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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Light, Chapter 14: The Storm

 Click here for a full list of chapters to Marcus T Anthony's novel Light.

“Jump in,” Amanda said, leaning out of the window. I did just that, and she drove all of 50 metres to the carpark, and turned off the ignition. My nervousness suddenly worsened.

“Looks like the weather is a bit dodgy.”

“Yeah. Maybe the water will be OK though.”

We got out, and walked down to the sand. Kicking off our shoes, we laid out our towels.

I looked around. There were more seagulls there than people, which I suppose wasn’t that surprising given that it was a Thursday and it was only about eighteen degrees and mostly overcast. Every now and again a slight gust of wind blew sand into our faces. Neither of us stripped down to our swimwear, which kind of defeated the purpose of lying on the beach.

We talked for a while about uni. And grades.

“I’m no high distinction student,” she admitted. “I just want to passes and get out of here. No, offense, but Newcastle sucks. I’m heading back to Sydney when I graduate.”

I thought about teasing her about moving back in with Mummy and Daddy, but then thought better of it. So I told her that my grades weren’t any better. I decided not to mention my two recent high distinctions. Even I didn’t quite believe it.

Seeing as the conversation was less than inspiring, I decided I’d impress her with a little manliness. I pulled of my T-shirt.

“I’m going for a dip. Coming?”

“Um, no thanks. You are a lot braver than me. Why don’t you give it a go first?”

I trudged down to the water, and squeezing between my toes. When I got to the water’s edge, I looked out at the choppy waves. As I did, a slightly eerie feeling of déjà vu came over me, like I had been there before, standing in that same place on Nobby’s Beach looking out across a choppy ocean on a grey April day. Instantly I remembered the warning vision of the beach, which I’d had the week before. The scene before me was an exact replica of what I had seen in my mind’s eye that evening.

The cool waters lapped at my feet and ankles. I realised what I had been warned about, why I had been told to “be careful”. The water was not safe. So I just stood there, feeling the water’s coldness against my skin. The sound of the waves breaking and the wind caressing my face and body brought my mind into silence. Thinking just didn’t seem important. It was as if the vastness of the ocean came to fill me, and this little person called Greg Marks was just too tiny to consider worthy of consideration.

I did not venture out.

As I stood there staring at the choppy waves breaking unevenly upon the yellow-brown sand, and with the vast grey sea before me, I was suddenly overcome by the strangest feeling I’d ever had. It came upon me that I hadn’t the slightest idea of how I had gotten there. I mean, gotten to that little spot on the beach, to the town of Newcastle, to the country called Australia, and to the very peculiar life that I was now living. It was as if something vast was almost - but not quite – within my understanding. As if there was a part of me, a part of who I was, that had been hidden away behind the drama of my life. A week before I had been give a warning about this moment. But who – or what - was it that had given the warning? How had that intelligence known about this moment a week in advance?

“Who are you?”

I said the words softly, and the sea breeze carried them away. There was no answer, just the sound of the wind and waves, the feeling of the wetness of the hair on my legs. I wanted an answer, but it wasn’t there.

“Greg!” It was Amanda calling. I’d almost forgotten about her. I walked back up the beach and plonked down beside her.

“You didn’t go in?”

“No, it was too cold.”

She looked at me, the wind rustling up her hair. She looked slightly out of place. Just a little too feminine and pretty for the beach on a windy day. She looked rather like the precise thing she was: a city girl out of place in nature.

“What were you doing? You were gone a long time.”

The question took me by surprise. “I dunno. Just thinking about things.”

“Sometimes it’s better not to think. Just enjoy the moment.”

The conversation wasn’t so hot, but the sun did come out a little later on, and we lay down to do a little sun baking. Amanda pulled off her t-shirt to reveal a blue swimming costume, very white skin. I made a point not to look. Too much.

I buried my face on my blanket, the sand underneath making for a rather hard “pillow”. The sun was warm on my back, and I found myself drifting into a light sleep. As I half dozed, an image kept flickering within my mind. I saw flashes of electricity. It was slightly disconcerting, as if my body was over charged or something.

“Surrender to death.”

I opened my eyes and lifted my head, looking for the speaker. Amanda’s eyes were closed. She was sleeping. I looked the other way. There was nobody around. In fact the beach was now completely deserted except for us. I sat up, and looked out over the ocean to the horizon. There were angry black clouds building ominously, and they looked to be heading this way. I blinked, staring at them. In that moment I had the odd feeling that the clouds were coming for a reason.

They were coming for me.

That feeling was followed by a sensation of half excitement, half panic. A flicker of lightning suddenly streaked across the distant cloud front. Then another. Closer, the storm came, and I could do nothing but watch with awe and fear.

Amanda stirred.

“I thought I saw…” There was a burst of distant thunder as she spoke. “…lightning.” She stood up and dusted the sand off herself. “Shit. We’d better get out of here. This looks bad.”

I picked up my towel, put on my shirt and soon we were heading for the car park. Amanda jumped in the Mercedes. But I stood there.

“Are you coming?”

“Um, I’ll take the bus.”

“Don’t be crazy. The storm will be here in five minutes. It won’t be safe waiting at the bus shelter.”

“No, no. It’s fine.”

“No it won’t. I’m serious. Get in.”

I smiled. It was a smile that came from somewhere beyond me. I can’t really explain it.

“There’s something I have to do.”

“Greg, you’re scaring me. Now get in the bloody car!”

I nodded. “It’s okay. Really.”

Amanda stared at me like I was a madman. And maybe in that moment I was mad.

“See you soon.” With that I turned and threw my bag over my shoulders. I headed back down towards the beach. I could hear Amanda yelling my name one moment, and then not long after there was the purr of the Mercedes pulling away into the late afternoon.

The beach was empty as I returned to the water’s edge. Even the seagulls were gone. The sun was obscured by the cloud behind me, and before me, over the vastness of water, the immensity of the storm loomed, crackling lightning and booms of ever-louder thunder.

I breathed the air deep into my lungs and flung off my backpack. Then took off my shirt. I felt the increase in humidity as the storm closed in, with that peculiar shift in feeling just before you know it is about to rain.

At first it was light, just a few drops on my bare skin. Soon there were large drops of heavy water splashing onto my face and shoulders. Just as suddenly, the wind began to blow fiercely, bringing with it sheets of almost warm rain; battering me, blinding me for moments at a time with its ferocity. A streak of lightning illuminated the darkening sky, followed seconds later by a thunderous boom. The storm was upon me now. It was coming, coming for me.

“Surrender to death.”

I knew it was my time.

The last thing I remember before I passed out was the most brilliant light imaginable burning its way into my skull.

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