1st Place 10-13
by Noa Wang
Marcie waded through the sticky salt water with a blue butterfly net, the fiery sunlight beating down on her unprotected back. But the nine-year-old girl didn’t notice; she was too intent on searching for a longish, grey fish that she had seen earlier in the salty ocean shallows, but all there was to see was water, dark rocks, sand, and seashells, which mostly still had creatures living in them. Horribly slimy, grey creatures, Marcie thought as she watched a small sea snail working its way across a rock in the water not far away from where she was standing.
She pushed her thin yellow hair out of her face, and dropped her net closer to the shimmering surface of the water, poised to strike. Something wispy and grey that Marcie had taken to be part of the shadows darted out from under a large rock jutting out of the water and swam away from Marcie as quickly and as effortlessly as a cormorant soaring through a bright windless sky. Marcie took a large swipe at it with her net, but it was gone.
A small group of seagulls circled the crowded sandy beach, calling out as if they were laughing at Marcie for failing at her attempt to catch the fish. Scowling, Marcie picked up a stone at her feet and threw it out at the waves that were licking the edges of the sea shore. But the stone missed its mark and hit the striped red cloth of an umbrella on the beach instead. Ducking her head in embarrassment, and trying to ignore the heat creeping up her face and the protesting yells calling out from the seashore, Marcie sighed and lowered her head to search for the fish again.
Marcie let her net drag in the shining blue water as she moved down along the shallows, her feet pointed towards where the long, grey fish had swum. She walked slowly to an area where it was peculiarly rocky, clouds of grey sand billowing up in the water around her ankles with each step. She stopped and lowered her head to squint down at the sand and rocks that she was standing on. The water swirled around her legs, bathing them in a cold, wet wind.
Something moved, somewhere to Marcie’s right. She turned her head around to see and immediately saw the fish hiding in the shadow of a large barnacle-covered rock. It was very big and long with translucent, wispy fins.
But as Marcie slowly, quietly stepped towards it, she realised that it was not a fish at all; it was too large to be the scaly sea creature that Marcie had seen half an hour ago, and it was actually completely transparent – and it had a human face. Cold, bottomless pale eyes stared up at her mournfully. Marcie screamed, dropped her net, and half-ran half-splashed towards the hot sandy beach.
Marcie ran to her mother, who was sitting on the hot sand with Marcie’s little sister. Her mother raised her head and looked up at the panicked, sweating Marcie standing in front of her, blocking out the sun.
“What is it, Marcie? Did a crab pinch you?”
Marcie shook her head vigorously and pointed a shaking finger out to the shining sea water. “I just saw some kind of grey wispy thing with a human face back there! It saw me, too! What was it?”
Her mother shook her head with a small smile. “I don’t know, dear. You have too big of an imagination.” Then she turned her head away and left Marcie exasperated and furious.
Not wishing to go back to the water where the swimming human thing was, she turned on her heel and wandered over to the shade of a bunch of trees that had thick branches that curved over the narrow pathway which led to the beach and the shallow water. She was completely unaware of the pale shadow keeping pace with her, not ten feet away.
Marcie stopped in her tracks to kick at a small pebble on the rough ground before her and watch it roll and tumble in the dark blue shadows of the trees. She was about to continue walking, at least until she saw that the pebble had stopped rolling at a yellowing clump of weeds beside a pair of pale grey bare feet.
Marcie raised her head a little and stared at the figure that stood beneath the green shady trees ahead of her.
It was a tall man clad in an old-fashioned grey tunic with skin that was oddly pale and colourless, like old ashes from a long lost fire.
T hen Marcie noticed that everything about him was grey and pale and transparent. The man raised his head and dull, mourning cold eyes pierced Marcie’s brown ones. Marcie shivered and everything seemed to become cold – the sun had sunk back into an endless black cloud, forever darkened and frozen. Marcie sucked in her breath and even the air seemed to tingle with a forgotten ice. She tried to move but her limbs had gone horribly numb and her fingers no longer obeyed her.
The man raised a bony grey hand and pointed it at Marcie, pointing, accusing…
Marcie shook herself free of the pale coldness that was crawling over her skin and ran away from the shade of the trees screaming, sprinting back towards the golden warmth of the sun.
The ghost watched the young girl run back to her mother and sibling, screaming loudly after he had pointed his hand at her. The ghost only wanted her to leave him alone, not scream and chase him with a net.
The ghost sighed, breathing out a cold air that no human could ever feel. He lowered his head and silently thought, I’ll never understand living ones. Then he turned his back to the distant, warm golden beach and melted back into the dark depths of the shadows and was gone.
I like the idea of my story, ‘Ocean Ghost’, but it didn’t come easily. I first got my ideas from times when my family and I took trips to the beach, where my dad would go fishing and Lisa and I would splash around with a butterfly net, catching baby fish. If we ever caught any, we would hold them captive in our shoes. Thus, I came up with my sea-side ghost tale. I’m glad I wrote it. Because of that story, I can finally get those books I’ve been gaping at in Chapters for my own.
– Noa Wang