Friday Flash 17: Sanctuary

Loneliness — that’s what it is. That feeling nibbling your ears and tugging your hair. The desire to have someone next to you. Company is the one thing you lack on this beach. You don’t know how long you’ve been here. The darkness does funny things to time. But it must have been long enough for you to realize how alone you are.

You dreamed of leaving, of being rescued, the last time you slept. “Escape” was the word that kept appearing in your mind. Like this place was a prison. But it’s not. Or even if it is, it’s one you chose. That was the first choice you made that actually mattered.

You don’t remember much. Only that you ran so far and feverishly that time became meaningless. You didn’t tell anyone where you were going. Even you, the last person to ever hear anything worth hearing, had heard countless stories about this place. A cursed land where nightmares dwell. But by then, you’d had enough of civilization that you’d welcome the monsters’ malice. At least, it’d be something new.

They had made it abundantly clear. You are too smart, too pretty, too weird to live. Your words are too big. You know everything. You know nothing. You like the wrong things. Your voice, your clothes, your looks are all wrong.

Just who did you think you were, waltzing in and changing the world just by standing in the corner and breathing? Don’t give them this “I didn’t choose to be here” crap. They hate that you exist at all.

You deserve to be mocked, laughed at and yelled at so long and so hard that your ears ring for years. You don’t deserve to forget their words. Why are you crying? You’re not in pain. If you think you’re in pain, you must be crazy. Don’t ask why. You don’t have the right to know why.

Nobody cares what you say. Nobody believes you. Nobody wants you. Just bite your tongue, take it, and go away.

The tide creeps forward. The water swirls at your ankles, pulling you out of that spiraling sorrow. Like it had countless times before. Always reminding you of what you have now.

Instead of curses, you found a beach and an ocean stretching out to the horizon like miles of black satin. All is quiet. The only sound is the lazy sloshing of the waves. The water is gentle. The breeze is soft. It’s cold, but it doesn’t bite or make you shiver. The darkness here is imperfect. A ball of pale light hangs just above the horizon, casting inky shadows. You can’t tell if it’s the full moon or a small, distant sun. The light hides behind a cotton veil of clouds.

How strange it is that the realm of nightmares would welcome you so tenderly. It lets you cry, openly, loudly, and it says nothing. The darkness eats your voice’s reverberations. The breeze comforts you. The ocean collects your tears and slowly drowns the voices in your head till they’re nothing but faint echoes. The pale light glistens upon the rocks and waves, hypnotizing you into silence. The magic of this realm, whatever it is, melts all of your nightmares away, leaving you blissfully empty.

You don’t want to leave. Your heart aches at the thought. Here, you finally found peace. Here, you could finally sleep. If anywhere could help you forget, it is right here. And yet, loneliness still irritates you like stubborn grains of sand that end up where you least want them.

You stand up and walk down the beach. Moving around usually clears your head and shuts loneliness up. Not this time. It whispers to you of sunshine, laughter, festival, and meals shared with friends. You experienced bits of that before. Loneliness promises you that you can have them again and have more than you did before.

But you refuse. You’re afraid. Yes, that’s why. You fear undoing the one choice that ever changed anything. You fear all of it happening again. Fate was generous once. Reaching this place was a miracle. If you were to leave, your heart would be begging for mercy with every step taken and tear shed. Would fate be so generous a second time, granting you the ability to return? Can you really take that kind of risk?

The waves pull you out of another spiral. They also roll something sparkly back and forth over the slick, wet sand. You pick it up — a glass bottle. This isn’t the first piece of trash that the ocean has brought you, but it is the first piece that gives you an idea.

Maybe you don’t need to leave to make loneliness stop bothering you. Maybe you can simply reach out with a message in a bottle. Each wave that washes over your toes gives you words you could say: Are you there? Can you hear me? I’d like to talk to someone. Will you listen? The ocean seems to like this idea. It seems willing to help. You suppose that settles it.

You continue your walk, searching for something to write with and on. You have no hope for a reply, but you’re willing to leave the future in the ocean’s hands. If your dreams of rescue come true, so be it. If the ocean drowns the bottle in its nigh infinite depths, you’re content. No matter what, you now know how to calm your loneliness. So long as you have the materials, you can throw out as many messages as it takes to finally quell its nagging desire.

©2022 Skyla Caldwell. All rights reserved.