What Lies Beneath the Waves
by Sara L. Uckelman
Every summer we caught starfish, down on grandma's beach. No one cared if we got wet, or dirty, or stripped down to tanned skin glowing in the sun. Nell the ambitious would bring as many buckets as she could carry, but get bored after the first catch and retreat to building sandcastles instead. She always preferred the safety of the shore. Alfie the greedy caught more than the rest of us combined; he'd fill his bucket and then all of Nell's leftovers as well. His starfish were grotesque, always missing a limb or two.
And I made it my mission to find the most beautiful ones, sharp and spiky, the color of sunset, some the size of my thumbnail, others as big as my hand, the ones that always hid in the shadows.
Softly Alfie and I would tread the tidal pools, hidden from Nell by the jutting rocks, our hands descending upon the starfish like the judgment of the gods. The slickness of the rocks would not stop us, nor the pull of the waves as the tide washed out.
We were immortal.
It almost felt like sacrilege, pulling the starfish out of the shimmering water, capturing them. Alfie, the heretic, laughed at me when I said so, and after that I kept my mouth shut.
I kept my mouth shut, too, the day the three of us went down to the beach but only two of us came back. Nell never saw anything, too busy building her sandcastles, and I never told anyone what I saw.
Who would have believed me?
Dr. Sara L. Uckelman is an assistant professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University by day and a writer of speculative fiction by night. Her short stories are published or forthcoming in Manawaker Studio Flash Fiction Podcast, Pilcrow & Dagger, Story Seed Vault, and The Martian Wave, and anthologies published by BCubed Press, Exterus, Flame Tree Publishing, Hic Dragones, Jayhenge Publications, QueerSciFi, and WolfSinger Publications. She is also the co-founder of the reviews site SFFReviews.com.
This story was inspired by the starfish photograph and a writing prompt to write a flash fic story about a childhood game gone wrong.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'The Little Star Fish That Went Into Space'