by Arianne Patricia Onte, Age 20, Philippines
Artwork by Katie King
The August prompt of the month was “sand.”
Noah was sitting on a rotting log, writing names on the sand, when he heard the sea nymph’s trilling voice.
“Hurry, Noah! Warn the people. The storm god is angry and cannot be calmed,” the nymph said, her words colored purple, blue, and green like the water she lived in.
“But why is he angry?” Noah said. He stopped writing and walked towards the nymph. She was sprawled on the sand, the waves lapping over her body. Her silver hair was tied with seaweed, and her eyes were two pieces of onyx that swallowed the light.
The sea nymph splashed water on Noah’s bare feet. “Your people no longer believe in his power. The storm god is dying. He will send his unnamed son to avenge him. Your people will suffer for their faithlessness.”
She took a long look at the boy. Noah could only wonder what she saw in him. He was barely ten years old. He was small for his age, skinny too, just like most of the children from the village. His sunkissed skin smelled of the sea. A shock of black hair fell past his eyebrows. His hands were scarred and calloused. He was a fisherman’s son gifted with the Sight. He could see the deities and mythical beings his ancestors had once spoken of with pride. If Noah couldn’t save his village from the wrath of the storm god, no one could—not even the new gods that his people traded for the old ones.
“Can gods die?” Noah whispered as he watched the sea nymph slide back into the waiting arms of the water.
Noah ran to his village to warn the people against the storm god’s threats. The adults scoffed at him. The children shook their heads and continued with their games. Even the elders paid no heed to Noah’s pleas.
“The new gods will protect us boy, as they always have. The old gods are dying. Your storm god is no different,” said old Macoy, a fisherman just like Noah’s father.
“But the storm god will send his son, and we will all die if we do nothing!” Noah was desperate. No one believed in the old gods anymore. No one believed in his warning.
Old Macoy spat on the ground and looked Noah straight in the eyes. “The storm god has no son. He sends you empty threats—a dying god’s threats. Do not waste your time on his false promises. He will bring you nowhere but hell.” The other elders laughed and nodded. Nowhere but hell, they all said.
Noah ran back to the sea and sang for the nymph.
“Come out,” he called, “come out!”
The sea nymph swam back to shore. She understood what Noah was going to say before the words tumbled out of his mouth.
“They do not believe,” the sea nymph said.
“No, they don’t. Tell me the name of the storm god’s son. If I can tell the elders that, then maybe they will start to believe.” Noah knelt on the sand before the sea nymph. He willed her to help him.
“The storm god’s son has no name, Noah,” the sea nymph told him. “That is exactly why your people should fear him. He is unnamed, unbound by your holy men’s words. Even your white cloaked men who sit in their tall storm towers all day know nothing of his name. His power is unknown to your poor villagers. You will all die.” The sea nymph turned her back on Noah.
“Don’t go!” Noah said as he reached out for her. But she pulled away before the boy’s skin touched hers. “Help us,” he pleaded.
“I’m sorry. I cannot help you,” the sea nymph said. Noah could hear the sadness in her voice. It made him want to cry. But he couldn’t. Not now, when his people needed him most. He would be a man soon. And men do not cry in times of a crisis.
“Build a boat for yourself, Noah, and for those who will believe you. Build a boat that will be light and strong enough to endure the son of the storm god’s power. He will be here soon. Build a boat and save yourself.” The sea nymph disappeared into the waves, and left Noah staring at the horizon.
Three days later, Noah finished building his small boat. The other people laughed at him, thought him a fool for believing in the words of a pagan god. Only a little girl helped Noah build his boat.
On the fourth day, Noah felt the land shudder. He heard the wind spirits singing songs of mourning and death. He listened to the sea as it yelled its battle cry and bowed his head when the storm god released his unnamed son from beyond the horizon. He tried to convince the people to move elsewhere—anywhere. Some of them finally took his advice. They left the village, seeking higher ground. But most of the people stayed shut in their homes, thinking little of the storm that howled from the sea.
The storm god’s son sent sheets of rain and wind against the villages that once worshipped his father. He lashed his anger on the children and elderly. He spared no one. Noah stayed in his boat as the flood rose higher, higher, higher. Many people cried for his help, but he could not save them. He was not able to build a boat large enough to hold more than two people.
Noah watched his village perish.
The people cowered before the might of the unnamed god. Never before had they seen an impenetrable wall of water rise high over the land. The storm surge razed Tacloban and condemned hundreds to a murky death. Noah looked on as village after village shattered, drowned. He had failed to save his people. His boat was too small, and his words had been too soft, too fearful.
“But what shall we call it?” said a white cloaked man.
“Humbak,” suggested one. “Daluyong,” said another.
“No. Those names do not strike enough fear. The people should know that a storm surge is different from the storm itself,” said the head of storm tower.
It was just as the sea nymph had predicted. Even the cloaked men in the storm towers would not be able to bind the storm god’s son with his true name. Their faithlessness left them blind, unable to name the storm surge properly.
In the ruins of a village, Noah walked through the carnage that the unnamed god had left behind. Help was coming in from all parts of the globe, yet no amount of money or food would be able to resurrect the dead.
Noah reached the shore where he had first heard the sea nymph’s warning. He knelt and began to write on the sand.
Silakbo, god of the storm surge.
The waves crashed on the shore, claiming the son of the storm god’s name. How fragile we are, Noah thought, that our lives can be extinguished as easily as the waves erase names on the sand.
Arianne says, “I devour books in the morning and work on my tale-weaving skills at night.”