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Plastic:

Debris was scattered within the embrace of the waves as they slunk their way up the body of pebbles on the shore. The saltwater ripples heaved themselves toward the feet of the woman sitting alone at the edge of the pier; bottles, cigarette ends and multi-pack rings. Her head was bowed and face was blank as she watched more residue pile up on the sand beneath her perch. 

Her wide eyes were misshapen, one larger than the other, both a rich royal blue, with no whites, or pupils; they were all sclera, big and emotionless.

No words escaped her barnacle lips, just a quiet exhale that blended with the slightest midsummer breeze. It was twilight and muggy. The clouds had hung above the cliffs for hours, warding off tourists from the coast. She was alone, swaying her head to the melody of the saltwater tides. Watching.

She wore a thick drapery of mismatched knotted fabric, almost transparent that fell like gossamer. Many patches of her gown were torn, gaping holes were sealed with more layers. Her hair was long, tangled and wet, matted at points, hanging straight down her face and body like curtains. There were feathers clotted in the tangles, cascading down her back, but she seemed uncaring of the state of her hair, too preoccupied by gazing out at the ocean beneath her.

She hummed to herself for a moment, as the seagulls skimmed the surface beneath her; vultures looking for corpses on polystyrene shipwrecks.

She spent hours lingering at the point where the sea and shore met in fleeting embrace. Her shoes, too small, once shiny red, then silvery, now tarnished, skimmed the saltwater, sending ripples along the surface like a shiver.

As the skies around her darkened and the moon rose in the sky, she finally stood up from her perch, and dragged her limbs toward the edge of the pier, with the aluminium points of her shoes hanging over, she stretched her arms out. The wind carried her and left her to glide through the air with no control of where she’d land. If she ever would.  

As she grazed the top of a rock pool, she bent down to admire a new item, small enough to be an addition to the string of trinkets around her neck. This one was small, smooth, silvery and ovular. When she crouched into the waters, her iridescent gown of mismatched materials, snagged on the uneven surface. The weight of the rock her dress had latched on to kept her bound to the ground. She reached for the foreign object and removed the band from her neck to thread the new addition on.

From there, she strode out of the shallows, letting her clothes tear, floating on the surface as she moved on. She had seen what she needed to on this beach.

Once she had waded in, up to her waist, the current took her. Her limbs hung limp in the water; more debris clumped together knotting around the heel of one of her ankles, like a ball and chain made of seaweed and rubbish.

For hours she drifted, alongside the jellyfish her attire resembled so much. For hours she watched them just below the surface, as they, too, moved toward a new shore.

Eventually, she washed up on a bed of pebbles as a new beach took her and the jellyfish ashore. She laid still as the tides reached toward her in a fleeting touch and carried her companions away, leaving her alone in the night.

After a while, a creature crawled out from the ground; small round and carrying a weight on its back that was cracked and curving upward. The being was hunched, scuttling toward her, the shell on its back serrated and piercing the lacerated body of the creature small red creature. It crawled in a sideways motion, toward her, and then up along her hand, toward her chest and shed the weight on its shoulders to nestle into one of the charms hanging around her neck.

The charm the creature had approached was the fragile centre point of her necklace, a glistening curved green shape with a narrow shoot. Long ago, she had attempted to pierce holes in this charm with a stone and half of it had shattered. In a bid to salvage it, she had simply hung it around her neck with the plastic collar looping through the snout and through to the jagged edge.

With this strange reddish being now nestled into her necklace, she frowned, pulling it from around her neck, hair, snagging it on the knots as she tried not to disturb this foreign entity. She winced in pain, but continued to tear at the tangles while pools of a viscous onyx liquid dripped down her back and onto the whitish sand. Once she threaded the charm from her necklace, the creature scuttled back to the place from which it came.

Then the beach was quiet again, with only the sound of sea on shore to keep her company. All the seabirds above had since fled the shore in search of food, and the creature she had seen just moments ago, had vanished into the night. She rose from the ground and brushed herself off, walking away from the spot she’d washed up on, barely leaving a crevice in the sand.

As she glided across the sand, she happened across another creature; basking under the smile of the moon. It was small, staring out at the rippling black ocean.

She was wary after last time, but this was not like the other creature; much bigger in size but still small compared to the others of its kind that laid around it. It was round, with smooth looking slate grey skin, a face that thinned out to a snout with whiskers jutting out from the lips toward small jowls. It wrinkled its nose, sniffing the air before turning its head and looking at her.

She froze as the animal rolled from its rock and waddled along the sand. Closer.

The creature had one large fin at the back, where its legs ought to be, with two flippers toward its front. It tilted its head as it approached, glancing back to the moonlit rock every few seconds.

