This blog has been a little neglected ... but never mind. The long and the short of it is that I am still writing (when would I ever not be?!), and although I am significantly further south than I once was, the future is looking brighter than ever before. Provided I can get through winter here of course!
There are two things I want to chat about. The first is that the final revision of the Nano novel is nearly complete. I will keep the original here for posterity (with all it's mad Nano-induced typos and continuity issues). Eventually I am sure that the embarrassment of having something that god awful on public view will come to haunt me. Until then, it remains, and depending on what I end up choosing to do with it, I guess the final sparkly version will end up here eventually.
The second thing I wanted to write about is much more exciting. For the first time ever, I have tried my hand at a short story. Inspired by a newspaper calling for 'local' authors (and excited by my new found 'local' status) I set pen to paper - or bits to memory anyway. First - the rules! The story had to have a theme of "Shorelines" and be under 2000 words. Easy! I thought to myself. Wrote in a single evening, edited over three days - with some very gratefully received feedback (thanks Mum, Susan and Deena!) - and submitted via post this morning.
This story comes with a caveat, however, and that is this. THIS STORY IS FICTION - 100% pure, unadulterated story-telling. Of the people who have read it so far, a few have made intimations about my state of mind, my personal relationships and my emotional stability. That is warranted - it is a very bleak story - but please bear in mind that the characters are fictional, and although it is written in the first person, "I" in this case does not equal "Lana".
I'm beginning to realise how Stephen King must feel when everyone asks him about how strange his life must be. Oh! The sorrows of writing good noir! (oh, how exciting to be able to compare myself to possibly the most recognised author on the planet! tee hee!)
And now ... into the good stuff. Please enjoy, and please, please, *please* let me know what you think :)
Ebb and Flow
I am sitting on the beach, looking out over the water. The sand I am sitting on is just a blanket of darkness, still slightly warm to the touch from the heat it absorbed through the day. I am not sure of the time, but I am aware somehow that it is late - well after midnight. I have been here for hours now, but I do not feel lonely, or bored. Tonight is different, I don't feel quite here somehow. I feel empty, yet awash in emotion. My gaze has been fixed on the waves rolling into the beach. I can see the vague glow of white caps on the black waves as they roll onto the sand, and can see the darker impression they leave on the sand as the ocean sucks them back to its inky depths. I can see the body floating in the shallows almost directly in front of me. Strangely, I'm not shocked. Perhaps that is the reason I am here - to see the corpse rolling in the shallow waves, being pushed and pulled in the tidal flow. I know without moving closer that it is a woman and I can see ragged clothing swirling in the dark water. She is nothing more than a darker shadow in the dark water from where I sit, but I see all this in living colour in my mind's eye. She is wearing black loose fitting pants, a blouse made of some silky fabric - also black but with an intricate pattern of leaves and flowers picked out in red thread. Her feet are bare, the skin wrinkled and pale. Her face is turned away from me, but her hair is a dark swirl in the water and I know her features as I know my own.
This place holds significance for me, although I have yet to discover what that significance is. Every time I drive out of this town, I see the coastline dropping away behind me and I heave a sigh of relief - I'm free again. Sometimes I will leave for months or years at a time. I start to forget about the water, the sand, the hamlet town. And I feel as though I'm picking up the pieces again and settling into a routine, a lovely new life. And then the phone will ring, a letter will arrive, something will happen and before I know it I am hauled back here and I find myself on this beach again, trying to work out what happened, and why I'm back.
I left last time because I wanted to travel north. The real reason I left was to get away from this part of the coastline and the hold it exerts on me. I left behind a good job, a handful of friends, a rented flat on the beach, and a boyfriend. He had grand plans of us setting up house together when I got back, and it was the night before I left that I finally told him I had no intention of returning. He was dumbfounded, but he seemed to take it well. He had left my flat after a big, chaste hug and I congratulated myself on how well I had handled it.
The next day I had gotten in my car. It was packed with a suitcase and not a whole lot more, the furniture had stayed with the flat and the rest had been sold or given away. As I drove out of the town I felt that all too familiar wave of freedom and relief roll over me - I was out again. The sea started to release its clutches as I headed further inland and, once out of sight of the coastline, I turned right and headed north. I had no destination in mind, safe in the knowledge that the place I needed to be was up here somewhere, and that it would let me know when I found it.
I had spent the drive reflecting on the relationship. Once the sound of the waves crashing into the shore had ceased roaring in my head it became so much easier to think. It hadn't been all bad, in fact most of the time it had been quite good. We got along well, laughed a lot and had rarely argued. His calm at the break up suddenly seemed odd. Like the piece of a jigsaw that fits perfectly, but the picture doesn't quite match up. I once heard that in every relationship one will always love more than the other. I had been on both sides of the argument - both the giver and receiver of the lion's share of love. This time I had well and truly been the receiver. If I had to pin down the balance, it would be somewhere around 80/20. He never seemed to notice, seemed grateful for every throwaway "I love you" I offered. At times I felt guilty, because the imbalance seemed so obvious to me. Other times I felt angry, because he must have been either stupid or blind not to recognise it himself. I could not understand his motivation for wanting to be in relationship that was so lopsided, but who was I to stop him - after all, he never complained.
