Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Did I just hear my brother's voice?

By Letitia Prescott

I'm looking at a tiny, electric blue creature bobbing in a rock pool. From a distance, it looks like a large sapphire. My brother Ty told me that they’re the most poisonous jellyfish in the region. Since arriving at the campsite, him and his friends have grown used to me slipping away; I think they put it down to me being his reserved, much older sister. It was Mum’s idea that I come with them and so far Ty doesn’t seem to mind too much.

I’m at the bottom of a cliff. Its limpet-strewn wall towers above me like a shield against the blasting sun, and the resulting shadow covers a long stretch of the beach before fading into the jostling waves. I imagine Ty and his friends are now heading back to the campsite to shower and snooze. They're a nice bunch, particularly Isabella. On our first night, she helped me to set up my tent and offered to mend Ty’s bent glasses when I’d given up trying. Predictably, my brother’s girlfriend Lucy hasn’t lifted a finger since we got here. And she remains indifferent to me, or 'just shy' as Ty likes to tell people.

The jellyfish now floats by my toes which edge forward, in wait for a sting of the blood freezing kind. I step away from the rock pool. I never knew wobbly flesh and stringy guts could look so pretty and hypnotic. I feel special for finding it.

The sun has climbed from behind the cliff and its rays now catch my eyes in flashes.
Like an echo, a human voice reaches my ears. Did I just hear my brother's voice? I listen intently. Each crunching grain of sand sounds like a giant foot pounding the ground. I go to get my bottle of water out and my brother’s voice reaches me once more. I shout his name but he doesn’t answer; I repeat this three times but still nothing. This isn’t funny Ty.  

I think his voice is coming from a nearby cave that looks exactly like all the others we’ve seen. I’m itchy and irritable and I don’t want to go in there but Ty is my baby brother. To me, he’ll always be the toddler in a nappy with oversized wellies.

I must have left the group ages ago. I can’t call anyone or check the time as I left my phone on my towel. I’m starting to believe Ty’s voice is an auditory hallucination which would mean that the real Ty might start to worry soon. If not, I'm sure the others will sound the alarm, so to speak. I know Lucy won't, she'll just keep quiet and lean on his shoulder like some heavy, wet towel. 

I want to bodyboard, eat churros and apply sand-covered sunscreen. But to do that, I need to follow the length of the beach and the mid afternoon sun is going to wrestle me to the ground. I’m also torn because it would mean leaving Ty behind and I must make sure he’s okay. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense, I’m getting muddled. Where the hell are you, Ty? I need to make a move soon because my skin is starting to look less ‘caramel’ and more ‘seared tuna.’


I decide I must check the cave, just in case. I look back for human help but the place is deserted. Like a lonely turtle, my shoulders carry the weight of the rocky landscape and the vastness of the sea. Once inside, the cave isn’t as cool as I was hoping but I’m protected from the salt and the glare.

The place looks very much empty and now I feel stupid. I head out but just as I’m making my way past the rock pool, I hear my brother again. The tone and depth of his voice are too convincing so I sprint back through the enormous cave entrance, and rush randomly into the mouth of an uneven corridor. Repeatedly, I shout Ty’s name, willing the words to travel down the rock labyrinth into his ears. The corridor narrows against my sides, causing my clothes to catch and my hair to brush against the weird limpets. This whole experience is grossing me out. The corridor soon invites me into a vice-like tunnel, thick in darkness except for some light filtering through from the other end. It’s too small to walk so I think of Ty in his wellies to force myself to crawl. My hands land on strange shapes, that slide and crunch under my weight.  

Fighting claustrophobia, I finally manage to wriggle out the exit before landing on the hard ground below. The cavern is a dome with blue tinted rock and dripping walls. A small lake is at the centre and the same blue tint runs through the surface of the still water. The path I just landed on travels the length of the lake and beyond. The cavern is quiet yet it lacks a sense of peace. I’m looking around for Ty, when a chill licks my shoulder and something stirs in the dark water. I’m expecting a large fish of some kind to appear but the surface remains static like a sheet of glass. I can feel someone is here, I really can. It’s hard to tell from the way the light hits the stone walls but something is moving in a crevice, on the other side of the lake. My heart rate doubles. It moves again and I see a ray of light bounce off two shiny circles. Another flash and this time there’s no mistaking that the circles are in fact the lenses from a pair of glasses. It’s my brother.

The voice is real after all. I came back for you Ty, I didn’t give up. I wonder if he’ll be able to see me from where he is. When he finally clocks me, I go to shout hello but he signals me to be quiet with an alarming urgency. He looks younger somehow with scruffy hair and skinny shoulders. From the crevice, he walks forward but a soft splashing noise makes him retreat. What was that? The lake breaks open and some kind of beast emerges, enveloped in a fleshy ‘curtain’; it then turns on its side and slides back into the water. I start shrieking and Ty runs over with wild eyes and arms covered in bloody cuts. He puts his hand over my mouth and begs me to shut up. The creature has disappeared and I’m filled with terror and disgust. Ty coughs ‘We wanted some time alone but when we got here, she slipped.’

I stay calm for his sake. ‘See that tunnel, I just came from there’ I tell him ‘Come on, we can do this. I promise we’ll come back for Lucy.’ I notice his ripped, blood stained T-shirt as he says ‘I came with Isabella not Lucy.’ I should be shocked about this but I’m not. Suddenly the beast rises again, lingers then recedes with an audible heaviness. Before it disappears, the ‘curtain’ is exposed just long enough for me to see that it spreads out like a misshapen hoop skirt; the kind Victorian ladies used to wear. But the ladies would have had pretty skirts and flounces to cover the hoops, whereas this creature has no cover just gruesome bone strips and draped layers of flesh. Ty looks close to tears when he says ‘Isabella had cuts all down her arms just like mine. Every time I tried to reach her, that thing rushed towards me. It wore me down.’ It’s hard to believe that that beast could rush, but the ocean isn’t something I know much about. I place Ty’s arm around my neck and support his weight as we stumble towards the tunnel. I sense another stir from the centre of the lake. I pick up the speed and we’re almost there when Ty decides to break free, his eyes wild again. ‘I need to find her. You can’t just leave people behind. Go to hell, you freak!’ he shouts at the lake. He then precedes to cry out Isabella’s name at the water, the walls and the ceiling.

I grab him to shut him up but he resists and the impact throws me to the edge of the water. I can see the shadow of the creature near the centre, bobbing under the blue surface, psyching itself up. I try to move but the sun has killed my energy, and the stone on which I have landed feels like it’s pulling me down, like quicksand. The monster bobs and bobs and then bang! It thrashes towards me with such speed that my veins, muscles and bones go rigid. With slick precision, it suddenly stops at the edge right next to my paralysed body and drops under the surface. Our pointless screams travel in circles around the cavern, the echoes as trapped as we are. Ty tries to pull me to my feet but it’s too late. The monster rises, first revealing its enormous jagged teeth then its bloodshot yellow eyes and finally the rest of its head and torso, both emanating that same blue tint. The ‘curtain’ is in fact a gelatinous corset and skirt that sway in the filtered light. ‘Lucy?’

2 comments:

  1. I really like the vivid descriptions in the story, Letitia. It makes the tale very engaging.

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  2. Thank you! That's really kind :)

    ReplyDelete