She stared with wide eyes as such a peculiar being made its way toward her with a seemingly similar level of fascination. Then, the seal, made the first move.

The seal came up close, staring up at her with its big black eyes. She took a deep breath and stepped closer.

The animal was elated for company, even if the person greeting him was strange looking. He shuffled closer and waited for her to respond.

Slowly, she eased her way to the ground, kneeling in the sand, passive as the seal assessed the situation he was in. He looked back to the rock he’d been basking on, but shuffled closer once again, nuzzling her aluminium shoes with his nose.

She tilted her head to the side as his whiskers brushed her leg. He stared up at her and she reached a hand toward him. He nuzzled her again, before leaning away and gauging her reaction. Satisfied that she wasn’t a predator, he scuttled away, bounding over again. He frolicked on his stomach, rolling along the moonlit sands, sending grains in every direction. He’d look back at her a few times, and then go back to what he was doing.

The seal, barely bigger than a pup, pranced on the sand, sweeping a clotted mass of seaweed like a ball with his tail-fin. He kicked it toward her a few times and she’d tentatively push it back toward the seal. Delighted, the animal would repeat the process, leaving her to pass the seaweed back to him with raised brows.

She hadn’t moved throughout the seal’s game. Once he’d tired, he heaved himself back toward her, resting his head on her lap. She ran cool fingers along his skin, shivering at the touch. The animal felt like baked leather, warm, yet smooth. For a while they stayed in silence, while she prodded and probed at him, earning a few light nips in the process.

There hadn’t been anything wrong, until she caught a glimpse of his whiskers under the moonlight. She paused, fascinated by how they moved with his snout, unsure of what they were and what they did. With slow and tentative movements, she reached toward them, tugging on the end of a whisker near his nose.

The seal in her lap reared upward, and clamped his jaw around her palm. She hissed in pain, yanking her hand from his mouth. She winced, feeling the cool night air on the wound. In a heartbeat, she had scuttled away, eyes un-moving from the frightened ones of the small animal. She froze as he reared his head back.  

The seal made a harsh barking noise. He coughed again, his small body convulsing more. He wheezed, his neck craned backward, his nostrils flared as he struggled to breathe, rolling around. He toppled over onto his back, flippers raising toward his face, unable to reach his mouth.

The colour of its skin was palling and his movements were becoming more and more frantic. All she could do was watch.

She tried to avert her gaze when the sounds got more and more pained. Her eyes had moved from the body of the seal to the wound on her hand, scaly wrinkled layers of different colours were exposed, a chunk missing from where she’d reared backward.

Each of the seal’s breaths were increasingly strained, and his eyes had rolled back. He was wheezing as he hit the ground, just inches from the rock he’d been basking on before she’d approached him.

After a minute or so, the movements started to slow, until they had ceased completely, a small dark pool trickled from his open mouth. And within the pool was a small glimmer of her skin.

She stared at him and his unblinking eyes, before reaching toward him and closing them. Her breathing hitched as she stared at the body of the seal, which just moments before, had been alive and happy, playing on the cool sand.

She’d killed him.

She hung her head and trudged toward the approaching tides, wading back into the grip of the ocean. She lied down, flat on her stomach and clamped her eyes shut, hoping that the sea could finish her off like she had done the seal.

For hours, she floated, face-down in the water, carried to her pyre by the jellyfish she had drifted with, just hours before. She watched them bob beneath her while she let the current tug at her limbs. Slowly, the icy fingers of the sea pierced her skin and pulled her apart.

The next morning, more plastic washed up on the beach, scattered up and down the coastline.


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  • Prose – Novel Writing & Short Story Writing
  • Poetry – Spoken Word & Page Poetry
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In years of experience, I contributed to a variety of local projects, including collaborations with my local primary school. I am available for taking on new work. See my contact information below and get in touch.

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About Me

Hello, my name is Imogen. L. Smiley and I am a recent Creative & Professional Writing graduate from The University of Derby. I have been writing since I was young. My passions lie with Gothic literature and spoken word poetry.

I initially kick-started a career in serious writing through an interest in fan-fiction. Under an old pseudonym, I shared dozens of stories and made rapid progress when it came to honing my craft.

Since then I have had several pieces published: my story The Dark Angel was published in the Young Writers’ Association’s Grim Tales Anthology back in 2014, one of my poems, Palmers’, was published in The University of Derby Publishing Society’s Writer’s Block Magazine in 2016, and a parody song I wrote for the Little Thurrock Primary School’s Year Six Leaver’s Concert entitled The Greatest School was performed in 2019.

I continue to strive to improve my work by writing as often as possible. My goal is to have a collection of Gothic Short Stories fully compiled so I can pursue publication by the end of 2020!


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Grays, Essex RM17 6DA
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