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Blood of the Ocean
Her long brown hair billowed in the wind as the child looked out across the black water. Ominous dark clouds hung over the evening sky, producing an eerie combination of reds, oranges, and purples. She strolled along the coastline in search of her quarry.
She tried and failed to recall images of a blue sky and crystal clear water. Her mother told her stories of actually swimming in the now darkened ocean. She never believed it. How could something so polluted have once been so clear? Her mother spoke of animals called “fish”, “turtles”, and “birds” that used to live in and around the ocean. An “ecosystem” was what her mother called it. She had no idea what an ecosystem was.
She only learned what her father told her and what the teachers in her elementary school preached. “Oil is gold and gold is oil!” Her father owned the largest oil company in the world. He was always laughing and throwing money into the air while telling her all about how she would inherit everything he owned and supply the entire world with energy. She would just smile slightly and turn away.
A gust of wind brought the scent of fuel to her. Even though she was a little girl, she still was too old to believe their false claims. The fumes made her cough. The oil drowned anyone who strayed too close. The explosions killed everyone around....
She put that aside now. She had to find what she was looking for among the tears of oil and lifeless sand. Waves of dark water flowed gently over the sand, leaving tiny pieces of oil behind. People had long ago stopped trying to clean it up. Why put in all of the effort knowing it would only dirty itself up again? Now the shoreline was dotted with black spots like a plague. She remembered how her father’s company promised nothing like this would happen…and how they lied.
Finally she spotted it: a small green pinwheel. She smiled at her marker as she picked it up out of the sand she had placed it in. Another gust of wind sent it spinning wildly before it came back to a halt. Curiously, no oil had collected around its base, even though it had lasted the whole night there.
She began to dig. The sand was cold and wet, making her hands shiver. Her sunny yellow dress was soon dirtied with sand and oil. Even as the sand snuck under her fingernails, she relentlessly dug down as far down as she could.
About a foot under the sand she uncovered a wooden box. It was decorated with strange rocks she found once in a while on the beach. They were white and of all shapes and sizes. Some had shallow grooves and were shaped like fans. Others spiraled out from an indefinitely small point and opened like the mouth of an empty cave. Others were only pieces, long destroyed by the pounding black waves.
She looked around furtively and cautiously opened the box. Inside there were all sorts of things. There was a picture of a couple kissing on white sand next to a mass of blue with the phrase “Greetings from Florida!” on it. It was a puzzle to her because she lived on the west coast of Florida herself, and never had she seen an area like that.
Another photograph showed a strange animal covered in familiar brownish-black muck. Men wearing white lab coats and safety goggles attempted to free the dying thing by bathing it, but they didn’t dare try to touch it from outside their protective clothing. It was a flyer trying to convince people to help an oil clean-up in Louisiana. It also explained the dangers of oil and the necessary switch to “alternate fuel sources”. As far as she knew, the only sources of fuel were oil and coal.
All sorts of other photos depicting clear oceans and a clearer sky filled the box. Some kids collected bottle caps and stamps, but she collected photos of a time before her own. There were also newspaper clippings of important events like the oil mega-explosion of 2012. Together, she called these things her “proof”. To her, it proved that things were getting worse, not better. It proved that oil wasn’t gold. It was a death sentence.
She sighed and sat down on the sand to look over her proof. She tried to imagine what her life would be like if it wasn’t against the rules for her to even be out here. What if it was even encouraged? What if she could really swim in the ocean?
She looked out on the dark water. She sighed sadly and turned away. There was no way that she would ever be able to swim in that stuff.
Tears quietly streamed down her face as she closed her box of proof and placed it in the ground again. She covered it with sand so it looked like there was nothing there. She stabbed the pinwheel into the sand and watched it as it blew in the ocean breeze.
It was frustrating to her. Her world had changed for the worse, and there was nothing she could do about it. Even if she grew up and took over her father’s company, it would be too late to try and change the gray world back into the vibrant blue and green place it once was.
“Aqua, what are you doing out here?” a voice asked behind her.
She jumped and turned around. “I-I’m sorry, Daddy!” she apologized quickly, “I just wanted to… walk outside for a while, that’s all!”
Her father slid his hand through his think black hair and he laughed, “It’s okay, sweetie. I just wanted to check on you.”
Aqua stood up and dusted the wet sand off her sun dress. She didn’t want her father to know about her proof. He would never approve of it. That was the point, though: it went against everything everyone else wanted her to believe.
