Third night. Waves rolling in from outside the bay. Alli ran down the steps. Her trainers hit the sand. And she was off, in the direction of Mallo’s Mini-Mart.
The wind shook the palm trees. A gale was moving out on the water, further down the coast. Alli pulled her jean jacket in closer. The leaves flapped, battering each other in the breeze. The full moon lit up the beach; shadows lengthening in the sharp contrast. Rocks and crabs stood out, claws clicking in the night.
She walked past Mallo’s quickly. The clubs were quieter tonight, as if hunkering down for the incoming tempest. A few rockers hung about, holding Blue Moons. Solo cups littered the sidewalk outside the store. A Camaro sat in the parking lot, swarmed by punks and bikers.
The night ambience resumed, swallowing up Mallo’s in its wake. Alli kicked a cigarette butt on the ground.
Scorched logs from yesterday’s fire lay abandoned. Alli nudged one with her foot, watching it collapse into ash. Gusts whipped the eddies into tiny maelstroms, swirling without purpose.
The cliffs loomed in Alli’s line of sight, silhouettes against the cold, navy sky. Alli could see one of the tunnels, hollowed out by centuries of erosion, from here. It was low tide, Alli reminded herself – but still, her pulse began to drum in her ears.
The beach grew thinner. The jungle trees fell away to shrubbery and then to grass, and before Alli knew it, she was walking between the white cliffs and the sea. The surf menaced from its turf. Alli reminded herself that she could swim; swim parallel to the rip tide, not directly back to shore, headfirst into the wrathful waves.
She walked with her hand against the stone, but even the rock walls opened into the caves Ran had mentioned – various natural hallways and corridors running to the other side of the cliff, holes in which she could see the sea.
The water was close now, churning a few feet from her ankles. The lip of the islet hung a right, reaching out to the sandbars in the bay. She was through the caves and the cliffs now.
Back out in the moonlight, Alli squinted and looked around at the open water, the crashing waves, the rolling grass reaching back toward the cliffs. The sand stretched out into the sea, pining for some remote, lost land. A sand bridge to nowhere. Even the fields fell away and there was only water and sand, a primeval landscape, reversing the ancient walk uphill, upstream.
The ghost ship floated into view, metal mast winking in the night, rigging long lost and rotted. There were no ghosts, Alli thought to herself as she plodded on, through the damp sand.
She reached it – the black wreckage spread out like a spiderweb. The ocean had pounded a hole in the hull, through which, there was only darkness. Alli picked her way closer, through the seaweed carpeting the ground, making the rocks slippery. She peered into the ruin and let her eyes adjust.
Inside, shafts of moonlight illuminated dull pools of water, shrunken or swollen on the ocean’s whim. Beams had caved in. Broken wooden boxes lay discarded or smashed. Alli accidentally stepped in a puddle and soaked her foot to the skin.
“Well, are you going to go in?” a voice asked.
Alli nearly choked. She was still breathing heavily when she turned to see Ran behind her.
“You can’t – do something like that-!” Alli gasped.
“It was worth it for the look on your face,” Ran grinned, crossing her arms – which were tan and wiry, covered in fine, feathery red hair.
Alli’s heart slowed. She sat down on a beam at the threshold. She thought of her warm cabana and wondered what she was doing out here.
Ran came and sat down beside her, “Listen, I am sorry I scared you.”
Alli sighed, endorphins flooding her brain, post-scare. She stared out into the ocean. Sky and water met in an endless circle. Without the other, neither was complete.
Ran put an arm around Alli’s shoulder. That’s when Alli noticed the smaller boat, “You rowed here?”
“Yes,” Ran grinned, “I am surprised you actually came out.”
Alli shook her head, “You’re awful.”
“Come on, let me take you home,” Ran said.
Ran got up and offered Alli her hand. Alli gave her an incredulous look but put her hand in Ran’s. In the boat, Alli sat in the front, watching as Ran unhooked the oars.
They cast out into the sea, two figures on that unending horizon. The moon sunk silently, surrounded by clouds rushing southward, ahead of the storm.
“I Heard You Say” – Vivian Girls
“I Took Your Name” – R.E.M.
“Dreams” – The Cranberries