Jane Dougherty’ Microfiction Challenge: The Freedom of Rybka


Tanya felt the wave coming before she saw it – an extra hard tug on skirts already soaked, anchored to her thighs. She smelt it too, the metal brine scent of the deeper sea, chill water churned from below, lifting fragments of seabed, scraps of broken shell and fins – the sea’s graveyard.


She tightened her grip on his hand, felt the moist leather of her glove, salty now, slippery as fresh peeled skin.

Seeking a reflection of her own fear in his face, she saw only joy, his arms flung wide, wings ready for flight. A flicker pierced her chest – she should have known. All these months he’d spoken of escape – from his father, from an imposed future of tenants and rents and broken backed harvests. But when she’d pressed him for details, he grew poetic, talked only of eternity, the moon and distant stars.

‘Freedom, rybka!’ he gasped as the wave scampered up his back, tumbling over his shoulders.

Freedom? To drown? To drift, puffy, grey, needled by blue crabs?

She imagined his boots – buffed to a fine shine, soles kept slick for dancing (how he loved to dance!) – slipping on the little pier, leather gliding over lichen …

… she released her grip.

The wave hit him, carried him from her. Then another hit and another, white crests battering his head, an avalanche forcing him down, burying him under endless ocean. His cap buoyed for a moment – swirling on an eddy brown as drainage water – then sank.

Tanya fell to her knees, wave after wave pulling hungrily at her clothes, smothering her face. Then she realised – beneath her was the submerged pier. Her fingers dug into crumbling wood, hooking barnacles, muscles trembling under the barrage of shivering water, flowing into her ears, nose, mouth until she was unsure where the sea ended and she began.

When the wood gave way to oozing sand, she flung herself on the beach, hacking brine, lungs and stomach scoured, eyes salt singed.

For the longest time she lay still, waiting for the land to reclaim her, for the sea to give up its hold for good. When strength returned, she unlaced her boots, numb fingers peeling off her jacket, her over skirt, the second skin of her stockings.

Her knees were still soft as jellyfish as she stood.

‘Freedom,’ she whispered, walking along the shoreline, footprints swallowed by each fresh wave.


Written for the very talented Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. See the picture and write a short piece to accompany it. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

By the way, my dear, ‘rybka’ (according to this site) is a Russian term of endearment meaning ‘little fish’.





27 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’ Microfiction Challenge: The Freedom of Rybka

    1. Thank you, Jane. I do love the sea, though the tempestuous, chilly, rough kind, not necessarily the blue and warm and desert island kind (though I’m sure they’re lovely too). I love the energy of our seas in the UK. No, no near-drownings here, but when I saw the dark blots of matter carried on the water, the brown of the waves, the submerged structure you pointed out, the fact the couple seem to be on the verge of being swept away – I felt something darker was happening. Though, that’s probably just the way my mind turns 🙂


      1. The western coastlines with cliffs and rocky beaches are the most interesting, I agree. Long flat extents of sand and gentle waves is frankly boring. I like where you took this story. Happy jovial exteriors aren’t necessarily reflections of what’s going on inside.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Tish. I felt a little swept away myself – fancied getting my bucket and spade out after all that talk of briny depths 🙂 Thanks for reading


  1. This is brilliant – I wouldn’t have known just HOW good it was if I hadn’t Googled Rybka. I’d never heard of it.
    Maybe you should have tucked a link behind the word – unless I’m your only ignorant reader…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tucked it at the bottom of the post, Jane 🙂 I didn’t want to attach it in the story as I thought it might be distracting. Thanks so much for reading – for taking the time to Google – and for being so lovely 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! It was kind of hidden under the ‘admin’ bit of the post, I’m not surprised you didn’t spot it. Nice word, though, isn’t it? Not necessarily flattering for most women, but has a nice ring to it

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Recall is a problem for me too. The number of books I read and documentaries I watch and only come away with one new fact in my head – at best! Hopeless

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You get a new fact! In your head! Sometimes!
        I’m beginning to think there is no end to your abilities.
        I discovered a new fact a few days ago. It was about horses… or the tiny lttle screws which hold a mobile phone together – actually I think it was about mycorrhizal fungi, or possibly the relationship between an angel’s wingspan and foot-width (at the broadest point). Whatever it was about, it was very interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha! I want to know more about every one of these subjects! I watched a fascinating programme about fungi the other day, how important they are in our lives, how they hold nature together, how we’d be knee deep in waste if they didn’t break down food etc. Mind you, there are some that are pretty damn good at killing trees, which is not so good. I don’t know why people are so attracted to angels – in the Bible most of them are chuffing scary. And male, of course 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Honey fungus – ugh – trying to compete with the human race with their kill, kill, kill attitude; they’ll never succeed, because they’re too specialised to destroy the planet. There are loads of species of trees which they can’t grow on. For destructiveness, we win hands down.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.