A Gift From the Sea


Izzy Caplin, Staff Writer

The moon was full the night that I was found. A thick fog had rolled in, its tendrils grabbing hold of everything in sight in an attempt to make them disappear. It was a wonder that they even found me on the rocks. The relentless waves were about to crash over me when he grabbed me and pulled me close to his chest. His pregnant wife hurried over as quickly as she could and wrapped her arms around her husband to look into my bright eyes. They said they were turquoise like the Caribbean Sea and shined brightly in the oncoming dark. I began to giggle and they said that my laughter sounded like fairy bells tossed in the waves crashing on the shore and that I was meant to be theirs. And so I was. Their mystery daughter. Their miracle child. Just months before their own came along. Their gift from the ocean.

I turn over on my side and look over at my younger sister with her short, brown hair falling over her tanned, heart-shaped face. She lets out a loud snore and I try to hold in laughter, but one giggle escapes. I grab the sweatshirt hanging on the end of my bed from the night before, tiptoe out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the house. A strong gust almost blows me back into the door as soon as I step outside. A storm is coming.

Once outside, I gaze at the endless, murky sea. Wrapping my arms around myself, I pull my sweatshirt tighter around me and step out onto the rocks. My hair is whipped to and fro by the cool, unforgiving gusts blowing inland. My hair will be filled with knots later, but I don’t mind. It is such a magical sight to watch the world wake up one paint stroke at a time, even on the cloudiest of mornings. 

The sky basks in a coral glow, slowly filling the thick, dark gray clouds with color. I walk out to the edge of the rocky cliff and carefully climb down the slope to the water. It too has turned the color of the sky and a glowing sun trail leads out through the water. The ocean tosses and turns below the rocks, and even though I wish to dive right in, I know the current would be too strong. The rocks dangerously jut out just below the surface. I would never survive. 

That’s why we’re here. The lighthouse keepers in the middle of the sea. 

My parents don’t know why they were picked or how they got here, only that they’re here now and there’s nothing we can change about it. A boat comes once a month, dropping off supplies. If we could catch a ride on the ship back to the mainland, we would, but it comes at a different time and day each month and docks in different areas around the island. My parents woke up one day here 16 years ago and they haven’t been able to leave since.

I sit on the damp rocks watching the sun slowly ascend above the horizon, only visible for a few seconds before being engulfed by the unforgiving clouds. Even with the clouds blocking the sun, the sky turns dull oranges and pinks as if the sun is a paintbrush leaving a dash of color in its path. The noise of someone approaching shakes me from my thoughts, although not very audible over the wind. My dad silently comes and sits beside me, watching as the sky lights up one ominous cloud at a time. I lean into him as he wraps his comforting arms around me and we watch as others around the world start their days as well.

We head back to the house and he bonks me on the nose before heading upstairs to work on something or another. I head inside where Mom is finishing a bowl of cereal and going upstairs to find something. I begin to fix myself some breakfast. A moment after the bread is toasted my younger sister, Elle, glides down the stairs. I finish making the toast and hand it to her with some freshly washed strawberries. She gives me a hug and digs in. I smile at her messy bedhead hair and humongous appetite. I start to put more whole wheat bread in the toaster for myself and cut up an apple. 

After breakfast, Elle and I take a walk around the small little island that we call home, laughing and telling jokes as if nothing is wrong, and there really isn’t. This is our home, we have parents that love us, and of course, we have each other. The only thing we don’t have is others. And any place other than this small little island we called home.

As the sky darkens and eventually becomes pitch black, I sit staring out the window in the room Elle and I share overlooking the ocean. I can’t fall asleep. The glow from the top of the lighthouse radiates out, lighting up the waves crashing against the cliffs and the sea spray rising up as if the ocean was trying to grab something from the island. Suddenly, it seems as if the ocean sent its ambassador when a loud knock sounds at the lighthouse door. Mom makes it down the steep staircase first with Dad close behind. Elle quickly wakes up and starts towards the door, but I grab her hand, preventing her from joining our parents. I don’t know who is at the door, but I don’t want Elle to be there if it was a disappointment. Who am I kidding, it wouldn’t, couldn’t be a disappointment. We both peer down the stairs as our parents stand at the door, hesitating. I pull Elle close to me and try not to seem too excited. I have to stay calm for her.

