Authors: Randy Mixter
Tags: #Mysterious, #Twists, #Everlasting, #Suspenseful, #Cryptic
Something about the woman held my eyes, and I suspect she might have felt them boring into her back because she slowly turned away from the waves. I somehow knew that she was looking at me, though I couldn't see her face. She stood at a point between earth and sea and watched me, her face hidden in the shadow of the moon; I somehow knew she was beautiful.
Come closer. Let me see you. Please, just walk toward me.
"Hey man, you okay?" Eric said from behind me. His voice shook me out of my trance. I turned to him, just for a second.
"Do you see her?" I asked him. "Do you see her there?'
I turned back to the beach and she was gone. That quickly she had vanished.
"See who?' Eric asked.
I stood up and looked around. "There, the woman on the beach."
"I see no one, dude."
"I'll be right back," I said and tore for the surf, looking around me as I did so.
"I'm getting another pitcher," Eric said from somewhere behind me. I ignored him and lunged forward until I reached the spot where she had stood. I spun around and focused my attention on the waves, looking for any sign of life. The once mighty wind had become a gentle breeze and the waves, so fierce mere seconds before, hardly left a mark in the sand.
I knew I would still be able to see her in the water. She couldn't have gone that far out. I looked for footprints in the wet sand and saw none. I turned to face the shore and that's when I saw it, so near to me I'd almost stepped on it. I bent down and picked it up, a necklace, at its juncture a silver cross. I held it tightly in front of me. It felt warm as if it had been in the sun.
She left this behind, the woman in the white flowery dress who faded into the night. She left this behind so I might somehow find her.
I looked up to see Eric waving me to him, pointing at the fresh pitcher of beer in his hand. Fantasy in the palm of my hand, reality determined to rein me back in. I put the necklace in the pocket of my pants and slowly walked toward the light, looking around me as I did so, and fingering the necklace to assure myself I wasn't losing my mind.
So there I was, sitting on the porch of a beach house on a sunny summer's morning, wondering what was real and what was imagined.
For six nights I had searched for her, in the same spot, at the same time, but she was nowhere to be found. My mystery girl had vanished under the cloak of darkness, and didn't appear eager to reveal herself.
She left me on my own to fend off the advances of Cassie and Eve, the tank-top twins. Luckily most nights their intense flirting with most of the unattached men at The Trap allowed me to make a quick getaway. I know my actions are not those of a sane man, but who said I was sane?
I stood and stretched. No Sand Trap for me that evening. I sipped my coffee, freshly made minutes before. I decided that night I would take a break, maybe rent a movie and try to free my mind of my obsession with a ghost. I reached into the pocket of my shorts and pulled out the necklace. I held it out, far enough to reach the light of the sun. Was the secret there, held in my hand? I looked down. The shadow of the cross covered my bare chest, but the meaning of it, if there was any, was lost on me.
"Rain check tonight, Eric," I yelled to him before he detoured to the porch. "Things to do."
"Hey, no problem," he yelled back. If Cassie and Eve were upset, they didn't show it. They chased each other through the surf like six year olds.I guess I should have taken them up on their bed-sharing offer when I had the chance. They had evidently lost their fascination with me in a matter of days and would no longer even glance in my direction.
I walked back inside and picked up my keys. A movie and a pizza sounded like a solid plan. It would be a night to clear my head and start fresh. Starting tomorrow, I resolved to jog on the beach each morning, from the beach house to The Trap and back. The image of a girl in the dark sand blurred more each day. Soon I might forget I'd even seen her, or think of her as the dream she may well have been.
Two errands down, one to go. I had my movie, Die Hard, the first and best of the bunch. A case of Coors Light graced the back seat. Now it was time for the pizza run. Renaldo's, which Eric told me made the best pizzas in Port Grace, was located five miles up the beach road in a small, out of the way, shopping center. I made for it, windows down, the Cars song, Just What I Needed, appropriately blaring out of the speakers. I had the road to myself, the wind in my hair, I felt reenergized.
I saw headlights behind me, coming fast. I checked my speed, forty miles per hour, the limit. The lights grew in intensity until, when the vehicle was near enough to brush my rear bumper; it blew past me, too fast to see the person behind the wheel.
It tore around a rather sharp curve in front of me and disappeared from sight. Teenagers, I guessed, and suicidal ones at that. I drove around a curve in the road as Ric Ocasek sang
I need someone to love
Flames, bright and red, danced in the night sky ahead. I saw a car crumpled against a tree, at the road's edge, not far ahead. Smoke and fire rose from its engine. I raced forward, skidding to a stop on the gravel berm near the tree.
I left my Ford Focus running, and leaped out, heading for the wreck. The car, or what was left of it, was locked in a mangled embrace with the trunk of a large tree. Flames shot from under the hood. I went to the driver's side and saw a female figure hunched over the wheel. I couldn't see anyone else in the vehicle. I tried the door handle, but it wouldn't budge. I reached through the open window and yanked the inside latch, nothing. I saw that the seat belt, wrapped around her, held at her waist but had given at her shoulders, allowing her head to rest against the steering wheel. Why had the air bags not deployed?
The heat from the fire grew more intense, as the flames became bolder. I needed to get her out of the car quickly. I tilted her back onto the seat and shoved myself through the window up to my waist. I found the seatbelt latch and opened it. With all my strength, I grabbed her under her arms and lifted. The heat and smoke were all around me now. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tongue of fire lick the underside of the dashboard. With my foot braced against the car door, I lifted her through the window. No time for finesse. No time to worry if I might be causing her further damage. The car would soon become a blazing torch, I was sure of it.
