A Castle In The Sea

A dream becomes the landscape of a journey in despair—and hope

Trisha Dhar Malik Published Apr 27, 2020 17:44:58 IST
A Castle In The Sea Photo: Shutterstock

For some time, I’ve started waking up in sweat and tears. Perhaps, with little to do all day, I exhaust myself so rarely that my dreams are vivid, often startling.

In one, I am running through old, museum-like hospitals hand in hand with the girl I am to marry. In another, I fight an old lover in full armour, using gold-plated swords. In one of them, I trust the wrong person and find knives in my back when I look in the mirror. Of course, I dream a lot about skies.

On the 20th day of being confined indoors, I dreamt of the ocean—one of my favourite places in the world. The foamy waves look like they could ice the wedding cake of my prettiest dream, the blue so alive I almost hear it whisper my name. A perfect evening sky was on fire—neon orange, and flaming. I hear children playing—not noisy, boisterous but quiet, immersed in their pursuit. Every day is a mission, every day they save the world with their little hands and smiling eyes.

I walk along the beach, letting the water kiss my feet. They sting from the salty waves and I look down to see they are scarred. I follow the sounds of chatter. But the sky begins to fall, breaking into a billion pieces, clouds and all, scattering all around me. Some pieces fall into the ocean, and the horizon is slowly disappearing, so the world is all just big and blue and never-ending. My hair catches a piece of the fiery-orange sky, but it soon changes to a dusty grey and disappears. Gone, dead, empty. I cry inconsolably because the end of the world seems near, and I am afraid of dying alone. I hear the chatter again—the children have become louder. I run to look for them. Do I want to save them? I think I want them to save me.

There they are, three of them, right on the beach. I run to them and ask what they are up to. “Help us!” cried one of them in a pink, mud-soaked dress, her forehead creased from concentrating too much and sand on her teeth. They are making a castle, but pieces of falling sky are ruining it. Don’t they understand that the world is going to end, and all this will be for nothing?

“Uh, hello? Are you helping us Didi? If not, can you go away so we can concentrate?” She is bossy, like me. I hold up my hands over the castle to protect it and they look up at me and smile. I remember feeling big, like a human shield keeping the children and the source of their joy safe. The castle is made. It’s beautiful. The waves are calm and comforting. I don’t know how to tell them that the world will end soon.

I realize the girl is tugging at the end of my skirt: “Didi, are you coming? Hurry up, we have to go!”


“To the sea!”

“What? How?”

“Didi, the world will end soon. The sky will eat everything up. The only thing we can do is go underwater. The ocean will protect us.”

I laugh a little, but she is serious. “So, are you coming?”

“Okay, but why build a sand castle if you’re going to leave it here to let it be destroyed?”

“‘Because I can’t make one down there! The water will ruin it.”

I want to hug her, but I don’t think she’ll like it. “Will your friends come with us?”

“Oh,” she gets a little sad, “I don’t really have friends, I made them up so I wasn’t alone. I am like you, Didi.”

I wonder now if I’m in the girl’s dream instead of my own, but I trust her. “Let’s go,” I say. We take a deep breath and start swimming. She wears the anklet Ma had gifted me all those years ago. A castle awaits our arrival a few leagues below.


The author is a 19-year-old undergraduate student in Canada. She is now at home in Mumbai.
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