by Christiane Williams-Vigil

The wind picked up as she looked out from the porch. A wall of dark clouds pushed across the horizon, and a light chop had developed on the sea, gently rocking the tiny rowboat tied to the dock. The changing seasons always brought unpredictable weather. As she turned towards the door, movement in the water caught her attention. She squinted, and then her eyes widened. Rushing down the stairs, she kicked off her shoes and raced to untie the boat. Her fingers fumbled, twisting out the interlocked rope, trying to keep her focus on the action out on the water. A large column of white light came from the sky and connected with the turbulent waters. The same light that had brought her to this place had returned. 

It had happened long ago, when she could mark and track hours, while she had been surfing through a sudden storm. Her board was coasting through a funneling wave when she lost her balance. Cold water slammed her body, and the green wet suit pulled her down under an incoming wave. 

Submerged in the dark, infinite sea, she was disoriented by the random froth of bubbles and shredded kelp. Her head finally surfaced, mouth full of salt and debris, and she saw a radiating light lowered from up above with what seemed like no beginning, no source. It touched down on the restless waves, and the illuminated spot began to spiral. Against her will, she was dragged into the whirlpool, tumbling head over feet into the abyss. Everything became dark, and just when her lungs burned, ready to combust from pressure, she came up. 

She spotted what looked like a little house in the distance. The current was gravitating there, so she allowed buoyancy to let her drift. Soon her head bumped against a hard object. She reached overhead and scratched at the worn wood of a dock, stripping a chunk away. A rowboat lazily tied to its post, bumped against her, urging her to get out of the water. With the last bit of her strength, she hulled herself onto the dock and collapsed. 

Rising sometime later, she walked the short distance to the little house, hoping she had not been led too far from home. No answer, just the hollow echo of her soft knocks. Her trembling hand turned the knob, surprised to see the door unlocked. The house was empty, except for a worn olive-green cot, a lamp, and one-size-too-big pair of shoes. No clothes, pictures, or other evidence of active life within. 

After days, then weeks scavenging the area, she found that she was on a small island, alone. A few weathered pine trees broke up the foggy atmosphere, and the grey pebbles crunched with each step she took in either direction. Here she would remain for a long time. At first, she tried to count the days, keeping a close watch on the sun whenever she ventured out to fish or forage. But that practice faded in time with the constant flow of storms. Her attempts at escape in the rowboat proved unsuccessful too. No matter which direction she rowed, she was always led back to the island eventually. Until today.

The oars thumped against the metal of the rowboat. She rowed, paddles plunging, looking over her shoulder to see how much further she had to go before she touched the light. A flash of lightning ran across the sky, imitating the pulsing veins just under the surface of her flesh.

“Don’t stop,” she hissed through gritted teeth. She could feel the sweat under her old faded wet suit. At last, she knew she was close, feeling the shift in the water beneath her, no longer the metronome tick of the waves. Something below her moved with rough strength. She could hear the massive voice of the whirlpool, calling out like a challenge, the mist— like spray of saltwater escaped from its mouth and grazed her face. She released the oars, letting them drift away from her raw hands. Her legs wobbled as she clutched the side of the boat and lifted herself up, knowing she had only one shot. The light engulfed her as she jumped, sailing through the air, before falling into the black pit. Her breath was knocked out of her as her body slapped hard against tight water. Darkness tumbled her around. 

Under the surface, her arms dangled in an odd twists against her will. Her nostrils burned with hot stinging sensations that burrowed into the back of her throat. There was no sense of up or down. She clenched her teeth seeing a flurry of blurry urgent bubbles escape the corners of her mouth.

Suddenly, the hard beating of the water stopped, and she rose into the air. She gasped, expelling out a mouth full of water, and kicked to remain afloat. The towering waves rolled and dragged her across, taking her under and pulling her back up. Through the dizzying motion, she kept her eyes up towards the glowing, grey skies. There had to be sun above her, something to warm and calm the storm. She held onto the hope that salvation was near.

Her head hit something hard, and she swung her arms around to grab hold. A surfboard rose to the surface. Her eyes grew with excitement and familiarity. It looked just like the one she had so long ago. Perhaps she had only been gone just a short moment, stuck in a bubble in time. She hauled herself onto it, resting her cheek on the hard plastic. Her wet hair draped across her back, shielding her from the cold wind that began to blow. Her muscles twitched in extreme exhaustion and soon she passed out, accepting fate.

A little while later, her limp body suddenly flipped off the board as it collided with the shore. She staggered up, face dusted with sand. Her sore, salted eyes adjusted, and her mouth fell open in a mix of shock and stomach-gripping disappointment. Not too far from where she had landed stood the little house. The front door flapped in the gray wind, like an open mouth, maliciously awaiting her inevitable return.