Every morning the boy stared into the ocean. All he could see was the wavy blue water. While it was true that sometimes the sea was green and other times gray, the boy now saw other things.
The sailor with one leg had told him about other lands. Lands with rocks that sleep and birds that speak. Before that conversation with the traveler the boy knew the island of his birth was not the entire world, but he was not aware of it. Now to him the horizon was not an end, but a beginning.
He took one step into the water. “What are you doing?” the girl asked him.
“I am leaving this place.”
“Why would you do that?” she asked. “Do we not have everything we need here? Trees that feed us, lagoons to swim in, sunshine to keep us warm, our family, our friends…?”
“We do not have rocks that sleep nor birds that speak. There are no dragons that breathe fire nor women with tails of fish.”
“We do not need those things.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Oh.” She said sadly. He had known the girl longer than he could remember and he wished not to see her hurt.
“You could come with me.”
“No. I can not.”
“I will bring you back a sleeping rock.”
“That will be nice.” She said and those were their parting words before the boy dove into the ocean.
He swam further then he ever had before. Past the breakers, through the crashing waves, beyond the reefs that were home to the fish. He swam until his arms hurt and then he kept swimming. The sun rose and set and was then followed by the moon. The sea was more vast than he ever imagined. Its tides were unrelenting. But he found the strength to keep kicking to keep reaching. He had a promise to keep. He told the girl he would bring her a sleeping rock. He was not allowed to fail, nor could he die trying.
As day turned into another day and then into another he saw a dot which became a hope and then a glimmer and then a certainty. It was land. He stroked with all the force he could muster and let Poseidon do the rest. He tumbled into a sandy beach. His face indented into the Earth. He put his hands on the ground to push himself up. His knees nearly buckled, but he took one step after another to see a bed of sleeping rocks.
The boy picked one up. It did not move in the slightest. It was a sound sleeper. Before he could examine it further a bird with feathers of the rainbow perched next to him. The bird with its curved beak stared at him. Was this the bird that spoke?
The boy asked, “Where am I?”
To which the bird replied, “Where am I?”
The boy stepped closer which scared the bird. It flew away as quickly as it arrived.
This was a spectacular place, one beyond the boy’s imagination. But still the boy’s heart was heavy. He had spoken to the most amazing bird, but there was no one else to witness it to make certain it was not ill effects from his days at sea he was speaking to. Perhaps if someone else was there he would not have behaved so rashly. The girl, for instance, was smart and would have advised him to proceed cautiously and maybe the bird would have shared with them stories from the sky. Fortunately he still had the sleeping rock in his hand which he put into his pocket for safety until it awakened.
The boy walked along the coast. As far away as he was this new land seemed eerily similar to his old one.
He heard footsteps. The man with one leg had warned the boy not all foreigners were friendly. There were pirates and cannibals.
He dove into the brush. The boy tried his best to stay hidden, but he was too tired to keep still. He took the rock from his pocket and shook it with all his might. An awakened rock would surely scare off any villains. But it was no villain he faced, it was the girl.
“You are back!” she said and hugged him strongly.
The tides the boy realized were stronger than he estimated and took him in a circle. “Yes, I am.”
“We were worried you would not return.”
“Of course I would. I promised, didn’t I? Here…” He handed her the present. “It is a sleeping rock.”
“Oh, why thank you.” She said as she wondered if all the rocks on their beach also were sleeping.
The boy was too tired to move and the girl was busy inspecting him. So it took them both by surprise when they heard a yawn and then a cry. The rock was awake and wanted something to eat.