This story is one of the June Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.

The emerald flicker caught my eye, and I reached down into the gutter to retrieve it. The blank face of George Washington stared back at me as I felt the rough texture of the dollar bill in the pinch of my fingers. I added it to my empty pocket and continued my walk to where sea meets sky.

The brilliance of the sea hit me like a wall of turquoise bricks, and the dense salty air embraced me like a long-lost friend. I tugged my rundown trainers off my clammy, pale feet and pulled my cotton dress up over my head. I trotted down the steps; my bare feet now alive, feeling everything — the cold, gritty steps then the warm, silky sand that sinks under my touch and then the cool comfort of the water, wrapping itself around my ankle like a charm.

I pulled the compass out of my bra and the dice too, sat down and felt the shock of the freezing waters shoot up my spine in an electrical current. I lay it flat on my palm and adjusted it until I saw that north was straight ahead of me, straight into the open ocean. I rolled the dice over my thighs. Even, I go northeast; odd, I go northwest. It landed on three — so I stood up and ran towards the west. I ran until the water became too much for my legs to push through and my feet could no longer feel the satin sand. I swam like hell against the current, against the tide. The force was bullying and the waves sometimes submerged me in the bitter water, but I swam on. I saw the horizon spanning the width of the earth and I swam towards it, towards the enormity of the great beyond. I began to tire and the waves only got stronger, but I journeyed on to that great expanse, to my false god, to my redemption.

I could no longer see the shore nor the town filled with the small businesses struggling to get by or the people fattening themselves with ice cream. I had escaped, but I was alone. Bitterly I wept for the futility of it all. I screamed but no one could hear; my muscles ached for rest and the brine dried my mouth. I lay on my back. My hair floated out carelessly in all directions and the fear dissolved like salt into the water. I closed my eyes gently and let go.

I felt something brush my cheek, something solid and suspicious. I opened my eyes to see glasses with holes where the lenses should be. I smiled and put them on and suddenly everything was blue and green and iridescent and the sun beams faded out like a spotlight dimming at the end of a show. Oh, I can see it now! Oh, what beauty I can see! Everything else melts away into stardust at the tips of my fingers.



April Howard

Leave a Reply