Barbary Cove

*Continuing to post story snippets inspired by writing prompts. You’ll find a poem at the end. Enjoy!

Barbary Cove

I spent my summers in the sea, flipping my feet like a siren of the deep. Sunlight shimmered through the water’s surface, dancing crystals on my skin as I undulated through the reefs. 

A thousand fantastic adventures were mine, with princes and pirates, sea monsters, and subaqueous treasure troves. I knew every nook, shoal, cove, tide, and migration. And in turn, the animals knew me, allowing me to draw near. I would stroke the backs of turtles and Maltese rays, feed birds and Monk seals, and swim with dolphins. I felt like the queen of that unspoiled stretch of coast. I belonged to it, and it to me.

The summer before my freshman year, I was so excited to arrive in the Algerian coastal town where my grandfather lived that I practically exploded off the plane. I dashed straight into the old man’s arms, prattling away about my plans, telling him how slowly the semester had dragged by and how badly I longed for the sea. 

My Aljadu was a quiet-spoken man, weary with age and a hard life in the country he refused to leave. He mumbled hello, avoiding my gaze, and tugged at his earlobe, something he always did when he had something he didn’t want to say. 

“What is it, grandfather?”

“I’m afraid—you can’t swim the sea this year.”


He sighed, “The rip currents are dangerous this season.”

“Aljadu! I know how to handle rip tides! I’m not a child!”

“No, Qadira.” Grandfather said firmly, “Four lives have been claimed already. The swift waters come out of nowhere, without reason or cause. Those people vanished without a trace… it is very unnatural, they say.”

“If the people were never found, how does anyone know it was a current at all? It sounds like a bunch of superstition to me!”

Grandfather’s expression hardened, “No. It is not safe, amirti. I have spoken. That is the end of it.”

No one has ever banished me from the water before. I will swim in my sea, even if I have to sneak out at night to do so. Safety be hanged. 

Beneath the water a mystery shivers,
It shivers and quivers awake.
Churning with wrath and a deadly eye,
It rises and rides on the wake.

Seafoam and rips of eddies erupt 
Around this cured beast,
And sailor’s wives do weep at home,
While the creature has its feast.

Fish and shark and serpent tremble 
At its tumultuous approach,
Woe to she who dares the shoals,
Where the creature doth encroach.

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