A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—
providing exceptional authors with exposure
and avid readers with first-rate fiction.

Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

None of them really saw the ocean, not even when they drowned in it.

Low Tide

She sat by a fire that smelled of fish oil, in a rickety wooden shack with a tin roof.  It sounded like an approaching army in a rain storm, but it never leaked.  There was always meat in her stew pot, always a blanket of wool to wrap around her shoulders in the winter.  Always cold water with mint and cardamom on her table in the summer.

You could not see the ocean from her house – she did not want to look at it with her eyes, it was too much.  Every nearby town made its living from the water, cities filled with fisherman and boat builders and spice merchants … and none of them really saw the ocean, not even when they drowned in it.

The ocean is the future, she would mutter to herself when she had been alone too long, all of our future.

She preferred to be alone, although it pained her.  But they would come.  Ship captains would come.  Wives would come.  Sailors would come.  Sweethearts would come.  Investors would come.  They knocked on her door and they crossed the threshold when bidden, they put a coin or two on the table – sometimes more if their conscience was heavy or their purse was fat – and they would ask the same question, over and over.

“Will I come back?” or “Will he return?”

And she would look for them:  she would look out at the ocean, though it was beyond the hills, and see it the way they could not.  And it was there, written in the waves as they chased the moon.  They cannot help revealing their secrets to someone who knows how to look.

She told them the answer and they left quickly, knowing she was never wrong.

Some people, told they would never return, renounced the sea and stayed on land.  They became carpenters or innkeepers – or traveled inland until they could no longer taste salt in the air.  But most settled their affairs and went anyway.  She could never understand why, even though it didn’t surprise her:  perhaps they, too, were chasing the moon and just didn’t know it.

Every sunset she sat on her porch and watched the sun fall over the hills, and imagined the seas turning red.  There were other places, far across the ocean, other lands filled with people who spoke in strange tongues.  When they came, when they found us, everything would change.  They could not help coming here, anymore than the waves could help taking them:  we are all true to our natures.  She had her own grave prepared, beneath a plum tree behind her shack.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media, Playboy.com, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com.

Read more fiction by Benjamin Wachs


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365’s Facebook page