Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Where tall tales, real and imagined, absurd and compelling, are served with a smile
The following is a work of fresh fiction. I have no preconceived notions as to where this story will go or end up. It will be a collaborative piece based upon input from readers. There will be two or three questions at the end for consideration. Any other freeform suggestions/contributions are welcome as well.
SHE PLACED THE PHONE BACK IN its cradle softly as if in danger of cracking the hard plastic skin. Her eyes stayed focused on the relatively ancient piece of communications technology and her mind locked on a playback of the last thing she had been told.
The dilapidated motel room began to creep back into her circle of perception and slowly she turned towards the door, half expecting the spherical knob to begin a methodical rotation, set in motion from without. Again her vision began to pinpoint, drowning out everything around the knob and throughout the room like ocular background noise. The steady tick, tock of a 1970’s era bedside clock was her soundtrack. Fifteen minutes. Blinking, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them, nothing had changed except for her. She had decided.
The walk down to the shoreline from the motel had used up nearly all of the allotted time. Moving with fresh resolve she arrived at the sand and kicked off her sandals without breaking stride. A quick glance to the left and the right informed her that the beach was utterly deserted. Not surprising at three o’clock in the morning in the off season. Above her the stars were out but there was no moon. With virtually all of the oceanfront homes shuttered for the winter, very little ambient light penetrated the darkness near the waterline. What little there was seemed to be absorbed by the frothing white of the small breaking waves.
She shivered involuntarily and crossed her arms around her in an attempt to maintain body heat. The caller had instructed her to not wear a sweater or jacket, that something would be provided for her before they began their exodus. No shoes, he had also said. Walking the final steps to the solitary lifeguard tower, she checked her watch. Thirty seconds to spare. She scanned the sands on both sides of her, straining her eyes for any sign of him. Then she saw movement in the shadows to the north. She took a tentative step in that direction and searched for another sign. A figure materialized far closer than she would have suspected and walked towards her. It was him. He looked tense – grim even – as he neared. She raised a sandy foot to take another step in his direction and was about to speak when she was seized roughly from behind. Two sets of hands assailed her. One set secured her upper body as the other quickly wrapped a neoprene band around her mouth, cinching it tight. Her eyes went wide and connected with those of the caller. He had stopped walking and watched silently, clearly unalarmed by the development. She had been set up.
Her feet left the sand and she was half-dragged, half-carried towards the water, the sound of the break seeming to get louder as her pulse pounded out a rhythm of fear in her head. The water hit her like a hammer on an anvil, brittle and bracing. She realized that the two men forcing her into the surf were wearing wetsuits with gloves protecting their hands. Turning her head to try and see a face, she could barely make out the vague outline of shadowed neoprene covering both heads and faces. They were protected from the frigid water. She was decidedly not. Do not wear a sweater or jacket…no shoes.
In what felt like a heartbeat, they were out past the break. Her head repeatedly dropped beneath the surface and the rubbery gag around her mouth seemed to close tighter around her lower face. The two dark forms on either side of her eased into a practiced rhythm, side-stroking with one hand and holding their captive with the other. The speed with which they swam was astonishing. It was clear that there was a significant riptide helping their progress, pulling the threesome out to sea. But there was more than that. Are they wearing flippers, she wondered. And where were they taking her? It must be to a boat, she reasoned. What other purpose could there be? That was the exit strategy. The caller had been unable to tell her for the sake of secrecy, of course.
She stole a glance back towards the beach. The few dim lights that had been present were barely visible now. She wondered how far out they were, how long they had been in the water. It was becoming increasingly difficult to think clearly as the cold invaded her system entirely, attacking like a disease. She was becoming hypothermic. It was imperative that they reach the boat soon.
It took her a moment to realize that they had stopped. The swell of the tide seemed more dramatic where they were, rising and falling, creating brief liquid hills and valleys all around her. In her cold state her senses were dulling at a rapid rate. Her orientation was shot and she had no idea which way the shoreline was. Not that it would matter. They were getting onto a boat. Soon.
She was alone. It dawned on her slowly. And the makeshift gag had been removed. In the dimming rooms of her mind she wondered why the gag had even been necessary…if this was the exit strategy…and they were getting on a boat. Set up…
She was alone. The two swimmers had melted into nothingness, disappearing without a sound. And there was no boat. She was alone in the freezing waters, a mile and a half out to sea with a current drawing her farther still. She was alone and in a type of trance, floating on her back and again regarding the stars, lonely and yet somehow more certain in the absence of their moon. Swim, a distant voice inside urged her. Swim!
She made it ten feet – ten feet out of two and a half thousand. Then, riding the back of a swell down into an open-ocean valley of ink-black sorrow, she slipped beneath the surface soundlessly and without fight, her last thought before descending into her watery grave, Ian.