SEA-SICKNESS by DF Lewis
I had been down to the sea front—eager for a breath of fresh air after a night tending my ‘flu-ridden wife—only to find the landscape had changed. “Landscape” actually seemed appropriate. You see, what had changed was the customarily empty horizon between the perfectly geometrical edges of sky and sea, set afire by a recently risen dawn. Populating (if that is the right epithet) this very divider of space and substance, as well as the bulging sun, were several spread splodges of ships: ships simply imputed to be such: not budging nor giving any semblance of distinguishing themselves by smoky funnel or visible wake. The strangest thing was never had I seen more than the odd craft along this peaceful stretch of coast. More a resort than a dock. So, was this a fleet, a convoy, a logical gathering of otherwise nautical non-sequiturs? Amid seagull sounds at several knots of screech.
I returned with my shoulders uncontrollably shrugging as part of my quickening stride. I needed to get back to the bungalow to see how my other half was faring. The sea and its craft could take care of themselves. My lungs and face were appropriately leached, my body superficially exerted and my mind, if not my soul, intriguingly stirred. As they say, I knew where the bodies were buried. Yet, thankfully, most of my guilts and anxieties were now pigeon-holed in some disused office within the brain, creatures which could only be exhumed by the sleepless darkness night often fetched. The golden light had, by now, buried such skeletons in their cupboard. An oubliette beyond the reach of the sun’s splattered egg-yolk sky.
A gull shrieked as I turned the corner into my road. Too big, though, for a gull. Its shadow darkened my own—as it slanted between low-rise chimneys. I found the key to my door’s deadlock and twisted it several times. Almost as if my return recurred more often than it paid off as a visitor in disguise.
The place felt empty. Instinctively, I wondered if I had stayed away too long. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but here I was sniffing the air as if one was imbuing everything with some waxy waft or savour. My tongue was touched with some sharp tang, a residue perhaps from my walk in sight of the biggest salt monster in the world: then, with flesh suddenly bleached by the ultimate angst of all, I stormed towards the bedroom to see if I could salvage anything from sickness. I vowed not to suffer despair, should I be too late. But would it be touch and go?
This was not a quake zone, the floor, though, swaying beneath me on recognition that my ancient marriage was still intact. There was a crease across one of the pillows just like her smile. The one next to it was mine. And death flew out, screeching for some other perch or, perhaps, simply the ever splodgeless sloping of the sea.
Published ‘frisson’ 2000