A Swim Amongst the Tempest

They walked along the rocky shore, the salted air misting against their skin as a fierce bitter wind cut through their coats, pulled tightly about their necks. The weather encased them in a snow globe of nor’easter, while waves churned in the emerald green ocean, white caps cresting atop each swell. Foam frothed on the edge of the chilled water like a rabid dogs mouth, waiting to sink its teeth into fresh meat. The shore itself seemed to heave and list under their feet with the lap and crash of every white cap rushing onto the rock strewn beach. Pines bent under the gail force, and the wind itself seamed to scream a banshee’s wail, warning them of impending peril. They walked along the rocky shore, together, yet apart, as they bent down, picking the stones which interested them, on this gray tempestuous day.

She walked along the edge of the surf, like an acrobat on a tight-rope, high above a three ring circus below. With every step, she watched the ocean rush in, all the while dodging white spume atop these dying waves, their last gasp taken as they thinned out across the pebbles and rocks of the beach. Salt water mixed with the rain, descending from the stygian clouds overhead. Like a sopping wool blanket, dark clouds hung in the sky overhead, while massive chapped hands rung them out, saturating the world below. The viridescent ocean violently surged and battered against the boulders which dotted the shore, carbuncles jutting from the soggy delineation between land and the briny sea.

Looking out upon the ocean, she bent down, dipping her fingers in the cold waters of Naskeag Harbor. Placing two fingers to her lips, she tasted the salt, lightly trailing her fingers over her cherry lips. Gazing out over the white-capped reach, a distrait look loomed on her countenance. Dark hair undulated chaotically from beneath her hood, as a sharp gale cut through the frigid air. Like tendrils of black ink, her tresses seemed to float in the air, defying gravity as it drifted sideways, as if she were suspended in the deep sea. Scooping up a hand-full of sand and rocks, she rolled the gritty mixture between her fingers and palm. Saturated sand dropped in clumps out of her hand, splashing in the breaking surf, as she stared through the squall, at the island capped in pointed firs.

Squinting her eyes to descry Harbor Island’s dark silhouette through the sleet and mist, roiling in the atmosphere, she made out a house set amongst the forest, a lone sentinel amidst the ocean wilderness. With a sudden and quick movement, she stood erect, and with one hand, unzipped her black raincoat, letting it slip off her body onto the drenched shore. One layer closer to the soggy atmosphere of this tempest, she felt the cold sleet beat against her head, saturating her hair, reddening her cheeks. Kicking off her shoes with a frivolous, quick gesture, her boots landed in the water of the ocean, sinking slowly into the depths of the water. With her bare feet pressing into the sand, she crinkled her toes against the cold, wet grains, feeling a numbness slip into her feet, as the cold penetrated her skin.

A sudden gust, and a wave’s white cap, sprayed and carried on the wind, flinging itself against his raincoat, salting the waxed cotton canvas, which stiffly protected him from the elements. Rain pelted against his face and ran down chilled, rosy, wind-burnt cheeks, while rivulets of rain tickled his neck, soaking the collar of his shirt. Walking along the wharf, swells struck the boulders which footed this artifice of land, the large cuts of granite impervious to the howling weather. A seagull alighted from the wind torn sky upon a barnacle covered rock, barely jutting from the tumbled sea. In the distance, Hog Island was scarcely visible through the white slurry of winter’s gale. A seagull cawed from a distance, laughing at the weather, mocking her attempt at destruction and chaos. At the edge of the wharf he peered into the whitening distance, out across the ocean, which darkened in the slow extinguishment of day’s light, as the looming clouds developed an ominous sable color.

Her pale skin seemed to irradiate in the eventide as she slipped off her bra, the last article of clothing on her body, dropping it unceremoniously to the ground. A lapping wave washed over it, and seemed to pull it toward the sea, every lick of the rolling surf pulling it a little closer to the murky waters. Stepping into the water a shiver ran through her body. Blood pumped furiously through her arteries, instinctively forcing warmth to her chilled limbs, which, as her skin pimpled and colored paler than normal, seemed a lost cause. With every step deeper into the frigid ocean, her resolve strengthened, and her body slipped away into an encompassing numbness.

