I came to with warm sand swimming between my fingers, my eyes dry and blurred.
In those first disorienting moments, I looked for Mirage, my eyes hungry for their figure.
Raising myself haphazardly to my feet, I followed the footsteps I knew they had left, so delicately impressed upon the slanted dunes. Coastal reeds hushed me, blowing softly in the wind, and the fallen limb of a cypress tree waved me towards the waves that lapped at the shore.
There Mirage stood, in elegant calm, the phantom of a smile hanging on their teeth.
I had found Mirage now, and those creatures would be in close pursuit, dressed all in the same white, faceless fabric, to take us back and separate us again.
We ran into the surf, laughing nervously as a siren began to blare. Our multicolored clothes soaked up the saltwater into their tatters and loose ends as we climbed aboard the raft we’d hidden for many moons. As the ocean took us, we reeled in the anchor and unfurled each careful sail. Sunlight bathed our abandon, glancing of Mirage’s pale skin, and those creatures on the beach seemed to sing a song of farewell with a myriad of angry cries. They could not fix us, they could not rid us of each other, we were a part of one another. And we would find a place to be alone together.
Although the binded reeds and withered rope had begun to strain and unravel, hope was in the distance. Mirage was first to point it out, the small collection of green jewels sprouting up out of the sea like a jade strung across the neck of the world. Waves gently caressed the short expanses of sand, and I thought on one island I saw a small house. I blinked again; in the corner of my eye Mirage smiled and gestured toward two phantom figures approaching the house. They were reflections of ourselves, and though it may have been the collusion of the waves or braying birds, I thought I heard their laughter. They were free, and alone together, and that beautiful simplicity took me away to that place just miles ahead of us. I laid down upon the driftwood and Mirage laid down beside me staring into my eyes. In those bauble blues I saw the life we had ahead, frivolity and simple solitude. In this place, where we were each other's’ compass, I knew we would find ourselves in between the crags on cliffs of that gorgeous shore, become ourselves huddled in between roots of sprawling trees. But when my feet settled into the sand at the shoreline, the house had dissipated. I turned to Mirage to express concern, but they were nowhere to be seen.
I scanned frantically for Mirage’s figure, eyes wide with a twitching with confusion. I blinked, and just before my eyes shut, I could see Mirage running up the slanted beach toward the treeline. I gave chase, yet my legs were pulled out from me by an incoming wave. As I fell, I closed my eyes and braced for impact glimpsing their figure once again at the treeline. Picking myself up, fine sand fell away into the soft soil beneath palm and pines. My vision was a shutter, as it was the only way to catch up with Mirage. Why were they running? What did they know that I didn’t? Was Mirage leading me to somewhere safe, maybe that ghostly homestead we’d seen from the sea? I swept swiftly by the vegetation of the island, and the breeze carried that same laughter I had heard before - or was it anguish? I raced toward the sound and Mirage’s far-off footsteps, toward a steep incline. I could see something moving in between branches at the top, and a small clearing. I raced toward the plateau, through oblique trunks, calling out for Mirage. Suddenly, at the peak of the hill, Mirage was beside me, and the movement I had seen was a shattered rope bridge fidgeting in the wind. “Slow down”, Mirage yelped, but the warning came late. The rocky cliff gave way, and my throat fell into the pit of my stomach, as I dove toward the gleaming ocean below. Mirage stood at the cliff's edge, and as I blinked, their expression was unreadable, neither anguished nor pleased as it shrunk into the distance.
I felt like I’d been sinking for hours. The light through the surface of the water swirled like a school of translucent fish, and I sunk into layered depths of turquoise, azure and deep blue. The silence set in here, wrapping me in a blanket of lukewarm embrace. Mirage had faded down here, it was just myself and my own thoughts. Creatures of the sea swam by, but I could not speak with them.. My mind seemed expansive, unlimited. I landed softly on a coral reef, painted with colors of deep ochre, lavender, rose and turquoise. My tender fingertips felt the textured crags underneath me, and as the waves caressed my thoughts, I surrendered to the silence of the pulsing ocean. If Mirage was gone, and I was lost, that was okay. I like it better underwater, I thought to myself, as the remains of my vision granted me the sight of a peculiar fish with a mask swimming towards me. How strange... bubbled out of my mouth as the last of my oxygen dwindled away, and everything faded to blue.
opal ocean pt. ii
I felt the strain on my shoulders as I was pulled towards the surface. I didn’t want to leave, it was deafening above. I struggled and kicked but the hands got the better of me. As salt ran from my eyes and light guided my vision I saw a number of men in masks looking down at me. My ears adjusted to the sounds above the sea, and they asked if I was alright. Their unfamiliar tongue snaked into my ear, but sat snugly in my mind. Watching the aged wood move as they spoke amongst themselves, I yearned for the blue depths and the one who preceded them. A strange herb was gingerly pressed into my face, dulling my perceptions and pulling me back into lethargy.
The hut that I awoke in was small, much like the one I saw as I neared the Island. I heard murmurs of concerned voices outside. The woman tending to me, wearing the mask of a crow asked me my name. I fumbled over the consonance; Gem did not leave my mouth as easy as I expected it to. Mirage’s name flowed easily, followed by a worried tone of inquiry. The crow cocked her head, trying to understand. I asked where Mirage was, if they were still on the Island. The crow replied that she had seen me run across the expanse of the island, and jump into the sea, alone.