The Sea Turtle by Allison Xu
This story is one of the November Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
The sand cooled around me, indicating nightfall. It’s time. I wiggled my body so the damp sand above my soft, leathery shell loosened and cracked. My stone-colored flippers thrust me up, my head popping out of the sand. I caught a whiff of the pungent sea air — a mixture of salt and seaweed. The sun dipped low on the horizon, tinting the sky with unbreakable streaks of purple and orange. The lingering brightness still made me squint to adjust to the sight, so different from the heavy darkness of the deep nest I shared with the other turtle eggs.
By the time I fully surfaced, I scanned the entire beach spreading out in front of me like an open book. Large pieces of driftwood and washed-up kelp dotted the shore. Glints of warm light dappled the frothy waves ahead as they splashed and lapped at the sand. A balmy, brine-scented breeze whistled like the gentle hum of songs.
From the corner of my eye, I spotted the pale outline of the elongated shadow of my small body cast from the slanted sun rays. My face felt dry and encrusted with sand, but that was the least of my worries. I ran my obsidian eyes along the downward slope of the beach until my gaze locked on the white crests of the ocean, the waves stretching out as if to welcome me into its arms. I found my destination.
Frightened but determined, I crawled down the slope leading toward the whispering surge. My tender flippers moved slowly and clumsily on the gritty path. Step by step, I lurched forward, leaving trails on the sand behind me. As I settled into a hurried cadence of “One-two, one-two…” my gaze held onto the ocean. Its cerulean, spiral-shaped waves were lolling in a non-stop, undulating rhythm. What a marvelous sight.
About halfway, my flippers turned sore, and my breath quickened and labored. The sun almost vanished over the horizon, only a sliver of light shedding a faint sheen. Every muscle in my body was telling me to rest, but I imagined closing my eyes as the glassy water sweeping over my dry, mantled body, bringing a feeling of warmth and freedom. I imagined being able to push my flippers against lucid water, not beach sand.
In the distance, a sea bird flapped upwards and gave a strident, echoing cackle, bringing a shiver down my spine. My legs wobbled and threatened to buckle, but I managed to scramble forward. Inch by inch, I reached the sand doused from the highest tides. The blue swells of the ocean were taller now, and I could almost taste the salt-water. A new burst of energy rushed into me. With a final push, I raced to the finish line, closing in the last stretch of space between water and me.
A cool wave washed over me, bringing me into its embrace.
I made it.