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There was a bright pink tint to the sky and it brought a smile to Jared’s face. The light afternoon breeze shook up his dark brown hair, flipping it in apparent life. He loved the scene that was occurring before him, the daily setting of the sun to darken the sky for night, and it was one of his favorites. Aside from young children playing with their mothers, wearing nothing but small t-shirts and shorts and skirts, as they laughed. The young were so active, so happy, so alive compared to him. His age of twenty seven was not disturbing to him, but his lack of what the young possessed was dampening his overall mood.
His lack of energy. Of movement. Of happiness.
The young were so eager to touch the occasional ant when in playgrounds, to discover and to learn with an urge that rivaled even the most death-wishing explorers. That was what caused Jared to paw for the good old days.
The days of being a boy and traveling down from his house to hang out with his father at the beach nearby, skipping down the sidewalk on his way to the comic store to pick up the latest issue of Amazing Man, tasting a fresh root beer on his young tongue at the soda shop. Most of all, the days when his mother had been alive.
The funeral was harsh, cold, rained out like a scene from a movie. Jenny had been absent, she had recently accepted an acting job in some play in New York City, and had certainly been missing it on purpose. After all, she and mom had been on not-so-friendly terms after she was fired from her job at the theatre for swearing out a nine year old kid who so happened to have been looking underneath her skirt.
James had been devastated, cried on for days after they lowered her into the ground. Jared knew that he was heartbroken, he was their mother’s favorite after all. Jared hadn’t heard from him since the funeral. He knew how hard it was, but he didn’t let it keep him down.
He just kept on moving.
He heard the hoot of a nearby owl, and snapped back to the present. He stopped walking, a silent figure in a world of trees, oak giants that towered over him. Standing in power and age over him. Reminding him how small and insignificant he was, compared to the massive canvas of the universe. Stars and all.
He remembered the period after the funeral, the drinking problem, the move from his house in California to a cabin in the middle of the woods in some small town called Darkness Falls, Oregon. Sure, it was painful leaving behind all his memories from his boyhood behind but, at the same time, it felt like a new start. A fresh clean slate.
The cabin was small, old wood, one bedroom, one bathroom, small kitchen and a small living room with no television. The nights were the same like in California, dark sky, stars painting it, but with the sounds of crickets echoing in the distance.
Keeping him awake.
He smelled something. It was instant, like a subtle introduction of the scent in the air. He sniffed, taking it in with a single intake of air. His mind detected the particular scent again, analyzing it in a microsecond, comparing it to the hundreds and thousands of various smells he remembered. He came to a conclusion that sent his mind into a state of confusion.
The memories of walking down the beach, white sand burning his feet, came back to him faster than the speed of light, shell-shocking his brain. Rocking it. The scent was undeniable, but the fact still remained. The fact that the sea expelled the smell from its cold marble blue waters. The fact that the sea was millions of miles away. The fact that he was in Oregon.
He took a step, and when his foot impacted the ground beneath him, where he expected to feel the hard unmovable crust of the earth, he felt his foot keep on lowering. He looked down, and another wave of confusion came rushing through his brain.
He saw sand.
Sand. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Woods.
The sand was white, sun white to be honest, and was the same as beach sand. His foot had penetrated the soft matter, and he could see that the sand was consuming his foot up to the ankle. The sand was in a small pile, the size of the hill one would make if he or she dumped sand from a bucket.
The sight caused Jared to step back, confusion over taking his mind, and kneeled beside it, lowering to one knee. He examined it closely, looking at it with the careful concentration of a magnifying glass. The sand was the exact same color, the exact same appearance of the sand that had covered the beach from his childhood. Jared took one finger and, defying the voice at the back of his mind that urged him not to, poked it.
A feeling of burning heat instantly seared his finger. The pain was enough to cause him to wince and pull back from it. The feeling of heat disappeared. He slowly stood up, still staring at the sand.
Suddenly, a barrage of questions broke through a dam between the front of his mind and the factory where all his thoughts were created.
‘How does sand from California end up in Oregon?’
‘Who put it there?!’
‘What is going on?!’
