When Angels Dance
He didn’t give it a second though at first, just another little sand hillock shaped and smoothed by the receding tide. Then he looked again at the seal-shaped sand, and he now saw it for what it was, a dead seal pup. Torn between leaving and looking closer he looked closer. Something moved in the pup’s eye. A wing. More
The early sunlight struck the dead seal pup just so. It rendered the pattern of light and shadow unworldly and it made the sand sing.
At first glance the dead seal looked nothing like what it was. Rather, it looked like a small, smooth, seal-shaped hillock of sand, a miniature dune lovingly sculpted and then abandoned by the tide. The retreating waters still licked its seaward edge now and then, as if not really wanting to let go, proud of its creation perhaps, touching it, retreating, touching it, retreating, touching it, then not touching it, then not touching it, letting it go.
A small colony of seaweed covered one end of him, like a green, hurriedly knit scarf.
Then, peeking out from this little wonder of sand, light, shadow, and seaweed, he saw what looked like an eye, black and glistening. Bending down and looking closer he saw that, yes, it was an eye, still moist—freshly evacuated. He looked closer still and saw that what he now looked at was a sandy face, with, yes, a glistening eye. And then, with a chill deep and terrible, he saw what he actually saw: a little seal so newly and helplessly dead, beautifully buried by the tide.
Or not. What if it was still alive? He rose and took a quick step back, and then another. He wasn’t really afraid that it would suddenly stir, but not unafraid either. Well removed now, he looked and looked. No, there was no movement. The little seal pup was dead.
Deadly still. All that unbreathing, glittering sand and those little valleys of shadow, all equally still.
He approached again. Still carefully though. He focused on the eye, he was drawn to the glistening eye: which now winked at him.
Or he could have sworn it did. Something winked or blinked or moved or shifted. Either the eye or the sand around it.
It was the wind, perhaps? He looked up and around: No, no wind. He looked back at the seal pup and the curious eye.
It winked at him again. It did. He could have sworn.
He backed away again, and now his legs cried out for action: away from here they cried. There was a real fear now urging him away from here.
But there was something stronger than fear, too: a sharp mixture of fascination and curiosity rooted him to his sandy spot, and after many loud heartbeats he approached again, and again bent down to look more closely at what could not possibly winked.
And closer still. The eye was wide open and unblinking, still wet with recent life and/or tide.
No, there it was again. Something stirred in its center.
His fear fountained anew and threatened to carry him away, but then he realized that what stirred in the eye’s center was his own reflection, looking back at him out the sealy darkness.
But as he watched, that something in the eye’s center that started out as his own reflection sprouted a life of its own and grew. He was no longer looking at himself. Lighter now, and larger, and moving while he remained stationary, resting on his haunches. Then lighter and larger still in the dark of the dead eye and now emerging.