We fell to the ground, her on top of me. I rolled her off and lifted her up. I stumbled away from the burning car as quickly as possible, carrying her in my arms, and had barely made the gravel when the car exploded. That's right, it blew up, just like I'd seen many times in the movies, except this time I felt the fierce heat of the blast, close enough to bring me to my knees.
I lowered the girl to the ground. She was a mess; her face covered in blood. I grabbed my cell phone from my pocket and punched in 911. I gave the operator my location. "Yes, she's still alive, but hurry. Please hurry."
I shoved the phone back into my pocket and, as I did so, I saw the necklace lying on the ground, the cross shining brightly in the light of the flames. It must have fallen out when I went for my phone. I picked it up and returned it to my pocket.
Still, even with all the fire and noise, I was the only one there. It was just her and I, and I reached down and took her hand. Although she remained unconscious, I comforted her with words of assurance until the paramedics arrived.
The two paramedics thought of calling for a helicopter, but decided instead on an ambulance ride to the Port Grace Hospital, fifteen minutes down the road.
I told the two I'd follow them there, which I assume they thought odd, since I had told them I'd never seen the driver before.
A Port Grace policeman arrived on the scene as the ambulance pulled away, a fire engine following close behind.
While several firefighters hosed water on the now skeleton of the still burning car, the police officer asked me questions. Did I know the driver? Did I see it happen? Was the vehicle on fire when I arrived on the scene? And lastly, how did I get her out of the vehicle?
I answered each question when asked and about the time the officer ran out of things to say, the firefighters began to pack up their gear, satisfied the fire had been extinguished.
By now, the entire area was a hotbed of activity, the fire truck, two police cars, and a tow truck on the side of the road, passersby slowing to a near stop to gawk at the carnage.
The officer who had asked the questions allowed me to follow him to the hospital. As we were leaving, I saw a van pull up, the words WKYS NEWS on its side.
I parked behind the patrol car in the lot next to the hospital's emergency entrance and walked in behind him.
"The female brought in a short while ago. A road traffic incident," he said to the emergency room attendant.
She shuffled through some papers before picking up the phone. "A police officer's in the lobby requesting the status of the Jane Doe, brought in at 7:45." She listened for several seconds before lowering the receiver. "At least one fracture. A head wound. They're X-raying her now."
"Conscious?" The officer asked.
The woman shrugged. "Didn't ask."
"I'll need to talk to her when she's able." The police officer gave the woman a business card from his pocket. "You'll call me?" She nodded yes.
He turned to me. "You can wait around or head out. Your choice, but it may be awhile before you can see her."
"I'll wait," I said.
He began walking to the exit but, after a couple of steps, he stopped and turned around. "You’re sure you've never seen her before?" He asked me.
"Positive," I replied.
"Okay," he said and left the building.
I hunkered down on a comfortable leather chair. The waiting area was large, with many chairs and even some sofas. I counted fifteen people, in various states of poor health, waiting to see a doctor. I noticed an area by the door with a few vending machines, snacks, sodas, and coffee by the look of it.
I made a dash for them, hoping I wouldn't lose what looked like the best seat in the house. I returned, with a Coke and two bags of Doritos; my leather chair was still empty and inviting.
Sitting in the waiting area, munching on my chips, I wished I'd thought to bring my laptop along for the ride. Why I would have done that, I don't know, but it sure would have been nice to be able to do some writing while I waited.
Two hours passed. Every so often, I'd look over at the woman behind the desk, and each time she'd shake her head no.
The monotony of the place eventually caught up with me and I lowered my head and closed my eyes.
Rachel woke to the smell of meat roasting over a fire. She had momentarily forgotten where she was and it frightened her, before the throbbing of her leg served as a harsh reminder of her predicament.
She tried to call to the one who saved her, but her throat was dry and her voice emerged as a whisper. "Morgan. Morgan."
Still, even as a murmur, he heard her voice.
"She wakes," he said as he entered the room. "And just in time for supper."
He knew she needed water before she asked. He sat on the bed, a ladle in his hand. He gently raised her head. "Drink it slowly."
She winced as he lowered her. "Now for the pain," he said and took what resembled some bark off a tree from his shirt pocket. "Chew on this awhile," he told her. "I'll fetch you some food."
The tree bark had an instant effect on her. She felt a lightness in her head that rapidly spread across her body. The pain in her leg dulled to a slight ache, then vanished entirely. She was chewing on the bark of a tree. The thought made her giggle. She still wore a wide grin when Morgan entered the room carrying a plate of meat, still steaming from the fire, and several rather small potatoes.
He lowered the plate next to her. "I see you're feeling better," he said. "Let's sit you up a bit."
The last part struck Rachel as funny. "Let's stitch you up a fit," she said while snickering.
Morgan smiled, he'd almost forgotten about the herb. In fact, he had forgotten the medication earlier in his haste to set her leg. He put his hand to her mouth. "I think you've had enough medicine for now."
She reluctantly spat the thoroughly chewed bark into his hand. Very unladylike, she thought, and giggled some more.
Once he had her up, he braced another pillow behind her. "Comfortable?" He asked her.
Morgan placed a towel across her lap and lowered the plate onto it. He handed her a knife and fork. "It may still be hot. Use caution, but the meat will cut easily."
Rachel found the way the meat and potatoes presented themselves quite amusing. She began giggling again; so much so that Morgan thought the sharp knife in her hand might not be a good idea.
"Let me cut the meat for you," he said, and took her knife and fork before she could raise an objection.
Afterwards, when he left her, Rachel was still finding entertainment in food items and mundane gestures, barely suppressing her laughter between bites of her dinner.