The questions flooded his mind with rapid importance, flocking to the front portion of his brain. He found himself trying to find an answer to them, to reason, but realized that his attempts where in vain. A sudden thought struck him, causing the questions to fade away from existence, as it placed itself right there, clear as a film in High Definition, to his attention.
The thought that he was going insane.
The idea wasn’t too far off from the point of being true. He was under a lot of stress, as well as the constant hangovers from nights of binge drinking. The amount of empty beer cans that he threw out in garbage bags was increasing each night. He was not sane, after all, he was exhibiting signs of alcohol addiction. But, he shook the idea off. If he was suffering a visual hallucination, then it was a very realistic one. He felt the sand and he was sure that hallucinations could not be physically felt. And, he was sure that no one in his family was a victim of schizophrenia. At least, no one he knew.
He slowly backed away from the sand, and soon felt the impact of cold water drench him. The force caused him to fall backward onto the ground, into the sand, and the heat consumed his back. The feeling of cold water incited the rising of goosebumps up and down his arms, and he shivered. Water soaked his jeans, jacket, hair, everything on him. Chilling cold, he regained his bearings, and felt fear sting his heart. His mind was in a twirling mess, rapidly spinning in a mixture of chilling fear and maddening confusion.
More questions swirled around in his head, and he lost all sense of logic.
He got to his feet, shivering, and ran. His feet hit the ground, and he was instantly slammed by another wave, one that he didn’t see coming. He landed on his back again, causing pain to burn his back, spine certainly injured. He felt the wave like an incoming truck, and he saw the attacker manifesting out of nowhere, from air.
Mind in ruins, confusion and fear flooding his body, Jared began to cry, the tears falling from his eyes, mixing with cold salt water. He sobbed, and heard another wave only a few feet from him. The wave collapsed over him, and he felt water encase him.
Soon, he felt another wave roll over the surface of the water, and soon his lungs began to burn. The oxygen in the air was gone, and the need to swim up to the surface to get fresh air took over his mind. He began to paddle upward, flailing his arms around like a person trying to fly, and reached the surface in no time.
He breached the water, splashes flying through the air, and gasped. Oxygen was inhaled and reached his lungs, and Jared coughed out water. He used his flailing arms to stay above the water. The smell of salt water assaulted his nose, burning his sinuses. He looked around, and saw something that made him gape, and to lose all hope left.
All around him, four waves were speeding towards his body, massive, thick, wide. He couldn’t see any signs of trees from the woods around him, the waves standing high above him, giants that blocked up the pink sky. He watched as the waves breached over his head, and opened his mouth to scream. His scream was muffled and his mouth was flooded by salt water, cold water, and he was tossed around like a rag doll. He plunged underwater, rolled backwards, and found himself again without air.
He opened his eyes, sea water stinging his irises, and blue water distorted his sight. The water was all around him, seaweed passed by him, and he was in the ocean from his childhood. His own personal memory lane. His own little hell. He felt water flood his nose and his ears and he struggled against a sudden current, a rapid tide. He felt a painful ocean in his lungs.
He looked down, and he only saw endless water below his feet. No ground, no sandy sea floor, just infinite blue. He felt his mind breaking again, and he spun around, water bubbles rising up to the surface in the act. He saw something swimming towards him from the distance, approaching him in rapid speed. Something white and gray. He couldn’t tell what it was until it was only a few inches from him, and when he saw it, he opened his mouth in a silent scream. Soon, he felt a pain in his torso, and stomach, as two rows of hundred small triangular teeth pierced his flesh, and he felt that pain for only a few seconds before a numbness enveloped his body.
And soon, darkness overcame his mind and soul.
The ocean disappeared, so did the Great White Shark, and so did the sand. The ground became the same as before the sand appeared, trees and a pink sky as the sun dawned for the day. There were sounds of distant crickets that cat called from the woods. The body of Jared McDonald laid on the hard ground, torn in half at the stomach, blood seeping out in an ever expanding ocean.
Soon, a lone beach ball, striped blue, and white, and red, appeared out of nowhere, and blown by the wind, came to a stop next to him.
A striped beach ball from his childhood.
The last present from the hell of memory lane.