Frank Polson would know what it was. A fisherman all his life, the only time he ever turned his back on the sea was when he was negotiating his return to harbour.
He took it in his hand, a hand so rough he could smooth wood just by stroking it. ‘This is a rare find, you know. Three or four waves and it would have become the beach.’
‘What is it?’
‘Well… It was a sea ghost. They’re like a jelly fish but with a head. This was its skull.’ He turned it over and blew into the cavity. It whistled back.
‘You see them after a bad storm, when it’s quiet, when the sea’s in shock at what it’s done. The times I’ve seen them, it’s been when we’ve been looking for someone. When it’s too late, when it’s futile… That’s when they rise up. You can’t really see them, but you sense them, you feel them, there, in the water.’
He sighed, a stuttered sigh. A sigh that was more about holding something back rather than letting something out. Then I heard it fall to the ground.
‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ He bent down to pick up the pieces. ‘It’s broken. Never mind. I’ll take these bits to beach. Back to the beach. Where these things go.’
And without so much as a look he was gone, leaving the smell of salt behind him.
© Shona Main 2010