The Big Light

          The first time we saw the big light it was during the night and we were already in danger because we were out of the water. At first we thought it was the moon. From the beach, the moon always helps us know where the sea starts by it small white faces, mirrored in the waves.

          We had mated with Archelon far away in warm sea water. After the migration, we hauled our bodies out of the ocean onto the sand, ready to begin the laying of one hundred soft leathery eggs. Digging our nests, we sensed the big light. Frightened, we rushed back through the sand toward the sea. As we sped across the beach, we could feel the eggs rolling around inside us, like marbles, our future babies at risk.

          Floating in beds of seaweed, we stared back at the light, smaller now, but moving back and forth, edging a row of rocks which lined our beach. Longing to nest, our green shells bob in the water. Our clutch threatens to burst inside us. Tears of salt flood our face. Angry, scared, we hiss. Our hiss shatters the deep blue, leaving shards of surf.

          We have migrated over a thousand miles to nest here at the beach where we were born, but we are two hundred million years old and times have changed. Archelon once lived when dinosaurs roamed the earth. We live with humans who hunt for our meat and collect our shells. They dig up our eggs for potent erections. They spill oil on our beach. They wear big lights on their heads.

          Is it the humans with the fish nets, or the humans with the baskets to collect eggs? Or is it, after all, just the moon, reflecting its small faces on the rocks?

          We wait.


Jeanne Althouse lives in Palo Alto, California. Her flash fiction and longer stories have appeared in various literary journals. Her story, “Goran Holds his Breath” was nominated by Shenandoah for the Pushcart Prize. An early draft of her first novel was a Finalist in the Augury Books Editor’s Prize. She loves reading Lydia Davis.