Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
After a time, the traveler’s vision began to return, and so he left the oasis, which he realized was not an oasis at all, to continue his travels. Traveling across the desert was his nature, after all. Eventually he happened upon a beach, where the sand of the desert met with the sea. The water seemed to go on for eternity, far beyond the horizon of the Earth. The traveler sat down upon a rock near the sea's shore. It was so strange to see such a pure source of water at the edge of his desert. There was a time in which he would have jumped in such a sea without so much as a second thought, but his experience in the oasis that was not made him cautious of accepting this source of life-sustaining water. He had become too jaded to admit, even to himself, that he had a thirst that needed desperately to be quenched.
As he looked out across the sea, the waves crashed against the shore, which brought an inexplicable sense of comfort to the traveler. An immense white wave formed and descended onto the beach where the traveler sat. But he did not move from off the rock even as he noticed the wave crashing down. The wave washed over him, knocking him off the rock and into the sand.
Once the water receded, the traveler pushed himself up from out of the wet sand. He noticed a girl laying not ten feet away from him, unmoving. The wave must have brought her ashore. After a while, the traveler was not sure exactly how much time had passed, as time had ceased to exist for him some time ago, the girl began to move, and eventually stood up on her own, but not without some struggle. "Where did you come from?" the traveler asked the girl from the sea.
"The wave brought me in," the girl replied. "I've been adrift in this bitter sea for so long. Perhaps it was finally my time to come ashore." The traveler looked at the girl and back down at himself. They were both completely drenched. He felt a strange sense of familiarity and longing toward the girl from the sea, but he knew enough by now to be cautious. He looked back toward the sea. The traveler realized that he was still thirsty, but he knew that the water from the sea would be filled with salt and would leave him more dehydrated than he already was, leading him to an inevitable death.
"You're thirsty, I see," the girl observed, and offered reluctantly, "I suppose it would be alright for you to take some water from my sea." The traveler hesitated, and eventually approached the sea, reluctantly, and took a drink. To his surprise, the water tasted fresh, and seemed as though it would keep him alive.
The traveler and the girl from the sea, neither having anywhere else to go, built a hut in which to live, at the place where the desert ends and the sea begins. As the time continued to pass, the traveler began to fall in love with the girl from the sea, and she returned his affection. Though he tried to purge his mind of his memories from before the wave, there was still a demon of his past lurking inside. The traveler knew that the girl from the sea could sense that something was amiss, but he knew that he had to protect her from the demons that sought to tear him away from her.
They had been together for quite some time by now, and the traveler felt that he was finally home with the girl from the sea. But something still didn’t feel right. There was still a sense of something unfinished adrift in the air surrounding them, and both the traveler and the girl from the sea could feel it. Shadows of demons from long ago danced at the very edges of their vision day and night.
Eventually the girl from the sea confronted the traveler about the demons. She no longer felt safe from them, even in this home that they had built together for themselves. She confided in the traveler her fears about the demons of his past, and her impending sense of dread for what may happen if the demons weren't destroyed. The traveler knew that he had to come clean. He confided in her about the witch's spell, and how she had left him without closure all that time ago, in the oasis that was not. The girl from the sea knew what she had to do. She was the only one who could help to purge the demons once and for all.
At sunrise, the girl from the sea set out across the desert, where the traveler had traveled so long ago. Defying her objections, the traveler followed her along the path that he had once traversed. The landscape seemed different now, and the traveler barely recognized the desert he had once called home. Though there was some familiarity, his memories of the sand and the burning sun felt as though they were from a different lifetime. He followed the girl from the sea but made no effort to stop her from her quest, as he knew that her mind was made up.
After a time, they arrived at the oasis that was not. Fire scorched the earth surrounding the gates, but the girl from the sea did not hesitate as she entered the underworld. As the traveler followed her, he paused only briefly to stare at the twisted body of a man who laid broken and blind over a bed of ash near the entrance to the underworld. He felt a momentary twinge of jealousy as he realized that this broken shell of a man was his replacement here in this fiery oasis. Quickly, his jealousy changed to pity for the man, for he knew all too well of his suffering.
The traveler followed the girl from the sea as she descended into the depths of the underworld. As the descended further, the air became much colder here than either could have ever imagined. Ice lined the cavern walls. After descending miles beneath the surface, they finally came upon a large chamber at the heart of the underworld.
Dozens of bodies lined the walls, restrained at their wrists and ankles. The traveler could not be sure whether they were alive or dead, or if it even mattered. In the center of the chamber, the witch sat upon a thrown of bones, staring at her visitors, a depraved smile forming upon her lips.
“I wondered when you would come,” she said. “I never imagined you’d have company, however.”
The girl from the sea broke a stalactite from the ceiling and began to creep toward the witch, but then stopped and turned back toward the traveler. "It must be you who destroys her once and for all, or the demons will live on." The traveler nodded and took the stalactite from her hand, then silently made his way to the center of the room. To his surprise, the witch did not react as he lifted the stalactite over the witch’s thrown. He hesitated only momentarily and looked back at the girl from the sea.
“You haven’t the courage to defeat me,” the witch said calmly. The traveler returned his focus to the witch. His hands shook, but then, in one swift motion, he drove the stalactite through the witch's heart. She let out a scream as a black river of blood poured out of her chest and formed a pool next to her body. The traveler took one last look at the witch, then retreated to the entrance-way of the chamber where the girl from the sea still stood.
The girl from the sea and the traveler returned to the surface. The gardens of fire were gone. Instead, there was nothing but the sand of the desert. The traveler noticed the man he had seen before descending to the underworld still lying motionless in the sand. He did not stop to help, for he knew that it was already too late for him. The traveler turned to the girl from the sea, and they stared at each other for some time and embraced. It was all over now, and they could return to the home that they had built for themselves where the desert meets the sea, free of the demons of the past.
The two of them turned toward the horizon and began their journey back to the place where the desert met the sea, never looking back to the miraged oasis in the middle of the desert.
Read Part 4: The Hut on the Shore
- The Fable of the Sea and the Desert: Part 4 - The Hut on the Shore
The girl from the sea once again grows restless living on land. She must choose between her life with the traveler on land, and returning to her old life in the sea.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber