That familiar soft violet lining the horizon was the only thing that kept my head above the water.
Even as waves buffeted my entire body forward and back, side to side, I made certain that my eyes stayed hooked on that wisteria violet, slowly turning to cherry blossom pink, then marigold orange, until finally, a sliver of sun burst forth with the first light of morning. Morning of the summer solstice, I reminded myself vaguely, the longest day of the year. Anything to keep me grounded despite the pull and push of the ocean’s waves. I refused to look behind me, though the screams had quieted now.
The entirety of my life kept trying to resurface in flashes, like what everyone says happens before you die. I’d always scoffed, How would anyone know? Well, now I knew.
The string of letters reading Happy Birthday taped to the yellowing wallpaper of Nana’s farmhouse.
My prom corsage of ruby carnations digging into my wrist.
Mama’s gentle hands tucking my wedding veil into my hair.
The tiny silver key to my floral shop jingling against the rest of the keys on the keyring in my hand on Opening Day.
Cold pins stung every part of my body as my legs begged me to stop treading water, but I kept my gaze on that sunrise, the sun a semi-circle above the horizon illuminating the water’s surface.
Then, something cold and determined wrapped around my ankle and pulled me below the waves.
My scream was captured in bubbles jetting to the water’s surface as I twisted and turned. The flickering lightbulbs of the RMS Saxonia were the only source of light below the waves, but in their blessed illumination, I saw nothing around me.
Come to Me, a strong voice whispered. Neither male nor female. My scream this time was the last of my air, and with a fearful surge of adrenaline I found the energy to kick my legs, wave my arms. I broke through the surface once more and gasped in the salt-filled sea air.
Come to Me, it said again, anger tinting its tone this time.
“No,” I said aloud hoarsely. I didn’t know who was speaking to me, or if I was just hallucinating the whole thing, but the one thing I did know was that oxygen was up here, not down there.
You will come to Me!
Around my waist this time, I was taken under. I shut my eyelids tightly, not wanting to see the sinking bodies of fellow passengers, though I knew none of them. A current surged around me as I was pulled down farther, the water getting colder, colder, so cold it almost felt warm.
No, I thought repeatedly, and this new mantra became the only thing I focused on. No. No No. The pressure of the water against my body was so great, my lungs wanting to collapse in on themselves. My body screamed for air, and my skin felt like it wanted to burst. Still, I focused my screaming thoughts into that one word. No.
Suddenly, the ripping current that had been dragging me along ceased, and the rush of water gently molded itself to me. The pressure of a million tons of water no longer pressed against my body, and my lungs released, expanding once more. When I parted my lips for air, water filled my mouth, yet I could breathe. I braved to open my eyes, and I found myself suspended, surrounded on every side by the hyacinth-blue of deep water.
You have a strong will, Kristine, that same voice murmured hesitantly. Now that I could focus, it wasn’t speaking to me, exactly, but filling my mind with Its sentiments. After feeling Its grandeur, the fact that It knew my name didn’t really come as a shock to me. Why?
I have something to live for, I answered resolutely.
I felt the water swell and churn, as if gears were turning in the Ocean’s mind. Humans do not normally show such conviction. There was another moment of suspended silence, the undulation of my red hair fanning around my head the only movement.
Then, I heard the Ocean ask, Would you be willing to give anything to live?
More pinpoint sensations of my life returned. The warm, calloused fingers of my husband. My baby’s quick heartbeat during the ultrasound. Every moment of my short life, moments that I hadn’t realized were perfect until now.
Yes. I would give anything.
Serve Me for seven years.
My silent gasp sent water down my throat. What?
Your new name will be Kymopoleia. You will bring ships to their knees with your violent storms and towering waves for seven years. Then, you may return to your life as it was. This is the mercy I offer to you.
Seven years . . . ? No! I couldn’t miss seven years of Liam’s life! He needed his mother—I knew that now! What would Nicholas think happened to me after seven years? No! I need to get home now!
Then you will never see another sunrise!
Suddenly, saltwater filled my lungs, and the gentle rush of water surrounding me turned into a torrent of angry bubbles as I was swept again into deeper water, where the sun no longer stretched its rays. I was being crushed once more under the weight of the world.
