Παρασκευή, 3 Ιουλίου 2015

THE LIGHT BLUE BOY



   His name was Andrew. He lived with his parents in the village Miriandela, a small dot on the map, by the shore with no more than 63 inhabitants. They all worked in the sardine canning factory, “The silver sardine”. Everyone, but the elderly Mr. Zakastio, who usually spent the mornings with his walking stick strolling at the beach. Mr. Zakastio was a serious, seventy-five-year-old man, who always wore suspenders all year long. He was his unofficial guardian when his parents were at the factory. Andrew was six years old, he was the only child in the village and this was the summer that changed his life.
    They had moved about a year and a half ago. They had left their old neighborhood, where there were no jobs anymore and came to Miriandela for a while, until things got better and Andrew started school. They would then go back or follow the jobs in a bigger city. The factory sucked all of their energy. They left at dawn from home and they returned late in the afternoon. Mum would prepare the boy’s breakfast and would tenderly kiss him goodbye. His father would do the same, carefully in order not to wake him up, but their perfume and the caresses would always do. He ached for them more than anything else in his day. He would put on his clothes hastily and would follow them to the factory at the edge of the beach. There, he would meet Mr. Zakastio, who was out for the first walk of the day and he would watch out for him as he would play alone with the pebbles. There would be many more walks throughout the day for Mr. Zakastio. There would be a day that excruciatingly looked like the previous one or the one that was about to follow for Andrew. His parents always returned too tired from work. For Andrew, the factory looked like a strange, grey dinosaur that took away his parents each day and his friends from his old neighborhood. It would exhaust them and bring them headaches with the rhythmic hum of its mechanical respiration and the smoke coming out of its chimney. It would swallow the mood for games and the rage would start growing in his tiny heart. 
     Occasionally, small fish approached in various shapes that resembled a trembling vortex. He would have a quick look at them and then throw small pebbles at them and make them go away. It was one of his solitary games while Mr. Zakastio would sit a bit further back and read his newspaper. The fish that approached the shore today though, looked like no other he had seen before. He got scared when he caught a move in the dark water with the corner of his eye, a bulk was approaching almost shyly. As it got closer, Andrew remained speechless out of daze and fear. He had never seen such a large fish before and with such a vivid color. He stared at it without moving. The head, the body and the tail had a blinding light blue color that could hypnotize you. It was phosphorescent underwater and brighter than the blue sky after the storm. The strangest thing though, was its look. Its eyes that popped out from the rest of the body, were staring at him. Yes, he felt that glass eye on him, as if it weighed his strength, as if it penetrated him. He shivered and cold sweat ran into his spine. The huge fish, which was a bit smaller than his own height, blinked and with a sudden turn, disappeared into the open sea. Could it be his imagination? Did the grey sea create shadows and his mind gave birth to imaginary creatures? 
    
