I held the tray firmly in my hands, hoping desperately that I would not slip and drop the food I carried. The hall was full of noise, people chattering, the clang of cutlery against plates as the
food already served was eaten, and laughter, bubbling like a gurgling brook.
Everyone ate together in the large hall built for that express purpose. It made sense- rather than every family cooking up separate meals, we took it in turns to cook for all of the Atlanteans, a
particular day each week. The other chores were divided up into rotas, with each family doing equal amounts of work for the amount of people. Today, our family were serving, and that meant taking
the food to everyone on each table. I was almost done- just one tray left, for the table I always sat on, the table where all the teenagers were gathered. They cheered as they saw me, licking their
lips at the food I carried, which I plonked in front of them, feeling hungry myself. Today we had creamy mashed potatoes and chunks of roasted chicken, all arranged in bowls ready to be eaten.
I passed Solo his bowl, and he grinned at me, noticing I had given him the one with the most chicken (it was his favourite) and he flicked me on the nose, gently, as he had a habit of doing.
I stuck out my tongue, and scrunched up my nose in reply, which made him laugh. I was proud of the fact that I was the only one who could make him properly laugh. Others made him chuckle, but
never laugh as uproariously as he did when we were together. That made me feel special, as immature as it might sound.
We ate ravenously, enjoying the food and talking animatedly. I told them about the dolphins I had seen that morning (missing out the talking, of course) and they squealed at my luck and told me
they wished they had been there. Well the girls did anyway. The boys were too busy attempting to retain their masculine image, and scoffed at us, liking such soft, silly creatures as dolphins. Solo
didn’t join in, too intent upon his chicken chunks.
The meal passed quickly, and we were soon running out into the dawdling sunlight, it was weary and tired at this time, stretching out shadows far behind the others. I was careful, but had no need.
The others were all too carefree to notice anything.
The sky was flushed orange and pink with a sunset that sang of splendour and grace as we sat on the grass, wrestling with the furry little goat kids that frolicked around our knees, butting us
gently with their soft heads. They roamed free, too clever and nimble to fall in the sea and yet they were funny to watch, for the things they did couldn’t help but bring a smile to your face.
The smallest goat, who I had fondly nicknamed Fuzzy, was nibbling at my fingers gently with his soggy mouth. I pushed him away, and he butted back, as soft as if I had been hit by a pillow. I
laughed at him, and chased him away.
He ran, right down to a small sandy bay by the sea, tucked out of view of the others. The sun was dropping lower and lower, and I realised it was getting almost too dusky to be out.
The sea sparkled in the beautiful warm colours, and I grinned at the beauty. It seemed odd that humans could be so strange and short tempered at times, when nature was so beautiful and consistent.
I sat and looked out, Fuzzy dabbling in the waves tentatively, and leaping away in horror when he found it was cold. I felt so at peace, so calm.
The sun was almost gone now, and regretfully, I turned to leave. These moments of perfection seemed to slip out of your grasp whenever you reached for them.
Suddenly, shivers prickled up my spine, and my skin rippled with goose bumps. I had the chilling feeling that I was being watched, and I trembled. Fuzzy bleated, and ran in front of me, as fast as
his tiny legs would carry him.
“Silly girl,” I said out loud, trying to reassure myself, “It’s all okay.”
I turned round, just to prove it to myself, and gasped.
In the dimming sun sat a figure, perched on the rocks. I could see only shadows, but I saw that it was a man, but not like a man I had ever seen before. He had a solid upper body, well muscled and
strong looking, but his lower half made me stare. I couldn’t see clearly, but it was curved like the tail of a fish, and was flopping into the sea.
I wanted to scream, but my breath caught in my throat and the sound wouldn’t come out. He raised his hand, casually, and moved towards me. This seemed to break the spell I was under, and I ran, as
fast as I could, holding up my skirts and running, running for my life.
I reached the top of the hill, the bay out of sight. Everything looked normal in the dusky light, and I wondered if it had all been a dream.
My legs were still trembling, my stomach twisting in knots, my heartbeat drumming in my ears. Solo and the others were stood over by the houses. He saw me, and ran over, grinning.
“Come on, you!” he took my arm, which was comfortingly soothing, “I was getting worried, Elfa.”
I smiled at him, familiarity dispelling my fears. I must have seen something that wasn’t there, it was dark, and I was tired.
I followed them all back to the village, chatting as usual, but a niggling sensation at the back of my mind whispered that perhaps I had seen right, perhaps something bizarre was down on the beach.
I shook the thoughts from my head, and walked away.
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