In my last moments of life, my mind gulped, I will serve You!
In response, I saw only darkness.
Good morning, Kymopoleia. The Ocean’s froth lapping the shore tickled my toes, burying my feet further into the sand. I could feel Its love in just that simple touch. Happy Solstice.
A tiny smile stretched across my lips. It was funny how, after seven years, something that had threatened to kill you could turn into your only comfort.
The Ocean had only needed me to feed It twice a year, and today would mark my fourteenth sinking. Hundreds of thousands of lives haunted me, but I couldn’t let myself think about that.
I inhaled deeply as the palm fronds fluttered behind me in the sea breeze. One more sinking, and then I would be free. I could return home to—to . . . Nathan? No—Noah. Something told me that wasn’t quite right, either.
Ah, well. It would come to me again, I was sure.
I turned away from the Ocean’s horizon to look at, for the last time, the small shanty that had been my home for the past seven years. Driftwood and sails from the shipwrecked remains resting on the Ocean’s floor made up my little hovel, strewn together on the coconut-studded shores of my tiny island in the South Pacific.
Today is bittersweet, isn’t it? The Ocean’s gentle waves caressed my feet.
My initial thought was no, today was only sweet. But, really, I found myself already missing my morning dives and my afternoons spent reading weather-tattered books the Ocean would wash up on shore for me. This life truly wasn’t so bad—
Stop it, Kymopoleia—wait, Kr . . . Krista. It is bittersweet, I finally answered.
I will miss you.
I will miss You, too. And I meant it.
I dove into the waves, and immediately, beneath the Ocean’s embrace, I could feel Its hunger rumbling deep within Its depths. If I didn’t act quickly, the Ocean wouldn’t be able to control Itself in a fit of anger. I certainly didn’t want a replay of the tsunami four years ago.
The Ocean’s currents carried me to the ship of Its choice, an unfortunate cruise liner in the North Atlantic. Fishing nets and glistening strings of salt wrapped themselves around my body, and finally, with the liner in my sight, I rested my feet on top of the Ocean’s dark waves.
I took a deep, reassuring breath, and upon my exhale, the wind whistled around me. Above my head, clouds swirled angrily, tumultuous against the sky that had been bright blue just moments ago.
With a raise of one arm, the waves around the ship grew larger. Even from my distance, I saw the lights flicker as the ship lilted on one side. The screams carried on the wind and jolted my heart, ripped at my sanity.
Why was I doing this? To get home, I reminded myself firmly.
But the Ocean spoke over my own thought. To feed Me.
I’d held on to myself for so long. But here, in this storm of mine, I began to lose hold as the wind ripped through my red hair, the Ocean’s power surging at my feet. Passengers were already falling overboard. To feed It.
This was me.
This was what I was meant to do. I raised both of my arms above my head and, with a smile that felt very much like my own, brought the final, life-ending waves crashing down onto the ship.
The next time the ship bobbed to the surface, its hull just barely sliced through the water’s surface before disappearing once more.
The news would call this a freak storm, the lives lost a tragic accident. But I knew the truth; the Ocean was appeased for now, and It would shower Its mercy upon those who passed through Its waters until Its hunger struck again.
The satisfied purr of the Ocean vibrated in a warm current around me as I plunged back into the icy water. Thank you, Kymopoleia. Are you ready to go home?
My little shanty, with its charming canvas sails and sturdy sailors’ knots, was a welcoming image that flitted through my mind, which the Ocean did not miss.
The water around me swayed from side to side, like the shake of a head. No, Kymopoleia. Home.
Confusion blurred my vision as the Ocean filled my thoughts with a very different place: a verdant hill so different from the blue waters I know now, a tiny brick-and-mortar storefront brimming with colorful flowers I did not recognize, a man and a baby boy I did not know. You have served Me faithfully, Kristine.
It is time for you to go.
But . . . who will feed You?
A little laugh rippled through the water. The next Kymopoleia. Do not worry about Me.
The Ocean’s words rocked everything I thought I knew. I . . . I was Kymopoleia! I was the goddess of violent seas! I couldn’t be replaced!
My dear, the Ocean caressed me in Its currents, as a parent would hug a child, I will miss you. You have been one of My favorites.
