After the Storm

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I was hundreds of yards down the beach when I noticed the sign, a sun face painted on an upright concrete slab. Even from a distance, I felt there was something odd about it, although I couldn’t have said what.

As I got closer I realized the painting was more than a sign; it was a boundary marker.

Just beyond it sat the ruins of a restaurant. I knew if I went further, got closer to the abandoned building, things would change, although I had no idea what that meant.

A storm had smashed into the coast overnight. Gales tossed salty foam onto boat decks, bruised tender flowers, rattled the tree tops and disturbed sleeping birds. But it had moved on.

The turquoise and sapphire sea sparkled in the morning sunlight, calm and flat all the way to the horizon.

I glanced back in the direction from which I had come. In the distance people were splashing in the water. They seemed unaware that I even existed. A sandpiper scampered down the beach as I walked up to what had been the restaurant’s main entrance.

As soon as I crossed the threshold I heard echoes. Soft at first. Distant, yet distinct. People talking. Glasses and silverware clinking. Sudden laughter. A pan clattering to the floor. I felt dizzy, disoriented.  As I tried to steady myself, the echoes faded and died. I could hear the ocean again.

That’s when it happened. A swish. Footsteps skittering behind my back.  I whirled around just as a small two-legged creature jumped through a broken window and burrowed into the underbrush becoming little more than a pale green shadow before vanishing completely.

I stumbled out of the restaurant and ran down the beach. I didn’t stop until I was on the other side of the sun face sign. Only then did I look back at the abandoned building and the tangle of vegetation surrounding it. 

All was quiet and I was alone, except for a fat iguana sunbathing on a rock and a glistening emerald dragonfly hovering beside the painted sun face.