by Saniya Doshi
Art by Yanru Zhou
Issue: Serein (Summer 2016)
It’s windy when she steps out into the inky darkness. That’s the first thing she notices. It’s not unusual for Washington, not even close, but it brings her a sense of uneasiness. The quiet night makes the familiar beach, with its seemingly endless shores and harsh, unforgiving waves seem as foreign to her as a fish to land.
Her eyes start to tear up from the unrelenting wind. In a brief moment of regret for coming here, she opens the door of the faded red Chevy and begins to slide in.
She pauses and inhales slowly. That’s when it hits her—the smell is what’s making her uncomfortable. There’s no way to describe it but putrid. It’s the smell of salt and death. She scans the shore for a source, but to no avail.
Her gaze settles back onto the beach as the ocean calls her name and the wind whispers in her ear. Transfixed, she staggers forward one bare foot in front of the other until her feet touch gritty sand. She falls to her knees and starts to crawl, closer and closer to her destination.
She pauses when her palms touch salt water. It’s not just cold, it’s freezing, and it shocks her awake.
Her eyes, which had been said to match the color of the sea, gaze down at the waves, so beautiful in the thin streams of moonlight. But she knows what the rippling waves really are—a grave. More specifically, her grave.
Her bright yellow jacket slides off her arms to land limply in the sand. The wind suddenly becomes harsher, now whipping her hair across her face and raising tiny bumps on her skin. Her hands automatically come up and attempt to rub them away. She pushes on into the tide.
The waves roar and snarl around her, now foaming up around her shoulders. She has never been this cold. The water lashes against her body painfully. Still, she lurches forward until the waterline gets higher. Her body only stops moving when she’s completely submerged.
It’s quiet down here. No cruel wind, no rough sand. Just water, enclosing her in its icy embrace.
The stinging chill is still uncomfortable. It bites at her exposed skin like knives piercing through her flesh. It’s painfully frigid. The water clutches at her tightly.
Maybe she’s crying. It feels like she is, but it’s hard to tell underwater. She doesn’t want to cry—death is her chance to escape. So she forces her thin lips into a smile as she holds her breath.
Unconsciousness laps at her mind like the waves on the sand, and then everything fades to black.
When she wakes up, it’s sunrise. As she sits up and chokes violently, ocean water pours out of her mouth. She didn’t think it was possible for her lungs to hold so much water.
As she leans back, damp hair sticking to her face, she realizes where she is—the beach.
The sea hadn’t graced her with death, but instead, the waves had carried her back to shore. What a cruel twist of fate.
Yet, as she looks at the gentle waves stroking against the sand, and the sky, streaked with orange and pink, it sinks in—she’s alive. Warmth fills her veins as she admires the scene of beauty before her. Maybe the waves weren’t a curse, but a blessing in disguise.