The surfer strides onto the empty beach, board under his arm, taking in the horizon; it is a blustery January day, no one else has been brave enough to tempt the winter’s rioting behemoths. He feels the sand’s soft, cold grains trickle across his feet. The wind playfully tussles his hair, inviting, beckoning him further. A lone seagull screeches and retreats to its wind-battered nest. The surfer sits on the sand, watching the megalithic waves rise and crash to the beach with a thunderous war cry. He remembers the fallen Hawaiian hero who came to ride the big waves at this beach; he fell in glorious battle with the ocean, now lost under the water forever.
The wind blows sand into his face. The surfer wipes the grains from his eyes, feels the chill of the wind tugging at his wet suit. He contemplates the swell in front of him; this day set to produce the biggest waves in fifty years. He watches each wave form, gather power, speed and crash into a foaming spray that splatters him on the apparent safety of the beach.
He scans the grey horizon and worries over the jagged black rocks. Then he sees the girl; about one hundred metres out, atop an outcrop of rock, no wetsuit and wearing only a flimsy bikini, barely holding on. The decision is made. The surfer runs down to the water, drops his board and paddles to the rocks. He is buffeted by waves and wind, exhausted by the short marathon. He reaches the outcrop with the girl, scrabbles to find a hand hold and lifts himself onto the rock.
The girl is no more than sixteen. Her blonde hair is darkened by the water. Her skin is rose white, smooth as chocolate and blemish free. He is mesmerised. He crouches above her and takes in her exquisite beauty; her perfectly toned body, her china-doll like features; the cherry-red of her lips; the luscious lengths of her eyelashes; the flawless sculpting of her nose. He feels for a pulse; weak but present. He wraps her arms around his neck, delicately lifts her from the rocks and places her upon his board. She weighs no more than a cloud. The foam is crashing all around them. The howling of the furious, thrashing water is deafening. He is ever aware that the next wave could send them both sprawling into the churning ocean.
The surfer is turning his board towards the shore when the wave hits, sweeping them both effortlessly into the angry, grey water. He feels a violent tug on his leash; it is ripped off his wrist, his board is smashed on the rocks as if it were not more than a flimsy toy. The girls’ arms are still around his neck. He feels pressure, clinging, pulling, and dragging him down. The next wave propels them under the water towards the ocean floor. His back is smashed against a rock; pain sears up from the wound, salt water stings his eyes. The girl is still clinging to his neck; she is smiling. She pushes and pulls him down and down. Her long blonde hair turns to wriggling snakes of dirty seaweed. Her eyes open to shine an unnatural light upon him. Her flesh dissolves to reveal a maniacal skull grinning at him. Skeletal arms hold him tighter, push him to the ocean floor. The light in the girl’s eyes goes out, visibility is two feet at best in the murky water. Another skull comes darting by, and another, and another. The surfer looks all around; he is surrounded by grinning skulls, decomposed skeletons, coming for him, dragging him down. He begins to panic; he is running out of air. He turns and tries to swim but he doesn’t know which way is up. He senses a presence above him. The surfer looks up and sees his fallen hero holding out a hand, beckoning him up, shrouded in a halo of light. The surfer kicks off the ground, pushes away the macabre skulls and follows his hero. His hero leads him up and up. The surfer breaks the surface, gasps oxygen into his deprived lungs. He scans the horizon; his hero has vanished. He wearily paddles his way to the shore, buffeted by more waves; he is not sure if he can make it. As his hands grasp the sandy floor, below him an iron tight grip shackles his ankle. The surfer can feel skeletal fingers wrapped around his leg, seaweed slither up his calf. He manages one breath before he is pulled under, before his world goes dark.
The surfer wakes to the brightest light blinding his eyes.
“Are you ok? Are you ok? I’ve called an ambulance. They’re on their way.” The surfer looks to the sound of the voice; it’s the girl, kneeling beside him, a worried look on her face. His heart accelerates in panic. But she looks different. Her hair is no longer a long, sweeping, platinum blonde, but a rather dull shoulder-length, mousy brown. Her eyes are no longer the piercing blue of glacial lakes, but the grey steel of the January skies. Her crooked nose is flecked with freckles, and there is a blemish on her cheek. Her tentative smile is lopsided, her flesh dotted with goose-bumps.
Pain is the next sensation to come into his awareness. The wound on his back is stinging with the fire of hell itself; his pounding head contains the four horsemen galloping their way to the apocalypse; his chest feels as though it’s been ripped open by a pack of starving vampires; each smaller cut and bruise a throbbing to match his heartbeat. But he is unable to move, unable to make himself more comfortable. He can only lay and wait for what comes next.
The girl is still talking to him, still asking him if he is ok; the lone seagull is still screeching from its craggy nest; the muted sounds of traffic reach him from the cliff-top highway; the waves are roaring their threats and promises; and a cackle, he is sure he can hear a cackling in the wind.