Then don’t make me leave. My tears mixed with the saltwater.
Once again, the Ocean’s swells rocked in disagreement. I have always kept My word. The cold Atlantic waters rushed around me one last time. Good-bye, dear Kristine.
And again, just as had happened seven years ago on this day, I was enveloped in darkness.
GRATTAN BEACH – JUNE 21, 2021
AMNESIAC WOMAN WASHES ASHORE ON GRATTAN BEACH, SURPRISES MORNING JOGGERS
A young woman with no memory aside from two names was found washed up in the sand of Grattan Beach. She was discovered around six o’clock in the morning by two joggers.
“At first we thought she was dead,” Melanie Higgins, the first to spot the woman, told our reporters. “But when we walked up to her, we heard her repeating something. ‘Nicholas and Liam. Nicholas and Liam.’ Over and over again.”
Melanie and her friend, Ava Lynch, reported that the woman did not know her own name or from where she came. However, the moment they attempted to drag her to dry sand, the woman became inconsolable.
“She just kept wailing and lashing out, shouting, ‘Don’t make me leave!’ We didn’t know what else to do, so we called for an ambulance,” Ava clarified.
Melanie and Ava reported that the woman had been found with no belongings, only wearing a dress of old fishing nets and crystals.
“It was really beautiful,” Melanie told us with a laugh. “It sparkled with every color of the sunrise. I’d buy it!”
The woman is 162.5cms in height and has long, red hair. She is estimated to be about thirty years old. If anyone may have information regarding this woman, or a Mr. Nicholas and a Mr. Liam, please call the Galway Garda Station.
This news story is further developing. Find the latest updates here at Galway Daily.
Even though I didn’t know the names of the flowers in front of me, my hands seemed to remember how to arrange them in the wide-brimmed vase. Yellows here, reds there, greenery accenting the whole lot.
“Here you are,” I smiled politely at Beth from across the counter. As one of my most faithful patrons, Beth’s rush orders never bothered me. “I hope your daughter loves them.”
“She always does,” Beth winked. “Enjoy your weekend, Kristine.”
“Thank you!” I called behind her, though my voice might have been lost in the jingle of the bell above the door as it closed behind Beth.
After a much-needed backstretch, I plodded over to the door and stuck my hand into my pocket to retrieve my keys. I braced myself for the feeling.
As I singled out the little silver key to my shop, keys jingling, a strong, cold current begging to be remembered gripped at my body, and the determined phantom pulled at my leg, like it wanted to pull me under the old floorboards. With a quick shake of my head, I turned the little key, and the bolt of the door hitting home brought me back to the surface.
“Mama!” Liam pounded down the stairs from our flat above the store. This little eight-year-old boy I’d grown to know in the past year wrapped his arms around my waist, happiness exuding from every hair on his head. “Closing time is my favorite part of the day,” he said into my stomach.
I kissed the top of his head with a smile. When I’d first met Liam, and his father Nicholas, who I was told were my son and husband, I thought I’d have to learn to love them—just as I’d have to learn everything about them. But, truly, the love had re-emerged as soon as I’d seen their faces.
As the only survivor of the RMS Saxonia, I’d been interviewed and put on camera more than I’d liked. How did I survive at sea for seven years? I didn’t know. What had I been doing for the past seven years? I didn’t know. How did I wash up on the shore in Galway, so close to my home? I didn’t know. Why had I named my shop Flowers by Kymopoleia? I didn’t know.
I had no past to reflect upon or learn from. No idea of the future I wanted to have. I only had the present, this present, this gift—this mercy I’d been given from who-knows-what to return home after seven years.
On the balcony of our little flat that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, I kept my eyes locked on the sunset. The marigold orange of the sun’s final rays on this summer solstice was slowly taken over by cherry blossom pink, then wisteria violet. It felt as if a day I’d started years ago was finally coming to a close.
As stars began studding the navy sky and the chalky moon started to glow a bit more confidently, a ripple ran through the horizon in front of me, and a strong yet distant voice whispered in my head. I did not recognize the voice in the slightest, yet such a strong current of familiarity course through my veins that I wasn’t startled.
Good night, Kymopoleia.