Short Story – The Depths of Desperation
The sun was setting on the horizon and painted the sky in an orange hue. It seemed as if it sank into the ocean, pushing waves of salty water onto the shore. The waves, eager to climb out to land, rolled onto the beach, and shrunk with every inch until nothing but a tiny splash enveloped the bare feet of a young woman.
Mariah walked along the ocean’s edge; her footprints disappeared behind her, wave after wave. Had they stayed visible, the beach would be filled with her somber steps. She couldn’t come home, not yet, so she kept on walking back and forth with her sandals in her hands, feeling the brush of ocean water around her ankles.
She turned around for another walk along the stretch of sand when her foot kicked something that just washed ashore. Mariah looked down and saw the oval, yellow shape stuck in the dunes. When she picked it up, she was confused. It looked and felt like a lemon.
She felt a bump against her ankle and instantly turned around. Another citrus fruit has found its way onto land. Mariah peered out towards the water and found more of them floating in the sea.
She felt drawn into the ocean by the strange encounter. Mariah dropped her sandals and slowly walked into the water. When she was waist-deep in, the waves tried to push her back on land, and the tide pulled her in, as if the ocean itself couldn’t make up its mind. At the same time more lemons rolled around her body.
Mariah wasn’t sure if she was still treading under water or if she started to swim. Her legs felt wobbly but she couldn’t sense the ground beneath her. Soon her head submerged and after a brief moment in the dark, a light pink glow illuminated the immediate area around her. A little further in the distance, where the pink glow couldn’t reach, a bright yellow star lured her further into the deep.
Mariah didn’t feel like she swam. She just moved onward. Her body felt numb and loose at the same time. Inflating and deflating with every foot pushed forward. The pink glow must have come from her as it followed along on the way to the bright yellow light.
She reached the bottom of the ocean that was covered in algae. The dark green leaves didn’t look special, but there was one shrub that had several shiny, yellow orbs attached to it. Mariah moved closer to it and heard a voice inside her head.
Welcome my child, it said. You found me and now you will be free.
“Who are you”, Mariah spoke. Sound escaped her body but her mouth didn’t move.
I’m what you sought. I can free you from your shackles.
“What are you talking about? What is going on?”
The yellow-orbed algae grew high up and stood out even more from the rest of them. At the same time it released some of its strange jewelry that floated around Mariah, shining their bright yellow light in an effort to dim out her pink glow.
You asked for this. You longed for this. Stop hesitating. Stop resisting. Give in to the light and you shall be free.
“Yes. I will give in”, she said like in a trance.
The orbs swirled around her and shone intensely bright. Mariah couldn’t move. It felt as if something was escaping from inside her. Drifting out of her body and into the light. She saw a glimpse of the emptiness that lied beyond. She saw all the other lost souls, aimlessly wandering and still crying out for help, like they did before they became one with the bright, yellow light. She saw how everyone had heard them weep, but no one had listened.
“No! Stop!” She yelled suddenly and struggled. “I don’t want this! I want to go back!”
If you return, it won’t be long until you call for me again. This is your release, my child. Embrace it.
“I don’t want this! Go away!”
The yellow orbs around her hummed as their light grew even brighter. Mariah could hear their voices. Every single orb cried out for help. She heard them weep and plea, and she heard the silence on the other end of their screams.
You’re just like them. They all found me. I am your only solace, my child. Give in to me.
“I won’t let you take me.”
The pink glow pulsed out and pushed the orbs away. Mariah turned around and moved up to the surface, closely followed by the yellow light. The voice was still in her head.
It’s not the first time, nor the last. You are lost, but I am your shepherd and I shall guide you back. Green pastures; still waters; I shall walk beside you everywhere, every day.
Mariah moved faster. She could see the reflective surface of the ocean. She was almost there. The orbs seemed to have stopped pursuing her, but she wouldn’t take the risk of looking back.
Come with me; through the valley; don’t fear my shadow for it is I, and you shall be with me.
Mariah could taste the salty water making its way through her throat. She smelled sand and she heard waves.
You shall dwell in my grasp. Like the others. Forever.
She spit out a large amount of water into the sand. Mariah was lying on the beach. Breathing heavy and with tears in her eyes, she looked around. The blurry image of a man kneeling above her made her panic. She crawled away from him and screamed.
The man stood up with his hands spread out in front of him.
“No, no, it’s ok Miss”, he said quickly. “Are you alright?”
Mariah rubbed her eyes. Her vision returned slowly. The man in front of her was wearing an EMT uniform. On the other side of the beach were two ambulances and a fire truck with a few other uniformed men and women on their way to them.
“Someone saw you drowning. What were you doing in the ocean, Miss?”
Mariah turned towards the sea. There were no yellow orbs anywhere to be found.
“I, uh, I just”, she struggled to come up with the right words. “I just went for a swim.”
“You went for a swim in your clothes, Miss?”
She looked the EMT in the eyes and could tell that he knew.
“Let’s get you onto the stretcher. You can recover in the hospital.”
“I don’t need to recover”, she said and coughed heavily. “I don’t need a hospital.”
“We just want to make sure you’re ok, Miss.”
“I am ok”, she lied.
“Look, Miss, I don’t know what you’re going through, I don’t know what it is that brought you here”, the EMT spoke quietly, “but I’m prepared to listen.”
He gave her a friendly smile, hopeful really. Mariah smiled back with an effort. The EMT was trying to help, that was his job. Yet, she knew that it was fruitless. The voice was right in the end; she would try again and again, wearing her hesitations down one step at a time.
One day she would give in and go towards the bright yellow light.
Art by: Aisha Boucher