There Are No Sea Creatures by Sophie van Llewyn

The Waves are churning like my stomach does when I’m hungry and the sand is wet. Of the two, my mother knows best, because her back rubs against it and the two plastic bottles beneath her, which crackle every time when my dad moves his pelvis. There are no fireworks, only the bottles. There is a good reason why children don’t remember the moment of their conception. I’d like to believe that I was born from the sea foam like Aphrodite, but I know that I’m not.

I always wanted to see the ocean, but my husband only took me to Hamburg. I liked the ancient, tall houses, like chuckling old ladies in laces, but I begged him to take me to the sea. When I finally went, the sea was in a rectangular room with big, orange tiles. There was also a red trampoline, very high above the ground. The sea was pooling at our feet, barely wetting our toes. The tiles became smaller and curved towards the ceiling, which was blue and rounded like a dome. The lady in charge of the sea turned the water on. It rose, rose, rose until it swallowed the trampoline. The water was blue and transparent, golden flakes of light dancing on its surface. I then saw that it was infinite and so was the ceiling.

I’m five years old and we’re on the beach and it’s cold, so I’m wearing a pink sweater with a big pocket in the front. I have room for both of my hands in the pocket. The air is as crisp as a potato chip. My grandfather stretches a red foldable chair for me under the vines.

Even with all the sand, our teacher makes us wear pompons in our hair. They are grotesquely inflated plastic roses and they look ridiculous with my new pixie cut. I dream of ponytails and braids, but my parents disagree. They keep taking me to this bald hairdresser who has an ugly dog named ‘Ball’. She always cuts my hair short. My teacher notices and calls me to the blackboard. She says that I’ll soon be bald, too. I cry.

We want to bathe. There’s nobody else on the narrow tongue of sand between the promenade and the sea. A big, black tide comes and sweeps everything in its wake, filling everything with water to the brink of the wall which guards the said promenade and prevents the sea from spilling and flooding the world. There are no sea creatures, only shells. I tell my friend that we should probably return to the bus.

[First published by Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, November 2016]

Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania, but now lives in Germany. Sophie is currently the Resident Flash Fiction Writer at TSS Publishing. Her novella-in-flash BOTTLED GOODS (Fairlight Books) has been recently longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019 and for the People’s Book Prize. Sophie is represented by Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens. @Sophie_van_L.