Lazy Luddite Log

14.1.11

Three Shoreside Tales - Story I

A week spent camping close to the beach gave me an opportunity to relax with friends but I also spent some alone time and went on my customary walks. I had wondered if I would get bored so had a novel and a sketch-pad with me but barely ever touched them (except for sketching a few shells). The hours and days just rushed by and yet also seemed like I was experiencing a portion of timelessness. Anyway while I went walking some fictitious tales set in a similar locale started forming in my imagination and I have three in the pipeline. Here is the first of three...

Jeremy was making a sand castle with his sister Bethany. He was thirteen and she was nine. They had always enjoyed making sand castles together during family holidays at Cranberry Cove Foreshore Camping Reserve. This time, however, something was different.

Jeremy was finding it difficult to engage in the activity as he once had. The fantasy of knights and dragons with which they embellished the past-time was losing its charm for him and this in turn made Jeremy feel empty. But Bethany still loved it and so Jem played on.

Jem had drawn on his natural artistic talent and a pictorial medieval history book to preserve his interest in sand castles but now even that palled a bit. He wanted to go riding his bike with older kids at the Reserve. Or wander alone along the beach and see how far he could walk. Or even just watch the four musicians playing in the water nearby.

Jem knew they were musicians because he had seen them carrying instruments into their tents on arriving at their site. It was one of the more unusual things he had seen over years of holidaying at Cranberry Cove, and “unusual” was the word for his temporary neighbours.

There were four of them – three girls and one boy. Or should the words be "three women and one man"? It was difficult to decide what words to use for them. They looked like what Mum would call “young adults” but acted strangely like children. They would burst into song of an evening. They would play chasy in the water. They even had made sand sculptures one day – of violins!

They were walking past Jem and Bethany right now. Jem acted like he was working on the central keep of the castle but listened intently to their conversation. He got snatches like “so we come back after dark right?” and “yes but only if the water is warm” and finally “hey those kids make one awesome sand castle”.

Once they had passed Jem noticed Bethany looking at him. “What you looking at?” he asked. “You, perving at those girls with the eyes in the back of your head!” she giggled and then went right back to working on the pony stables in the forecastle. Bethany took in way too much sometimes.

Later that night Jeremy was reading a book in the tent the family habitually called ‘Base Camp’ when he noticed the musicians all leaving the bigger of their two tents. They had torches and swimming clobber and were moving quietly. After a few minutes Jem looked over to Dad and yelled “I left my watch back at the sandcastle – gonna just go get it!” Jem put down his book, felt for his watch in his pocket, and made for the beach.

The musicians should be easy to find, thought Jem, as they were very distinctive. There was the gender ratio. Also, they were all sort of colour-coded. One was dark with straight jet hair. One was curly and ginger. One had short hair dyed blue. The dude had long sandy hair. But would all that be obscured by the night, even with a full moon? Was this whole excursion futile as well as incredibly embarrassing if anyone were to know about it? Was his hunch about the intent of the musicians even right?

The musicians were all-too-easy to find because of the racket they were making. Even from the tea-tree lined track to the beach Jem could hear them yelping and squealing. On reaching open beach, Jem only now wondered what to do next. The only thing he could think of was to return to the sand castle just as his ruse has proposed.

Quietly Jem walked, then crawled over to the sculpted structure. Surprisingly, he found himself intently studying his handiwork. The crenulations had deformed since this afternoon but still gave the castle a superior look to those made by kids. The splashing and energetic conversation persisted over in the water tens-of-metres away. Jem overcame whatever was inhibiting him and looked out to sea.

There were human forms moving in the water. Usually they were submerged to shoulder-height but occasionally one would rise out of the water to cheers and whistles from the others. In these conditions they were indistinct and yet they were also made entirely of skin, rather than the usual human composition of skin and cloth. Jem was suddenly concentrating on something very important – more important than the latest computer game or roller blades or collector card. And the compelling foci of his attention were now drifting in closer and moving into shallower water.

Jem had seen naked women in the magazines of his closest cousin James. What he witnessed now was somehow different. It was excursions to galleries and museums that Jem was reminded of, rather than the pages of Menagerie. What he witnessed were like age-old statues of marble or terracotta, but moving, constantly shifting in precise shape and form, interacting with the water and with the shadows cast by the moon. They were close enough now for conversation to be discerned. “But you are having fun!” “Yes I am but it’s fucking cold!” “Okay, if you go then we all go”. There were some other words muttered and lost on the wind, but Jem knew that they were emerging!

Jeremy tensed. If he moved he would draw attention to himself. But if he stayed they would discover him because he only just now noticed what must be their clothes piled close by. The musicians were coming towards him and he remembered that a man was among them. However it was the other three who were terrifying now – impossibly confident and powerful and primal in this moment – and Jem suddenly ran, kicking over his gate house as he did so, and glancing back only once. As he ran he felt he was chased by haunting laughter from the very depths of the ocean.

Jem managed to walk from the end of the track back to Base Camp calmly and sauntered inside as if everything was perfectly normal. His parents let his entry pass with only asking if he had found his watch. Jem proffered his watch in response. Only Bethany gave him a funny look as the mirthful conversation of the musicians returning nearby filtered through the canvass.

The next morning Jeremy and Bethany were back at their castle, which needed reconstructing following high tide. Bethany startled Jem by drawing crude images of breasts and buttocks in the sand and smirking at him. Jem rushed to erase them as his infuriating sister giggled at him. “Who watches the watchers Jemmy?” she taunted. It dawned on Jeremy then that Bethany must have followed him and observed him – possibly from the grassy dunes between the beach and track. Jem felt exposed. He also felt guilty for having let his kid sister see something that was, in his adult opinion, forbidden to children.

Bethany turned on one of her disarming smiles and crushed the keep with one hand. “How about today we sculpt a mermaid? I can work on the hair and jewellery and things, you can do the rest.” As sometimes happened, Jem felt that his sister was older than he, nodded his agreement, and got to imagining just what their mermaid would look like. He had some useful mental pictures to guide his hands.

I still feel very awkward in writing realist stuff like this. But I figure it is better to try and share than otherwise. Tell me if you think it can be improved. Also be aware that the second story will be told from the perspective of one of the 'musicians' so the mindset will be expanded somewhat. Any requests for what happens in that story are welcome...

Cross-posted here.

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