The surf can be a dangerous place after a storm!
by: simple spider
Eddie could hear the low rumble of thunder echo in the distance as he snuck out of his parents beach front cottage. Not even an hour before rain had poured down in massive icy sheets; little missiles peppering the sand like carpet bombing. The wind, the last remnant of the storm, was content to stick around, howling and pushing its way inland causing American flags hanging in front of all the expensive houses to wave in full view. Even Mr. Randleman’s forty foot monstrosity managed to unfurl in full tactless glory, something it almost never got to do.
Looking up at the flag Eddie smiled. His parents, like most others, liked to think of Mr. Randleman as a lunatic and it was common knowledge that he didn't like bathing. But perhaps they were just mad that he had millions of dollars and could do whatever he wanted. It seemed strange that a man who sold used cars, wasted his time on big breasted women and jumping out of airplanes would seem, from first glance, to be the most American. He made everybody look bad.
The loud crashing of the waves behind broke Eddie from his thoughts of the scrutinized millionaire. The beach was deserted and conditions were perfect. A smile quickly crept onto the face of the young twelve year old.
Gripping the edges of his inflatable raft tightly Eddie sprinted toward the water. Plowing through the shallow surf he ignored the chilling bite the storm had given the sea. Pushing forward he leaped into the air easing himself onto the crest of a wave just before it broke, riding effortlessly over the summit just as it began to tumble over in angry white fizz. This was low tide.
The sea was alive, waves crashing on top of others yet to break, a perfect mix of ivory foam and bubbles falling from heights of over ten feet. The surf roared so loudly that not even the gulls could be heard angrily crying overhead as they tried in vain to fly against the wind that held them in place.
The current, like a belt tightening around Eddie’s waist, pulled hard toward the sea. It was much harder to move than normal, at mid chest level he fought simply to stay in place. Gritting his teeth Eddie looked back at the wave that was approaching. He could already feel the undertow beginning to pull.
'This is it!' he thought.
Eddie jumped onto his raft and began to paddle. He allowed himself to be sucked into the crest of the massive wave. His body felt light, as if someone had pumped his stomach full of helium. The roar of the ocean and the wind nipping at his ears drowned out any other sounds. He could feel the wall of water on the verge of collapse. It was the top of the ride, the pause before the plunge. He could see Mr. Randleman’s notorious flag waving in the distance, flapping in violent patriotic insanity, crazy, just like the coming ride.
The raft fell with the wave, but instead of breaking the behemoth simply slumped down from its previous height, sinking back into the ocean as the raft drifted unharmed behind it.
“Dammit!” Eddie said.
He hopped off the raft to reposition himself.
Where there had once been soft sand, his feet met only with cold formless water. He pulled violently on the side ropes of the raft, flipping it on top of his head. Trashing, he desperately felt for the sea floor only managing to scrape the bottom with the tip of his big toe. He felt the pull of the current toward the sea and in a fleeting instant the soft sand was gone.
Eddie came up gasping for breath, clawing his way onto the raft. His head swam as he tried to feel for the bottom. Nothing. Fear began snaking its way through his intestines, cold and paralyzing, making it hard to breathe. It felt like falling.
Frantically he paddled toward the shore. For ten minutes he stroked, relentlessly pushing his arms forward till the muscles burned with exhaustion. The raft moved forward slowly. He kept his eyes fixed on the shore. Like being chased in a dream he felt a presence closing in on him from behind but wouldn’t look back.
A rumbling, deliberate and powerful, began to build as Eddie felt himself being sucked backward. Another large wave lifted him up, failed to break, pulling him another thirty yards out. He felt his breath leave him, almost like a hand squeezing the air out of his lungs. Like a cat playing with a mouse, the current would give him a slight hope of freeing himself before another wave pulled him farther out to sea.
After twenty minutes of paddling for shore he couldn’t lift his arms.
“Help! I’m out here!”
His voice died out amongst the waves, pathetic, softer than silence in the heavy wind.
The shore line was empty. Mr. Randleman's flag now no bigger than a pin on the jacket of the local politician.
Eddie shivered, trying to ignore the salty taste the water had left in his mouth. He drifted, rocking to the ebb and flow of the current and waves, watching as the cottages shrank in the distance. He tired to will the image to stay put, to grow bigger, but in a cold steady manner the ocean continued to push the shore over the edge of the horizon.
Eddie yelled until he was horse. His calls reaching out to no one. ‘Where the hell were the people, the thousands of tourists that always put their chairs on top of my sand castles?’ Eddie thought.
Why hadn’t he told someone?
An hour of drifting and suddenly the shore was nothing but a faint glimmer, perhaps only a mirage, his hope playing tricks on him. Out this far the murky water was nearly black, vastly deep, and oddly still. It was quiet, exuding an eerie peacefulness like a graveyard. The heavy silence intensified the intermittent staccato of water lightly splashing the sides of the little raft and the wind blowing over his back, laughing, whispering terrible jokes into his ears.
Human beings did not belong here.
He suddenly felt very small. If only he could feel sand beneath his feet. His mind drifted to the warmth of his bed, the safety of the cottage, the smell of his mother cooking breakfast. His eyes scanned the sea, it looked the same in all directions.
David jerked suddenly as something slippery touched his foot. A shark?
His heart raced as fear embraced him in an awkward hug. David let his legs hang limply in the water. His breath came in quick shallow gasps as he gripped them ropes of the raft so hard his knuckles turned white. He couldn’t stop shaking.
He tried not to think of the water. The movie Jaws kept popping into his mind along with an image of his leg being torn off at the knee, bone and tendons shattered and ripped apart. Would bleeding to death happen quickly? Would it give that awful weak feeling he had under anesthesia? Or would he simply drown? He wondered what it felt like to drown. Did it hurt? He imagined a water balloon bursting. Would his lungs explode?
An overwhelming loneliness washed over him. It was like standing too close to the edge of a cliff. He wanted to be home. For the first time he understood, an epiphany of sorts:
‘I could die,’ he thought.
The fear revealed in it, gripping his heart tightly, squeezing with icy fingers causing him to gasp. He put his head down on the raft tasting the salt water in between the inflatable tubes. Silent tears began to roll down his face as he stared toward the shoreline. Was he even looking in the right direction?
Eddie closed his eyes. There were only simple sounds: breathing and rocking, the rhythm of the sea, a rumbling in the distance. Perhaps a wave was coming? He wouldn’t open his eyes. He was safe as long as he kept them closed. It was a dream.
The rumbling grew louder. He felt the rocking of the ocean intensify. He squeezed his eyes tighter, gripping the ropes with renewed urgency he braced for an impact. How far would he be taken this time?
The rumbling changed in tone. Was it rumbling or humming? Definitely humming.
“Are you okay?” a distant voice called out.
Eddie felt his grip on the raft loosen as relief washed over him. He looked behind him. It was Mr. Randleman, sitting atop his jet ski. He pulled up beside Eddie and smiled showing a mouth full of large crooked teeth. His wild black hair matted at strange angles combined with yellow tented ski goggles and a black wet suit gave him the appearance of some strange sort of space beetle.
“And I thought I was the only one crazy enough to come out in this weather!”
As he sat behind Mr. Randleman, Eddie watched as a familiar flag come into view. He smiled as it grew larger and larger. His body was shaking, whether it was because he was cold or tired he couldn’t tell, but the flag didn’t seem nearly so out of place as it had before. In fact its large, perhaps ostentatious presence for the first time seemed appropriate, even comforting. He hoped it would never stop getting bigger.