Torso deep, she could feel the rocks underfoot, as the uneven, stony floor of the harbor caused her ankles to collapse, as her foot rolled off them, finding only a jagged surface to walk on. Her cadaver feet could not feel the barnacles digging deep into her skin, as they moved mechanically along the sea’s bottom, yearning for an accommodating depth. As the water came to her chest, waves met her erect nipples, her skin a reddish hue of blotchiness mixed with the milkiest white of pale. A deep and thoughtful breath, she expanded her lungs till they felt as if they would burst, and she dove under, the waves thrusting over her as she swam below the surface of the tempest roiling over her head. In the pale light, which penetrated the murky abyss, she saw strands of kelp reaching up at her from the bottom, as she swam out farther to depths beyond her knowing. She felt as if she had swam forever, all the way to Harbor Island, to find herself climbing across the rocky beach, to the lone house which would be her home, all to herself.

Surfacing she took a breath, a deep breath, and felt her ribs convulse and her lungs scream, as they sought for air in the rough sea which swirled and shook about her. The salty water entered her mouth and lungs as she tread water, and looking up at the sky, found nothing but a charcoal blanket covering the coming night sky. Waves crested over her face, and she fought for air, as Neptune thrust his trident into the sky, unrelenting in his torment of the seas.

Her body no longer hers, she lingered there in the tenebrous gulf, treading water, awaiting her fate. Her corpse moved with a rhythm unknown to her, as sensation having left her, she moved with a purpose that was not hers, but a response linked to oxygen and survival. She could see, for a second, the shore over the waves, and then she realized, her legs and arms had stopped moving.

A crumpled pile of clothes lay on the shore, just at the water’s edge. He stared at this pile from the wharf, and not seeing her, ran to their location, with a nauseous sensation of fear and panic. In a frenzied hysteria, he pawed through the clothes, as if he were to find her at the bottom of the pile. Holding her shirt in his hands, a plastic bag was pinned to its wool material, a small piece of paper visible inside. Rain ran the blue ink, the sleet and rain clung to the thin paper in his hand. The note spoke of love and regret, but most of all, a fear of lose and the unknown.

He stood on the edge of the water, an inky wet meridian, and yelled into the howling wind, the only response a whistling gust from the sea, deriding him with her fury. Wading into the water, the night darkening overhead, he stood in the cold abyss, staring at the oceanic haystack where his needle rested. A chill came over him, as waves broke at his legs, plashing frigid water on his chest. Diving in, he swan on overwrought by panic, searching for her erratically, in a state of delirium. Waves crashed over his head, the salt water weighing on his lungs, and he gasped for air between the each wave, which battered against him. Defeated, he swam back to shore, and lay supine, staring at the onyx sky, as waves washed over his hypothermic body.

The night darkened, and sleet turned to snow as it swirled a turbulent dance, twirling in a discordant, diaphanous mist. A street light blinked on above the wharf, illuminating the white blanket which languidly fell. Shivering, he saw her form in the snow, moving toward him, covered all in white, as the large flakes clung to her icy skin. She lay down in the surf, her cold body pressed against his, as the chilled surf washed over their bodies. The snow fell with a steady force, accumulating on the beach, covering all surfaces with a thick, white, chill.

The darkness faded to a grey sky, and a red glow brightened the horizon, as dawn broke the morning. The earth was coated in a thick white blanket, and the chill air bit bare skin as fisherman made their way to the wharf. Casting their glances down the beach, they marveled at how the boulders on the shore, covered thickly with flakes, took on shapes. They tried to come up with a word for this, as they sipped on their coffee, steaming into the air, the hot black liquid burning their tongues and warming their throats.

“Pareidolia”, an older fisherman said from the back of the crowd, “Pareidolia. The occurrence when you think you see an image in an object, whether artificial or natural.”

The crowd of fisherman parted and looked at the old man who did not actively fish anymore, but came every morning to have coffee, as he did for the last forty years of his life. Very proudly at how he baffled the crowd, he spoke with a smugness, that even surprised himself.

“I read it in a magazine.”

They went back to sipping their coffee, shaking their heads in concurrence, leaning against the railing, as they looked down the beach. Cigarettes were smoked, and fresh coffee poured from thermoses as the morning light stretched across the beach, highlighting all the boulders and rocks covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

One young fisherman spoke from the end of the line.

” Pa. Rey. Do. Lia. Huh. That boulder looks like a man, curled up on the shore. Pa Rey Do Lia.”

Looking down the beach, the group agreed, and shook there heads slowly as they sipped on their coffee and smoked their cigarettes. A smile crossed the young fisherman’s face, his contribution to the group approved by the head nods, and he felt a pride swell in him. They looked down the beach, and like picking shapes out of the clouds, random objects and shapes were thrown out by the group. In the end, though, they all agreed, it definitely looked like a man.

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