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The Time I Caught The Sea

Grandpa's old sailboat floated up and down in the waves, carving out a rhythm that had me fighting hard to stay conscious. I shrugged off my windbreaker and tossed it across the deck, letting the cool breeze nip at my skin to wake me.

The full moon was out, so I passed the time following silver streams of water as they danced on the rolling sea. The first time I was on this boat, I remember asking Grandpa if we could sail to the stars. He smiled wide, so that wrinkles curved up along his cheeks, and shook his head. Then he held up a tackle box and said he had a better idea.

I sat up against one side of the deck, a pillow to my back, letting the ship float whichever way it wished. Grandpa was gone now, and I had a day job counting beans, but it felt wrong to keep this boat away from the water for too long.

When the net started shaking and the ship drifted to the right, I jumped to my feet. A catch! Laughing in disbelief, I pulled up the net. I was a terrible fisher, and the fact that I'd found anything at all that night was a sight to behold. I yanked and yanked and yanked, pulling up segments of empty net, beer bottles and takeout containers, until finally my catch started to fight me. It took everything I had not to lose my hold, but I was determined to win this.

I remembered every catch I'd made in my entire life. It wasn't hard, there weren't that many. Grandpa used to laugh at my empty net and tell me that a man only needed one good fishing story to share. He had many, and up until tonight, I had none.

The water beneath the net surged blue and green and glittering aquamarine, and when my strength won out, common sense failed. Out of the water emerged two dainty spires, translucent, tinted with swirling wisps of navy and turquoise.

I nearly lost my grip then, when the stars seemed to crawl towards my boat, bathing the sides in a pale, inhuman glow. When I wrapped the net around my arms again and pulled, the two spires came to rest on an orb of deep blue, rippling with streams of water that flowed down into the sea like a soft waterfall.

"What... what are you?"

My eyes went wide as I fought to restrain the creature in the net. The more I struggled, the more I questioned why I wasn't letting her go.

"Get off me! Get off me!" Her voice was like a thousand distant echoes. It hurt to hear.

The gleaming starlight splashed large waves as she struggled, but it was clear she couldn't get out herself. I pulled her close to the boat and tugged the net up, trying to get her watery body on the deck. When she wouldn't budge, I leaned down and grabbed her with both hands. She was smaller than I expected, cold to the touch, soft and tender.

"Let me go, let me go!" She cried, and swelling blue arms blasted my face with a spray of freezing water.

Sputtering, I dropped her onto the deck and fell to my knees. She raised a watery arm again, and a jet of ice cold froth had me gasping for air. But she seemed like just a child, and I was the genius that trapped her. I lunged towards her, holding my breath, and through her screaming and the gush of churning water, I managed to pull the wiry net off and away from her.

The torrents around me settled. The boat was nearly flooded, not that I could care.

"Who... who are you?" I asked her.

She opened her eyes then, round pools of dark water. Her face was freckled with starlight and when she spoke her mouth moved like the rising tide.

"I'm the sea." She squeaked out proudly, antennae quivering.

I mean, she sounded like I did the first time I was out here, before I even knew what a sea was or that there were more than seven or them. As strange as it all was, I knew I had no business ensnaring her.

"I'm... sorry my net trapped you."

She frowned. "Why are you even fishing here? There are no fish this close to the beach!"

I was an idiot.

The sea stood up, shaky at first. She wore a dress of dark green crossed with tendrils of sea foam. Her long hair fell around her, the water rippling to the sides of my boat. When she moved, it was with fluidity and determination, and when she reached down to the net and pulled out some bright plastic, I could see her eyes light up.

"Mine." She smoothed out the flattened beach ball. "This is mine now."

"It's deflated." I reached out my hand. "I... might be able to help."

She eyed me suspiciously before huffing out a burst of ocean spray. The deflated beach ball floated down her dress and across the deck to my feet, where I picked it up and blew.

When the plastic went round, the sea clapped her hands with a splash. "Mine. I like the toys the best."

I closed the cap and threw her the ball. "Did you find it?"

"Mine." She nodded, hugging the ball close. "All things lost at sea belong to me. I come at night and take them."

My breath caught then. Grandpa's last goodbye played through my head. He had promised to return with something for dinner.

"What about people?" I demanded of her. "What about men who are lost at sea?"

She tossed her ball into the air, unperturbed. "Men lost at sea come to play with me. They belong to me too. The man in the moon says so. He's much older, so I listen."

We both looked up at the moon then, and I could swear the moon turned just a little to look at us too. Moonbeams floated down, casting a blanching light that sapped my boat of all colour. The moment was serenity unmatched.

The sea gasped. "He says I should go. I should go."

"Wait!" I cried out, but it was too late. The sea took her plastic beach ball and dived into the water, disappearing at once.

When I peered over the side of the boat, I saw nothing. The moon had turned away, the starlight faded, and it was like the magic never was.

Sometimes I'd see a sparkle of aquamarine in the horizon and think of the spirit I'd met. Other nights, in high tide, I took Grandpa's old boat to that spot and dropped a few children's toys into the water. They sank quicker than physics would suggest, buried under a rush of sparkling green water.

Men lost at sea come to play with me. I thought about her words a lot. It could have been a sweet condolence or a morbid truth, I had no way of knowing. Still, I'd like to think that Grandpa was out there somewhere, and that he and the sea were having a good time.

About the Author
Anika Morshed thrives on science fiction in the middle of the night and games of pool in the middle of the day, making an effort to go to class somewhere in between. She's a freshman at the University of Waterloo.
Background image by ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron.
http://www.eso.org/public/images/etamosaicnm2/, CC BY 4.0, Link