5 September 2008


The waves made a wall. Crashing onto the beach they left nowhere to pass beyond them, to see what was on the other side. Instead there was only what they brought, the little creatures left behind in the rockpools. Starshaped colours shining in the water. Shells to turn over. Small fish and molluscs to eat.

The starshaped fish had poison in their colour.The colour meant poison to the birds in this place. With shrill cries they squawked and landed. They looked into the pools, first with one eye, than the other, and called out to the flocks. They dipped their beaks in the water, but not to drink. She tried the water herself but it was salt and bitter. It made her thirst worse. Crouching, she watched the birds. Maybe they drank nothing but the blood of the fish they ate. If that was so, she was in trouble. She needed fresh water. The birds dipped their beaks into the pools and flapped away with things in their beaks, with fish or with seaweed, but never the brightly coloured stars.

Carefully, she stabbed a star with her spear. Blood ran darkly into the water. Colour oozed out, bright before the darkness took it. Backing away, she watched, and waited.

A bird came swooping down. She kept very still, watching. After a time, the bird bobbed its head but did not dip its beak. It flapped away again with a shrill cry. The flocks wheeled and their cries were like salt sound of the waves plunging into the surf. She considered dipping her spear into the poison. But anything she killed, she wanted to eat. If the poison was so great that the birds feared even the colour of it, perhaps it was not safe to use in hunting. Instead, she moved to another rockpool and waited for another bird to land.

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