The Myth of an Unknown Girl
by Heain Joung
It was summer. We were going to go on a day trip to the sea.
“There is no need to bring food,” my father said. “We will pick up seashells when the tide goes out, then cook them on a grill for lunch,” he was excited to announce.
He rented a boat for us as soon as we arrived at the small port. Sitting in the prow, I looked out over the water that seemed to have no end. Where could it go, I wondered. I had never seen the sea before and couldn’t understand the way of the tide. My father seemed at ease though, holding the oars, becoming one with the boat as it cut through the water. My mother held on to her white umbrella, disappearing in its shade. I felt a little lost watching her face with the sun facing me. I could see the sweat on father’s forehead running down his face. We were all alone when the boat suddenly stopped. The water had drifted away like a dream, leaving us there, on the sea bed.
“The sun has sucked away the sea. Be careful, you might be next!” He shouted.
“Why do you say such a thing to the girl? Monstrous!” My mother giggled.
I still felt dizzy from the sun and the rocking of the boat as I stepped carefully onto the mud bed. My parents didn’t come down. My father sat on the edge of the boat, raising a bottle of rice wine to his lips, while Mother stared absently at the horizon. I noticed the shells by my feet and prodded a couple of them with my toes. That was why we were here, I had been told. We were going to dig in the mud, collect seashells, and cook them on a grill for lunch. Had they forgotten? They didn’t seem interested in doing that any more.
I wandered on the mudflats, under the hot sun for a while, my feet sinking in the soft mud. Looking back at my footprints I saw them fill with water as they disappeared. Then, the sea came to me, gently at first, playing with my toes, then washing my feet. As it rose, I came to know it better. I listened to its stories of comings and goings: it told me how it changed but was always the same. I looked up to see my mother and father; they seemed far away. He was dancing on the boat as she smiled in the shade of the umbrella. They both suddenly laughed.
It was our picnic by the sea, but the sea wanted to swallow me that afternoon.
I was going to die there,
I was going
to be the
Originally from South Korea, Heain Joung holds an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from Sussex University. She now lives in the UK. Her short fiction has appeared in the Quick Fiction app (Myriad Editions, Brighton), Virtual Zine, Fudoki Magazine, Full House Literary, and elsewhere. Twitter @heainhaven.
Photograph by Sooyeoun Baek, published with permission of the artist. Find her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/sooyeoun_