She climbed out of the sea at night. Coated in salt, her hair tendrils, she crawled along the beach, her bare legs slicing open on the spikes and spears of pebbles, of rocks. The pier was silent, the lights shut off; she had swam towards it frantically over the past few hours, using it as her beacon, her lighthouse to guide her to shore. From where she came, she could not recall. But she knew she must make them all take notice. The bitter wind licked her bare limbs with icy tongues and sand stung her cheeks. Get back into the ocean, it seemed to spit at her, there is no place for you here.
Reaching the cemented path, she heaved herself to her feet. In a wooden boat nearby she found the nest of a tramp; she stole a shirt and a threadbare blanket to hide her pearly limbs. Shuffling up the stairs, her feet weighing down like anchors, she reached the pavement above; the sky blue rusted railing, the pedestrian walkway, the doughnut stall. All boarded up for the night, the silence soothed her. She knew that in the morning her work would begin. She threw her head back, looked up at the stars; there were no clouds to keep the warm air in that night. Her coils of hair stroked her back, soaking through the blanket, dampening her skin once more. She breathed in the crisp night air and smiled.
The sun began to rise and with it came the first walkers of the day. The elderly who couldn’t sleep, out to get their morning paper; the dog walkers wrapped in scarves with bleary eyes; the students dressed in black, bare legged and unwashed from last night’s antics, faces painted to hide their youth. She watched them all, the girl from the sea, and studied the way they moved. They scuttled, like insects, bundled up against the cold and the February morning fog, shoulders hunched and neck muscles tight. Not looking at one another, they seemed separate from this world. They didn’t notice the pulse of the sea, the changing horizon, splattered with soft pinks and violets, like a watercolour. They didn’t notice her sat there, legs tucked up beneath her, back against the railing, to the left of the pier.
Her hair dry, her lips turning grey, she sat stoic like granite, waiting.
The hours passed and the people grew in number. There were joggers, cyclists, families with buggies and tourists with their cameras. There was music from the pier, a jangled jarring mass of notes, muting the hush of the waves and wind. And all the while she sat there, the girl from the sea, trying to seep into their souls, to get them to see her.
Eventually, about midday, she bared her arms, took up the pebble she had selected and traced it along her forearm. She pushed down hard, the skin tearing neatly to reveal a river of crimson, bubbling up like a hot spring. Cutting off a hunk of hair, she clasped it in her palm and let it soak up the viscous liquid. When satisfied with its sodden state, she slopped it to the pavement, and began to paint.
The blood made puddles and soaked into the cemented path, creeping out, inching towards the feet of passers-by. She dunked her hair in time and time again and swirled her paint across the ground, forming petals, blooms, flowers of such beauty, such life! When one arm ran dry and turned a deathly blue, she tore open the other; her endless supply.
In the cold afternoon light the walkers started to stare a little, before hurrying past. Some threw her change. A woman placed a coffee down beside her, the steam rising up from the slit in the plastic lid. She whispered, drink up now love, stay warm, to this girl from the sea, the girl smearing her life blood on the floor. A toddler asked his mother what she was doing, what was it? The mother scooped him up, shielded his face, burying it in her bosom- hush now, don’t look.
And all the while she kept on painting, squeezing out the drops, dipping her fingers between the skin and painting flowers on the ground. Look what death can do, she thought. Someone must see it, notice it here. Notice her here. Realise what she has endured and how she’s battled through.
She grabbed a hunk of white chalk which lay by her bare, dirty foot, and began to outline the roses, the tulips, the amaryllis. She carved them out so they were vivid, screaming from the cement, begging for eyes and faces to pause and really see.
Still they all walked on.
Night came, and with it, her blood dried up. Her veins became dusty and barren, her skin a translucent bluish hue. She kissed her wounds with cracked dry lips and her skin knitted itself back together. She sat amidst a garden of bloodied blooms, cross legged, patched in smears of her own red paint.
The lights were shut off on the pier. The wheel stopped turning. The clanging music silenced. The crowds had gone, back to their homes, their mundane evenings with TV dinners and glares of screens. They’d sit opposite one another, grumble at the state of the world. The horrors and the violence and the death. It’s lack of beauty.
The girl from the sea stood up, her bones cracking as she straightened her legs. She took one last look at what she had created, and walked back to the beach. Shrugging off the borrowed blanket and the shirt, she stood bare beneath the grey above and waded out into the bitter water. She dove under, breathed in the salt, let it inflate her lungs, and swam across the ocean to paint another scene. Across the sea, on another land, she’d paint another scene to be ignored.
Blooms was inspired by ‘This Leprous Brightness’ by Imran Qureshi
Lucy Glancy graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 2012 with a degree in English, and now works as an English teacher to secondary and sixth from students. In 2015 she began a Creative Writing MA at Brunel University, London. She lives in Brighton and busies herself reading, reviewing books on her blog and drinking coffee.