Her name was Matilda and she wasn’t supposed to be there. The coast guard found her floating in the ocean, a smile frozen on her sun-drenched face. I was on the pier when they brought her body to the shore, her arms and legs hanging firm from the rigor mortis that set in. Little bits of her flesh had been nibbled away from the tips of her fingers and the bottoms of her feet, but she was otherwise preserved. That was probably more related to the fact that she’d been missing less than two days rather than anything else. The big question on everyone’s mind was how she got there.
Matilda didn’t like the ocean. She was the only one on this small island who never came near it. For everyone else it was a regular after school activity. Everywhere you looked, you’d find volleyball games in the sand, sand castle contests, nearly naked bodies getting their tan on, and surfers competing for the big one.
Matilda was content to hang out on her patio, facing the busy street, as far inland as possible. Can’t say as I blame her after the way her daddy was lost at sea on a fishing expedition and her momma just wasted away after he died. The locals took pity on her and forever after, you would find her at one house or another, but never the ocean.
She stayed as far away from the ocean as she could.
The locals speculated that it was because she heard the whispers. There’s an old island legend about one born every hundred years who could hear the whisper of the waves. The funny thing was the last sea whisperer was a Matilda, too. In fact, old Matilda passed away around the same time new Matilda’s parents arrived on the island. Coincidence? You decide.
According to legend, two whisperers can’t coexist at the same time, and there must always be one. To have no living whisperer would be the end of our island. Unless there’s another whisperer no one knows about, ours just died.
I know what you’ll think of me, but there’s a mighty storm brewing in the west. This storm is said to be of a viciousness the likes of which we’ve never seen in our lifetimes. Not even the storm that took Matilda’s daddy was this severe. I’m telling you now. It’s the beginning of the end.
In the two days since Matilda passed, all those who lived on the shore have been evacuated. Since most folks live along the shoreline, the courthouse is quite crowded. Even the sheriff holed up with the rest of us. You know what happens when a bunch of people get together? The rumors start swirling.
This was no exception.
Since there was no one on the island who would harm a hair on Matilda’s head, the blame fell on the tourists. We never held much trust for tourists, anyway. They were only necessary to keep the island going. If we could find other resources to keep the money rolling in, we’d keep them out altogether. So, yes, the tourists were to blame for Matilda, and because of that fact alone, they were to blame for the storm, too.
There was only one family of tourists hanging around the courthouse, fools that they were. They should have grabbed the ferry like the rest of their kind and gotten off the island completely. If the ocean really took the whisperer there would be hell to pay. I began to feel sorry for them. They were ill prepared to weather the storm and the locals? Well, they weren’t of a mind to share.
When the electricity went out, there weren’t enough blankets so the tourists went without. When the main water supply ran out, and they passed bottled water around, they skipped them then, too. After a couple days, only the crying reminded us they were there and eventually even that stopped. When their daughter died, we felt a shift in the storm, like Father Sea had been appeased.
As if the scales of good and evil were once again balanced.
Her name was Matilda and she wasn’t supposed to be there. And by being there, she turned our whole world inside out.
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In this particular piece, I intended to be obscure, leaving it up to your imagination to fill in the blanks. Did I do that successfully?
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