There is something about repetition that is soothing. The constant sounds, movements, and sensations that make us feel at peace. It’s the rocking chair, the swaying of a swing, the rattle of a train on its track, the ebb and flow of the tide. Staring down at my feet watching the waves creep up and engulf them, then the water quickly pulled away back to sea only to come rushing back up again. It relaxes my mind and reminds me of better times. My feet sink deeper into the wet sand. Everything repetitious yet a constant flurry of change. Only this change is predicable.
The first open space. The only place that I feel that I can finally breathe. A thick bank of trees completely blocks off the outside world isolating the beach. It is rare if not nearly impossible to find such a place, yet I did. I scan the forest perimeter, still no one in sight.
I don’t feel afraid now. I feel small, but this time feeling small doesn’t make me feel helpless, but rather it is empowering. Here I am a piece of something bigger: the nature around me. Nature is the only thing that reminds me of what it was to be human. I know it is dangerous to be out in the open, but I needed something to feel normal and right now, the risk feels worth it. The horizon is an orange haze. It looks sick.
I crouch to grasp a handful of wet sand and let it drizzles out between my fingers. A large wave rushes up soaking me and knocking me over. The salty spray coats my lips. I laugh. I feel alive. A moment of whimsy, when I can feel careless is rare these days. I cherish it.
I pick myself up and slowly walk back toward the tree line. There, at the forest’s edge, the stench hits me. I can always smell them before I see them. The all too familiar reek of rotting flesh. I quietly race back toward the water, but they have already picked up the vibrations of my rapidly beating heart.
Branches thrash wildly as they burst through the trees, lurching, moaning, grasping at the air blindly. There are six of them. I stand ankle deep in the water hoping the sound of the waves will hide me. Two of them continue along the tree line, but four of them stagger in my direction. Their guttural moans intensify. A fresh coat of splattered blood on their arms and around their faces glistens in the light of the setting sun.
I can never stop myself from looking into their eyes. They are cloudy and void of life. The “older” ones lose all color in their irises and their pupils grow smaller until they shrivel away into nothing. Their eyes become vacant milky pools.
I back up deeper into the water. I am up to my waist now. The waves toss me, and I try to steady myself. I crouch down so only my head is above the water. The waves push me toward the shore, but I quickly swim back out.
My plan seems to have worked. The four that were along the shoreline turn toward the direction of the two others. I watch as they continue back through the trees and out of sight.
The waves have lulled for a moment. I close my eyes and lean back to float on the surface. I drift out further. I put a hand on my chest and feel the rhythmic beat of my heart slow to normal. Only then can I breathe again.
Hands slide up from beneath and grab me as teeth sink into my shoulder, side, and legs. They pull me down under the water. I keep my eyes closed and my hand grasping my chest. I try to focus on the repetitive beat for as long as it lasts.