Summer days are magic, the sun high up, blue sky over his head. He zones in on the blue. It’s beautiful. He twirls all the way round, the sky’s blue everywhere! He stands straight on his tiptoes, stretches as far as he can and goes tall. He can see the sea! It’s blue like the sky, bright blue over the line, dark blue below. Imagine blue water! Imagine water. Imagine it, cold and clear, dribbling down his throat. Gulping it fast, gobfulls, loads of them. Then sipping slow, neat, showing everybody he’s got good manners after all.
He goes towards it, slow at first then faster. It’s a long way. He keeps on, walks for miles and miles, over mountains and hills, round bends, down steep slopes and up, his calves hurt, stretched then shrinking, toes flexing, muscles straining. He stops under a sky turned navy. His throat hurts, dry and sore. He really needs to drink. He swallows, throat shedding rust, walks some more. It’s not far now to the sea, the water.
He’s cold, freezing, teeth start to chatter, the air heavy and wet, damp on his skin. He looks down. Water! It’s everywhere. He wants to drink it, swallow it all down. You need it, water. That’s what his mum always says, we’re 80% water and without it we die, you can live for days without food but water, that’s another thing.
But the water, this water, it didn’t look like this from a distance, the blue sea he was promised. It should be blue but turned pewter now instead. He bends forward and the surface blinks to black, his face looking back at him. The sea smells of metal and salt. It stinks. His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth, a shrunken slug slathered in dry paste. He thinks of all the water he’s ever drunk, clean and sparkling, the time – the number of times more like – he’s let the tap run, emptied a glass down the sink, not even watched it dribble down the drain, turned his back instead and walked away. One drop, one droplet or even smaller, he’d have them all now, he’d lick the sink dry. Maybe one drop of the sea, he could drink that, the water sloshing around him right now, one tiny drop, it’s the water he wants out of it. The sea, it can keep the salt and the metal for itself. If he wishes hard enough, it might work. It won’t though, will it?
It hurts to swallow, like rocks jam his throat, rub the membrane raw. He needs to drink. He’ll die if he doesn’t, he knows that much.
But he has to keep away from the water.