I wrote this short story for the 12 Shots of Summer challenge on the forums at fanfiction dot net. The prompt was "Hapless." Please go down to the stories and check out some of the other entries if you want to read some great fanfiction and original one-shots!
This one-shot is a stand-alone, but it can be seen as kind of a companion story for my novella, Aĉaĵego. It has different characters, maybe a different universe (I'm not sure, it's vague), but I aimed for a similar vibe.
There was once a girl named Ŝafa who spent all her days alone on the beach. Ŝafa had two hobbies: climbing trees, and dipping her hands into the water to catch fish with her bare hands. "So unfortunate," whispered the people of her village. "She'll never do anything valuable. She'll never grow up, never get married, never come out of her shell and speak to people. Poor Ŝafa, and her poor mother and father."
Words were difficult for Ŝafa to use. Her parents tried and tried to teach her, but it never got easy. Still, she put in a lot of effort, and she did learn some words - like "Ŝafa" and "hungry" and "thank you." Ŝafa tried to teach people the way she tried to communicate, too - she could sing, and rock, and scream. But even though Ŝafa had tried so hard to learn the villagers' language, the villagers put no effort into learning hers. So Ŝafa stopped seeking out their company.
When Ŝafa was little, she went to school. The school mostly taught children using words, and so it was difficult for Ŝafa to learn much with the other children. So Ŝafa was put in a separate classroom with "children like Ŝafa." Really, the other children in her class had very little in common with Ŝafa - they had their own hobbies and interests, and none of them enjoyed climbing trees or catching fish with their bear hands - but the other children also did not know how to, or did not like to use words, so that made the adults around them think they were all the same. Their class was taught by a woman named Miss Anĝela who told Ŝafa's parents that she had a special talent for teaching children like Ŝafa to speak. In reality, Anĝela had very little influence on the successes of the handful of pupils she'd had over the years. Anĝela spent most of her time reading books, while allowing her pupils to do whatever they wanted, so long as they were quiet.
Ŝafa did not much enjoy school. She would rather be at the beach, but the classroom did have a drinking fountain she enjoyed dipping her hands in occasionally. And the other children who didn't speak made better company than those who did.
One day at school, a boy who was bigger than Ŝafa snatched the pillow from her hand and, laughing, slammed it over the face of a girl who was littler than her. Ŝafa saw the little girl twitching. She heard her whimpering. Ŝafa did not know what was happening - she had never seen anything like this happen before - but she knew it was not right. So Ŝafa screamed.
The moment Miss Anĝela down the book she had been reading to see what was going on, the boy let go of the pillow. The little girl who'd been attacked sat up and burst into tears, rubbing her neck. Most of the children moved away from Ŝafa, covering their ears or letting out their own screams in protest.
Miss Anĝela, who had been reading a book, had no idea why Ŝafa was screaming. She assumed it must be something inexplicable and pointless, the same way she viewed Ŝafa's fondness for dipping her hands in water. So she didn't discipline the boy. She didn't comfort the girl who'd been attacked; she didn't even notice that she was in pain. Instead, Miss Anĝela ran to the still-screaming Ŝafa. "Ŝafa! Be quiet! Ŝafa! Shut up!"
Ŝafa didn't stop screaming, so Anĝela hit her. Ŝafa screamed more. Anĝela kicked her. Ŝafa screamed more. So Anĝela shoved her to the ground, climbed on top of her, and wrapped her so tightly in blankets that Ŝafa could barely move. Ŝafa's screams turned to hiccuped sobs, and then to shallow, unsteady breaths, until finally, hours later, Ŝafa was unbound.
After that, Ŝafa screamed every time she was taken to school. No one knew why she was screaming - not even Miss Anĝela, who didn't even stop to wonder if she might have caused Ŝafa pain. Miss Anĝela only knew that wrapping Ŝafa up would quiet her down, so she did so, every single day.
Finally, Ŝafa's parents decided she could stop going to school. "Let her go to the beach all day," said Ŝafa's mother. "She'll never have any skills. Why bother with school?"
This was not true. Ŝafa was more talented than anyone at catching fish with her bare hands, but Ŝafa's mother didn't think about it, because she didn't think that skill was important.
"We can't watch her all day," said Ŝafa's father. "Who knows what she might get up to if we leave her to watch herself? Something bad could happen to her, and she'd never be able to tell us."
"She's old enough to take care of herself," said Ŝafa's mother. And, she thought but didn't say, if Ŝafa were to drown, she would be a burden on her parents no longer.
And so Ŝafa was allowed to spend her days relaxing and fishing. Being able to spend so much time at the beach gave her the chance to become even more skilled at catching fish than she already had been, and she gained a deeper understanding of the way the water moved. She caught many fish, which her family ate or traded to neighbors. This was a much better situation for everyone involved - Ŝafa was happy, and her family was well-fed. But still, the other villagers sighed sadly when they saw Ŝafa take her daily walk towards the beach. "Poor Ŝafa," they said, "unable to play with other children. Unable to learn. It must be so hard for her parents to know she'll never get married."
One day when Ŝafa was watching the water from her perch in the tree, she noticed something wrong with the water. She didn't know what was happening - she had never seen anything like it before, but still she knew it wasn't right. It growled and raised its haunches like an angry wolf.
Those nearby covered their ears, or moved away from her further down the beach. No one listened.
So Ŝafa ran home, screaming all the way.
"What is wrong with you?" snapped her father, who had heard her screaming before she even got home, and come running outside to see her.
"Ŝafa! Stop it!" ordered her mother, who came running to Ŝafa, holding a blanket. Ŝafa knew she was going to wrap her in it.
So instead of running home, she ran away. Away from the beach, away from the village, away from her parents, who did not care where she went as long as they didn't have to hear her scream. She went up the hill and climbed the tree and kept watching the angry ocean.
She kept screaming. But no one listened. Until, finally, she became too tired to keep screaming.
And when the ocean lunged and pounced on the town, swallowing it up, Ŝafa was safe and sound.