Zelda knew the shore was forbidden to her. She clomped through sand in her big brother’s boots. He’d be mad if he knew she’d borrowed them. She wanted to catch a wild pony. Her brother had a pony, and she didn’t. The pony dodged her, black withers gleaming. He kicked up his heels in the surf. She chased him, but he was too quick. She fell as he fled, tossing his head, mane flying.
Zelda somersaulted, and a current carried her to the deep. She sank past brain coral and seaweed. She struggled with the heavy boots that dragged her down toward spiky sea urchin. Light lay above her like a glass table, as if she’d hit her head on it and never breathe air again. She finally kicked off a boot, and stopped sinking. Her fingers bled from pulling at the remaining laces, pinking the water.
Her lungs ached, and part of her wanted to breathe so badly she was tempted to take water into her lungs. She blew out bubbles, and her panic rose with them. Then the moon swam past her, slow and solemn. He didn’t glance her way, but the second boot slipped free. She rose with the bubbles toward that window of light.
Her head broke free, and she gulped air. She was far from shore. She swam until her arms felt like stone. Her legs were icy, and her teeth chattered. The pony returned to the shore, distant and dark as if fashioned of night sky. The surf flecked his mane with stars. He plunged into the sea.
Zelda weakened. A wave crashed over her, and she slipped under the glass table. The light receded. Then the smooth glass broke into shards of sky and ocean. The pony’s legs kicked above her. With her last strength, she reached for his streaming tail and held tight. When her feet touched sand, she stumbled behind the pony’s back to shore. She dropped to her knees and coughed up sea water.
“Foolish girl!” The pony spoke in a high, mocking voice. Its golden eyes rolled, glinting red at the edges. “Don’t chase the pooka, or you will find your way to the spirit world.”
Tears streamed from Zelda’s eyes, stinging with salt. Sighting a pooka was rare and dangerous. She wondered why he had saved her as she watched him race away. His hooves left no prints in the sand. She remembered the moon, swimming in the deep. And she realized she had lost her brother’s boots.
Copyright 2015 Brenda Davis Harsham
Note: A pooka is a fae spirit of Irish mythology. Often it takes the shape of a dog, a bird, or a horse, and it can be dangerous or a portent of doom.