Coal

Looking out on the Bay of Bengal in Pondicherry, India

Waves crash against the rocks. Constant, relentless, angry. No one goes down to them, preferring to stay on the edge of the sandy path, the edge of the rocks. Dry, safe.

The rocks are jagged, more jagged than one would expect. Black as night and dull, like chunks of coal in a giant fireplace. Covered in moss, dried salt, in empty ice cream cups and trash and flotsam.

The rocks are the sea god’s treasure, his possessions, stolen from him eons ago by his brother Agni, the peacock god of fire, and he wants them back. He lurks just offshore, hidden by clouds and seaspray, and reaches for his rocks. His fists are waves, good for pounding but not for reaching. Fist after fist, wave after wave, come back empty handed. He can’t get his coal tonight, to heat his underwater palace.

Each attempt angers him, and so he thrashes against the rocks, harder and harder. But it doesn’t work; he has no domain over the land.

He consults Brahma Krishna, the Dragonslayer and Light Bringer, who once saved India from a giant snake. “Krishna, what can I do to get back my rocks?”

“Create new rocks of your own.”

“But I want those rocks.”

“Then I cannot help you.”

Next he goes to Vishnu, the Maintainer and Preserver. “Vishnu, what can I do to get back my rocks?”

“Wait. When the time is right, you will get back your rocks.”

“But I want them now.”

“Then I cannot help you.”

Then he goes to Siva, the Destroyer. “Siva, what can I do to get back my rocks?”

“You must use force, to destroy what is in your way, and create a new world.”

“But I don’t want to create a new world.”

“Then I cannot help you.”

“But I can.” Calli, Siva’s wife and the Dark Mother, steps from the shadows.

“You will help me?” the sea god asks.

“For a price.”

The sea god nods, and together, he and Calli unleash a mighty cyclone upon the land, one that drags the rocks into the water.

The sea god returns to his underwater palace with his coal, and the sea calms.

But one day, as he sits warm in his home, Calli knocks on his door. “It is time to pay the price.”

“Do you want gold?” the sea god asks her.

“No.”

“Precious stones?”

“No.”

“Abundant food?”

“No.”

“Then what do you want?”

“Your past.” Calli holds up her sword and slices the water in front of her, then leaves.

The sea god stares at the dissipating maelstrom, curious as to what caused it, then shovels the last of his coal into his fireplace. Tomorrow, he thinks, I will go ashore to easily grab more coal.


E.D. Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places. Born and raised in Illinois, her past incarnations have included bookstore barista in Indiana, college student in southern France, statistician in North Carolina, economic development analyst in North Dakota, and high school teacher in Iowa. She draws on her experiences to tell the stories of those around her, with a generous heaping of “what if” thrown in.

She currently lives in Illinois where she job hops while attending grad school and working on her novels. Read more of her stories at her website.