Transhumance

Transhumance by Sophie van Llewyn

The sea is licking the toes of the seahorse shepherds, smacking her lips in anticipation. Heads bent, salt glistening on their seashell hats, they are praying. Their shirts made of woven seaweed tighten under the sun. Evil flocks of tourists will soon be invading the shallow waters. It’s time to drive the seahorses towards the deep. The First Shepherd blows the sea snail horn three times. The shepherd’s wives are pulling their pearl necklaces in desperation. Riding the undertow, the men hurry towards their herds. The neigh of seahorses darkens the air.

***

When the seahorse shepherds return, riding jumping dolphins, the sea glimmers like lipgloss. The beach is gone under a blanket of beer cans, cigarette butts and styrofoam cups. Nobody is waiting for them.

In their driftwood houses, widescreen TVs are reigning. Their children have cut the membranes between their toes, so they can operate the remote controls, while gobbling ice cream and pizzas.

Their wives wear red plastic beads instead of winding pearls. They wouldn’t say how they came by them.

***

This year, the hotels are fully booked, says the TV. This year, the shepherds have chained their wives and children to themselves with shipwreck rope. They must herd them out of harm’s way. This year, the seahorse shepherds journey towards waters so deep, that not even their children’s children will find the way back.

In the shadows of the empty driftwood houses grow colonies of poisonous mushrooms and a mall.