Worse Things Happen At Sea

8036126466_d59a58c1e3_c“Worse things happen at sea.”

Whenever anything goes wrong, that’s what she says.

I have wondered about it on more than one occasion. Why it is that she should say this, exactly.

The sea. What do either of us know about what goes on there?

We live inland, far from the coast, snuggled down in a soft dale. A place where the horizon does not exist. Where the ground makes a deep and satisfying thud when I walk upon it.

The froth, spray and swell of the sea are as abstract to me as an equation scratched on a board. It is an idea I am unfamiliar with. A place where worse things are highly probable.

Perhaps that is the idea.

There are worse things out there. And she wants me to know it. To understand how safe we are here, where the land shelters us and folds tightly around us.

So that when disaster does strike, I look at it through the prism of a crashing wave that could sweep us far out to sea.

And it is not always worse.

There was a knock at the door.

And something about the weight of it, the way the fist thumped upon the wood, was familiar to her.

“Who is it?” I asked.

But she shook her head. Would not say who it was, there on the other side.

Then the knock again. Louder this time. And it did feel like a wave, the shock of it, as it reverberated throughout the room.

She took me then and pulled me along.

“Go upstairs and stay there.”

Her hand clutched tight on my shoulder pushing me upwards.

I stopped at the top of the stairs, out of sight, but within earshot.

And if you asked me now what it was I heard then, what could I tell you?

That worse things, when they do come, do not always drag you out and pull you under?

That the crash of a wave can also be a low, heavy thump. A flash of coloured lights. A ringing, piercing wail. Somewhere. Far off. But sharp enough to fix you to the spot.

Which is where they find me, curled-up and silent. Still there at the top of the stairs. Hands cupped around my ears, pressed hard against them.

Like a shell, when you pick it up and put your ear very close to it. And you hear it then. The sound of it. The waves crashing on the shore.

And it is beautiful.

This story first appeared in the Flash Flood Journal 2013 as part of National Flash Fiction Day

For more information about the Flash Flood Journal you can read Calum Kerr’s article here

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