Author Bronwen Griffiths was inspired by a recent HOT article to write a short story for us.
It was a late summer evening when the stranger staggered up the shoreline, bedraggled, exhausted, scarcely able to place one foot in front of the other. My boyfriend and I did not approach him right away but waited for him to come closer. Actually, I was all for rushing in, greeting the stranger and offering him a warm blanket but my boyfriend urged caution. In fact we exchanged a few bad words on the subject and I think I accused him of being heartless but when he explained himself I came around to his way of thinking.
The appearance of the stranger was one thing but the evening itself was also most extraordinary. There was not a breath of wind and the sea, polished almost like stone, had taken on an iridescent green colour. By the time we arrived at the beach the sun had already disappeared behind the low cliffs although the air was still remarkably warm. But the stranger had begun to shiver and was now making strange, plaintive sounds.
Alarmed, I said, ‘We must phone the authorities.’
‘Yes,’ my boyfriend said. ‘He doesn’t look well.’
We found the number through the enquiries system and they promised to be with us without delay. While we waited for them to arrive, we sat at a short distance from the stranger. He did not come any closer and we did not attempt to approach him. The beach, thankfully, stayed empty. To be honest I did not want to share our experience of the stranger with anyone else and I wished we had not been required to call the authorities – though I understood the necessity. We could not care for this stranger. Perhaps we could have cared for another stranger but this one was beyond us.
‘Who do you think he is?’ I asked my boyfriend.
‘We have internet,’ my boyfriend said. ‘Usually there’s no signal here.’ And his thumbs flew to the screen.
The stranger was lying down on the stones and was no longer making any noise. I smelled seaweed and the faint tang of fish.
‘He has large red feet,’ I said.
My boyfriend swiped his phone triumphantly. ‘He’s a red footed booby… he’s a very long way from home.’
‘Goodness,’ I said, ‘How extraordinary is that.’
Soon after, the rescue people took the stranger away to care for him. They said he had come all the way from the Antilles, perhaps from even further afield although no one could know for sure. He might have hitched a ride on a boat. This is what they thought.
That was the summer of the migrants. Most were fleeing war, poverty and terror while this one was just blown off course I supposed. But who could be sure?
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