Prompt: "I've died here before." They stared at the sunset casting a warm orange glow over the sea's horizon. By givethispromptatry on tumblr.
Breath of the Sea
The cave was hidden on the side of the cliff. He had spotted it one day while out on the sea fishing, but before he'd had the chance to explore, his mother had called him home. Now he returned to the cliff, and carefully rowed towards it.
It was his day off, Their stores were full so Mama needed time to prepare the fish. Father had gone off to the bar to spend some time with friends, and hadn't bothered to give him a task before leaving. With his new freedom, he snuck out of the house and ran all the way down to the bay.
He tied his boat to one of the rocks, his fingers expertly forming the knots. He stepped back and admired his handiwork, giving his fingers a little wiggle as he did so. Then, with more trepidation, he began to climb the few feet up the cliff.
His arms ached as they hauled his body up, but it wasn't that much harder than a day of rowing. He winced each time the rock crumbled before him, and his breath came out in short gasps. He could hear the splashes of water each time another rock fell, and his brain imagined the splash his body would make.
Finally, he managed to pull his body up into the cave, and he collapsed onto the ground. His eyes fluttered closed as he breathed. The burn in his chest slowly retreated, and he opened his eyes. Standing up, he looked down at where he had come from, and smiled. He cupped his hands around his mouth and wordlessly hollered out into the sea. He had made it! He was in this cave that surely no one else had explored before! He was here!
Then he turned around and faced the dark maw of the cave. He took the flashlight out of his pocket and flicked it on, its dim light piercing into the cave. Forward he went, the call of adventure driving his feet forwards.
The floor of the cave was wet and slippery, probably from waves crashing into it. The whole place smelled of salt and dust, and he had to blink some tears out of his eyes and cough some dust out of his lungs.
He continued through the cave carefully, roaming his eyes across the walls as he walked. The markings on the walls were almost hypnotic, and he traced their spiralling patterns with his fingers. They were cool underneath his fingertips, and smooth in a way he forgot rocks weren't supposed to be. Entranced, he followed the pattern, his fingers twisting and turning as he continued on its path.
"What are you doing here?" A voice snaps him out of his… whatever it was, and he turns to see a young girl glaring at him. She looks maybe two years younger than him, and holds a sharpened stone threateningly in his direction. Her ripped, white dress trails behind her on the ground.
"What are you doing here?" He echoes her, backing away instinctively and hitting the wall. He bares his teeth at her and raises his arms to defend himself.
"This isn't your cave," the girl states, and her eyes flash with warning.
"So what, it's yours?" He spits back, for of course someone else will have claimed his discovery. Of course he couldn't have this thing to himself. Mama would shake her head at his useless endeavors when he returned home and the kids in the town would laugh at his stories.
"No, no it's not," the girl whispers, and shivers travel up his spine. "Leave."
But his fingers have touched the carving again, and isn't it wonderful. It continues on and on and on and he must find the end. In the end he will finally understand every swirl and twist of it. His feet begin to move and his fingers lightly trace the lines.
Is that chanting he hears, those whispers in the wind? His own mouth is moving, is he the one saying those words?
The girl screams and yells and she is interrupting the beautiful song.
No matter, he can drown her out.
And another voice joins his own. There are no words, only sounds.
And then the girl slaps him across the face. He stumbles, and falls to the ground. She stands over him, breathing heavily and eyes wide with terror. And looming over her are two beady eyes and a mouth full of silver knives.
"Run!" The girl heaves, and this time he does not hesitate. He scrambles to his feet and sprints away. He reaches his hand back and he feels the girl grasp it desperately. Behind them, the thing lets out a horrible screech that rattles the cave, dust and tiny rocks fall down onto their heads.
He cannot see in the darkness, he had dropped his flashlight a while ago. He does not know which way to go, and his feet slip on the wet rock. The girl quickly steadies him, and he latches onto their joined grip. She passes him and pulls him along, and he allows himself to trust her, she knows the way out.
Sunlight breaks through the darkness as the exit appears up ahead. If he had any brathe to spare, he would have shouted his relief. But as he was, he could barely stumble to the opening. It was only then he realized he was still trapped.
Behind him, he could hear the monster banging against the walls, shaking them, as it grew closer. He could almost feel the snapping of its jaws as it crunched his bones.
"Jump!" The girl orders him, and before he can protest because that will kill him, she is pulling him along.
He cannot hear the sound his body makes when it hits the water. Liquid fills his mouth and his screams bubble out.
He is sinking.
He can remember as a child Mama bringing him down to the beach. She had set him in the sand and told him to stay. He had fidgeted restlessly as he wished to go play, but did as she said. The waves had lapped at his feet over and over again, in a rhythm that had lulled him to sleep. He could still remember the lullaby of the sea.
He opened his eyes and floated up to the surface. He breathed in and out the water. Next to him, he could see the little girl sinking deeper and deeper, so he grabbed her arm and pulled her up with him.
They broke through the water and the girl gasped for air next to him. She grabbed hold of the boat and pulled herself up into it, with his help. She reached down and pulled him up after her.
Even when he left the sea he could still feel it, rolling in his gut and humming in his fingers. Every breath he took tasted of fresh, salty air.
In the cave, the monster roared, and burst out into the light.