Mom turns the doorknob and opens it abruptly, but no one is there. A cream envelope with a golden sea star sealing it shut is on the doorstep with the cursive name Marina written on it. Even in the pouring rain, it isn’t ruined and doesn’t look wet. Dad quickly bends down to pick it up and looks both ways to see who left the envelope. Mom gazes at the envelope in awe and looks up the steps towards me and Elle. Dad whispers something to Mom and they head outside, but not before warning us with stern voices not to follow. The rocks would be slippery. 

A few moments after the door closes, Elle runs down the stairs and opens the door. The wind must be too loud for Mom and Dad to hear her. I quickly follow her down the stairs and, once outside, I grab her hand.  

“Where are you going?” I yell over the howling wind.

“Whoever left the note must be on this island. We have to find them!”

“Elle, they might be dangerous. And it’s too stormy to go outside on the rocks…you heard Mom and Dad.”

“I’m going to look for them. You don’t have to come,” Elle says stubbornly, pulling her hand away and hurrying away from the house.

“Elle! Watch out, the rocks are slippery!” I scream after her, but the wind’s hands grab hold of my words, holding them tightly and throwing them in the opposite direction of Elle. I hurry after her, making sure to be careful on the rocks, but I’m not half as quick as her. I took a longer time than normal to learn to walk and I’ve always felt a bit unsteady on my feet. Unlike me, Elle is nimble on her feet, reckless, and, when she wants to be, as fast as the gusts of wind blowing me backwards now.  

I finally catch up to Elle who has abruptly stopped and is staring at something beneath us.  I can’t immediately tell what it is she’s looking at, but then I see it: a flash of light in the murky water. Something is down there…possibly a ship, but we won’t be able to find out. There’s no way to get down there.

The stormy waves crash around the jagged rocks, dark water edging its way up the steep rocks spraying droplets into the air. My younger sister looks at me and I hold her hand, putting on the bravest face possible for her. Suddenly a wave reaches towards us like a hand grasping for something, anything to hold on to before withdrawing back into the sea, and both of us instinctively step backwards. This backward step sends Elle slipping and sliding out of my hold, down towards the churning water beneath us. I run towards the edge and grab onto her, pulling her back, but only with the result of me falling down towards the jagged rocks below us.

“Marina, no!” Elle screams holding onto the rocks as tightly as she can.

As I’m falling through the thick air static with tension, I feel something come over me, like bubbles encompassing me in their hold. I try not to watch the ominous rocks head closer and closer to me as I fall dangerously nearer to them. I shut my eyes tightly and feel myself hit the water, but not with the impact I expected. I spin in every direction through the waves until I settle. I slowly open my eyes and vivid bubbles of every color surround me instead of gray, churning water.

I turn in a circle, wondering if I am alive. My lungs feel tight and I realize that I must be alive if I need air.  I look for the surface but the ocean returns to its churning gray color and I am so disoriented I’m not sure which way is up. I start to swim in the direction where the water seems slightly brighter than the rest, but once I move my legs I gasp, allowing water into my lungs. But instead of coughing, sputtering, and drowning, I can breathe. Even though I’m underwater, air fills my lungs, instantly relaxing me, but this moment instantly fades away. I look down and scream again.  

My legs are gone. Instead, a glimmering tail is left behind. It seems to change colors with every feeling that emerges. I stare down at this tail for a good three minutes until I remember Elle. She thinks I’m dead! I try to find the surface again, but now I think I can tell which direction to head in. I surface and Elle, Mom, and Dad are staring over the edge, crying. Elle sees me first and screams in amazement. Slowly, Mom and Dad’s faces change as well. Mom’s face settles on astonishment and Dad’s settles on pride. My tail is instantly painted a brighter and more vibrant color. 

I truly am their gift from the sea, their Marina. I am a mermaid.