Shepherd Near the Sea
There stood a man on the top of a hill. He overlooked the sea. Behind him grazed his flock of sheep, though it was night. It was night, and the sun’s power could be felt even yet, in the moon’s imitation of the day’s rays, pouring across space and piercing earth’s sky to reveal some comfort for those who did not sleep. All was not dark. Only in caves. All was not lost, only in hearts. The shepherd’s cloak was of shaggy oxen pelt. Still, he felt cold, from ribs to his feet. The sheep supped behind him. He heard the clicking of their jaws. The breaking of the grass. His back was to them, and only the passive painful bleat of a lamb would cause him to turn. If a jackal or panther came along, and had its teeth in a young one, would he take notice. Until then, he watched the ocean. He studied what he could of the waves, those that were graced with moongleam.
The wind walked through him and his ox-coat. His lips tasted no different than the salted draft all about. He held his crook and watched the waves. In time, the moon shone brighter still. He saw what he had hoped to see. The green, long back of a swimmer. Some beast was coiling along the surface of the night’s ocean. It was freckled with yellow marks. Some welted scales on its hide.
The shepherd only glimpsed its back in the dim light, and the waves rolled continuously over what could be glimpsed. He did not know which end led to its head, and which to its tail, if it had one. The beast dallied. It seemed not to be hunting or even passing by. Nor did it commune with any other creature. But it was alive. It twisted and pulled against the strength of the top waters. And the shepherd watched from his crag. He dreamed one day that he should stand on a deck, no sheep behind him. No earth under his boots. Only sails and rattling wheel to hearken, and the warnings of the albatross. The whole ocean of beasts to spy, adrift in its immortal bath.