Beyond the Ring
The sun was peeking out from the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink and orange. Its warmth spread over the island, coloring the village in rosy shades. The fishermen would soon wake up, mount their outriggers and sail out into the blue waters, as they always had. Only this time, they’d be missing one ship.
Sailing at top speed towards the horizon was Liwliwa. Her eyes were fixed, not on the beauty of the rising sun, but on the thrashing waters below it. From the foam, the flash of claws and teeth made her scales crawl.
Liwliwa looked through her bag for the hundredth time to make sure it was still there: the miracle orb. She muttered the plan to herself over and over, as if it would make the fear gripping her heart melt away. The gap would open for exactly ten seconds, she’d go through and then sail until she hit land. Easy, right?
But what if the gap didn’t appear? What if she had counted wrong? What if the beasts could still get her? What if, what if, what if... She held the object close to her chest. Nothing left to do but to try. The future of her people- her mother -depended on it
The outrigger lurched as a jet of bubbles erupted from below the water’s surface. The outburst ran in a jagged line and cut through the ring, forcing the beasts apart; the gap had opened! Liwliwa reached for the oar, but nearly fell off as a burst of water threw her ship forward. The jets of bubbles below batted the ship around like a cat with yarn, leaving her clinging on to the mast for dear life. She could only hope that the boat could make it the rest of the way…
But her luck ran out. The last bubbles fizzled out, leaving the outrigger standing in the middle of the gap. The beasts regrouped from either side of the ship, smashing into its sides with a deafening crash. Liwliwa could hardly make out the forms of her assailants as they tore her ship to shreds.
A beast leapt up from the water with a blood curdling cry. Liwliwa only had a second to react before it crashed into her like a sack of bricks. A sharp pain in her thigh knocked her to her feet and down with the creature as it sank back into the cold water.
She was under the water for five seconds.
When Liwliwa awoke, she was floating belly-up on the water. Her boat, her provisions, all gone. All she had now were her senses and the half eaten fruit in her hand. The sun, now at its apex, beat down on her limp body, boiling her in a mixture of sea water and blood. Between all these sensations, only one word filled her mind: failure. Her mother’s frail form was the last thing she imagined before slipping from consciousness once more.
A noise pulled her out of the darkness. A foreign language, spoken loud and by many. The world was a blur of dark blue and brown, the sun’s warmth long gone. A weak shiver brought her to reality: it was cold. She was being pulled out of the water. The talking got louder and louder, the strange syllables throbbing in her mind. She tried to complain, to fight back against whatever had gotten her, but all she could muster was a guttural groan. It was easier to slip into the darkness and let its cold embrace take her worries away...
Until she woke once more.