Featured Review on this writing by Joe Stuart

Sea Calling

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More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: The Imaginarium
A short story, also included in The Imaginarium House Summer2019 Collection.
Cover image: pixabay. com

Submitted: June 28, 2019

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Submitted: June 28, 2019

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Sea Calling

Erik had been brought up on the sea, or that was how it had often felt. While he was young, he had spent every spare moment out on the water with his father, learning to sail like a true professional. School holidays had always been the best. The weather was more reliable than those winter months, and that was when the longer voyages would take place.

Winter, with its lower temperatures, its more frequent gales and sudden squalls, was for shorter sailings, only when his father thought it safe enough.

Erik cherished these moments at sea. Father and son time came to mean more and more as adolescence kicked in. There were some things he just did not want to talk about around his mother, and especially around his younger sister. Chloe was eight years younger than him, an unexpected sibling. They got on okay until the summer that she turned eight herself, while Erik was sixteen.

I want to come,” Chloe said.

Why?” Erik did not want her there on the sea with their father. “It’s cold and it’s wet, and sometimes it can be very scary.”

You go, so can I.”

But...” Erik had looked to his father for back-up but of course it was futile. He seemed to be incapable of saying no to Chloe about anything.

She came out with them on a short trip. They were not out on the sea for more than two hours. Chloe insisted on ‘helping’, but Erik found her more of a hindrance in the confined space of the boat. He was sure their father did too, but he kept a smile fixed on his face.

The following day Erik and his father had gone out alone again. Chloe had kicked up a fuss about not being permitted to go, but her mother had remained stern. One voyage was enough that first week. And those words had hung like a cloud over the entire voyage; this could be the last bit of togetherness father and son would share. Instead of taking advantage of it, they were reluctant to talk at all.

As they tied up the boat at the end of the voyage, his father had put a hand on Erik’s shoulder, said, “I’m sorry...”

Yeah, whatever...” Erik had answered, and had escaped to his bedroom as soon as he could.

* * *

It was during the third time that Chloe went out with them that it happened. Disaster struck, and the sea would never seem the same again.

One minute everything was fine, the next Chloe was shouting excitedly that she could see something beneath the waves. A porpoise, perhaps, or even a dolphin, for a few had been spotted along this part of the coast during recent years. She wouldn’t listen; with her eight-year-old logic, she insisted that it was a mermaid and had leaned over the side of the boat.

Both Erik and his father realized that she was leaning too far, both had moved at the same instant, and both were left to blame themselves when she slipped beneath the surface of the waves.

Erik had dived in, as she popped up, and then seemed to be pulled back under. He dived again, was sure for a moment that something, someone, had a grip on his sister and was pulling her deeper and deeper. Time and time again he went under the waves, looking, searching for any sign of his sister. Erik did not stop until he was forced to. There was no point in carrying on; Chloe could not have survived so long.

The Rescue Services searched for days, weeks, before giving up. There was no sign of the girl at all, not even a scrap of her clothing. The boat was sold. The house was sold. Erik and his parents moved inland away from the sea that had gone from being loved to being hated.

For two years, Erik stayed away, only visiting the sea in his increasingly more horrendous nightmares. He would thrash around beneath his quilt as his mind was held deep beneath the waves, forced to watch his sister being grasped and pulled, not by any marine life but by hands that looked remarkably human.

Erik decided to return. He still had friends by the sea, they’d give him a bed for a few days he was sure. More importantly, they would give him the loan of a boat, for Erik knew the only way he was going to be able to stop the nightmares was to go back out there, prove to himself that there was nothing unusual in the waters.

Erik lied to his parents, telling them that he was going hiking with some friends he’d made at college. Now eighteen, he knew they would not try to stop him, but it still tore him apart to hear them beg for him to be careful. How much worse would it have been if they had known the truth? Erik knew that they would have tried to stop him from going out on to the sea once more.

It was a calm day. Mild, but not too hot, with a light breeze – perfect weather for sailing in. Erik could not find any enjoyment in stepping on to the deck, in setting the sails, in the once loved movement of the waves. He could not even see the sea without the ghostly image of his sister’s face super-imposed on top of it.

How would he find the exact spot? Erik knew he did not have the exact readings, but something seemed to be guiding him. Nonsense, of course, for there was nothing there, and yet he felt the boat being pulled along regardless of his steering. Without any sign the wind began to pick up, the boat ploughed ahead faster and faster. Erik knew he should be afraid, but he wasn’t.

Suddenly the wind dropped to nothing, not even the faintest breeze remained to catch the sails. The boat rocked up and down with the movement of the tide but stayed where it was as though anchored.

It began as a whispering. Chloe’s voice called out to Erik. “Come on! Please play!”

Erik shook his head, covered his ears, but her voice grew louder, accompanied now by others.

Erik, come on. Be a good brother to me, come and have a game.”

He’s not going to.”

He never liked you anyway.”

He dived in to rescue me. He tried!” Chloe said in his defence. Who was she talking to?

He did not try hard enough! He wanted you gone.”

That was a lie. Erik had wanted her to stay on land, to leave the sailing to himself and his Dad, but he had never wanted her gone. Dead! He’d tried so hard, as hard as anyone could. Hadn’t he?

Erik had not intended on leaning over the side but he had to look, to see it Chloe was there, and to see who was saying those lies. He leaned out. “It’s not true, Chloe. I dived until I was not capable of diving any more.”

Prove it!” The voice was a roar, inhuman in volume and intensity. Something shot upwards from beneath the sea’s surface and grabbed Erik. He struggled, but whatever he was fighting against was too strong for him to break free of. He felt his feet leave the boat, felt himself hit the water, and felt himself being dragged further and further into the waters depths.

 


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