I need to calm down, figure out what’s going on. The sticky sea air fills my lungs like heavy tar, forcing them open. I tell myself to get a grip. My breath finally relaxes when my feet crunch on the pebbles. But immediately I have to fight visions of my heavy footsteps crunching human bones, shattering and splintering with each step. I try to replace them with visions of walking on snow, but before I succeed, the snow morphs into a thick layer of human ash. I shake the visions out of my head. Are they thoughts or memories? I can’t keep track of what’s real anymore. I can’t ask anyone in case they’re true. If anyone found out, I’d have to kill them too.
My legs give way and I collapse onto the stony beach. I shuffle my hips from side to side like I used to when I was little and the pebbles mould around me. I used to come here to settle my thoughts. The quiet stony beach used to be my sanctuary. How could somewhere that felt so familiar suddenly feel so alien? This is home, but I feel like I’ve never been here before. Never seen it for what it truly was. Everything I’ve ever known, or thought I knew, suddenly doesn’t fit. My entire perception of what I thought was real is compromised in a way I hadn’t thought possible, and with it my sense of safety. I no longer belong here.
Did I really do what she accused me of? Or are my suspicions right? I keep connecting the dots and finding her in the centre of it all, but every time I confront her she melts my suspicion away and replaces it with accusation. It doesn’t add up. I can’t trust her any more. Or is it me I can’t trust? The confusion is exhausting, weighing down on the last pieces of my sanity like concrete.
Not even the ocean clears my head. Time always seemed irrelevant here, ticking clocks replaced by lapping waves. Either side of me they crash against the wooden groynes, each punch pummeling them closer to destruction. The angry seaweed thrashes the shore, assaulting the pebbles. The sea beyond looks black and molten, ready to swallow and consume any who dare cross it. Maybe I should walk straight in. Let it consume me.
The deep roar of the sea penetrates my thoughts like white noise. Graphite clouds above me look ready to burst. Hungry seagulls scream at me from above, sweeping and circling like vultures. The bellowing wind gains momentum and casts icy warnings across my cheeks. Two dogs canter along the surf in a dangerous game of tag, one barking at the waves as if warning at the sea to stay back. Their owner lags behind, deep in thought. I can’t stay here much longer; it’s not safe anymore.
The wind changes direction and brings back that murderous shriek, begging for life. My stomach recoils into a knot, taking me right back where it happened. I follow the sound with panicked eyes and see squealing toddlers nearly getting swamped by sea foam as they try to paddle. They could get washed away by the huge waves in a second, but their parents seemed unfazed and laugh from the shore. Maybe they want them dead. Images of drowning faces tumble inside my mind. I shake my body to detach from the grotesque visions before they take over and make me do it.
I sit there alone, filled with dreadful connection to her. I don’t know how to escape. I take a deep sigh and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, sending a shiver down my spine. But it’s not from the cold. I’m being watched.