Isyander Westbrooks

United Kingdom

A Child of Land and Sea

November 17, 2020

He walked down the grass path towards the sea front. The Pigeon slept peacefully in the entangled mass of dreadlocks and twigs which was rooted to his scalp. Its head rose slightly from its purple plumed roll of neck fat as it breathed, its feathers were neat and shifted from one shade of grey to another before going black above the purple neckline. His long, black, cotton, Thai trousers and green robe billowed in the sea breeze, he became a living flag during his pilgrimages to the sea front. Though the mud was often spongey due to the constant salt sprays, the path had hardened from constant use. Lichen grew on sections of his robes and trousers; it didn’t bother him, nothing about his appearance did, he was The Human, the only one in existence, like The Dog, The Cat, The Seagull and The Pigeon. His beard was like his hair, tangled and knotted with a stray twig taking refuge.  His exposed chest was smooth and pale, his ribs showed slightly and contrasted against the minor muscle that lay there, twisted, and contorted like driftwood. His paunch was small, only slightly overhanging the rim of his trousers, but it was firm and stayed tight and motionless whilst he walked. His bare feet silently brushed the floor as he moved, allowing the grass to remain unharmed.  The grass gradually grew long and sharp, whipping him in the wind, so he pulled his robe around himself and mimicked the pigeon. A lot could be learned from this strange child of Land and Sky. He pushed through the uneven mass of grass blades as they tried to leave their mark on him, yet none got through. The grass gradually grew sparse as dirt turned to sand and stones. The sand was littered from battle between the two realms brought by the last tide, today’s tide was crashing in violent arcs, storming forth to take revenge. Such was life here in Bounty-By-Water.


He scratched his chest as he pondered on where he should begin. As a custodian he had a duty: to preserve. He was a child of Land and Sea, so he decided it was his duty to preserve the happiness of both. ‘That is the duty of such a child.’ he told himself long ago, the others did not think such things. He rooted through dried heaps of kelp, seaweed, driftwood pieces and scanned the shallow rock pools.

“Ah-ha” he muttered.
 
There it was. He itched his chest before he reached down and picked up a battered crab, “Such a shame, don’t you think?” he asked.

“Prew, prew” The Pigeon agreed.

Crabs were not singular, they were less important, so there were more to spare, but The Sea would not be happy. The sky was gunmetal grey, morphing into the raging mass of waves which slowly rolled closer. The Human searched for more crabs and began the ritual. The Pigeon jumped and beat its heavy wings as it flew across the beach, plummeting numerous times due to its weight. The Pigeon was not a graceful flyer, but it would be fine, he knew this. He grabbed some driftwood and lashed it together with seaweed, splinters now adorned his smooth hands. He then ventured to find some berries, mushrooms, bones; one Tithe for every fallen. When he returned, The Pigeon sat on the alter with two small nests made of seaweed; he got to his knees and placed all the crabs into one nest and the Tithe in the other. He bowed his head out of gratitude and respect, The Pigeon was his dear friend and deserved as much, especially for its help. The Pigeon hopped from the alter and clambered into its nest of hair and twigs. It placed a pretty shell it found in there for safe keeping.

“Prew.” The Pigeon said, he rose his head and continued with the task.

He carved the ancient runes and lines into the sand, his fingernails ached and fractured from the hidden stones. Once the preparations were made and the ritual was ready, The Seagull came and perched on a nearby rock. Being the child of Sea and Sky, it assessed todays ritual. It gave a ‘Caw’ of approval before going away. The tide was soon upon them. He turned around and was about to get ready to do one last check before the tide arrived, then he saw The Dog sniffing the alter.

“Be gone you mangy Mutt! That is not for you, there will be food later!” he shouted. The incoming tide splashed sporadically nearby; The Sea found that funny.

The Dog yelped and ran away, it feared him during the ritual. It had once eaten a crab from the alter, this had very much upset the sea, so it upset him too. He didn’t allow The Dog to sleep by the fire or in the hut for a week as punishment. He could hear the rasped cough of The Cat nearby, for this was the way The Cat laughed. He saw it on a rock close to the grass, it winked at him with its big eyes before slinking away. The Cat was not liked by The Sea or The Sky, it ate their children. It was also cruel to The Children of The Land, as it mocked The Human and The Dog, but The Cat knew much, it could see a world no one else could, so they kept The Cat.

The tide swept over the alter.

“Please take this Tithe as a thank you for your kindness and an apology for having caused such sorrow.” he said kindly.

The water calmed and continued to rise, but its waves stilled. The Sea accepted the Tithe. The water kissed his hands, removed the splinters, and smoothed his skin, repaired his damaged nails, and filled his pockets with shells and other gifts.

“Thank you.” he said, he itched the baby barnacles that now adorned his chest.

The ritual was over.

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