Coll raced eagerly towards the foamy water’s edge, his tattered tennis shoes leaving chaotic tracks in the grainy sand like contrails blasted from a jet engine. He flicked auburn strands out of his keen eyes, devouring the landscape in front of him; shrewdly scanning for a flash of pale orange, a golden glint. Gulls swooped in swift silver circles in the blossoming rays of the early morning sun, their dull shrieks echoing against the vast undulating expanse of water. As Coll watched the waves began to thaw; pallid icy crests morphed into slick ribbons of royal blue as beams of warm light broke lazily through a supple blanket of misty cloud. The boy inhaled contentedly, tangy brine clinging to his taste buds and cleansing confused webs of dreams and dust from his groggy mind.
His father had been a fisherman: a master of the waves and all that they held. It had been in his tanned, weathered palm that the boy had first laid eyes upon one of the golden fragments, smoothed through the eons, which the water occasionally offered to the shore. That particular evening his father had sat with him, two figures shrouded in warm woody smoke from the crumbling stone fireplace, and shared with him the secrets of time.
Following his death, Coll had taken to combing the intricacies of the coastline ever more frequently in search of amber. On the occasional days he came across a shining nugget nestled in the soft viridescent caress of an arm of seaweed, or buried half forgotten in the soupy sand, he felt as though he were reclaiming a small piece of his father. The amber contained a molten oblivion of long lost mysteries, nourishment for gluttons of the past; a lense to previous worlds. The boy reasoned that he too should be able to immortalise memories of the man he had adored in such a way: his collection of the ochre gems served as souvenirs of times gone by, proof that memories need not be eternally buried. For he too would die one day, and he feared that his recollections would wither with him.
The sun had risen fully now and melted away the last wisps of moisture so that the sky stretched an uninterrupted azure. Coll had neared the end of the beach and began to pick his way carefully over jagged limpet-spotted rocks, climbing round an outcrop that jutted over the serene waters below. Here the rock pools were thick and close together, full of animation. He crouched and watched tiny fish flit between cracks in the rock, to which clung a motley collection of coloured anemones swaying eerily in a non-existent breeze. He had always wanted a fish tank, to possess his own tiny marine world, but his mother had refused. She didn’t like the sea.
Examining the smooth line of the horizon the boy contemplated the memories he was so desperate to maintain the vitality of. He remembered the first time that his father had taken him out on the ocean in a small wooden boat and cast a line into the swell, illustrating to Coll how to delve for the living treasures of the deep. Each time he was successful the boy made him cast the fish back into the water, unable to watch them turn limp and lifeless in front of his young eyes. Turning back to the rocks he caught a flash of the colour he had trained himself so ardently to hunt for, the only one in his mind worth noticing: forget the blues and the greens and the greys.
In a glassy pool right on the boundary of rock and sea, there lay a small chunk of golden amber winking up at the boy. Slim fingers dived into the salty coolness and snatched it up. He held it up to the sunlight, examining its smooth golden contours; evidence of a time long past but not forgotten. He would not forget either.
What were your prompts?: evidence, underwater, amber
by Annie Milburn