Looking for a sense of clarity,
I approach the place that was known to soothe internal chaos
As it guides them back to calmness and internal peace.
When I step onto the deserted beach,
That’s what I wanted to find:
Repose. Respite. Relief.
In the sand, I see a half-buried conch shell.
A rare find, maybe a stroke of good luck.
Holding the shell to my ear, I listen for the waves
Only, there was no sound…
The myth always said
That you could hear the ocean
If you listened closely enough.
Dropping the useless conch shell into the sand
I step closer to the waters,
Covering my toes in moist, brown sand and
Allowed the waves to submerge my knees
I can hear the ocean,
The crashing of waves and the rippling tides,
These sounds consume my
Ruined, battered, tattered soul.
Rough rocks stabbing my feet and seaweed snakes around my ankles
Hurt me, restrain me, but also prevent me from moving into deeper waters.
White foam wraps around my thighs. A warning.
The crashing sounds grow louder
Another wave approaches, threatening
To pummel me down with its force.
The wave towers over me, and it swallows me whole.
I’m consumed by water that blocks out the rest of the world.
And now, all I can hear is a voice.
I can no longer feel
The seaweed around my legs nor the sharp ends of rocks piercing my flesh.
The waters whisper reassuringly:
You do not belong there; stay with me.
I will make you perfect, everything you ever wanted.
All you have to do… is listen to me.
I dare not breathe out; I dare not breathe in.
I keep my ears open,
Welcoming this gentle, motherly sounding voice that promised me guidance and direction.
Why suffer above there, enduring the pain of breathing
when you can simply rest here?
Air is dangerous. The surface is dangerous. Reality is dangerous.
Nobody here can hurt you. Pain does not exist here,
Even if you drip red from your flesh.
This voice has convinced me of such, solidified this innate fear of mine.
I don’t want to feel pain even if I am damaged.
The image of bleeding causes me to turn my head downwards,
Away from where I believe the voice is originating from.
Then, I feel a gentle yet firm push of the water from behind,
Nudging me in a particular direction.
I follow its guiding message.
Further along the unmarked path, I notice a shine.
I walk towards it, curiously.
I need to know what it was.
What did these waters leave here for me?
I see an oyster sitting on the seafloor.
In the waters, it reflects a dark greyish green hue.
The randomly strewn white splotches on the outer shell captivate me.
The edges were uneven and rough as though it went through battle itself.
Sharp jaws guarded anyone from reaching their hand inside.
My eyes could not be torn away.
This black-lipped pearl oyster somehow reminded me…
My hand reaches for it, but it floats away just out of reach
And I chase it, lunge for it, grab hold of it.
Pulling at the jaw-like shell causes the hinge to snap apart,
Each half of the shell opens before me as my fingers are colored red.
The water caresses my fingers, slowly diluting the red and closing the open wound.
An undamaged pearl sits within what I had opened, so pristine and small.
But then, a thought occurred to me.
A pearl only forms
When a particle, a simple grain of sand, or maybe even a parasite,
Enters the oyster’s domain.
The oyster was polluted.
It was disturbed. Assaulted.
My hand reaches to tear at the strands of hair connected to my scalp.
I don’t need something damaged and torn.
Broken red strands are wrapped around my fingers as I pull them away.
Again, red is covering my fingers.
Trembling, I surmise:
I don’t think I want this anymore.
As if the ocean heard my thoughts, the pearl is caught by the current;
Wait, I didn’t mean to— I need this pearl!
My hand stretches out for it as the ruined shell falls from my grasp, landing on the sandy ground.
The small orb swims far out of my reach, no longer attainable.
Now I have no choice
But to listen to this voice in the sea that swallowed me whole,
Becoming the discarded shell of my former self.
Becoming a puppet, strings controlled by the currents around me.
I collapse to my knees.
Red lines decorate them now, having scrapped themselves on the sharp jaws of that shell—
The shell I had tossed away, deeming it unimportant.
The waters control me now.
I let them do it. I no longer could bring myself to think for myself.
I had no right to.
Tears begin to sting my eyes, though the water around me is quick to rid me of them.
An effort to comfort my decision to reject the reality outside.
Yet, I cover my face anyway, too ashamed of myself.
The oyster with its sturdy defenses snapped in half,
And the tiny, flawless-looking pearl
My way back to the surface.
And I just lost them.
Lost these precious things.
Rage began to bubble up inside me.
I let out a scream.
The bubbles overrode my voice.
And I suffocated.
Rebecca Victor is a second-year undergraduate student at University of California, Merced, majoring in psychology. A writer since middle school with a special interest in fantasy and coming of age fiction, Rebecca also plays the violin, loves classical music and cats. Rebecca, who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area but graduated from high school in Brentwood, Tennessee due to the family living there for a few years, hopes to be a counselor and health coach.