The tranquil black night, beautifully interrupted by the silvery moonlight overhead, lit Lela’s path as she slogged up the sandy Matura beach. Not that she needed nature’s illumination. She could navigate at sea better than the most accomplished sailor. Plus, she recognized the unique magnetic signature of the coastline since this was not her first time at this beach. She was born here and her hardwired internal compass gave her all the direction she needed to adhere to Natura’s will that she return to her natal home when it was time to produce her own offspring.
Lela was exhausted but she had never been this determined in her twenty five years of life. Her journey was a long, dangerous one, having travelled some eleven thousand kilometres from north of the Canary Islands. Yet, she knew it was a necessary risk if she was to ensure her species’ survival.
Only yesterday, the Curtain of Death had snuffed the life from her fellow Trini travelling comrade Mirah, whom she’d met some months before at the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France. Lela wished she could erase the memory of Mirah’s panicked eyes as she thrashed about; the current and her flailing flippers causing her to become even more entangled in the netted menace that had curtailed the life of many of her friends.
Pushing her negative thoughts aside, Lela slowly trudged up the beach until she found the spot that was best suited to her purpose. She immediately went to work. There was no time to rest. She only had a few hours of darkness remaining to blanket what she was about to do and she needed to act quickly; well quickly for a leatherback turtle anyway.
Although this was her first nesting season, she knew exactly what she needed to do. She used her flippers as a spade and started digging a hole in the sand. Not too wide but deep enough to accommodate the clutch of eggs she was about to deposit in the ground. Digging the egg chamber was tedious but Lela persisted.
Suddenly her senses were on full alert. She smelled the humans before she saw them walking towards her with their dim lights flashing about like her favourite bioluminescent jellyfish snack. Her instincts told her to abort her mission and return to the sea but she knew that would prove futile. Nature had already taken its course and it would go against all that she was if she didn’t lay her eggs.
So, Lela mustered all the courage she had and continued her digging. The humans surrounded her, and if she didn’t know any better she would have assumed that they were actually fascinated with her. Her experience taught her otherwise though. Humans were at the top of the food chain and they epitomized all that was deadly and dangerous. She had learned to err on the side of caution whenever she encountered one but tonight she didn’t have the luxury of caution. Tonight she had to do what she was born to do, in spite of her fear.
When her flippers could no longer pull any more sand she lowered her tail into the hole and her mind muddled as she entered a trance-like state that blurred everything that was happening around her. The anxiety she felt with the strange humans shuffling about her dissipated as she entered a tranquil utopia where the only thing that existed was her purpose for being: the next generation of her kind.
Lela felt a vague, almost distant pressing feeling and then the ping pong ball sized eggs rolled on out. She laid her eggs in batches of two to three at a time, until her sandy nest was filled with exactly one hundred of her offspring.
When Lela came out of her stupor she felt a little woozy and was surprised to see the humans still surrounding her. A young human was gently petting her head and oddly, Lela felt no burning desire to flee. These humans were friends she realized. At no point did they threaten her with the usual hostility that was typical of their species. With this new knowledge, Lela relaxed and proceeded to fill her nest with sand, painstakingly and deceptively scattering the sand so as to camouflage the area and conceal her most prized possessions: her young. Through this final maternal act of protection, before her imminent departure, Lela told the children she would never meet, that she loved them.