This story was inspired by a tweet from T. R. Darling, one of my favorite twitter accounts for fiction and short writing. Please go send them your love!
The waves lapped along the shore of the black sand beach. A bright red hermit crab scuttled across the ground, and as another wave slipped across the shore, it buried in the sand to brace itself. The water receded, and the crab continued along its slow journey.
Sometimes, all you can do is breath. You just have to take it one breath at a time, subconsciously, and preserve your life. The most basic action. Automatic, even. Just inhale and exhale, and live.
Another wave came in. It brushed her foot. A gentle kiss. Just the ocean’s breath. Just telling her, “wake up!”. And she did.
She came to slowly. Her loose white cotton shirt had dried, and she brushed the sand off of her face. With the sand speckled across her blouse, it looked like a negative image of the starry night sky.
The beach was clear. Nothing lay between her and the huge boulders that sat a hundred feet from her. They obstructed her view of the land mass she assumed was behind. The sand was black as pitch, flecked only by the red hermit crabs. They shuffled across the beach to an unseen rhythm. Some hid when no wave approached.
Amelia sat up. Her khaki pants were worn and frayed at the edges. They looked more like capris than the pants she’d left with. Or that she assumed that she had left with. Not that she could remember. Her feet were bare. Her stomach growled.
She could think later. Now she needed to survive. She struggled to her feet, and her ankle gave way under her weight. She inhaled sharply. Must be sprained. She attempted to stand again, careful with the amount of pressure she put on the ground. This time, she stood.
Amelia walked to the rocks that lay in front and above her. She winced as she walked. She’d have to do something about that ankle, but not until she got her bearings. She paced back and forth at the rocks, but saw no path forward. All that remained was behind her. She turned to face the sea.
The ocean churned angrily in the weather, and the dark clouds signaled a coming storm. The wind whipped around, blowing water and sand with no distinction. The waves crashed along the shore, loud and strong. She wondered how she’d only just noticed. The water was a dark grey, and looked like it was boiling over. The waves crested pure white and Amelia almost had to squint at them. She felt like she should avert her eyes anyways.
The beach was bare, aside from a bright spot about 200 feet away from her. She made that her goal and began walking towards it. Progress was slow and painful, especially given the sand, but she continued anyways.
This stretch of the beach was far calmer, even given the relatively short distance she’d traveled. She walked up to the small item, and saw that it was a piece of driftwood. It was very pale, like pine. The sea picked it up in the tide, pushed it a foot or so forward, and placed it back on the sands. She picked it up.
It was lighter than she was expecting. It had the texture of a fingerprint. She ran her fingers along its curves, and turned it in her hands. On the other side, she saw a small carving.
“JM + CR” was scratched into the side. The letters were tall and thin. They had been carved deep into the wood, and survived the churning ocean. She brought the driftwood to her breast and closed her eyes. This was proof there was something out there. Something remaining. Even if this was a reference to something long past, it meant there was a world to return to. It survived the sea, and so could she.
She pressed the wood into the sand and used it to hold herself off of her leg. She took a deep breath of the salty air. It burned her lungs and she felt alive. She could taste the sea on her lips like tears. Further down the beach, she saw more bright spots. More driftwood. She took her new brace, and started to walk.