The sea was tranquil, there was no moon tonight. The waves spilled calmly on to the shore. The salty air was fresh and cleansing. The darkness was complete except for the blinking yellow lights that marked the circular reefs further down the sea. He sat down on the soft sand and it cushioned him immediately as a sort of welcoming to a friend long out of touch. At first he just hung his head down and listened to the sound of the waves, coming and going in perpetually, untiring. He envied its ubiquitousness. It was so natural. A process that was never ending. No matter the time, the age or circumstances. The sea dictated its will. Calm and eerie one moment. Violent and unforgiving the next. And men could do nothing but relent to its capricious behavior. It could be trialed under no laws. It could not be summoned by a higher power on this earth. It could not be reasoned with. It would surrender its bounties just as willingly and be the harbinger of wanton destruction the likes that have been cataloged since the dawn of time itself. It was a beautiful, terrible instrument of nature. To remind mankind of who was truly in charge of all its affairs. He finally looked up, mustered up enough courage to look the sea right in its eyes. Nothing greeting him but darkness, with intervals of white foam which highlighted the arrival of another wave. The effect was hypnotic, he felt himself inexorably drawn to this sight, the sea had captured his soul, like a cobra that sways in front of its prey, knowing that it can strike so easily at the time of its choosing. The air was still now, the balmy night lost its volume so suddenly as if to put the whole world in mute. He strained himself to hear the sounds of the waves but somehow they were in accord with the all engulfing stillness of this preternatural moment. It was then he heard the whispers, spoken in sepulchral tones. It carried on the inbound draft from the sea, the voices beckoned him, they were feminine but unlike anything he had ever heard before. Soothing and comforting. They called to him with the intimacies of a secret lover that knows too much. This world was not for him they said, it was a cruel place. It has nothing left to offer. It had abandoned him and the countless others before him that lived and died without a trace. That forever race that man was stuck in, to earn more, do more, buy more had taken its toll. But the sea asked for none of this, it only wanted to give. Peace and seclusion, tranquility and solitude. It made no demands of the real world. This man made hell that expanded far beyond its realms. The sea was the paradise that he so badly wanted. And it was not a promise restricted to Holy Scriptures. It was present and near. An allure too hard to resist. Slowly, as if in a trance like state he began to rise. It was clear to him. Nothing is more lucid in life than the end; it’s the beginnings that are always fraught with confusion. He took his shirt off and felt the slight cool breeze caress his skin. His eyes were focused completely towards the middle of the sea, a point far far away from shore. He felt no fear, only a sense of elation that takes over a man who has been bound in shackles too long and is finally only one gate away from freedom. He peeled of the rest of his clothing not even bothering to secure the worldly possessions in his pockets; he would not need them anymore.
His steps were measured but determined; the water engulfed his feet and it felt cool and invigorating, he smiled at the thought and his only regret was why he had allowed himself to suffer so long and needlessly when succor was always so close. He hurried now, going in deeper and deeper, knee high, few more steps and then chest high; still he felt no panic, the water folded around him like black ink. Neck high the waves lapped over him now, the salt water turned into an elixir. With one final breath he submerged himself into the darkness. The sounds were so much clearer now, voices spoke to him, laughing and rejoicing in his coming. He could see the mermaids glow in an ethereal light swimming around him in rapture. One of them reached out her sleek nimble hands and pulled him farther towards the depths and he obliged willingly; this was home. His breath was running short now, and his lungs started to ache, a slight dizziness came over him but he knew he mustn’t stop. He resolved himself to go further into the abyss. He now looked around the pitch blackness that surrounded him; the mermaids were gone; there was neither guiding light nor sound to lead him. His lungs screamed in protest and sent emergency signals to his brain in order to force the mouth open to let in much needed air but to do that would be a folly, some part of him still held on to rationale. He started twisting and turning violently now, the air supply had finished and he was entering the final throes of drowning. He looked up towards the surface and saw the pale light of the moon shimmer upon the surface of the dark chasm. Perhaps if he tried now with the last vestiges of his strength he might make it, but then he knew what awaited him back in the real world. One last look and he lowered his head and opened his mouth to let in the sea. The flood was enormous and with such force as if he had been hit by a raging bull. He choked but the water kept coming in. His lungs felt as if they would burst open. His heart was beating fast and he could hear it thump in his ears until the high pitched wail overtook all other sound. Tunnel vision now impaired his sight but he was sure that his eyes were wide open. His fingers became crooked with the exertion of trying to float. Then came the calm, the sudden stillness that he had been longing for. There were no remnants of life flashing by, No memories or regrets of unfulfilled wishes, no desire to avenge his tormentors; there was only solace and darkness, and the darkness was now complete. His eyes closed now and he floated like debris in outer space, till gravity did its part. Slowly sucking him down to the sea bed where it would afford him a final resting place till the accumulated gases in his stomach would force him to resurface, but for now he was an honored guest. His body landed softly on the untouched sand, the arms fell neatly to his sides and his head tilted as in a motion of deep sleep. The aquatic creatures darted back and forth around him and then swam on; they had seen enough of strange intrusions to pay any further attention. He lay there still, like a fallen warrior, serene in death; laid to rest now from his battles, some lost, some won.
The sea was a living breathing thing, it gave and took life, and it felt and heard the doings of man for eons. For since time had begun, man has dedicated himself to the study of this wonder and claim knowledge of its nature. But so many mysteries still remain, the sea could also cry, it could also mourn the loss of goodness that had so often been laid as a sacrifice in its altar, and as a sacred covenant with its creator it had asked for man to be reminded time and again of their sorrows and pains, of joys and triumphs. Every eye holds an ocean, which is perhaps the answer to why tears are salty.
About the Author
Rizwan Saleem is a Banker based in Dubai UAE. The thoughts and expressions detailed in his works are of his various escapades suffered through life, and of the profound surprise of having survived long enough to pen them into words. His poems have appeared in anthologies Twenty Seven Signs by Lady Chaos Press and Self Portrait Poetry Collection by Silver Birch Press.