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The Sea Orchard

 

The Sea Orchard

By

Paul Xylinides

Copyright © Paul Xylinides 2014

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the purchaser.

ISBN-13: 978-1505386493

ISBN-10: 1505386497

PaulXylinides.com

Cover by: Dayna Barley-Cohrs

Contents

The Sea Orchard

About the Author

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The Sea Orchard

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The Sea Orchard

The little boy buried his sister up to her neck in the sand, and then curled up under a beach umbrella to rest out of the sun. The sea rumbled and rose. The wave formed the shape of a golden horse that leaped onto the beach and shook itself, snorted, pawed at a sandcastle.

The people on the beach scattered or stood and gaped. Some took off their sunglasses and said, “How about that!”

“Oceanus!” whispered the boy to himself. He looked at the sunlit jewels that dripped from the horse and he ran to a boat where lay a coil of rope. In a jiffy he’d tied a knot.

The golden horse lowered its head and the boy slipped the rope about its neck and led him away.

As they walked up the beach, the horse from the sea began to change. Its golden colour became a drab brown, its silver hooves a dull, cracked grey; it shrank in size. No one noticed.

“I’ll charge people to ride you,” said the boy. He began to call out, “Have a ride on the horse from the sea! Have a ride on the horse from the sea!”

“Hey, that’s just an ordinary horse,” one child said, kicking some sand in its direction.

“Looks sort of run-down to me,” his father agreed. “Well, it’ll do for a ride.”

He paid the little boy, and lifted the child onto the horse’s back.

“Hold it!” said the father. “Let’s get a picture of this!”

Eventually, the beach was empty. Everyone had gone home. His sister’s head poked above the sand like a left-behind beach ball.

The boy turned toward the sea where the waves continued to rise, roll in and crash on the hard wet sand, one after the other. As he watched, one wave rose up higher than the rest until it towered above them. Reds, yellows, purples and pinks coloured its underside. Once it reached its fullest height, it hung monstrously over the beach, looking about to crash down upon the boy, his horse and his sister. The little boy let go of the rope about the horse’s neck, but when he did so, it was the golden Oceanus who pawed the ground, shook his head free of the rope and challenged him with wild blue eyes.

The boy leapt onto its back.

The horse plunged into the giant wave just as it curled over them, about to collapse. They passed sea creatures — octopi, sharks, eels — writhing beneath the surface like tattoos come to life. Further and deeper Oceanus swam, silver hooves tearing at the powerful currents.

The boy gripped the horse around the neck. “Hold on!” he seemed to hear Oceanus say.

A great pink and silver fish brushed by. Oceanus reared and sent it on its way with flashing hooves. An octopus larger than a dozen horses was the eye of the sea itself as it stared at them, its tentacles lashing the waters. They passed a cave fronted with sword-long teeth. When the boy looked back, a shark followed them with its glinting dark eye.

Soon they were in the deepest depths of the sea.

Trees towered from the sea bottom. Bunches of strange fruit hung from the branches, each tree with its own kind: emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, pearls, rubies, nuggets of gold, balls of silver.

Up and down the trunks, people were climbing.

Riches for the picking. The boy itched at the thought of what he might do with such treasure. Dismounting from Oceanus, he ran into the sea orchard. Up he climbed and took as much as he could carry. Finally, he started back to Oceanus who had wandered away. The treasure grew heavier; it seemed to increase in size. Where before he had not thought of it, he now had trouble breathing. He had to breathe and there was all this water pressing in.

“Help!” he called. The salt water rushed into his mouth. The last thing he saw as he rose slowly from the sea bottom like a stuffed sausage — precious stones, pearls, gold, sliding away — was Oceanus’ eyes upon him.

He rose through the water and, like the water inside him, the sea became thick and dark. Slower and slower he went. Everything was heavy and black as ink.

How he found himself to be an octopus he could not have explained. Tentacles waved gracefully from his body, beckoning at he knew not what in the once again clear water. He had an eye on one side of his head and an eye on the other. They were like great round shop windows. Except that he was on the inside looking out, and he was the one guarding the store.

He swam through the orchard, bellowing, “Begone! Out of there!” as he puffed and flailed his tentacles. But no one paid any attention. They didn’t care to hear him. All the treasure hunters continued with what they were doing.

