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Soft, Gray Eyes

By Cathryn , age 16, Year 11, Suffield High School School, Suffield, CT, USA

The same rocking motion that had lulled me to sleep woke me abruptly. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I looked around me, realizing that the fear and hopelessness I was experiencing were not a part of my dream, but a horrifyingly vivid description of my present state. With every passing moment, my insides tightened, and the constant rumble of the whitecaps echoed in my head. Panic set in and grabbed my throat, which left me gasping for air. I declared my presence by shouting "Is anybody there?" but was heard only by the wind that wrapped itself around me and swallowed my plea. With a clinched voice I called for help until my throat and lips became parched and I was drained of energy. I cursed the waves under my breath and gave in to despair. Blinking several times in an attempt to erase reality, tears formed and escaped in pathways down my cheeks.

At that moment, I noticed that I lay confined in a small wooden boat, no longer than two of my body lengths and about three feet wide. As this realization set in, I ran my hand along the grains of the wood, producing a surprisingly soothing effect. I did not recall seeing it ever before, and its origin puzzled me. Thoughts (as to how I had ended up where I was) began streaming through my mind. Glancing down, the blue tank top and khaki shorts were the same I had put on that morning; or was it that morning? I searched my mind for answers with futility, and was utterly confused.

To gain a better view of my surroundings and possibly a clue to my location, I slowly shifted my weight, but stopped as a sharp pain ran through my right leg. Examining it for injury, the only abnormality was the color. Cringing at the sight of sunburned Irish skin, my thoughts returned to a particularly painful vacation in an earlier year, and memories of endless applications of aloe flooded my mind. During my slumber, the sides of the boat had shaded the entirety of my body with the exception of the leg that I promptly drew out of the sun. Lifting my eyes to the sky, I was blinded by the glare of a hot, ruthless sun. Its position led me to believe that it was almost noon, but I had no notion of the day, though it seemed that there had been some kind of existence prior to being stranded in the boat. Why couldn't I remember?

As if in reply, a wave knocked on the side of the boat. Startled, I snapped out of my trance and pulled myself together. I knew I needed to stay calm in order to survive; there was no telling how long I would drift in the open ocean. Peering over the edge of the boat, the blue-gray water met the sky in a blurry haze on the horizon. The sun's rays dotted the surface with specks of reflected light that looked as if someone had sprinkled it with diamonds. At the same time, I thought of the depth of the ocean, and a slight shudder made my hair stand on end. Even in the hot sun, my skin prickled at the proposition of being plunged into the water, for I began to imagine all sorts of horrible creatures that could inhabit the depths. I quickly withdrew my dangling hand from the water with one swift motion, then stared into the depths, searching for anything that could be lurking near my boat.

I soon found my eyes locked in a stare with two steel-gray eyes just beneath the surface of the water. Convincing myself that I was delirious, I blinked several times and waited, expecting the image to go away. I let out a cry as the eyes became closer and a creature broke through the surface of the water. I retreated to the other side of the boat, sending it into a violent rocking motion in the process, and covering my face with my hands, I prayed that what I had seen was not real. The rocking ceased and I gradually overcame most of my fear, once again peering over the edge of the boat. Two large gray eyes and a small gray head greeted me, and once again I withdrew in fear. As I began to process what I had seen, I concluded that the creature must be a seal. This seemed a comforting image compared to those that I had imagined; however, seals are large, and can be dangerous. Partially hoping that I had scared it and partially wishing it were still there, I boldly looked over the side and observed the small head waiting patiently for my return. Its eyes gazed into mine and its whiskers twitched in a friendly manner. Still wary of the potential for danger, I searched the water for the outline of its form and made out two flippers, a graceful tail, and a slender thin body. My eyes were drawn back into its magical gaze, and all fears were temporarily erased. There was something incredibly comforting about the presence of another living being, especially one who was gentle and passive.

The large, gray eyes seemed softer than I had originally made them out to be, and I smiled as they scanned my face. In the next instant, the seal cocked its head to one side, blinked, and then disappeared under the water. The body followed, and as the tail flipped from under the water, it sent a spray of water that landed on me. I awaited its return, disappointed to lose my one companion. When I finally gave up hope of finding it, I relocated to the center of the boat. Expecting a sharp pain in my leg as I moved, I braced myself, only to find that the pain had ceased. Overcoming my disbelief, I studied my leg and found no trace of sunburn, only tiny water droplets left by the seal. I remember saying to myself out loud, "This can't be happening," but surely enough, it was. It seemed that the water had somehow cured the burn, a virtually impossible task, seeing that salt water would normally sting tender skin. I licked some of the water from my arm, and tasted no trace of salt. I then dipped my hand in the ocean and tasted that water, which left my mouth dry and in want of refreshment. My entire experience thus far had been one of disbelief and wonder, so I discounted nothing, fully believing in the mysterious healing power of the seal.

Contemplating my situation left me drained of energy, and I drifted off into a restless sleep only to be awakened be a series of splashes to the side of the boat. I observed the setting sun on the horizon, and a sense of fear crept up the back of my neck and settled in the back of my mind. The wind had ceased, and the still dusk air made for a smooth sea. A small head broke the surface of the water, and I was delighted at the return of the seal. After it had performed a few graceful dives and flips in the water, it disappeared yet again. In a moment, it leapt from the water at a great speed and arched its glistening body as it returned to the water. Once the seal resurfaced, it swam to the side of the boat and remained there twitching its whiskers. Outstretching my hand, I slowly brought it over the side of the boat and lowered it until it lightly rested on the seal's head. The slick yet soft touch instilled a sense of wonder and I patted its head. Cautiously, as so not to alarm me, it twisted its head and nuzzled the palm of my hand, sending a delightful sensation throughout my body.

I slept through the night with my hand on the head of the seal, somehow protecting me from harm during the dark hours. The morning brought hope as I rested with the warm sunlight on my closed eyelids. All rocking had ceased, and my hand was no longer in contact with the seal. I fully awoke and looked over my feet and the end of the boat into the water. Instantly, I thought it odd that the whitecaps were so loud, yet there was no motion in the boat. Sitting up, I almost collapsed when I realized that the front half of the boat was wedged between two large rocks jutting out from the water, restricting its movement. The seal was perched on a neighboring rock, and upon my entry into the conscious world, slid off and swam to me. It then proceeded to circle the boat and stop in back of me. I turned to watch it and was astounded at the sight of land.

The seal returned as I was climbing out of the boat, preparing to swim to shore. The friendly muzzle of the seal nudged my hand, and it swam beside me, supporting my weary body as I faltered. When I finally made it to shore, it began to bark, startling the quiet stillness of morning. Soon, however, I recognized the seal's intentions as a figure appeared on the cliffs above the beach. When I looked back from the rocky crag, I scanned the beach for the seal, but it was gone. As the person promptly descended the steps to the water's edge, I picked up a ribbon of vibrant green seaweed that lay next to me on the beach. I felt the smooth, sleek surface on the tips of my fingers as I let it slip through one hand into the other. Tracing the seal's flipper marks to the water with my eyes, I clutched the offering close to my heart and whispered a silent "Thank you" to the one who had saved my life.

By Cathryn , age 16, Year 11, Suffield High School School, Suffield, CT, USA


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Copyright Feb 2001 Kids on the Net and the author

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