It was made of dust. He could see the way the light shined through it. It's mouth was sharpened rocks, and it looked like a tornado, spinning and spinning and spinning.
Grabbing an oar, he began to roar.
The girl remained on the ground, in shock, looking up at the best with wide eyes. It lunged towards them and he felt the sea respond to his resolve, pushing them out of the way.
That seemed to snap the girl out of her trance, and she gripped her rock tighter in her hands. "Not again, not again," she whispered over and over. Tears streamed down her face, which was twisted in rage.
The monster let out another howl and snapped its jaws at them, but this time the girl responded. She slashed at the monster with her stone, screaming as she did so, a primal sound that resonated through the air. And the wind responded.
Wind so strong that he could feel it from here slashed at the monster, sending the dust flying. The monster roared in pain, slowly pulling the dust back to its makeshift body.
The girl slashed again and again, tearing her rock through the universe to get what she wanted. She was a figure of rage and revenge, and nothing would stop her. Nothing, except perhaps the monster that reformed after every strike.
They still had a ways to go before they reached land, and he slowly realized he could not lead the monster back to the shore. It would hurt his family, his town. His town wasn't going to suddenly be safe, he would just be putting more people in danger because he had decided to go on this stupid adventure.
He looked at the girl in front of him, fighting with every last piece of power in her body, and joined her.
With a thought, the water rose.
Protect, he thought, and the water obeyed, crashing into the monster. It swirled into a whirlpool, faster and faster, separating the dust before it had time to reform. The girl joined him, swirling her arms to create a mini tornado, sending the dust flying.
"What is that thing?" He yells his question towards the girl. He has never seen anything quite like it.
"A monster, made from magic," the girl huffs out, then she gestures at the sea rolling beneath them. "At the bottom there will be a ship, on there is a talisman that binds this monster to life. I'll hold it here, you go destroy it!"
And he does not hesitate to leap back into the water and let it embrace him.
Before he had ever been allowed on a boat his parents had forced him to learn to swim. Hours and hours he'd practice in the bay, coming home soaked every day. Yet that practice paid off, for now his feet kicked through the water with grace, and he tunneled down to the bottom.
He breathed in and out, water filling his lungs. Despite how salty the water was, his eyes didn't sting. And in this sea, he felt powerful, he felt warm, he felt like he was home, he felt right.
Wreckage of a ship littered the seafloor. Pieces of wood flowed in the current, and he looked at them sadly as he imagined how many people must have been on the boat. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a silver-gray thing buried in the sand, and he turned away, trying not to heave. Now was not the time to dig up skeletons.
The body of the ship was huge, as the trail of it would suggest. Pieces of the walls had broken off, forming dozens of holes for him to enter through. The mast had broken off the ship and laid half-covered in sand and rocks.
He swam in and looked around. Despite how broken this ship was, everything in it felt sacred, preserved. Like, if this ship was destroyed, an important monument would be. He did not belong here, the ship did not want him here. His skin itched with the need to leave, to leave this place to wallow in its misery.
But up above the surface, the girl was fighting with every last bit of strength she had to keep the monster from destroying him home.
In and out he breathed the water, and he swam deeper.
The talisman was far too easy to find. There it floated in the center of the ship, the water parting around it. It cast an eerie glow on the wood around it, bathing the entire room in red.
It looked like a gemstone, the type his mom would look at longingly in the market.
He forced his hand to move, and curled his fingers around the gem.
The water in his lungs had changed to dust. He was sinking, he was far too heavy. He couldn't move his limbs, couldn't swim.
It was far too much.
He couldn't change, he was just stuck in this misery, in this final moment before he died.
He didn't want to die.
Blood was trickling down his hand and water forced its way into his lungs. Through blurry vision, he could pieces of the broken gem sink to the sea floor.
And then he saw nothing.
His chest burned with the need to cough as air burned his lungs. He turned on his side, coughing and spitting as he tried to breath. Opening his heavy eyes, he saw mud trickling out of his mouth. He couldn't get enough air in his lungs.
"Slow down, breathe with me." Hands maneuvered him upright and pressed one of his palms to a chest. Desperately, he tried to match the rising and falling.
In front of him sat the girl. They were in his boat, drifting on the sea. In the distance, he could see his town.
And there was no monster.
She rowed them home, he was still focused on his breathing. Together, they stumbled out of the boat and back to his house.
Mama hadn't understood what was going on, but quickly scolded him while wrapping him in a warm blanket. She placed pieces of bread and lukewarm soup in front of them both, and they dug in.
The girl snuck out of the house as he tried, again, to explain to Mama what had happened. He could see her move out of the corner of his eye, and a minute later, he went after her.
She led him all the way to the top of the cliff. There, she sat, her legs dangling off the end. He joined her, and it was silent for a while.
"I've died here before." She stared at the sunset casting a warm glow over the sea's horizon.
"You were on the boat," he doesn't really ask, but she answers regardless.
He thinks about the heavy stone of misery that had nearly sunk him on that ship, and he knew that's what the girl had felt as she died.
"But you're here now."
He wraps an arm around her shoulder and does not ask the hundreds of other questions he has. Because right now, he doesn't need answers. They both just need this.
And the sunset is beautiful.