This story was shortlisted for Reedsy’s writing contest #179/30 — Haruki Murakami. You can also find it on Reedsy’s site.
The seagulls were weeping again. They had woken her from her sleep. It was funny, now that she thought about it. She’d also fallen asleep listening to their shrill pleas. It reminded her of the song her mother had sung to her as a baby. Sunset and sunrise, bird calls and bird cries.
Simone rolled out of her bed, feeling the tidal roll of the world beneath her feet. Circles and orbs, circles and orbs, she thought, inanely, as she wobbled over to the window on legs that felt made of string. It’s all just circles and orbs. Or spheres. Is ‘spheres’ the word I’m looking for? She rested her elbows on the windowsill and cradled her chin in the cup of her palms, glazed eyes gazing outward. What Simone saw, floating on the glassy surface of the midnight ocean, confirmed her previous notion that it truly was all just circles and orbs. Or spheres. Perhaps ‘spheres’ is indeed a better word.
The moon, fat and full, bobbed up and down on the ink-black waves. Higher and then lower it dipped and nodded, lethargically. Soporifically. The sea was almost impossible to see. If it wasn’t for the white foam that bubbled at the tips of the cresting waves, Simone wouldn’t have been able to tell it was there at all. Well, by sight, anyway. She could smell the salt in the air through the open window. And the seagulls were still pleading, of course.
Hush, said the waves. Hush; roll with us. Hush now, child. See the moon, soak it in. Hush, hush, hush. The sand beneath her naked feet was cool and damp. The sensation was actually rather nice, as opposed to unpleasant. The wet beach against her bare skin was smooth and silky. It reminded her of the poem her father had told her when she was a little girl. Sunrise and sunset, soil rich and shoreline wet.
The glowing moon was still bob-bob-bobbing in the currents. They said that the moon didn’t actually glow – it simply reflected the sun’s light. But looking at it now, and the shimmering illumination that emanated from it, Simone knew this to be false. Of course the moon glowed. Just look at it! And just who, pray tell me, were ‘they’? Circles and orbs, spheres, o’ spheres!
All alone on the stretch of coast, as far as the eye could see, as far as the ear could hear, as far as the soul could search, as far as the heart could feel. Simone walked on, toes digging into the saturated silt. She was dimly aware of her home and her sanctuary, somewhere off to her right, further inland. (Or was it over to the left, somewhere in the ocean? Perhaps hiding behind the pregnant moon that floated gently?) Her bed called to her, to the land of sleep, the cloud of dreams. Her cosy little hidey-hole, with her pot of tea and her smoking incense. But she resisted. And she walked on.
The familiar sadness started to flow into her, from sources unknown. Perhaps there was a great celestial jug above her – an inky, silky trickling of liquid, dribbling from spout into soul. And so, to counteract this stream of grief, Simone threw herself into a somersault right there on the shoreline, hands digging into the soggy sand. If the melancholy would fill her, well, then she’d just pour it back out again, wouldn’t she? Besides, even if she were unsuccessful in upending her emotional container, nobody could be unhappy whilst performing a somersault. Nobody. It reminded her of a quote from the book her grandfather had given her as an adolescent. Moon up and moon down, a smile’s just an upturned frown.
Simone landed the somersault deftly, soft nightgown billowing about her. Her mother might’ve chastised her indecency, but there was nobody except the moon to witness such impropriety. Circles, orbs, spheres and spheres. She laughed at the thought and broke out into a run, heels of her feet carving divots in the beach, clapping her hands together to rid them of the sand that clung to them like a glove. The sound multiplied and reverberated across the cove, bouncing back to meet her – a percussive orchestra of echoes that slowly faded away into the whispering waves.
Round and round she walked, orbiting the sea. Overhead, the stars glittered; in the ocean behind her, the moon lounged on the waves, reclining and easy; high above, the seagulls continued to weep and plead, singing their miseries into the breeze. Simone pondered how easy it would be to go mad in the relentlessness of reality. The rigid conformities, the cuboid skeletons into which our fragile human minds were forced, round, squishy and delicate. It reminded her of the words her grandmother had spoken, the day she died. Moon full and moon wanes; awake we’re mad, asleep we’re sane.
If this was reality, Simone couldn’t wait to fall asleep. And if this is a dream? her mind asked. “Well, then I never want to wake up,” she told shushing waves, the pleading gulls. “The only time I’m happy is when I dream. I wish I could dream forever.”
As the last syllable dropped from her lips like a dewdrop from a blade of grass, the warm blanket of her bed enveloped her. Simone couldn’t remember walking home, but then again, wasn’t that always the case?
The pot of tea steeped on her nightstand, trails of steam rising upwards to destinations unknown: perhaps to the ceiling, perhaps beyond. Simone poured herself a mug, relishing the gentle sloshing sound the tea made as it splashed against the bottom of the ceramic. Somewhere, her incense was burning. The smell was warm and rich; somehow cosy. The spicy aroma made her bedroom seem smaller, but in a way that was entirely pleasant and devoid of claustrophobia. It made her feel safe, feel small, feel soft, feel warm.
Simone took a sip and emptied her cup, the cosy liquid trickling down into her, filling her to the brim, heating her from within. Her eyelids started to droop, so she carefully placed the mug on the side table before sleep could steal her away. As she let her head drop to her pillow, like a stone into a pond, she took one last glance at her open window, curtains billowing softly in the breeze.
The moon was fat and full and happy. And it glowed, illuminations shimmering through the onyx waves.
And now… Now, the seagulls were weeping again. Sunset and sunrise, bird calls and bird cries.
24th February 2020
Shortlisted for Reedsy’s weekly Short Story Contest #179/30 — Haruki Murakami