Friday, 4 January 2013
Owen looked out from the beach house veranda towards the crisp blue water of the ocean and felt the same cold feeling he always did. Memories leapt out from the tranquil waters and seemed to slap him while he watched the children playing in the waves lapping at their heels.
The ocean was always a mystery to Owen. It was a living, hungry, predatory animal with the most insatiable of appetites. It wept salt that corroded and sang songs of both misery and joy. The sweet smell of salt was poison. A mystery unfolded between each wave peak and remained unsolved as the waves crashed mercilessly onto the sand. Both hot and cold, the ocean was a menacing, malevolent presence that seeped into Owen’s deepest fears, hopes and dreams.
Watching the children on the sand made him feel uneasy when he knew the force of the ocean. He knew how it liked to pull unwilling victims into the murky depths of itself and hold them there like pearls inside of an oyster. It scared him to think how close to death everyone was when they trusted themselves to its maritime fury. The ocean was a living, feeling, emotive creature: almost human. At one time, it could roll on and on peacefully; the next, it is an angry mother spewing black waves and white foam, smashing boats, dragging, breaking, freezing inhuman power.
Owen loved the ocean as much as he hated it. He lived and breathed exactly how it did. And like most humans, he couldn’t predict its moods, which swung as does the pendulum in the hands of a hypnotist.
As the children played, the ocean gathered at their feet, and tickled their ankles, and destroyed their sand-castles, quite innocently. Owen watched with a sense of relief, always fearing that a larger wave would rock over the edge and come crashing down on the helpless kids while they moulded sand-castles, carrying them away to oblivion. He clutched the binoculars he wore around his neck with a crushing iron fisted grip, until his hands were bony white from lack of blood and hurt from the pressure. All the while, his eyes scanned over half a kilometre of beach with meticulous interest, his heart palpitating irregularly.
And the memories rose inside of his head, beckoning memories that would, if they were of substance, resemble skeletal hands that would seek out the back of Owen’s neck… and squeeze.
The more he fought the memories, the more they wanted to rise. They rushed up from his subconscious, wild birds on wing, waiting to embed their awful presence onto Owen’s mind, the same way footprints are embedded into soft mud. In vain, he tries to keep his memory in check, to close the curtain that hides the other side. Each day, his hair becomes greyer and his eyes wilder. Each night, he suffers a private, agonising torment. With each glass of whisky, the expectation of doom seems to manifest itself inside of his weary mind and the strain of his fight shows itself as wrinkles on his skin.
And finally, the years pass, the locks break, and Owen suddenly finds that he is staring into the bulging, fishy eyes of a drowned kid with blue lips and pale skin, so pale that it is nearly transparent. Only then does he feel the choking, freezing panic that had eluded him for so long, that had many years ago held him frozen to the spot in absolute terror, as he screamed and screamed…
…but all the screaming in the world can’t undo the fact that your little boy has drowned…
…and you couldn’t do a single thing to save him…