Crimson nights were the most dreaded nights in our sea-shore village. It was said that when the tides turned red it was an invitation for death. Years ago a diver died because she couldn’t make it above the waters, in the evening the crimson tides covered our shores and no one went to the sea for three days, until the red of the tides went away. My mother died. My father screamed at the sea and at the village head who did nothing to save my mother. They didn’t have choice. When you have to choose to save between your family and others, your hands swiftly move towards your owns first. I dread the crimson tides but I love the seas.
It’s a beautiful dawn and I can’t wait to go to the sea. I am going to dive for some sea shells today. Spring festival will soon be held in our village and I want to wear a sea shell necklace with my festival dress. In spring festivals we sing and dance. The men of the village cook our best catches of the day. It’s such joy to dance the night away under the bright sparkling stars. My father doesn’t come to this festival anyone, it’s too sad for him. Without mother the joy of his life is gone, he does smile, but I know it’s forced. I miss him, I wish he would join in this festival.
“Careful Maya, I don’t want you to drawn too.” I can hear my father scream as I dive again in a hurry. He is right to worry. But I am not anything like my mother, my mother was an experienced diver, she always got amazing catch. Once she found a black pearl in an oyster. I wear it around my neck since then. She always said, “It will be handy in times of need.” Oh, look. There’s a large oyster hiding under the corals here, it’s pretty shining black and brown. I pick it up. I am done for the day.
“Look what I found. Let’s see if there’s a pearl in it.” I tell my father as I climb back into the fishing boat. My father loves oysters. I am going to cook it tonight. I am not as good at shucking as my father. He opened the oyster in the blink of an eye and I pat my finger on the softie inside, nope, not even a tiny one. I sigh in disappointment as my father pat my back. “It’s okay Maya. Next time.” He winks at me as he eats the raw oyster. I can tell from the look on his face that he loved the taste. I look at the horizons and my heart skips a beat. The horizons are turning red and it’s not the sun. Sun is still high in the sky. It’s the crimson tide. I scream in terror, I don’t want to set my foot in the red water. “Get us to the shore father, now, please.” I cry out and my father looks in my direction. The happiness from eating the oyster fades away as the tense lines come up. He hurriedly starts the engine and makes it for the shore. The tides are high and they are coming in fast. It is said that the red tides are poisonous. Any living person or sea creatures who come in its contact dies sooner or later. I don’t want to die yet. I close my eyes and everything turns crimson. I am scared. “Please mom, protect us.” I can feel my lips shivering in the heat of the day. I open my eyes and the shore is almost near. I jump out of our boat and grab the boat’s rope. My father turns off the engine and joins me in my task. We drag the boat outside as few villagers run towards us, soon there are plenty of us dragging the boat out of the sea. We tie each and every boat of our village near the safety of the village walls. The village walls are made of big rocks, soil and the sweat of the villagers. I am proud of my people. We have been through much but we are a strong village. The tides hit the sea-shore as the sun makes to take a dip in the horizons. It’s crimson everywhere, the sky, the water, our hearts.
The village chief is holding a meeting after dinner and everyone is to attend, my father included. “come on dad, we have to help too.” I say to my father as I clean the dishes. We sit on the high rocks outside our house. The moon is shining bright but the sea is still red. I love that my house is situated on this little hill. It’s fun little place. The hill is covered mostly with sea weeds and small plants. But there are many tall coconut trees. My mother planted those. She loved greens.
“We don’t know how long the red tides will continue. We need to share our rations till it’s gone and help each other out. Let’s make a note of who has what and we will make arrangements after that.” The village chief was worried. The last time the tides stayed for three days and when they were gone all the fishes were gone too. The things we did found were already dead and we suspect it was poisoned too. We had to make do for twelve days before the sea cleared. I hope the tides go away by tomorrow’s sunrise. Once again it’s a crimson night and I hope no one loses anyone this time.
(To be continued…)
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Till next time. See you.