My name is Eriless. I swear I didn't mean hurt anyone! Please don't step on me!"
"I promise not to step on you, Eriless. My name is Isaac Sullivan. I am the captain of The Lady Beth, the ship you saw last night. You can call me Isaac since that is my first name." He saw no need for formality when talking to creatures from folk lore. "Eriless, what happened to the ship? Where are the other sailors?"
She looked as if to fall into hysterics once more, but Eriless answered his questions with a minimum of tears. "I got wet from the wave, so I wanted to dry off before I fell in the water and drowned. Fairies can't swim very well because of our wings. All I could think about was how scared I was. I was about to fall in so I summoned fairy fire to dry me off. Then I hit your boat- ship, sorry- and the next thing I know it caught fire and the fire spread with this scary sound like the volcano made when it rumbled ages ago. The fire rushed out, but the force was invisible, and it knocked me into the water. Now, we are here, and I can't see or fly. I didn't meant to hurt your ship or you. I swear, I didn't know what would happen."
"It sounds as if your fire ignited the powder magazine causing the ship to explode." Captain Sullivan said in hushed tones.
"I don't know those words" Eriless said in an even smaller voice than her normal one.
Captain Sullivan looked out to sea for any signs of wreckage, but saw none. His beloved ship and her crew were had gone down to Davy Jones' Locker without him. The captain was supposed to go down with his ship, but there was nothing he could have done if he had been thrown from the ship unconscious. It was a miracle he hadn't drowned before being washed ashore.
"Are your men dead?" she asked.
He nodded, his heart growing heavy. The realizing she could not see him, he said yes. She began to sob quietly, curled up in the sand.
Much to his surprise, he wasn't angry at the little fairy. She had tried to save herself from drowning, not knowing it would mean the destruction of his ship. Blaming her wouldn't bring his men back from the grave. Anger was useless to him now. He was stuck on an island with a fairy, and there was nothing he could do about it.
"It was an accident, dear fairy. You could not have known what would occur."
Eriless looked in his direction, with an expression of pure heart break. "You're not angry with me?"
"I am sad for my men." He hung his head. "Also, this isn't a well traveled trade route, so there is little chance of escaping this island."
"You can stay with us," she said sympathetically. "If I have to, I'll look after you myself. You wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me."
"Us?" he asked. "There are more of you?"
Eriless managed a playful smile. "Of course, silly, there are thousands of us on Fairy Island. Our town is deep in the jungle."
She fumbled to her feet, and tried to make her way in his direction, but thought better of it after she stumbled over a pebble.
Living with fairies... Captain Sullivan supposed it was better than starving to death on the beach. "How long will it take to walk there?"
Eriless cocked her head and started twisting her foot in the sand absentmindedly. "I don't know. Fairies don't walk all that much. How long does it take to walk a fintling?"
"What's a fintling?"
"Are those units of measurement?"
"We use feet, and miles."
"Oh." Eriless blushed a bit. "I didn't think they'd be different."
"We'll just have to start walking and see how it goes." He made to get up, forgetting about his shoulder. He put his weight on it and collapsed to the sand once more, screaming in agony.
"What's wrong?" shouted Eriless over the screams. She danced nervously on the spot. "Isaac? What's happening? I can't see you. Talk to me!"
"Ow, it's my shoulder. It's dislocated," he managed to grunt out through the fresh wave of searing pain.
"What can I do?" she squeaked, still bobbing in place.
"I'd say put it back in place, but you are-"
Eriless waved her hand and his shoulder magically snapped back to its natural position. The pain began to fade, but it was still tender to the touch.
Captain Sullivan stared at her, not believing what had just happened. "How did you do that?"
Eriless giggles. "Magic, silly. How else?"
"Magic doesn't exist!"
She put her hands on her hips. "I didn't think humans really existed until today, so we are both learning new things."
"Magic only exists in fairy tales," he exclaimed before giving his words proper thought.
"Hello," she said gesturing to herself. "fairy!"
