The Old Man and the Sea

February, 2013

Last night, I sat at the mouth of a humid lagoon, so covered with moss and trees that not even the bloated moon's light could penetrate the dew-dripping canopy. How strange it was to me; I had not been here for a very long time. The stone beneath me was clammy and cold and behind it was the opening to a cave, long abandoned by all but an old mother.

She gestured to me and slowly rose to greet me. When I was much younger, I would rush to meet her halfway, tripping on slippery smooth rocks and stinging myself on the glistening bones of her past dinners. I was much too old now, though, and I waited calmly, patiently for her to seat herself beside me. Her weary bones creaked like an old ship and her scent was strong and salty. She heaved a great sigh between her rotten teeth and I choked a gag back down my throat and locked it away behind a polite smile.

"You see, dearest," she gurgled from deep in her belly, "nothing lasts forever. Not even the sea." She raised a fragile hand that looked ready to crumble like a neglected sand castle and points to the sea. The moonlight was strong there and illuminated the otherwise intimidating black waves. Its light was merely anemic on my hands as I shifted to give her more room to sit. I tried to convince myself that I was not shying away from her; when I was young, her power was overwhelming and I cowered in her presence with each meeting. Now she was decrepit, a pitiful shell of her former glory. I wonder if her power had outgrown her and had gone looking for a new home.

What I once revered, I now pitied. Her laughter was the tides crashing against the shore, the call of sea birds and the song of the whale. Now it was a thick trickle, pathetic and weak. She was very tired.

"I suppose not," I told her. Her shoulder sagged and her damp, weedy hair fell onto her naked, shriveled chest. Her breath was wracked and wretched. I did not understand what had happened to her in the time since I had last seen her. The old woman laid a slimy, webbed hand on my elbow and simply gazed silently up at me, her eyes wide, but cloudy. I swallowed my baser instincts again and just nodded.

Sighing again, she rested her head on my shoulder and side by side, we watched the moon lazily sink into the sea.