Author's Note: This piece was originally named The Call of The Sea but that name has been taken.
The Beckoning Sea
"There was once a time when the people of our little village by the sea loved the sea as much as she loved the villagers. The little children would play by her shore, her waves caressing them softly as if they were her own. She would gladly give up her fish to the fishermen so that they could feed themselves and their family. She would gladly give up her seashells for the young girls to find to their delight. And occasionally, she'd give up one of her many treasures for the rare villager to whom she took a great liking to. And in return, the villagers made sure her shores and waters were sparkling clean. They took no more from her than they needed to and most of all, they made her feel love. But those days are long gone.
"No one knows why it happened. Perhaps the villagers did not please her enough with their animal sacrifices. Perhaps she did not feel loved enough. Perhaps she loved too much. In any case, the sea began to take. At first, she merely took the belongings left on the shore. The villagers did not mind as long as she was pleased. But it soon escalated to bigger things, boats, homes built upon her sandy shores, and even beloved pets. Then the day the villagers all knew was coming came. The sea began to take children. Her waves stole them from the arms of their parents and swept them away. It was clear, their beloved goddess had turned into a monster from the darkest abyss of nightmares. Ever since then, not one villager has set foot on the beach, for fear that the sea will steal him. And that, children, is why you are all forbidden from stepping one foot on the beach," the mother warned, concluding her bedtime story. Every villager has told their children this story, the children told their own children when the time came, and so forth. In doing so, not one person has even been snatched away by the sea. But the boy with the golden hair of a lion, Leo, couldn't help but wonder what the sea must have been like before she became a thief.
The following day, the other village boys dared Leo to come play by the sea. Voice quivering, Leo adamantly refused for fear that the sea would snatch him too though he very much wished to see what the sea looked like. Tauntingly, teasingly, all the while sneering in the boy's tear-streaked face, they sang, "Leo the cowardly lion! Always in a corner a-cryin'!" As the boys walked the dusty path to the sea, they laughing wickedly for they heard the pitter-patter of the footsteps of the sniffling lion behind them. Leo was tired of it all: the name-calling, the singing, the snickering. He no longer wanted to be the cowardly lion and most of all, he wanted to see what the ocean looked like.
She was all Leo imagined and she was also nothing he could have ever dreamt of in his wildest dreams. He could feel her raw power pulsing around him but he could also feel her gentleness in the small waves that met the sandy beach. He was terrified of the feelings overwhelming his heart but he was also strangely comforted by them. The lapping waves were beautiful instruments, the sea was the composer, and together they created a wonderful melody. Even the sun seemed to pay homage to her, his rays making her waters sparkle and glitter. She seemed so far away yet all he had to do was walk forward to reach her. Leo woke from his trance as soon as he heard the sharp inhales of the village boys. He wanted to turn around and ask them what was wrong but his feet did not want to move. Looking down, he too gasped for his feet were blue. With a wild grin, Leo called out to the other boys, daring them to join him as he waded further into the ocean's welcoming arms. "Who's the cowardly lion now?" he jeered.
But all too soon, Leo's fun came to an end. The sea's aria developed into a deafening roar. The once gentle waves had quickly transformed into towering giants. Dark, thundering, looming clouds hid the sun from sight and the boys knew what was coming. So they ran and ran and ran, not wishing to be swallowed by the sea. Only Leo turned his head, wistfully staring in her direction as the distance between them grew.
The following day, when Leo went out to go play with his friends, his suddenly found himself at the beach instead of the village square. When he looked at his feet and asked them, "Why?", his toes wriggled in response as if to say, "Why not?" Leo sighed as his feet brought him closer to the water until they were once again submerged in it. After a while, he closed his eyes and began humming to the song of the sea. It was as if time had stopped and the only things that existed were Leo, the sea, and the sun who was shining down upon both of them.
All of the sudden, Leo's big toe began to hurt and when he looked down, he saw a red shell attached to it. Letting out a yelp, he fell as the sound of a giggling surrounded him. Frightened by the strange phenomenon, Leo got up to leave but the voice of a little girl called out to him, "Please don't go! I haven't met anybody in a long time!" Leo hesitated, realizing that the voice couldn't have come from anybody except... "The sea?" In response, her waves grew bigger and then subsequently subsided. "Sorry, these days I get too excited easily. That's why I conjured up that storm yesterday. I haven't had a visitor in over a century." Leo's mouth opened so wide that he could practically taste the sand where he stood. "One hundred years!? That's such a long time!" Leo sat down in the shallow water as he continued to talk with the sea. By the time the sun met the sea and the sky turned orange, Leo and the sea had become friends.
Day after day, Leo came back to talk to the sea and every day, he ventured further and further from the shore. Leo would tell her how the villagers were doing and the sea would tell him about the wonderful and colorful world inside of her. He'd bring her things that the villagers had invented over the century and she'd give him beautiful sea shells and the sharp teeth of the monster fish she called "sharks." He'd bring the village's traditional foods and share them with her while she gave him fish. "Aren't you hungry?" he'd ask and she'd reply, "I'm always full of fish!" And together, they'd laugh at her lame joke. Every now and then, the sea would let him dive underwater to see her world and whenever Leo returned to the shore, he had a new treasure to add to his growing collection. The two learned from each other. They laughed together, they played together, they fought, and they made up again. They shared their sorrows and happiness with each other. Out of curiosity, Leo once asked her why she started to take away the village children and learned that she loved the villagers so much that she wanted to keep them with her forever.
Leo knew he loved the sea as much as she loved him, just like how the villagers and the sea used to be a century ago. He knew that when she was happy, she'd let her waves surround him gently. He knew that when she was sad, her waves would disappear. He knew that when she was angry, her waves grew. He knew that when she was embarrassed, she would splash him with her waves. Leo was so used to her presence that the thought of parting never crossed his mind.
Much to Leo's despair, that day came. When Leo's mother found his collection of seashells, shark teeth, and treasure, her anger exploded. Even though Leo tried to reason with his mother, saying that the sea was no longer hostile, she refused to back down and forbade him from ever visiting the sea.
Heartbroken, Leo decided to visit his beloved sea one last time before. "What's wrong Leo?" she asked him as he swam. "You know you can't hide anything from me. I can um...what was the expression? Lead you like a dook?" Leo laughed, "Read you like a book." But Leo's smile was quickly replaced by a frown and he told the sea what had happened with his mother. "I'm sorry...I can't visit you anymore," he cried, his body racked with sobs. "NO!" she cried in anguish. "They can't take you away! I won't let them!" Her waved swelled into sizes Leo had never seen as black cloud rolled overhead. Leo's mother feared the worst when she couldn't find Leo at home and quickly ran to the beach. "Leo!" she cried. "Swim!" Leo heard his mother's words and swam towards them. When the sea saw that Leo had almost reached his mother, she became even angrier. "Don't leave me all alone!" In desperation, she drew Leo further and further away from the shore. Soon, Leo's mother was a dot on the horizon and after a while, he could no longer hear her voice. Unable to keep himself afloat, Leo sank into the sea just like all the other children before him. "At least you won't be all alone now," Leo struggled to say. "I'll always be here."