I took these photographs of rockpools in Devon several years ago and the skin-like surfaces sparked a thought. Years later, when I saw a man sitting alone on the still, silvery stretches of the North Norfolk coast at twilight,  not a rockpool in sight, I couldn’t help but scribble that thought down.


He fell asleep on the shore where there were no rock pools but where rock pools were craved. The new tide lingered moonward and his feet stared bare at the ocean. They waited until he was still and then, gently, they gushed the tide at him. Pumping brine inquisitively around him, measuring the arch of his back, the space under his neck, the salinity of his sweat, the weight of his head against the sand. At first, they took him softly, small green fish found a home of his ankles, seaweed slipped between his toes and his skin slowly slimed. If they sensed him waking the sea would shoosh him back to sleep. It wasn’t until the tide slacked seaward that they claimed him with full force. Barnacles to his cranium, kelp to the scalp. Muscles, cockles and whelks worked fast, welding together his toes, ears, eyes. Limpets locked themselves to his knees and sea anemones, hungry, gentle, fed on what was left of his softness. He lost all sense of human as the tide pulled away his last salty tear and left him there, two hundred thousand years older, with a sinewus suck and drag of the sea in place of his breath.