Victoria, Age 13, Greeneville, TN

The memory is firmly fixed in my mind, probing and gnawing me, sinking its teeth into my flesh. Images flash before my eyes constantly, enveloped in a grievous fog. Do you remember how you fed me leftover salmon and bread every morning? How you spoke to me? Ruffled my feathers? Then you were a living, breathing being. I remember that day all too clearly.

All hands! All hands! boomed a voice from the deck. You probed your way out of the cabin. Thunder roared a welcome; a blanket of lightning blinded you. From the sky swivelled a sheet of water. The hurricane was a horse thundering down the sea and crushing you. Astounded, you staggered in the seawater. Your knees gave away as sudden blasts of wind hailed on your shoulders. Something swept over your head. You gasped for breath, whirling your arms for something to grasp. A shrill cry - someone had been hurled overboard.

The wind screamed like an angry woman at midnight. Waves avalanched over the ship like a bandit escaped from prison blindly stinging everything in sight. Boards swivelled over you, banging your head and puncturing deep cuts in your back and arms. You grabbed a board, tripped over a water pump, fell, sank. A wave choked you with its evil laughter, wrapping itself around you. More cries echoed as the ship slowly vanished out of sight. The foam pushed you deeper into the sea. Seawater helped by piercing your lungs. Choking for breath, you kicked and screamed, but then darkness thrust its spears. Squished you. Wrung you like a cloth out of the drier. Like a mouse in the jaws of a rattlesnake. More saltwater fired down your throat.

Then silence. Anguish restrained.

A small group of fish spilled from behind a rock. A host of seagulls cried in the wilderness. Destitution stepped forward. Something crashed on your head. Your life flashed: lightning mingled with stars. Your arms reached towards the clouds above, in a final, failing attempt to sustain life. Your body rose; fought; heaved; slumped; lost; sank; you died.

I wish you could feel the streak of pain that coiled down my stomach the moment I saw your ragged body burying itself under the sea. I wish you could know how many times I dived into the depth of the sea, gazing at your abandoned figure in utter misery and agony. I wish I could tell the whole world to never set sail in the Atlantic again.

But then again, Im only a seagull. And you are only a skeleton resting on a weedy sand bed.

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