The Hippocampus and The Tear

It’s been a while since my last entry but until my new book is finished, here’s a piece of flash fiction (or a very short, short story). Hope you enjoy it.

The Hippocampus and The Tear

It was still in the box, wrapped in the tiny handkerchief, the seashells on either side, exactly as she had left it. So many years had passed since that childish whim on that hot summer day. A tear rose, salt water, always salt.

She held out her small hand, offering the coins to the lady in the apron behind the counter. As the purchase took place she could hear the adults whispering high above her head, laughing. Always… Strange child… Oversensitive… As though she wasn’t there, couldn’t hear. She wiped away the tear and smiled as she was given her goods, she knew it wasn’t too late to save him. All she needed was water, salt water, then he would wake up and swim away. Maybe he could take her with him.

White foam, seaweed and shells trickled over her toes, behind her laughter, children playing and adults lounging in the sun, voices drugged by the heat and the sand but she had work to do, a life to save. The seahorse she had bought in the shop, he was dried, sad, yet his eye, it still shone and she had to try to save him. Salt water was all she needed. Scooping wavelets into her pink castle-shaped bucket, she crouched down and carefully unwrapped him, sliding him into the salt water.

“Swim,” she whispered. “You’re safe now.”

The little seahorse floated slowly, sadly, then began to sink downwards until it settled softly on the bottom of the bucket, its gleaming eye up staring up at her through the rippling, sandy brine.

“Swim,” she implored. “Swim and when you’re strong I can put you in the sea, we can go together.”

But the hippocampus stared back at her, dead, hard, with no care for the small drops of water that fell from the little girl’s eyes, adding their salt to his silvery shroud. She took him home, dried him carefully and placed him in a box, nestled on a bed of seaweed, tiny, opalescent sea shells placed on either side lighting his way home and her belief in magic, in dreams and in hope was dented for the first time.

Now she ran her fingers lightly over the box, remembering, wondering. She had not opened it for years, she could not believe it was still in her possession, had not been lost along the way with so many other of life’s simple innocence. With fingers as gentle as a summer breeze she eased it open and the black eye, dulled with dust and age, stared back. She stroked the small, withered creature with a touch as gentle and searching as a lover. It had started here, that day by the shore, the moment when things changed. In a heartbeat of betrayal the sea creature had refused to live and she had felt the first tinge of heartbreak. Now, she felt it again.

She lifted the seahorse from his silent shelter and cradled him. Salt water, she thought, that’s all I need, salt water. Tears welled, heartbreak and despair, how could salt heal wounds that ran so deep? The water trickled from her eyes, her own inner ocean, waves breaking from within and dissolving on the smooth curve of her cheek. One fell, two, three, on to the small brown creature and it quivered against her palm. Another and another splashed across its cratered skin as it coiled and uncoiled, its black eye glistening once more.

Salt water, she thought, hurrying to the water’s edge, salt water was all I needed.

And hope was born once more.