His heart was about to explode. He turned around and looked at Mr. Zakastio. The man continued to browse the newspaper with the same indifferent feeling, without having understood the slightest thing. Still, it couldn’t be his imagination. As long as it lasted, everything inside him was upside down. It was the first time in a while that he felt being looked at, that he felt someone else’s gaze penetrate him and dissolve that thick layer of his solitude. 
     He spent the rest of the day thinking about it. This marine creature had haunted him. The boy participated in the worn out afternoon games with his parents and he saw it again in his dreams at night. He wanted to ask them if there were so big fish out there with such a bright color, but something kept him back. They probably wouldn’t believe him and a part of him still wasn’t sure. Lately, he felt isolated and most of the words were in his mind without finding their way out. He really wanted it to be true, a blue fish for company… 
    The next morning he was playing with pebbles by the sea filled with impatience and anxiety. The day was warm and sunny, Mr. Zakastio wiped the drops of sweat with the handkerchief he had in his pocket, browsing the newspaper, and young Andrew just waited to see it again, and no matter how impossible it seemed, it came. The big fish stood still and waved his tail. Andrew got up and approached. The fish didn’t get scared and didn’t move, on the contrary, it looked deep into the boy’s eyes in an almost human way. The boy took off his shoes and stepped into the sea. He made four slow steps not to scary it away and make it run away. No, the fish remained staring at him. Andrew put his hands in the water and stayed frozen still, breathless. The fish, glistering while the rays of light fell into water, swam a bit closer to him. The more it got closer to the boy, the more the boy’s mind got number. A strange feeling that he hadn’t experienced before, it was as if his emotional landscape had been deserted and space was being created for this creature only. No, he was not afraid of it. On the contrary a strange feeling of intimacy was born between them that could not be explained by any laws of logic. They looked each other deep in the eyes and after a while the fish gracefully turned and disappeared in the ocean. Andrew shivered as it left and almost did not believe this sense of promise he had received in his confused mind. He couldn’t explain it to Mr. Zakastio but yes, the big blue fish had spoken to him in a way. Naturally, neither his parents seemed to believe him at lunch when he shared his experience with them. They were condescending but he knew deep down that they hadn’t believed a word. For them, he was a small boy making up stories to kill the boredom he felt with the elderly man overlooking his lonesome games. 
     The following month was apocalyptic and the events from one point on started their canter leaving behind all the logical interpretations. Every day the light blue fish came near the shore and every day Andrew was eagerly waiting for it. He dived with his floaties and swam together. The fish never went deep into the ocean as if it felt how small the boy was. It sometimes let him touch its fins and tail. A strange relationship of mutual trust was born. Mr. Zakastio watched him and never expressed a comment on his new habits. The small boy often wondered: “oh well, doesn’t he see the fish?” He had asked him but the answers he got were not informative. “But yes, of course, I have seen it, but please don’t go any deeper, stay there where I can see you.” Andrew had found a friend, a companion in that creature that didn’t seem to ask anything from him. Their small stroll would last for a while but it was incredibly fulfilling for the boy and as time passed, the bond between them grew stronger. The first numbness of the contact was now transformed into a communication form. No, of course the fish could not speak but there were times when he felt words and saw scattered images in his mind. He had sensed that it was young like him, despite his big size. He had sensed that it lived deep into the ocean and he was almost hurt when he felt a big family behind it. It had a lot of brothers and its flock would soon begin its big journey. When he touched it, he strongly tried to transmit images of his own life. He thought of his mom and dad and how much he missed them during the day, how much he missed his friends and how angry he was with that big, grey factory behind him. He tried to say in his own way that it was the factory’s fault that his parents were always tired and his life had changed so much. He tried to say a lot of things but he wasn’t sure if the fish could sense any of these. 

  
  Everything happened in a day. He woke up that morning and his skin was rough. He saw small silver fish scales on his hands which could not be removed no matter how hard he rubbed them. The boy smiled. He was not afraid at all. He already knew what was about to happen. He wore a long-sleeved blouse for he didn’t want his parents to see. When they came to kiss him, they teased him that he smelled like the sea and that he probably didn’t have a proper shower the day before. At the beach, Mr. Zakastio was always with his newspaper. The boy awkwardly smiled and turned his back at him. He turned and saw the fish coming towards him. He took off his clothes and let his sight fill with the sea. Everything happened so fast. Mr. Zakastio was an old man and he couldn’t run when he saw the blindingly light blue color fill the boy’s body. His eyes, of course could not distinguish the iridescent fish scales that decorated his small body, nor could he understand that the strong smell, like the breath of the ocean, came out of every pore of his and not out of the rough waters that got forceful as if they were waiting for something like this to happen for so long. The small boy dived and followed the fish in the ocean. He had entered without his floaties, he no longer needed them. The sea had become a kind of womb that let his old self go and let the new one evolve. He had deeply craved for that new world of companionship in the depths of the ocean, he had imagined it for so many nights before falling asleep, he had envisioned it in so many of his dreams that now he knew that it was becoming reality. The ocean took his identity and his nature and gave him in return a brave new world to belong to, a large family for him. His eerie transformation happened really fast, he wasn’t sure if he had any second thoughts or questions about his new life but he had a tremendous faith in himself, not really knowing its origin. Maybe he was the first and the last or just another link in a chain of exchanges that had no beginning or ending. It was his last thought when he felt his breath coming out of his gills. He searched for his body but he saw it in the fish opposite him. It wore his clothes, its skin was smooth and its eyes looked at him intensely, like the first day. It had entered his old body and it seemed like it hadn’t got used to its new way of breathing. It skillfully reached the surface of the sea and he heard it take a long breath. Andrew waved his tail and disappeared into the deep, his new home that he had to discover and get ready for the big journey. They never saw him near the beach again. The small boy never spoke after that dive. His parents believed that the dive had caused some kind of damage. The doctors could not find what was wrong with him. They never accused Mr. Zakastio, who never made it on time to prevent the harm. They never understood what exactly happened that morning at the beach. Their son never got in the sea again but he went and gazed it for hours, with his eyes closed, for the rest of the summer. They let him listen to the ocean and communicate with it in a secret language which they could not share with him any more. 

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