After the storm

The storm finally relented, leaving the sky full of ragged clouds as the sun climbed lazily, turning the morning from grey to blue. The beaches were strewn with driftwood, drawing all the children of the village down to search for shells and little sea treasures. Imo and Kai were brothers. They lived nearest to the shore and so they were first on the beach that morning.

“Kai, did you sleep at all?” asked Imo, the younger brother.

“A little. Everything was wet and the storm was so loud,” Kai replied as he hopped lightly down the path through the dunes. The grass on either side lay crazily every which way, like bedhead.

They got to the beach and started walking, but found nothing besides driftwood. They could gather that for firewood, but there was plenty. They hoped to find something more valuable, a rare shell or something from a wrecked ship.

Kai walked along in silence, head down and eyes scanning as his feet scuffed through the dry sand further away from the waves. The storm was gone but the water was still rough. He looked over, and Imo was down by the water.

“Imo, don’t walk so close to the water, mother said you mustn’t!” he called out, but Imo didn’t respond. “Imo! Immm!” he called again, but the waves were too loud. He sighed and gave one last searching glance around the nearby sand, then went striding down to the edge of the water to scold his brother. As he got closer, Imo suddenly ran along the hard sand right by the water and then snatched something shiny up.

“Imo, what is that?” Kai asked as he got close, raising his voice over the crashing noise of the water, but also out of annoyance.

Imo turned around, a silvery dagger in his hands.

“I’m a soldier now, Kai, look!” he said, slashing the air with the blade. The sun was up now, golden, throwing long shadows across everything, and the blade danced in the warm light. It could not have been in the water for long.

“Imo, I want to look at it, stop waving it around,” Kai grumbled. He held out his hand. Imo slashed at imaginary enemies a few more times for good measure before reluctantly handing the long thin knife to this brother.

“It’s so shiny, I hope mother lets me keep it,” Imo said as Kai took it. Kai tossed it from hand to hand, and then, looking more closely, saw that there were inscriptions on the handle and the blade.

The dagger was mostly silver, and well polished, but there were iridescent lines of some foreign script running all throughout. Its handle fit perfectly in Kai’s grip.

“Kai, give it back. Kai, come on, I found it, it’s mine,” Imo said, then tried to snatch it back.

“Wait a minute, I want to look at it, I think there’s writing on it” Kai said, holding the blade up and away from his younger brother’s reach.

Imo pretended to give up, then sprang at the knife, reaching with both hands and knocking into Kai in the process, both boys falling into the wet sand.

“Kai! he screamed, then rolled onto his back. His hand was red with blood.

Kai dropped the knife and got to his knees, panting. “Imo?” Imo said nothing.

”Imo I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, why did you jump like that? Imo?”

The sand by Imo was turning a dirty pink from the blood now, and Kai prodded his brother. Was he dead? The cut was too small for that. Maybe he had fainted.

Kai tore off some of his shirt to wrap his brother’s hand, and another piece to wrap around the blade of the knife. He placed the knife in its crude sheath gently on his brothers stomach, then picked him up and staggered back towards their house as quickly as he could.

* * *

Much further down the beach, where the sand gives way to twisting rocks and the waves are thrown white into the air, what looked like a dark pile of seaweed suddenly shuddered and coughed. A man shook the heap of plants off of himself, slowly, then crawled further up to where the sand was dry. His hand went to his side, searching in vain, then he collapsed, his tired breath barely stirring the sand.