(continued from previous)
“Uncle! Uncle! Wake up!’’
He opened his eyes slowly to see the silhouette of his niece’s worried face above him, against an angry sky. She was staring intently into his eyes looking for signs of life, her pupils suddenly dilating as soon as she felt his hand move under hers. He was OK. But he must have been unconscious for at least a few hours, judging from the intense headache. Luckily he had fallen somewhat softly on the cold sand. She had come here looking for him, being one of the few in the family who had been following his Minimalist routine.
“We have to go uncle” she said in an urgent voice.
He raised his head, looking around, still dazed. The clouds above them were getting thicker and greyer, and the wind was becoming strong enough to start picking up grains of sand: flinging them in all directions, occasionally swirling them into fleeting solar systems made of brittle sticks, light sand, brightly-coloured plastic scraps and broken up ribbons of dried seaweed.
“Look” – she pointed towards the sea, without saying one more word. Her arm stayed extended as she looked at the ocean with disbelief, almost as if she was still trying to convince herself of what she was actually seeing. She felt her heartbeat accelerate as she looked back at her uncle speechless, her arm still pointing to the sea. She was desperately looking to him for an explanation, a reassurance.
The problem wasn’t the familiar sound of waves crashing on the shore. It was the fact that the sea was the wrong colour. The entire ocean had turned a sickly, milky grey / brown colour, looking more like a dirt puddle. Closer to the shore, waves bright as orange juice were beating themselves up angrily, almost as if they were trying to rid themselves of this new colour that they had acquired against their will. As the water got deeper, orange gradually turned into a deep olive green, with darker brown patches here and there out into the distance. Closer to the horizon, it was a pale grey as opposed to the usual deep cobalt blue.
He looked at her, as he tried to help himself get up.
The phytoplankton had made landfall.
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books