Eventually I arrived in a city. Not a big one, but big enough for me to hide. Life started to settle again. I felt my breath start to come easier now that it wasn't hampered by the coastal humidity in the air. I started to relax. I even let myself believe for a little while that I had made it away from the beach for good this time.
That was six months ago, and now I am back. I came back because in the middle of the night, I got a phone call. A friend here had been pulled into a rip while night surfing and they didn't find her body for three days. Like all things it washed up eventually though. I promised myself I was coming back for the funeral, and would return to the new life I had begun two thousand kilometres away. As I drove I reflected ruefully on the way that the sea had called me back yet again. Not only had it called me back, but it had taken a friend's life to do it. The ocean is a tough mistress.
At the funeral I was reasonably dry eyed. There had been a few curious looks from those who wondered where I had been recently, but I was asked no questions, for which I was grateful. Someone said something about a wake at her parent's house, but I slipped away into the late afternoon, unseen as far as I was aware. I moved the car a few blocks and stopped in the shade of the huge gums in the back of the park, where I knew it was unlikely anyone would drive past and recognise me. I propped the driver's door open with my foot, and clicked the seat back a bit, trying to work out if I had the energy to just start driving back.
I sat there for maybe half an hour, and as the interior of the car grew hotter in the late afternoon sun, I made the decision I knew I would eventually come to. I closed the door, turned the key in the ignition, and pulled out from under the trees and onto the street. There was a CD in the stereo, and I was happily crooning away with the band when I slowed the car to a halt. I looked up, suddenly confused and anxious, and realised that I had come to the beach. I had intended to drive past and head back without paying homage to this beach. But I could no more stop myself making this visit than I could hold back the tide. Why does this small deserted beach call me so?
I took my shoes off and made my way down the catwalk that led over the dunes. The familiar scratch of the dune grasses attacked my unprotected soles, as though trying to stop me. I paid it no mind, I was fixated on getting down to the water, like an addict waiting for the next hit. And it was an addiction, for me. The beach - this beach - had a story it needed to tell me, and I could never be sure when it was finally going to spill it out. Maybe tonight it would tell me why it holds this attraction over me. Maybe tonight it would tell me why I can't seem to leave.
By this time, the sun was sinking low in the sky behind me, and my shadow stretched long and dark over the trail in front. As I stepped onto the dry sand at the top of the beach, my shadow wavered and doubled. So it came as no surprise when I heard my name being called softly from behind me. I turned, not afraid but annoyed at having my fix interupted. My old boyfriend came up to me, looped his arm casually around my neck and leaned in close. His scent was woody and warm, with a tangy back bite to it - familiar, yet somehow different from what I remembered.
When he put his head against mine, we stopped walking, and I turned towards him, allowed myself to fold into his body. It was a familiar sensation, and comforting for that, but I felt no longing. I realised at that moment that I hadn't missed him at all. He whispered how he loved me, how he longed to have me back. He pleaded with me to return and I shook my head. No, I would not return.
I backed away from him, putting my hands up between us, and he started to get angry. It was fully dark now and he raised his fist as though to hit me. I had never seen him raise a hand before and I looked at him in disbelief and surprise before lifting my eyes to his upraised fist. It was then that I saw the knife, and suddenly I identified the tangy scent I had noticed as anger, fear and determination.
I ran. I don't know where I was running to, only what I was running from. I don't think I yelled out, and I don't know why, but for some reason I ran, quickly and silently, towards the water. I threw myself into the waves, felt myself being pulled under, and then the push as I was lifted into the crest. I lifted my head, took a breath, and prepared to be pulled under again. The waves were breathing with me, and the ocean and I danced together for a while, before I felt his body slam into mine. His hands - knifeless now - came around my throat, my face, my chest, my hair, my eyes. They were everywhere and they served to break the delicate balance between myself and the ocean.
Why did I run towards the ocean? I don't know. The waves have always called to me. In the moment that I started to run, rational thought was suspended, and they exerted their will without my argument for perhaps the first time. And now I sit here on the beach, watching the dead body in the waves. The light is starting to creep into the air. The beach is deserted for now, but soon the early morning surfers will find the body, call the appropriate authorities.
The beach has finally told me why it exerted its pull on me all these years. The ocean has finally told me its story. The beach will be closed for a while while they try and work out what happened. Eventually someone will tow my car away.