The beach had an immaculate look with golden sand stretching as far as the eye could see. You could easily believe it had always been there, untouched since the dawn of time. At the shoreline, the peaceful meeting of the sea and the sand hinted at the harmonious nature of their ageless union. On that summer morning there was a slight breeze which didn’t disturb the glassy surface of the water that shone under the sun.
The only disturbance to this tranquil atmosphere was caused by a young woman who was swimming towards the shore. Upon reaching the shore she took a few steps and lay down. She didn’t seem to be disturbed by the scorchingly hot sand.
The wind began to gain force, and the resulting waves turned the light blue color of the sea to gun grey.
The woman rose up slightly and scanned the horizon. She couldn’t remember where she came from. The clouds were gathering. She didn’t feel cold, but there was an odd chill deep inside her.
She felt all alone and confused. How did she come here? How long had she been swimming? Why was there no one else in sight? How could she possibly go back to where she came from? For a moment, she felt drowned under a wave of melancholy. She tried to take a deep breath to overcome this sensation. Then she asked herself the biggest question of all.
Where am I going to return?
She sat there with her chin resting on her knees. Tears welled in her eyes and when they started to roll down on her cheeks she couldn’t feel the warmth of them. She touched her face and wondered if it was the teardrops or the sea that made her face wet. She slid her fingers through her long blond hair as she always used to do in times of stress. She tried to straighten her curls but her fingers got stuck. She looked at her fingers, expecting to see salt or mud. What was stuck under her fingernails looked more like blood clots.
“I must have hit my head somewhere while swimming, and since I don’t feel any pain it can’t possibly be dangerous”, she thought.
Not knowing what else to do, she sat there and waited.
As the sun rose higher in the sky the heat waves caused a shimmer as if she was in a desert. When she saw a movement, in the horizon, she had to squint to be able to recognize the real identity of the approaching shadow. Was it a man walking in her direction? Oh yes, it was. She could ask him about her whereabouts.
He was a tall man with a black swimsuit. He was all wet and covered with sand. He had a limp and seemed to be dragging his right foot as he walked. There were salty spots on his wavy auburn hair. He had a forlorn look. His pale blue eyes were transfixed on the woman but he seemed to be looking right through her. When he stood there and didn’t say a word, she greeted him and asked him where he came from.
“From the sea”, he said and turned his gaze over the water.
His voice had a deep and muffled tone like someone talking from the bottom of a well.
She said, “I think I am lost.”
He didn’t answer. His gaze was fixed on her again. She had already sensed something weird about his eyes but when she had the chance for a closer look at them she was surprised to see how dull they looked. She could hardly make out the pupils in those frosty blue eyes. He must have been blind. He seemed to be looking at her but in fact he probably looked at where her voice was coming from.
When she lowered her gaze, trying to avoid looking into those dead eyes, she was shocked. There were seaweeds wound on the man’s feet and the toes protruding through those green coils were stripped to the bone. They looked like grinning white teeth in the bloody mouth of a skull. Was this caused by fish bites? She tried hard and suppressed her scream.
When she looked up and saw his face again that sad expression was still there. There was something oddly familiar about the man’s face. It was like someone she knew for a long time looking at her through the years.
He bent down and offered his hand. Although he looked no more than thirty he moved with the stiffness of an arthritic old man. She looked at his hand and hesitated for a moment. Convinced that he was blind she took the hand and let him help her stand up. Surprisingly, his grip was neither warm nor cold. “He wants to show me the way instead of telling” she guessed. He held on to her hand firmly and turned to face the sea.
“Where are we going?”
The anxiety hinted by her quivering voice was far from revealing the real terror she felt.
“We must go now.”
When he took a few steps towards the sea she tried to free her hand but failed. During this brief struggle she saw his back for the first time. There was a deep scar right above his swimsuit. A deep cavity nearly the size of her palm through which she saw the severed and burnt muscles, nerves and the pale white bones of his spine. This man couldn’t possibly be walking. She felt pity along with fear.
He told her something about going back but she couldn’t discern the exact words. He continued his grotesque walk toward the sea, pulling her like a stubborn child. She was frozen with shock and couldn’t give much of a fight to free herself. Her feet formed deep furrows on the beach while he dragged him closer and closer to the ever waiting sea.
She found her strength again and in her desperation she tried to scream and say no but her voice felt strange. A whimper instead of a word. Sound of gurgling water instead of a voice. She extended her left arm to push him but saw that her wrist was bent with an unnatural angle. Her hand was limp. She must’ve had fractured her forearm but somehow felt no pain.
They were closer to the sea now. An ever-stretching blue veil which now seemed to her more like a grey shroud covering the sand. She had a glimpse of something floating on the surface maybe a hundred yards away. She began to remember. Bits and pieces of memories from the happy days long gone. Some of them were like faded and cracked old photographs. Loved ones looking through the years and one of them was the man who was holding her hand right now.
Memories which she couldn’t reach a while ago were now flooding her mind like water rushing inside a sinking boat. The first time they saw that desolate beach on their yacht trip. Dropping the anchor and swimming in the clearest water she had ever seen. Sunbathing on that golden beach. They had danced and chatted all night long on the deck and drank wine under the moonlight.The sea was so still she could hardly feel the yacht sway but nevertheless she felt dizzy. Not sure if that was caused by too much wine or something else, she let her lover carry her to their bed. As she slipped into the arms of a dreamless sleep she was still mumbling the same wish over and over again as she had done all through that evening. “I wish we could stay here on this beach and never ever have to return to our mundane daily lives. It’s as if we were always seeking this paradise. I wish we stayed here forever…”
Those were only three days ago but now it seemed a lifetime away. So some dreams really did come true. Although she could now see that they might look more like nightmares when you were awake.
She stopped resisting. Apart from their awkward walking style they almost seemed like lovers walking towards the sea. They were walking on the same beach again. They reached the sea hand in hand and kept on walking.
After a while there was no sign of the young couple apart from a few bubbles reaching the surface. The beach was empty again.
A hundred yards off the shoreline a few partly burnt pieces of wood were floating as the only visible sign of the deadly fire which sank the small yacht three days ago.
© 2013 Mustafa Özçınar