I’m in a writing group here in Luxembourg that meets once a month to share our work and give each other encouragement and helpful critique. I’ve loved it for pushing me outside the normal boundaries of my writing and making me try something new. For May, our prompt was to write flash fiction (up to 500 words) on the theme “at the beach”. This was my response…
She forced her eyes open into a squint against the glare. Heat warmed her skin as she lay there. What time was it? Last she remembered the sun was much lower in the sky. How long was she out?
She moved her feet, tentatively encouraging life back into heavy limbs. There was sand between her toes, sand in the gaps between her fingers. She licked her salty dry lips and grimaced –tiny grains ground against her teeth.
Her head throbbed as she looked across the quiet beach. She could see a few other bodies lying across the sand, and further down the beach a group of men were gathered.
Bibi! She sat up with a start and gasped in horror. Where was Bibi?
She surveyed the beach frantically. Pieces of driftwood and debris lay on the sand – a flipflop, a bundle of torn fabric, a plank of wood painted turquoise. She lifted a hand to her still aching head and felt the tangled mixture of sand and sea water and blood.
Staggering forward she passed someone lying on the beach and looked over. The young man lay awkwardly on his back, an arm flung across the sand, eyes open in a vacant stare. Reeling back in fear, she looked helplessly around. Where was Bibi? Oh God, please let her find Bibi.
Her tired legs hastened into a half run, feet slipping on the hot dry sand as she stumbled down the beach, glancing down into each face. As she approached the group someone turned and saw her, exclaiming loudly in surprise.
She saw they were standing around a boat. Brightly coloured blue paint peeled away from the sides, an ugly gash across the middle exposed broken shards of wood and metal. A flash of memory – a harbour, a blue boat, packed in close together, her hand firmly around Bibi’s, the other arm clutching the fabric bag from home.
A young man rushed forward to meet her and caught her as she slipped again on the sand.
“Praise Allah you are alive, sister,” he said, “We thought you were gone. So many are gone.” His dark curly hair was filled with sand, his faded t-shirt ripped halfway up his front. His eyes drooped with heavy fatigue.
She couldn’t find any other words, a great pain building in her chest.
Turning he pointed to a figure sitting behind the boat facing out to sea. Thin arms wrapped around thin legs, a piece of torn fabric pulled tightly across tangled brown hair in a semblance of normality.
Bibi. With a gasp, she stumbled towards the figure and fell, the last few metres a desperate crawl until at last the little head turned and she saw the face she had been seeking, relief flooding her shattered body.
Hands reached out to grasp hands, and in a moment they were a tangle of limbs and sand and tears. She pulled back and held the small face in her hands, looking intensely at her, eyes scanning every line and curve.
“Oh sweet girl, you’re alive. You’re alive.”