Saturday, 6 June 2020

'beat' by A. Poythress

There’s a red light across the ocean.

You see it every night as you walk by the windows in the front room, flickering on as the sun falls below the horizon. You’ve tried to figure out where it comes from, who turns it on every night, but no one you ask knows. No one you ask cares.

It catches your eye the night after you move into your new home, your new life. You made the choice to move on, no matter what anyone else said. You packed up and you bought someone’s old summer home on the beach, surrounded by rental properties and vacation homes, set yourself up for something new.

The light bothers you, though. It shines in through the front window, no matter how you close the blinds and pull the curtains. It creeps in even when you try to forget it’s out there, shining, night after night. A pervasive glow that you can’t seem to ignore.

You leave your house one night and walk out onto the beach, toes sliding through the loose sand. The wind is high as you walk closer to the waves, whipping your hair across your face, stinging you with salt and sea spray. The sand this close to the water is damp and compact and you can keep your footing better.

It’s there, where the water touches the deep black of the night sky. The red light. It seems to throb against the sky, like it has a pulse. You stare into the light as the waves start to creep up over your toes, lapping like an affectionate dog. The sand slips between your toes and you sink deeper into the water as it climbs over you to reach the shore.

You can’t tear your eyes away from the light against the sky. It’s so deep a red, like dried blood, like a scab against the horizon. The corona of light around it is lighter, the scab ripped off so the skin can bleed again.

A dog barks and you blink. The sky is beginning to light up. Pre-dawn. The water is up to your stomach, cold, tugging you back and forth with the current. When you jerk back, your feet feel trapped for a moment, sand surrounding your ankles. Something slick brushes your leg and you want to scream, but you have no breath to.

You stumble back, falling into the ocean once before getting up and running back to your house, water and sand clinging to your every step, the pulse of the red light thrumming behind your eyelids every time you blink.

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