“So what is that?” her father asked as he pointed to the pinwheel spinning frantically in the breeze.
Aqua shrugged. “I’m not sure. I found it on the beach earlier. I think it’s pretty,” she answered.
Her father walked over and plucked the pinwheel out of the ground and tossed it into the water. Aqua gasped and ran after it. The pinwheel landed just above where the waves touched the sand. She snatched it up before the next wave came.
When she turned around to run back, she saw her father digging up her proof. He lifted the box from the hole in the sand. Aqua didn’t move from where she stood.
Her father walked over to Aqua with the box. When he reached his daughter’s side he knelt down and asked, “What’s in this?”
“Nothing! Nothing is in there!” Aqua said quickly as she tried to take the box from his hands.
Her father kept the box out of her reach as he stood up and opened it himself. He picked up the photo of the couple on the beach. “Where did you find this?” he laughed. It wasn’t a real laugh. It was the kind of laugh that held back anger.
Aqua was silent. Did it matter where she found it?
Her father tossed the photo into the ocean and grabbed her arm. “Who gave these to you? Who?” he snarled.
“No! That’s mine!” Aqua cried as she reached out to grab the drifting piece of paper. Her father tugged her back and she could only watch as the ocean stained the colors of the picture and drowned it.
“Who gave these to you?” he growled again, “Who? Tell me now!”
Aqua broke down into bitter tears as her father threw all of her proof into the dark ocean. With every piece of proof he threw away, he would curse at it, vowing to get revenge on whoever tainted his daughter’s mind. How could Aqua tell him the importance of these things to him?
How could she tell him it was her idea?
When the box was emptied, he tossed it out into the ocean with one last curse. It landed with a splash and barely managed to stay afloat. When he finally noticed his daughter crying her eyes out, he stepped behind her and kneeled down to her level.
“Do you see that sunset out there?” he whispered in her ear.
“Yes,” Aqua sniffled, “And it’s ugly. It’s disgusting! I hate it all!”
“No,” he corrected, “It’s beautiful. People come from miles around to see a sunset like this.”
“Do they come for the gray clouds too?” Aqua spat sarcastically, “And the black water? And the smell of oil? What about the smog back in the city? I bet they come for that too, don’t they?”
Her father sighed, “Civilization needs something to run everything it needs. Oil does that easily. And it’s not really that expensive.”
“Really? Daddy, I’ve walked through the city before! Most people can barely afford your so-called ‘black gold’! And there’s other ways to power everything! It doesn’t need to cause all of this!”
Aqua’s speech slowly morphed into more tears. They flowed like rivers down her cheeks. There was so much she had to say about the way life was for her and the people around her. She knew it wasn’t right.
Cold metal touched her neck and she froze.
“Aqua, you know oil is gold and gold is oil,” her father hissed as he pressed his knife to his own daughter’s neck, “Without it, we never would’ve gotten as far as we have.”
“But with it we’ve lost all that we had!” Aqua whispered. Her tears had stopped and were replaced by fear. He wouldn’t hurt his own daughter, would he? And over this?
“You stupid girl!” her father snarled as he pressed his knife a little harder into her neck.
“Daddy! Stop it! It hurts!” Aqua pleaded, “Please! Daddy! Don’t-”
With a swift cut, Aqua’s voice stopped.
Her father dropped her onto the sand and let her lifeless body lay there. The blood mixed with water from the rising tide to create a dark maroon. Her brown hair caught blobs of oil, and her green eyes stared blankly across the beach.
It took a moment for her father to realize what he had done. When he did, he threw his bloody knife out into the oily waves and tried to shake his daughter to life. The only thing he received was a blank stare and blood on his hands.
He left her there in fear of being pressed with charges, and Aqua simply vanished into the waves. Her absence was noticed, but her father never told what happened. The one time he was forced to explain himself, he claimed that she had drowned in the waves.
The funny part is, when most people talk today about “climate change” and “nonrenewable resources” they always link it to the present. They talk about how much it costs right now to change our ways, and how few people are truly taking the warnings to heart. Oil seems like just easier. It’s what we’re all used to. So why change?
The adult generation will not be affected. Those who make decisions today will not face the consequences tomorrow. The next generation will take the brunt of the blow.
In essence, we are taking our own children’s lives, one by one.