It looked like the edge of the world. I motored onto the sunken beach reluctantly, only at Evaine's insistence. The view here unnerved me.

She flung the door open, leaped out, and rushed toward the dark waters. Here, miles of sullen tide-pools fronted an endless expanse of ocean. It was a trackless waste of dead water, terminating against the ocean's endless curve. Under starless fading light, far banks of low gray cloud punctuated a lost horizon so limitless, you feared falling into it.

There are certain places on this earth: A mountain overlook in the Yukon at dawn, dropping away with the frightening vertigo of the Grand Canyon. You look out, not to the comforting presence of a far rim, but at a surreal expanse of cloud piercing, jagged teeth. It seem to warn, to enter is to be lost. A devil's vista, it shakes the life from you, leaves you to feel alone, chill and vulnerable, lost in vertigo before it. The beach here was one of those places. It built on fears you didn't know you had.

I followed her to a crumbling gray cement bridge, squatting alone in a puddled depression of this trackless delta, just a few yards long, spanning a pool from nowhere to nothing, onto a low bed of half-submerged round beach stone. It called you onward, the sunken jetty bending away and out of sight, until all around you was nothing but listless tidal waves, and chilling liquid forever.

I don't think there was an end to it, a destination for the thin path. You went along it until fright and danger drove you back, or it finally dissolved beneath bleak waters. I followed her until she stopped to perch on a lone eruption of black rock. She sat there, staring out into the cauldron that lapped at our feet.

"It's not safe here," I warned. Beyond was nothing, just mist and thrashing wave. "I don't know if the tide is in or out. We could easily get swept from this rock."

She turned her head, focused on me. "It's home. I come here sometimes, to think."

The idea disturbed me. The very air here screamed of danger. This was one of those places man, in his perversity, set aside as a reminder of his frailty; not to appreciate nature's beauty. I doubted the rare visitor lingered more than a few moments before turning back. It held all the charm of a halo jump, all the color of a tintype. Its sole feature was distance, in unrelieved perspective.

Even to stand here sent adrenaline coursing through me. To watch Evaine actually sit and ponder it suggested some vast, perhaps unbridgeable, difference between us.

She pulled back her yellow hair, frowning. "I am an orphan, you know. Raised here by my adoptive parents. You should meet them, John. Wonderful, kind people, if not my own."

"I'd like that. I can take us to dinner, then pull by there and drop you off, if you want."

I had met her in town on a curio tour of these small Oceanside communities. There were many antique shops in this one, filled with nautical memorabilia and old, imported brass. Legacies of sailors' travels, wooden ships, and whaling voyages.
She had turned up in a coffee shop, and we had started a conversation. One thing led to another. I'd stayed over, and today she'd brought me here.

Her eyes, green and endlessly deep, softened, watching me in my discomfort. I am not agoraphobic, but there are some places that can dig under anyone's skin, and this was certainly one of those.

She reached out one thin hand. "I wanted to thank you for the time you spent with me. It was good to sit, and talk like we did. It meant a lot." She smiled wanly, returning to gaze introspectively at the deep, dreaming waters. "They say all adopted children come to a time when they must search out their roots, find that from which they were...dispossessed. I've come to that time."

I wasn't quite sure what she meant, but nodded uncertainly anyway. I held back on voicing my discomfort for her sake, and waited quietly. Without warning, she pulled my face down to hers and kissed me. Surprised and delighted, this distracted me from my contest with the insensate and defiant power surrounding us.

She seemed to come to some private decision, rose from the rock, and facing the endlessness, began to walk on. I stood rooted in fear, my flesh unwilling to go any further, heart a trip-hammer. The shallows deepened quickly, and she was soon wading waist deep into the surreal surf. I called, and pleaded for her to return to solid land, watching in panic as she dove forward, and did not rise again.

I held my place with difficulty for a time, seeing nothing but a lone dolphin-like tail lofting a salutation in the distance. Eventually fear drove me back along the rock, to the higher sands where I sat and waited. She lived here, knew this place, I told myself. She would not do anything truly stupid; purposely drown herself. She would come back over the bridge, and I would see her, and we would go to dine.

The beach slowly darkened. I returned to the SUV, started the motor, and drove back to the highway in a stupor. I did not know where her family lived. Maybe this was her way of ditching a date, or maybe it was something else. In my mind, a dolphin's tail rose across black waters, waving.



About the author


Bio: So, I write largely science fiction and fantasy, and fantasy/humor. I do novels, short stories, Serial short stories, Novellas, all that. If all goes well, I expect to be posting a good deal of both here. What else can I say? I like walks in the rain and ice cream? I sketch, play blues harp, have been known to program for fun. Gamer? Yeah, I'm a slacker. Ran Plotters of Dreams for writers before it was virtually shut down save in title by Yahoo cuts in service, for ten years and counting. Ive moderated other groups, and obviously, writing is a passion. -Want to make peoples day, send them on vacation, make them chuckle occasionally.

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