When I was young, thin and bright as glass, I flew upon the ocean currents to find where the sweet water poured into the salt. I drank until my teeth ached and thought, this was good, this was what I wanted. 

The day comes when a shadow twists inside me. My mouth is suddenly parched, my heart scorching in my chest. I travel by night, slithering across wetlands and flopping over dams. When I finally get there, the saltwater unmakes me upon impact. 

Salt is a preservative, a means of remembrance. It scrapes into my throat and sears into my eyes. A darkness howls within me and says, swim

The ocean is an empty blue desert. My eyes flicker and change; my belly dissolves. My flesh consents to it so easily, shifting without my permission. It horrifies me, that all this time, there’s been this secret grave haunting me from the inside. Sleeping, until now. 

The salt is greedy for me. It chants my name and clutches at me like a ghost. It says, you thought we were done?

My new body is all sleekness and efficiency, no food no air no sunlight no splashing in the rivers ever again. We soar through the darkness, mouths agape, shimmery creatures propelled by memory. I dream of bubbles rising from a deep, black pit. 

Haven’t you felt before that you weren’t made quite right? That someday, you’ll finally learn to cut off your scraggly, convulsing edges and settle into your true, clean shape, your abominations over and done? 

I see your hungry eyes, your awful heart. Imagine us, long tube bodies twisted up together, pulling back our skins, my body a slick wet envelope around yours. The ocean’s heart is cold and snarling, but I can already taste how you would burst sweet between my teeth. 

There is no mercy in this life. Listen to the salt of your flesh. Follow it to the end. 

The life I lived seems like it happened in a dream, how is that fair? 

I loved my brute gleam of teeth, my long row of fins, my overwrought jaw. I loved to swim and play and eat; I loved that impossible dream of sunlight. The real sum of me, it turns out, is a deranged tangle of ancient urges and sliding muscle. How odd to meet what has always been coiled up in my tiniest cells, this promise hidden in me like a knife in the dark since the beginning. I was always meant to dissolve, the sea was always meant to take back the wreckage of me. I have coins for eyes, now; listen to them sing. 

Sarah Zell is a writer and teacher from Minnesota. Her writing usually involves body horror, romance, and other gross things. You can find her on Twitter @SarahZell_, where she tweets very sporadically. 

photo by Teryll KerrDouglas (via unsplash)