The Sea-egg

I couldn’t see what you were pointing at, in the depths below the wharf.

The water was clear. It was like a magnifying glass. It moved over all the objects on the bottom.

The rocks were the colour of rust. The kelp was black. I saw a sea-egg. It had lost its spines. It was the pale green of the sea. Was it this? I asked.

Beside it something else came into focus. It could’ve been a hand, a hand that had been underwater a long time and lost its colour. It was the same hand you saw in pictures of the developing foetus.

The hand had a red vein in it. Like a loose thread in a clear piece of soap or vaseline jelly. One that made you want to pull it. One that might undo it.

Look!’ I said. ‘What’s that?’

It was too horrible for you to say. Or was I imagining things?

No. You shook your head.

Did you shake your head at me or what you saw, what you pointed at?

It’s gone,’ you said.

I looked again. I saw that what had been there had disappeared. There was only the sea-egg.

You pulled my arm. Three men were walking towards us. The front one had tensed his muscles.

I turned. Our means of escape were limited. There was the bank of piled rocks of the sea-wall, against which waves were breaking, or there was the scaffolding around the front of the old wharf building.

You stood your ground. I searched my pockets for a weapon. I drew out an empty hip-flask and piece of a car aerial. It was sharp at one end.

I wielded it like a knife and you got behind me. I lunged.

All the men had seen was the hip-flask. When they saw the sharp rod of metal they stepped back.

We ran along the loose planks of the scaffolding.

We’d reached the corner before we noticed people in the building. It was converted to a pub. People were drinking and I was carrying the aerial like a knife.

We had to go sideways around the corner. The people helped us down into a courtyard. There were picnic tables and jugs of beer.

The men were in the pub and you didn’t want to stay. I handed over the hip-flask and the broken aerial and we got out.

I noticed you shaking. We walked into the sunshine. Your eyes were wide. You looked like a frightened animal or a child.

Did you see that?’ you said, ‘Did you see what they did?’