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Talo Segura

You Cannot Save Me

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After reading the forum thread on Moonlit Cave by Jason Rimbaud https://awesomedude.com/jasonr/moonlit-cave/moonlit-cave.htm I was motivated to add my own short story which I wrote in response to the same writing prompt: the first line - You watched as the water rushed into the cave as you tugged helplessly at the shackle on your arm; realizing high tide was starting to fill the space, dooming you to drown. 

 

You Cannot Save Me  

 by Talo Segura.

 

He watched as the water rushed into the cave, tugging helplessly at the shackle securing his arm; realising the high tide was starting to fill the space, dooming him to drown. The first light of dawn illuminated the small entrance which gave out onto the sea. Crashing waves pummeled the rocks and shoreline somewhere in the distance. The roar from outside contrasted with an echoing calm within the darkness. Successive waves broke over his head as he struggled in vain to free himself. Today I will be in paradise he thought and wept, even as he cried in anguish.

The boy was half-dead when he'd pulled him from the wreckage and dragged him out of the water onto the damp sandy beach. He could not have known, nor could he have rightly been held responsible, it was not just. Those events played out in his head as the salty water filled his nostrils and stung his eyes. He gulped in air between mouthfulls of choking water. 

 

It was another bright and sunny day, the sand damp, but warm, on his bare feet as he walked along the water's edge. The peace was broken only by the gentle sound of rolling waves and the screech of a seagull swooping overhead. He shielded his eyes as he looked towards the sound and then to the distant horizon. The deep blue of the sea sparkled in the sunlight and only the faintest of lines marked where the horizon touched the sky. A cloudless sky that reflected the colour of the water.

His habit was to wander the shoreline alone, keeping company only with his thoughts, allowing the sounds of nature to fill his head and the warmth of the sun to caress his bare chest and warm his sadness. Nothing would take away the emptiness he felt, not the beauty of the savage shore, nor the kind words of those few friends who still bothered to try and talk to him. He was dead to their words and sentiments, consumed by the loss of the first and only person he had loved, would ever love. No one, nothing, could fill his life now. To that, he was resigned, and the desolation he felt inside himself left him inconsolable.

Hardly ever did he encounter anyone on these lonely walks, even less a patrol of the castle guard. The army were usually content to walk the ramparts and guard the city, seldom concerned with anything outside, whatever it might be. They were perhaps confident that the fortifications alone were more than enough to hold back any attack. After all this was one of the remotest parts of the kingdom. That was reason enough for the King to have despatched his son and heir to the distant outpost. Certain he would be safe from the ravages of the impending war in the south.

Rounding the headland that warm sunny morning he was immediately confronted with a scene of devastation. Wreckage was scattered against the rocks. He scrambled along, being careful with his footing on the slippery stone and avoiding the ragged strands of emerald green seaweed. It was as he made his way towards the beach on the other side of the outcrop that he saw him.

Jet black hair with a strand of seaweed in it, torn clothes, and surely a broken leg judging by the unnatural position. The boy was half in, half out of the water. His body lifeless, an arm moving with the water, bobbing up and down. He quickly drew close and grabbing the boy's shoulders lifted him out of the water and dragged him a little way up the beach. Putting his ear to the tiny chest he tried to listen, but heard nothing. A finger against the boy's creamy white neck may have given a hint of a pulse. Without hesitating he pinched the nostrils and covered the cold lips with his own. He breathed into the lifeless body. He gulped in air and breathed into the boy's mouth again. Then again. A reaction!

He turned him on his side as the once lifeless body coughed up water, two, three times. Spewing the salty liquid onto the sand. Laying him back, he looked into the dark eyes. For an instant he thought those eyes matched perfectly the strands of discarded seaweed, and somehow they echoed those eyes he had lost.  

Before he could do more there was shouting and noise. Galloping horses and harsh words. The sound of a drawn sword as it slid from its scabard. A glint of steel. Hands dragged him away as the voices shouted at him. He saw the expressions on their faces. They were accusing. Accusing him. Of what? The blackness enveloped him like a sudden eclipse. 

 

The stone floor was cold, he could not understand where he was. Reaching for his head he noticed blood on his arm. How long had he been unconscious? He had no idea. Stumbling to his feet he moved uncertainly in the gloom. The heavy wooden door wouldn't move. It was locked. He slumped back down.

"You kissed the Prince Royal," the stern, gruff voice, announced.

He was bent over on his knees, prostrate before the judge. A guard held each arm outstretched.

"You are condemned to die by drowning."

He heard the words, but didn't register their meaning. His head hurt, his whole body hurt. Why was this happening?

 

Was it the next day? How many days had he lain there, on that stone floor? They dragged him out, kicked and beat him. Pulled him with them, wrapping his eyes with a band of dirty cloth. He stumbled, weak and blind. He heard the waves and smelt the salty air. Then the water was all around his body. His arm was shackled to a chain as voices echoed. The dirty cloth was ripped from his eyes and the darkness was replaced by a deep gloom. He shivered in the cold water.

Then a glimmer of light gave a faint impression of his surroundings. He was alone, totally alone. He watched as the water rushed into the cave, tugging helplessly at the shackle securing his arm; realising the high tide was starting to fill the space, dooming him to drown. He was condemned. Condemned to walk this world alone or to drown in a sea of sorrow. The love of his life awaited him in paradise and his tears joined the salty waves as the water rose and covered his head. 

 

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As Cole said, but very depressing. I freely admit that at my age I prefer happy thoughts and endings. Still, well done. 

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Thanks Cole for your comments and thank you also Trab. It was intended as a short story so it was cut short, but it didn't finish as you are led to believe. You said you don't like sad endings too much, this is what happened next:

 

A strong arm pulled him coughing and spluttering from the watery grave and dragged him onto the smooth ledge. He felt the cold hardness of the place. Blinking, he tried to make out the figure who stood over him. But all he could do was shiver and watch. The man seemed tall and thick set, but he said nothing. Finally, he took hold of his cold wet hand and placed something in his palm, closing his hand over it. The shadow moved around and appeared distorted, to stretch like a reflection in a pond. Then it receded and he was once again alone listening to the waves crashing through the entrance of the cave.

The light illuminated the distant sea entrance ever more clearly, but that was not the way out. He scrambled back in the gloom, crawling over the ledge, until he found what must be rough hewn steps. Achingly, he stood up. Slowly, one step at a time, he climbed the stone path. His bare feet could feel the smooth uneven stone, and he took care not to slip and fall. It could have been an eternity, he had no idea of time, but finally he emerged into the outside.

The world did not reflect his ordeal. It was as if nothing had happened. The sun warmed his near naked body and the gentle breeze caressed his bruised and battered skin. As quickly as possible, recovering his senses, he made his way farther up the cliff. He needed to reach the top and escape into the wooded interior that he knew was not too far away. Otherwise he was exposed and had no idea if a castle patrol might pass. Certainly they would find no body, but that would be later. He needed to make his escape, and he knew where he had to go.

 

Perhaps I should have included those last three paragraphs. I didn't, because it becomes the opening chapter of a sword and sorcery story, a fantasy, that is another project, perhaps for another day. I have lots of writing projects and no time to progress them all. I'm giving you these next few paragraphs because it shows how things are not always what they might seem to be. Still not yet a happy ending, but you do know he survived... Don't you just love twists? 😉

 

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This is a great take on the same prompt that inspired me.  But unlike Trab, I liked the original ending.  Life sometimes ends on a down note, and I think it’s more poignant how you originally wrote it.
 

great writers take unexpected twists that are bold and unpredictable.  It’s powerful imagery that ends, such was the life that tried to help a human.  I loved it.  
 

Jason.  

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9 hours ago, Jason Rimbaud said:

I liked the original ending.

Me too, even if it is sad, but then I'm not a happy ever after person. I just hate the smulchy endings that usually accompany American films - LOL!

I also love the way different writers can come up with very different stories based on the same premise or prompt. Makes me wonder how those brain neurons get wired up?

I'm really pleased you liked it 🤗

 

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