"My apologies," he said clumsily. "It was just unexpected. We should get a move on if we want to find shelter before nightfall."
He eased himself to his feet. Thankfully, his body, excepting his head and shoulder, felt in perfect working order. He took off his captains coat and undid his long cravat. He was about to toss them both away when the thought to make a loop of the cravat to put around his neck for Eriless to sit on. She couldn't well walk on her own being blind. Captain Sullivan could also out pace her with his much longer gate.
"I've made a swing for you to sit on, Eriless. I'll put my hand down in front of you. Just climb on and I'll put you in it."
She nodded that she understood. When she was on his hand he could feel she was still damp. She hadn't exaggerated when she said it could take days for her to dry out. Once she was properly situated, they were ready to head into the jungle of Fairy Island.
"Should I head towards the volcano or the other end of the island?"
Eriless bit her lip. "Between the two. We live near the center of the island."
Captain Sullivan set off in what he hoped was the right direction. If they didn't find the city, at least, they could hope to find another fairy to guide them.
When roughly an hour had passed in silence, Eriless began reaching around Captain Sullivan's body trying to get an idea of how big he was. He didn't mind. Seeing someone her size was hard for him to accept at first, so naturally the reverse would be true. Eriless reached up as high as she could and barely touched the tip of his chin.
She recoiled when she felt his stubble. "What was that?"
Eriless reached up again. "Isaac, how tall are you? I can't reach your edges."
"I would say I am a little more than ten of you standing on end."
She looked up at him, her mouth open wide showing her perfect white teeth. "Ten? You must be as tall as the trees."
"Not quite," he replied with a hearty laugh. This fairy was a funny little thing.
"I can't wait until I dry out so I can see how big you are for myself."
The jungle was deep and full of vegetation. He could hear birds calling from the tree tops. All around him was nature at its finest. For a jungle it was rather tame, Sullivan though. Not that he was a jungle expert. Perhaps the fairies took care of the forest. He sighed when he thought about how long he would have to ask questions like that. He banished that thought from his mind. Doubt and self pity were not useful to anyone.
They walked for a hours, making idle chit chat. The sun was beginning to set, casting the dark shadows under the canopy. Captain Sullivan wasn't sure how much longer he could keep going without food and water. His body had taken a beating, and he hadn't let it recover before setting out. He sat down on a raised tree root for a breather.
"Are you getting tired?" Eriless asked from her swing.
"I'm more thirsty than anything else." His mouth was as dry as the sand on the beach.
"Me too. We'll come to a stream soon...I think."
They sat in silence for a moment. Then, the sound of gently rushing water met their ears.
"The stream! I know that sound. It's the one that flows through the town!" Eriless squealed with delight. "It doesn't sound far from here."
That it didn't. Captain Sullivan raised his aching body from his seat, and followed the sound of the running water. With in five minutes, the both of them were drinking from the stream, quenching their thirst. Captain Sullivan took much longer because he needed more than tiny Eriless.
Eriless said the town couldn't be far now. All Captain Sullivan had to do was follow the stream and they would come to it. He hoped she was right because, even after the water, he was hungry and increasingly tired.
Total darkness was almost upon them when he saw something up ahead. Lights of blue, gold, pink, and green dancing in the trees, thousands of them.
"Eriless, I see lights up ahead."
"That's it!" In her excitement, she almost fell out of her swing. "Just walk in. When the others see me they won't hurt you."
"A comforting thought." He hoped they would see her in time.
Captain Sullivan hurried along. As he got closer he heard the sounds of voices and music. When he reached the edge of the small clearing he walked right into the clearing. The music stopped as soon as he did, but the lights still shined over head. Some even flew down, revealing themselves as fairies, to examine him closer, and check on Eriless, who was happy to be home. Captain Sullivan didn't say a word. He just looked up at the town and its inhabitants. Truth be told, this fairy land was more beautiful than the open sea on a clear day. It was by far the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.