Thousand Words Project

Find out what a picture is worth.

Showing stories by Elizabeth. Show all stories.


She was flying again, she who had slept for so many years at the bottom of the ocean and despaired, in her slow, cold, dreams, of ever seeing the sun again. But now, what glory! This fire in the sky, the open blue air parting and rushing before her. She skimmed up and down along the tops of the undulating waves.

It was unclear to her what had released her, some warmth and rumble that had thrust her slender long body up out of the deep sands where she had lain entombed. She had been shaken out and buoyed upwards on a fountain of bubbles and hot water, feeling her crumpled self expanding, feeling her scales sliding back into a logical arrangement, unfurling her coiled silvery tail. When she broke the surface she had bobbed there, quite breathless in the glittering sunshine, until at last some movement had returned to her frigid limbs.

But then - flying! Dark lines of pelicans peeled off to her right and left as she passed them, bright white seabirds sitting in the waves flashed by below her, and as she peeled higher and higher into the sky she could see the flashing backs and misty breath of some traveling whales. Far, far up ahead she saw a long dark smudge, that didn’t move or grow smaller, that must be land.

At this sight she curved her body back down to the water, snaking her way more slowly into the wind above the the restless ocean. She was hesitant about visiting land, so soon after coming awake. Whatever had befallen her had been muddy, a clotted sunset color, some awful betrayal that wouldn’t have happened had she not strayed from her realms of light and air and water. However - and this made her rise up again - with any luck she could glide unnoticed over the granite mountains and into the deep desert lands, where she could curl up on a rock and really warm her bones.

Coming closer to shore, she whipped her tail and rolled her pale body, pushing herself up into the thin air to gain some altitude and determine a good path to take. Wooded areas would give her trouble, since it was trickier to maneuver and to land; perhaps easier to hide, but harder to make a quick getaway. As she thrust higher the blue curve of the ocean spread out beneath her, breaking to white where it met the brown strip of beach, which then faded into a vast glassy city.

And - what was that? A thin band of color, a swath of dotted blues and greens and oranges, splayed out all along the beach. The bright, wild colors tugged at her heart as the sun had. She found herself inclining downwards, and now she could see people bustling amongst the colors, their bright colorful selves dotting the beach and spilling out into the blue water.

Humans were trouble, there was no doubt to that. But oh, how she longed, after such a lengthy silence, for some hustle of movement, emotions that were not her own. Besides, what harm could these people be, with their bright cheering symbols? Maybe they were trying in some mute worship to call down the sun. They would get her, instead.

She circled once, tilting her neck down to look, and then dove gracefully for a clear spot where the waves flooded onto shore. Pushing her feet deep into the shining sand, she wrapped her tail around herself and turned her huge head to face the humans.

Not a sound. The multicolored crowd drew back, those in the water standing stock still as foam swirled around them. Further back, she could see round faces staring out from the pools of shade they sat in. She gazed back at them at them with her dark, dark eyes, and didn’t move.

Finally, the closest - a little gray boy, brown hair long and sandy - started towards her. She swung her gaze down to meet his, and he paused, but kept coming. As he neared she turned her head again, and his small brown hand reached up to stroke the wide pearly scales on the side of her neck.

She heard some noises from the others, but her whole mind was on his light touch, how his fingers trailed and curled and his palm pressed into her. This was what she had remembered, this goodness of being touched. Of being loved, in some small way.

More humans were moving, coming towards them, and she imagined for one brief second that she would stand there and submit to all their touches, feel all the wonder in their warm smooth hands, see their delight. But it would be wretchedly unsafe to do so. She caught the little boy’s eye and gently rippled her hide, knocking his hand away. He stepped back and put his fingers to his mouth.

She turned her back and flung herself up into the air, rising like a column of white steam from the beach. As she rose she could see the dark mass of people, surging down the sand to press against the waves. When she was high up enough that the crowd was no more than a bright tiny smear between the ocean and the city, she coiled herself up and shot away from the sun’s slow descent, far away from the cool of the ocean, heading deep into the red stony heart of the land.