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Card Challenge: Day 4

Card Day 4: A boy investigates a large, open clam shell on the beach. Pearls are scattered along the inside of it, and footprints lead away from the shell.

The beach was hazy with the early morning sun, the evening’s fog still clinging to the hope of a new day. Daryl liked it at this time of day, so serene. The fog muffled even the echoes of the seagulls overhead, transforming the beach into his own private thought chamber. The tides rolled in, impervious to the fog, and brushed at his toes with cool tendrils. He breathed deep of the salty air, enjoying the quiet and the cool touch of sun and fog against his skin.

Ahead of him, footsteps appeared in the sand, seemingly from the midst of the ocean itself. Daryl simply assumed that meant the tide had washed the rest away, or the owner had simply enjoyed a soggier walk thus far. He put it from his mind, instead inspecting the steps that joined him. They were slender and almost impossibly shallow in the moist sand, leading off along the edge of the tide. Glancing behind him, Daryl saw a matching—significantly heavier—set of his own trailing off into the distance. There was something poetic in the image, of two travelers missing each other through the impossibility of time. He shook his head, freeing it from the overly reflective thoughts of his recently woken brain.

The beach only led one way, however, and so Daryl continued his morning walk, careful not to mar his companion’s steps. To him, they provided all the comfort of human contact without the irritation of sharing his morning with another soul.

The beach curved along the path, the tides droning their constant rhythm as they slinked along the low tide markers. Daryl felt his mind wandering, skipping along the waves and meandering along the beach. He made a game of planting his step perfectly in line with the light, steady prints of his mystery companion, leaving an identical path in the sand. Lost in thought and his own silly walking exercise, he found himself surprised by the sudden turn in the steps. Backing away from the beach, they led towards an outcropping of stones. He paused, torn. Did he continue following the steps, seeking whatever adventure might await him, or did he continue his path. There was some part of him that felt sad and anxious with the thought of deserting his fellow traveler, and another part that urged him to see what might lie beyond. Then again, he was also distinctly aware of the possibility that he could appear as a terrifying stranger, stalking someone along the beach, should he continue.

It could not hurt, he finally reasoned, to at least see where the steps led. Perhaps there was a parking lot somewhere nearby, or a kitschy beach restaurant. He pressed ahead.

The steps led to a tangle of rocks, each smoothed carefully by the relentless tides. Beyond the rocks was a small opening in the cave, distinctive footsteps marking the sparse sand at the entry way. He knew he certainly risked appearing as a completely creepy character, but his interest was also piqued. It would be nothing, he thought, to dart in and explore. It was not like his fellow walker owned this stretch of beach. And, they might even welcome some friendly company in their isolation.

The shadows closed around him as he entered the small cave. The tunnel actually seemed to lighten ahead, and Daryl felt disappointment rise. So, just a short break through the cave. He was unlikely to finally meet his companion, he bemoaned. Nevertheless he pressed forward, and felt his jaw drop as he grew closer to the glowing light. Rather than a short jaunt, he found himself tucked into a sheltered cavern. The top opened up to a blue sky that was now streaming sunshine, letting the rays filter down to crystal clear water below. Daryl was in shock, at once enraptured by the beautiful surroundings, and yet equally confused because he was certain no such place could exist without someone finding it before. Yet no tourist umbrellas dotted the scene, nor were there the government mandated wooden posts guarding the opening to the chasm. It was undisturbed.

Undisturbed, he thought, but for the lovely woman seated next to the water, her back to him. Long, black hair fell down to her mid-back, lying softly against pale skin. Her hair glistened with what appeared to be pearls, the minerals wrapped around the strands almost as if they had formed there simply as adornment. Daryl felt sudden embarrassment and discomfort, quickly turning to leave, but not before stumbling over the loose rocks of the floor. She turned to face him, blue eyes swimming in a lovely round face. Her lips, red and full, broke into a smile. She patted the ground beside her.

“Me?” Daryl asked, pointing to himself as if she could have been confused by the surrounding crowd of observers. She smiled wider and nodded. Surprised by his fortune, Daryl made his way to the rocky beach beside her. He settled to the ground, giving her a nervous grin, and then dropped his feet into the water next to her. Or he meant to. Only, when he looked down, her feet were not feet at all, but a single, pale green fin arcing through the water. He rose immediately, stumbling back toward the entrance. But she stood, lithely pursuing him with worry in her eyes. She stood on two legs, ending in dainty feet that matched the steps he had so dutifully followed. Her eyes were sad, brimming with tears, and she gently tugged his arm back towards the water.

The water played a trick on him, he reassured himself, only to watch her legs dip below the surface and transform once again into the single fin. Daryl felt he must be dreaming, must be hallucinating, or had eaten some really bad seafood the night before. She gestured towards her fin, then lifted it from the water to reveal two slender legs. Her face was lit by a vibrant smile as she shared her secret, and Daryl felt his discomfort ease. It was bizarre and utterly unbelievable, but what was life without adventure? He sat, enjoying the sun and the muted sound of the waves beside this lovely and mysterious woman.

Eventually, he noticed the water seeping in the door through which he had entered. The tides must be rising, he thought. He stood, fumbling for his words. “I—I have to go. It’s getting late, and—” her face broke into a deep frown. “I—I really enjoyed it, I just—”

Without warning, the woman struck with savage speed, her arms encircling his legs as her body dove into the crystal water of the cove. Daryl fought against her toward the surface, but her hands cut deep into his chest, holding him down. The beautiful woman of before was replaced by some wretched, water-logged thing, its eyes lifeless and black as a fish’s. Her lips were thin, narrow, revealing narrow, needle-like teeth. She held him below the water as he struggled, as the water ballooned from his chest in ascending bubbles. Daryl saw the sun shimmering above him, and watched it slowly grow dark.


Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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