“Stop! Those are mine!” he roared more loudly. But only succeeded in making a few more bubbles in the water.

Silently he sailed up to one of the offenders, reached around and plucked him out of the tree. He wrapped his tentacles tightly about him and gave him a squeeze. He squeezed and squeezed, adding a shake for good measure.

“This is what I’m supposed to do,” he said to himself and, turning his head to have a look at what he was accomplishing, saw the face of the father of the child who had first ridden the horse on the beach. It was ballooning nicely, eyes popping, mouth opening up to all the sea it could swallow. He uncoiled his tentacles and watched as the man rose slowly through the water.

“I hope he wakes up … or something,” the octopus said to himself, and turned back to the job he still had to finish. A shark and one or two electric eels joined him. Between them, they soon sent the rest of the treasure hunters floating away.

The octopus looked up into the treetops empty now except for their precious fruit. Slowly billowing, he sailed into the branches where he wrapped himself around a cluster of gems. Both he and it fell away together. Down they tumbled through the water and settled softly on the ocean’s sandy bottom. Gradually the octopus released himself and then soared upwards again to repeat the entire process. He didn’t stop until the whole orchard had been picked clean.

From the ocean floor now rose a mountain of treasure and on top sat the octopus, its tentacles sloping down on every side. A look both hungry and satisfied filled its eyes. At the base of the heap patrolled the shark, proclaiming,

“Do not dare!”

Other octopi hovered in the distance; other sharks wheeled and sped in and out, their mouths agape; sting rays loomed aiming their poisons; lobsters raised toothy claws ready to rip apart anything they fastened on. And so matters might have stood had Oceanus, ridden by a boy with long blond hair and strong arms, not flown at them.

Eyes swollen with anger, they attacked and attacked, Oceanus slashing its hooves, jaws opening wide and closing tighter than a vize, head and shoulders battering and ramming. Tentacles would seize both warrior and steed by the throat or belly — wherever they found a grip — strangling them under an octopus’s maddened gaze. Oceanus struck back with an obliterating hoof as the boy slashed with a sword. Twisting this way and that, a tiger shark doubled upon itself between the massively protruding teeth of the stallion. Eels lit up the battle with stunning waves of electricity.

Oceanus and the boy swooped upon the giant octopus astride its mountain of treasure. They flew between the raised and flailing tentacles, a hoof striking into one wide, unblinking eye. A plume of inky black octopus blood gushed out and upward. The wounded eye closed. Away twisted horse and rider, paused high over the scene of the battle -- then hurtled down once again.

As they careened toward the octopus, the creature turned its other eye toward them. Oceanus raised his hoof to strike. This time, however, staring into the eye, the boy was appalled by what he saw — himself. He heard Oceanus roar, “Destroy him! … Destroy! Destroy!”

“No, no!” the boy commanded. “Leave him!” They wheeled about, and stopped at a distance.

"Good," Oceanus murmured and lifted away, the boy clinging to his neck. Behind them, no evidence of the nightmare battle remained -- the octopus had opened its wounded eye and it was clear.

Horse and rider burst out of the sea and onto the beach, raising and scattering the sand.

“Hey!” shouted the little boy from under the beach umbrella. “Watch it!”

But it wasn’t Oceanus that stood before him; it wasn’t himself just returned from battle. No, it was a young man with sun-bleached hair, who had been walking his horse through the crowded part of the beach.

“Sorry!” he said. “Would you like to have a ride?”

“On the horse from the sea?” the boy asked him.

“Sure, why not!” said the young man as he stroked the brown muzzle of the salt-streaked animal at his side. “Is that your sister over there? She’s looking a little sunburnt.”

Together, they dug her out, and brother and sister took turns riding up and down the beach on the salty, snorting horse.

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THE END

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About the Author

Paul Xylinides resides in Montreal, Canada, and studied at McGill University, M.A. (English Literature).

For further information on upcoming publications, visit PaulXylinides.com

Follow the author on Twitter: @xylinides


The Sea Orchard

  • ISBN: 9781310077012
  • Author: Paul Xylinides
  • Published: 2016-03-13 17:05:08
  • Words: 1755
The Sea Orchard The Sea Orchard