Seashells

The ocean washed through me, the scent of salt scrubbing me clean, the waves kissing my toes. For a moment I closed my eyes, feeling the sand massage my feet and the wind blow through me, bringing silence and peace. I opened my eyes and was blessed with a glorious vision of pelican in flight, my soul soaring with the curving spread of her wing. I dreamt of flying last night, and it felt just like this; fresh and clean. But there were shadows in the dream, just like the shadows on the sand, cast by pelican wings. My dry salty lips licked clean, reminded me of the start of the dream

There were tears on my face, in the dream, but I wasn’t crying. The tears weren’t mine. I searched the face of the lady sitting beside me. Her eyes were sad but she was dry eyed too. We sat together on a bed in a dark room. She was showing me her treasure. A hush of sacred wonder swept through the room as she handed me another seashell, this one spiralling and glossy black, like nothing I had seen before. I added it to the glittering pile of crystals, shells and sea-weathered pieces of broken glass.

The wall beside us shimmered and a panel slid open like a window. A man’s face appeared. ‘This is from your husband,” he said, handing the sea-shell lady a strange object made of plastic and metal. The window closed and the wall became a wall once again. Puzzled, we turned our attention back to the husband’s gift, turning it over and over in our hands. A sick feeling unfurled in my stomach. The only recognisable feature on the strange object was a digital clock face, reading 8.39. The numbers were counting down.

“Sophia”, I said to the dry-eyed lady. “This is a bomb. We have less than ten minutes to get out of this room. I wanted desperately to run, but sat silently and still, waiting as Sophia wrestled with the truth of what I was saying and her own fear of leaving the room. At last, an almost imperceptible nod and the faintest shimmer of an unshed tear gave me permission to move with urgency. Her hand in mine I drew her reluctant form to the door, but it was locked from the outside. Our only other option was the window.

Sophia stood uselessly behind me, like a ragged, floppy doll, while I tore at the blinds that covered the window. Under the blind was a heavy blanket. I pulled this away, only to find another beneath it. Exasperated, I turned with a questioning face to Sophia. She shrugged.

“The room has to be kept dark. I don’t like the light getting in.”

With a growl, I turned back to the heavily draped window and tore away another three layers before the naked window was revealed. The latch was on the outside so I wrapped a blanket around my fist and punched through a small panel of glass, then reached through to undo the lock.

We climbed through the open window and ran, taking cover in the shadow of a large nearby building. Had the strange object really been a bomb? Watching fron a distance, we waited to see if the room would blow up. When her husband came running up behind us with a ferocious roar, we both screamed and ran. She ran down to the sea, where the women’s bath-houses were. I ran towards a large building, floating upwardlike the pelican, up onto the high roof where he couldn’t reach me. I worried about leaving her down there to fend for herself, but from my vantage point, I could see women gathering around her. I knew they would protect her and hide her. They knew about her husband.

He came after me. Somehow he got up onto the roof, and was coming towards me, filled with menace. I was saved by his phone ringing. Distracted, he looked down and I ducked away out of sight. There was a building in the distance. I knew that someone in that building was calling this man, asking him to come. I could see inside the building there was a large group gathered, as though waiting for him. The husband growled, torn between coming after me and going back to where the people were waiting. He left me and went.

When he entered the building, the man who called him began to ask him questions. They sounded, on the surface, to be innocent questions, but they were loaded with innuendo and accusation about his character and his business practises. He was meant to be speaking in front of the crowd and this man was not only delaying him, he was very cleverly making veiled insinuations that the husband could not directly respond to without incriminating himself. He became even more frustrated when he realised there was a camera crew in the room and he was on national television. The interviewer holding the microphone, the man who had called him…. looked up at me and winked. At that moment I knew I was being helped. This was a diversion to help me get away.

I raced down to the seashore. The lady was surrounded by women who were helping her change her clothes. She was laughing, breathlessly, nervously, but with a hint of exhilaration. They were man’s clothes. Dressed in a uniform that looked like a cross between an old-fashioned bathing suit and a train-conductors outfit, complete with the officious-looking cap, she looked slightly ridiculous, yet somehow magnificent and proud, all at the same time.

They hurried her down to the shore, pressed little wrapped parcels of food and money into her hands, chattering, laughing and crying. These happy tears were a mixture of joy, relief and sadness. They were happy to finally see her outside the room. They were so happy to help her escape, yet sad for her losses as a fellow woman, a sister. They grieved and celebrated for her, all at the same time.

They helped her into the water. Waiting for her was a strange boat, shaped like a seashell. It had pedals in it, a little like an old-fashioned paddle-boat. The shell encompassed her; there was only a small window through which she could be seen. She packed her stuff away in the boat and the ladies pushed her out to see, where she blended in with the other boats, all of them shaped according to some element of the ocean. There were crab-shaped boats, sea-gull boats, dolphin boats, star-fish boats and so on. Soon I lost sight of her. The women and I sighed and hugged one-another. Then they insisted on taking me into one of the boat-houses, where they sat my down and disguised me by dying and cutting my hair, adding tattoos, piercings, heavy make-up and clothes that made me look a little like a modern-day punk-rocker. They laughed uproarously all the while, teasing and making light of the tension.

Eventually they announced their new masterpiece done and I was sent off to infiltrate the building where the husband was. This was a performance area, and I blended in with the other performers. I found the control room at the back of the building. It was filled with wires, cables, screens and large computers. In a corner of the room was a filing cabinet and there I found Sophia’s documents, the ones she had been so loathe to leave without. They showed evidence of her true identity, along with information about the whereabouts of her son, who he had forcibly taken from her, many years prior.

A guard opened the door and caught me in the act. He was very big and strong. Thank the goddess this was a dream! I was able to cartwheel up and through the ceiling, into the room above. Then I ran for my life.

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