The boy, Robert, my nephew, had been missing two hours now when I saw him in the harbour, his head bobbing up and down in the water between two fishing boats, as if caught in the ropes that tethered them in place and now calling for help in between the slow swell of the incoming waves.
The breathe caught in my throat, tears welled in my eyes, the shock of it, the surprise, the suddenness of the sight. I didn’t even think, no worries for my own wellbeing, no attempts to call for help. I didn’t even kick off my shoes, simply ran into the water, wading through the waves, clambering across the pontoons floating in the shallows, climbing into and out of boats before diving from a small wooden raft down into the depths of the sea.
A single vision then, clear as a painting, as staged as some devastating tableau. Robert floating in glass, the scene bisected by ropes fringed with weeds, his billowing hair lit by a single shaft of light from above, a bubble of air almost lazily forming between his lips, his eyes a piercing blue sharp enough to cut apart my soul.
I surfaced, coughing, choking, panic and horror and shame, of failure, loss. Clinging to the side of the boat I called his name, “Robert! Robert!”, then dived back down. Dived back under to try again, again, again.
There was nothing there, of course. Oh the water was in turmoil, sand swirling in the maelstrom, shapes redolent of ghosts in the tumult. But in those lifeless waters of the harbour there was nothing more.
1. Written on the 8th July, 2022
2. An attempt at a ghost story
3. And based upon a dream