by Kelsey Day
Little Clarex Junior was the first to notice that the sea was dying.
He stood at the edge of his village, his feet cold and sore in the sand, and squinted. The sea wasn’t red this morning. It wasn’t green or gold or shimmering, it wasn’t writhing or frothing or tossing – it was just blue. Still, and blue.
He sprinted back into town and woke his mother up.
“Something’s wrong!” he said, pulling at her covers. “The color isn’t changing – something is wrong with the sea!”
“Go back to sleep, Junior,” said his mother. “It was just a nightmare.”
But it wasn’t just a nightmare. Soon other townsfolk came flooding to the coastline, and everyone saw the same thing: their ocean had stopped changing colors. The word spread and soon everyone in the town was there, even the lamp posts and stoplights, who were normally too lazy to walk around.
“Is it dying?” someone asked.
“Is it broken?” said someone else.
“Is it angry?” asked another.
Mr. Jacob White, the owner of their tourism boat company and the richest man in the village, spoke over them.
“The ocean is just fine,” he said. “It is simply becoming lazy. I know how to fix this.”
He peered around and spotted some children playing Beach-n-Bat a couple yards away. He approached them, asked to borrow their bat, and returned clutching the wooden weapon.
“Watch and see,” he said to the crowd.
Mr. White approached the ocean. The water didn’t reach for him – it didn’t lap and roll and suck at his toes like it normally did. It just lay before him, still and cold and sickly blue.
“All right,” said Mr. White, to the ocean. “Listen here. You’re part of the town, just like the rest of us. That means you’ve gotta pull your load.”
The ocean was silent.
Mr. White clenched the bat tighter.
“Now you listen,” he said to the ocean. “If you go dying on us, that means nobody is gonna come and look at you anymore. Which means us in the town aren’t gonna have enough money. You understand? So you gotta pull your load, just like the rest of us, and start turning colors again. You hear me?”
The ocean shivered, just a little bit.
“That’s right,” said Mr. White. “So go on, then. Show me what you’ve got.”
There was a long, tense pause. Nothing happened.
“All right,” said Mr. White. “I see. So you’re not dying, then. Lazy shit. You’re giving up!”
And with that Mr. White slammed his bat into the water. Gasps rolled down the crowd. Mr. White hit the ocean again and again, but the water didn’t turn red. The ocean didn’t listen to him.
The next person to step up was the priest.
“We need to demonstrate our gratitude,” she said, addressing the crowd. “We need to prepare a sacrifice.”
So the townspeople killed one of the lamp posts, pulled the wires right out of its heart, and then they tossed its mangled metal body into the waves. The sea spat it right back out.
“It’s because it wasn’t a real person,” said one of the townspeople. “It was just a lamp person.”
“No,” said the town philanthropist. “That’s not it at all. The sea doesn’t want a sacrifice. It wants compensation. We have been exploiting the sea for years. We need to pay it back!”
So the townspeople put together a chest of gold coins and they dumped it into the sea. They waited for a few minutes, and then when nothing changed, they surged into the water and fought over the money.
Tourists stopped coming to the village. They didn’t want to see a still, sickly sea. They wanted a sea that was roaring and splashing and, yes, possibly trying to kill them, but so beautiful in the meantime. They wanted a sea that changed colors.
Doctors from across the country came to visit the village. They stood at the edge of the ocean with their stethoscopes stuck in the sand, hunched over and trying to find a heartbeat. Psychologists swam through the stale waves.
One night, Mr. White dumped three thousand pounds of paint into the water. When that didn’t work, he flooded the sea with oil, hoping it would capture a glimmering rainbow effect. It didn’t work. The sea just continued to sit, dirty and ugly and blue.
Within a month, the village was deserted. The lamplights and stoplights emigrated out of protest for their murdered friend. The tourism boat company closed and the general store was quick to follow. People moved away and the sea slept alone.
A decade later, a new group of settlers discovered the hollow town.
“What a lovely place,” they said. “What a sad sea.”
They soon set up a tourism boating company for people who wished to witness the sad sea. People came from all over. Everyone prayed it would stay the same.
About the Author:
Kelsey Day is a young writer studying in Boston, MA. Her work has appeared in literary journals such as The Emerson Review, Stork Magazine, and the NC Poetry Society. She was also awarded first place in the Serendipity Literary Agency’s 2018 Discovery Contest.