This is my first ever fictional short story and I’m so happy to debut it on my blog! I’m going to present it at the Writing for Charity event next week, so I’d love any feedback you have – good and bad!
I’ve never seen anything like it before.
I mean, I’ve seen humans before but they never come out in the ocean so far from the shore. There are hundreds of people shouting and swimming in the dark night water that is filled with vast icebergs and small chunks of ice. The strange scene stops my pod in their wake, too.
“Look at them flailing about!”
“Where is their boat? Have they lost it?”
“Do you think they’ll drown?”
At that joke everyone laughs. I even smile a little. It’s hard to think of water being able to kill someone when I’ve lived in it my whole life. But my smile fades quickly.
“Let’s go. This is getting boring. They’re not drowning fast enough,” someone in my pod says.
“No wait,” I say. “We should help them.”
“What, you mean all of them? Whatever for? It’s not like there’s land nearby to take them to. It’s not my fault they’ve lost their boat.” I can hear a few snickers at that.
They’ve all made their decision to leave and I feel a wrench in my gut that I don’t agree with them for the first time in my life. My instincts are screaming to leave with them. When they all start swimming away, I don’t move. I can’t take my eyes off of the humans.
“Are you coming or not?” my eldest sister asks.
I pause as indecision grips me. Something about these humans feels wrong though I don’t know what. I feel compelled to help them.
“No,” I say as tears fill my eyes.
There’s a shocked silence.
“Fine,” the eldest says finally. “She who swims alone dies alone.” At that, my sisters all swim away.
She’s right. The pod protects us from predators and helps ensure that we’ll have enough to eat. I’ve sentenced myself to death by venturing out on my own and I don’t completely understand why.
I start swimming towards the mass of humans. I can save one. I can make a difference to one. A sharp cry of “help!” grabs my attention and I swim towards someone desperately clinging to a piece of wood. But the wood is oddly shaped and they can’t quite hold on.
I quickly swim up and see that it’s a young man fighting for his life. He’s startled when I lift him off the wood and hold him steadily in the water.
He stares at me for a moment.
“Well, I’ve saved your life. You may say thank you, if you like.”
He gives me a look I don’t understand. “For now,” he says with a sad smile. His whole body shakes in an odd way as I hold him easily afloat.
I’m a little alarmed. “What do you mean? Of course I’ve saved you! I’m a strong swimmer and now you will no longer drown.”
“True,” he says with a smile. “But it’s still so cold.”
I smile and nod and hope that he doesn’t see that I don’t know what he’s talking about. I can tell I haven’t fooled him completely.
“Who are you?”
“I’m your rescuer.”
He smiles. “It seems I’m either dreaming or I’m already dead and you’re an angel.”
“An angel! Why do you think that?”
“Well, beautiful women don’t just come swimming up to rescue drowning men in the middle of the freezing ocean.”
He’s very smart and his questions are making me a little uncomfortable. “Why are you in the middle of the ocean, anyway? Hu- people don’t usually swim in the middle of the ocean at night.”
“The unsinkable ship can apparently sink.”
“Ah. So your ship has sunk.” Why hadn’t I thought of that before? The whole scene made more sense now. “Didn’t you have any extras?”
“Not enough,” he says bitterly.
I don’t really know what to say now. We stare at each other for a moment. He has such dark eyes and I watch as water gently slides in little rivulets all down his face. His hair is plastered to his head and his lips are a delicate blue. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. He startles me with a kiss.
“Sorry. A last wish of a dying man. I couldn’t help it.”
“Why do you keep saying that? You’re not going to die while I’m here.”
He didn’t seem to hear me. He looks past me a little at the sky, the ocean. “I was going to start a new life in America. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and save people’s lives. ” He gives me a teasing smile and tilts his head a little. “I left my whole life and my family behind to go to college.”
“You left your family, too?” Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone even though I’ve abandoned everyone and everything I’ve ever known.
“Yes.” His brow furrows a bit. “Why did you leave your family?”
I don’t really know what to say at first.
“You can tell me anything.”
I let out a shaky breath. “I felt something I’ve never felt before. It felt like love, but…sadder. I just couldn’t leave without helping.”
He raises his eyebrows. “You mean, you weren’t on the ship?”
Fear washes over me. I want to tell him the truth but all I can do is stare. After a few moments he realizes I’m not going to answer him.
“Well. If we make it out of here alive, you can come to America with me and we’ll both start a new life.”
“I’d like that.” There’s so much about humans that I don’t understand. I want so badly to learn more about them – especially him. I’m starting to feel that I have more in common with humans than with my sisters.
“I’m glad I got on that ship. It brought me to you. No matter what happens, I’ll never forget you.”
“Nothing is going to happen to you. Nothing will hurt you while I’m here.”
He smiles at me, but his eyes are sad and dark. Something is different now. I look around to see that there isn’t as much noise from the humans as there was before. And he’s stopped shaking.
“What is your name?”
He doesn’t say anything. No matter what I say, no matter how much I shake him, he won’t speak again. I’m terrified that he was right. That cold has killed him. If only I knew what it was, then I could fix it. I refuse to let him go. I feel alone again. I tell myself over and over that he can’t have died. I saved him from drowning. Can other things kill humans besides drowning?
I don’t know how long it was before another ship came by and pulled people from the water. They assumed I had been shipwrecked, too, so they pulled me aboard the ship. I wouldn’t let him go, so they brought him aboard as well. They examine him briefly before they set him down on the ship and then walk away from him. I feel all my hope leave as I hear one of the men say the word “dead.”
“Please,” I ask one of the men. “Could you tell me what ‘cold’ is?”
He stares at me for a long time before he turns and walks away without saying anything.
Tears fill my eyes and then run down my face. I walk to the edge of the boat and look out at the ocean. A woman puts something around my shoulders and pulls me close to her.
“I’m so sorry,” she says to me. “What are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to start a new life in America.” I’m not even sure what that means, but somehow it feels right.