“Nerina! Nerina! Are you OK? Can you hear me?” The words were hitting my ears, faintly. This time when I opened my eyes, I saw Ava on her surfboard, stroking hard and fast in my direction and looking concerned. I lay draped across my board, and felt as if I had swallowed the sea.
~~~By the end of the week I had thoroughly dried out from my ordeal and was itching to surf again. Neither Ava nor any of my other buddies could join me for a sunrise session, so I paddled out alone at my home break. The swell had faded to inconsistent waist-high pop-up peaks. After a few short rides, I waited in the quiet water for the next set and watched the sky turn from pink and orange to pale blue. A flock of pelicans flew low over the surface and a sea otter floated in the near distance. My hand traced an idle circle in the glassy ocean. Unexpectedly, the circle grew wider and stronger, expanding outward and rocking my board as I yanked my hand from the water. Whoa! What the --? When the surface calmed again, I stirred it tentatively, setting up a smaller vortex still vastly out of proportion to my little movement.
“Try it again. But this time, point your hand away.” I looked around startled. There was no one in sight, although the otter had moved closer. In fact, he was swimming directly at me, with a purpose. “Try, Nerina.” The voice was in my head. I pinched my cheek to wake myself from this dream, but it didn’t help.
|Osred (illustrated by J-Bird)|
“Silas?” I exclaimed. “But I thought -”
“That was all a near-drowning-induced hallucination?” Osred placed a paw on my board. “I assure you, Nerina, fantastic as it sounds, that was not a dream. Nor are you dreaming now. I am as real as you.” To emphasize his point, he reached out with his other paw and pressed his claws gently into the back of my hand.
“Ouch!” I pulled away, and he settled back into the water.
“See. Real. As are the powers Silas gave you.” Osred turned his gaze toward the curving south end of the bay. “Now, spin your hand in the water again, but point it toward those hills.”
My mind was reeling as an otter sent his thoughts into it, telling a fantastic telepathic tale, but I did as he bid me.
The water swirled around my fingertips, then rolled away as a small wave. I smiled, and spun my hand faster in a bigger circle. The wave grew to head-high, rising from the quiet water to peel off in the distance. I laughed aloud, and spun off an even bigger one that flew toward shore and crashed on the sand like thunder.
Osred clamped a paw on my board again and stared intently into my eyes. “This power is one of many bestowed by Silas, Prince of the Merfolk, in gratitude for your assistance to his beloved Cleodora, and in recognition of your kind and noble heart. Do not take it lightly; it is not a plaything.”
Three surfers were coming down the path to the beach, and Osred glanced at them warily. “I must go now, but we will talk soon. Be well, Nerina, until we meet again.” He turned away and dove into the murky depths, reappearing at a respectable distance. Osred floated on his back, nibbling on a clam, appearing to all the rest of the world as a normal otter.
~~~After Osred left me, I refrained from making any more waves, conscious of the other surfers now in the water nearby. But I wondered what he was talking about when he said Silas gave me other powers. Discretely, I moved my hand over the surface of the sea and up. A column of water rose with it, then fell down as I lost concentration. I tried again, and this time gave it a push. The large splash made the other surfers turn and stare, so I looked nonchalant until they went back to searching the horizon for their next wave. It was all a little much to take in, so I rode a few waves myself before it was time to leave for work.
~~~The break was crowded, and one aggro guy on an yellow shortboard was hogging the waves and sending out bad vibes to the rest of us surfers. Three times he snaked me, forcing me off of waves for which I was best positioned. I’d had enough. The next time, as he paddled in front of me and I backed off, I flicked my fingers in the water and the wave jacked up, steep and high. There was a look of surprise on his face as he missed the unexpected drop and went flying, his board shooting straight in the air as he tumbled and the lip crushed him down. I wasn’t the only one laughing at his wipeout, but I heard a single shrieky whistle behind me and turned to see an otter looking at me from farther out in the kelp. His look was intent and disapproving. “Use your powers for good and not ill, Nerina,” he spoke into my mind. I felt ashamed.
~~~I had to tell someone; I just had to. And who else but my best buddy, Ava? We we surfing at our favorite point break. It was late afternoon but for some unknown reason the crowd was light, with no one in our near vicinity.
“C’mon, you’re kidding me.” Ever the skeptic, Ava wouldn’t believe without proof. So I made a little wave for her. “Awesome!” she exclaimed. “We won’t ever have to endure lulls or flat spells again. What else can you do?”
I smiled. “Well, the other day when I was trying to keep from drifting by hanging on to kelp, I discovered this.” I put my hand in the water, reaching toward a strand of kelp that was several feet away. It swung around toward me, and the leaves came into my waiting hand.
“Too cool!” Ava was impressed. “So what are you going to do with these powers, besides show off to your friends?”
~~~“Good. Hold it.” Osred was coaching me in how to control the water, as I kept a hundred droplets suspended in the air. “Now think of ice.” I did, and the droplets turned to hard crystals, falling into the sea as I dropped them in surprise. “Again,” he spoke in my mind.
This time, I raised the water with my hand, froze it, and held the crystals steady with a thought. As I envisioned icicles, they came together into sharp spears. “Throw them!” Osred commanded. I moved my hand away and like little missiles, they flew toward shore and pelted the sea. “Good!” He rolled onto his back and swam in a happy circle before stopping next to my surfboard.
Osred looked around to make sure we were still alone in the ocean in the early morning. “One more thing I will show you this day.” He put his paw on my arm and tugged. “Come with me.” I wasn’t sure what he had in mind, but slipped off my board into the sea. “Take hold of this kelp where I show you.” He dove under the water. I took a deep breath and followed, grasping a stalk of kelp just below the surface. Osred took my other hand and pulled it up into the air, then down across my face. A bubble of air pulled from above encircled my head. I needed to breathe and started to kick upward, but Osred held me down. “You can breathe here, Nerina. Try.” I really wanted to get up to the air, to see the sky, but he was surprisingly strong and kept me where I was. Tentatively, I took a tiny breath from the bubble, then a bigger one. As my respiration grew normal, Osred looked pleased. “For a child of the land, you are a quick learner.”
~~~Seaglass Beach was notoriously dangerous to the unsuspecting, with strong rip currents. Surfers like them, of course, as they provide an easy route to the outside.
To be continued...