After being kept up half the night by the feeling that someone
was watching me, in the morning I discovered that it had only
been the tide coming in:  no leering uncle, no psychotic ex-
boyfriend, no mother waiting to gloat "I told you so."  I had
simply been disturbed by the tide.

by Stephen D. Rogers

Sleeping in a strange place probably didn't help either.

I'd never slept in a car before.  Last night I coaxed my car over the beach in near-darkness, praying I chose a spot far enough up to keep from being dragged out by the undertow, dragged out kicking and screaming.  The nightmares contributed to the unpleasantness.

Since waking, I'd spent the entire day sitting here on my hood with my back to the windshield, mesmerized.  Even though I was now looking directly into the sun, I still couldn't tear myself
away from the raw power of the Pacific.

I had no idea that this was how it would be.

The Pacific Ocean was not just bigger than the lakes I had seen. The ocean was alive.  I could feel its breath, warm and wet on my face, a tangy taste that smelled of sweat and margaritas.

Horrified by memories, I numbed myself with information.  The Pacific Ocean covered more of the Earth than all the land combined.

How much of the surface was unseen at any one moment?  Who was to say an island paradise didn't exist, constantly moving and always out of view, virgin and unsullied?

That's where I wanted to be.

But here was okay.  I was far from home and no one knew where to find me.  Furthermore, until the tide went out, I couldn't even consider going back.  I was trapped and free at the same time.

There was only one problem.  Make that two.

The second was just creepy.  I hadn't seen any seagulls all day. Even if they had been tempted away by more consistent pickings at the nearest fast food restaurant, it simply didn't make sense that I hadn't seen one single bird.  I'd watched enough movies to know better.

Then there was the big problem, the real problem, the problem that made me shiver every time I forgot to force it away.

High tide had trapped me on this section of beach.  Behind me was a stone cliff and on both sides of me the rocks protruded out into the ocean, the surf crashing into them to hammer home the point that escape was impossible.

Last night I'd driven around the rocks on the right which meant the surf had come in about thirty feet since then. Conservatively, figure last night was low tide and this was high tide.  If the tide changed every six hours or so, the waterline should move approximately five feet an hour.

The problem was simple.  Since I woke this morning, the line where the surf met the beach hadn't moved one inch.

Actually, I should say that the problem was simple to state.  The reality of the problem was anything but simple.

Tides were lunar.  The only way to stop the tides was to keep the moon from orbiting and I had trouble believing someone had blown up the moon while I was sleeping.

Sunset was maybe two hours away.  Soon enough I'd see whether the moon was still being driven across the sky if I hadn't mixed my mythologies.

I ran my fingers through my hair, one of my best assets for all the good it would do me here.  If I died on this beach, the people who discovered my body would have other things on their mind besides my lack of split ends.

Chewing my lower lip to distract myself, I wished I'd stopped to fill the trunk with food.  The thought of eating on the beach reminded me about the lack of birds.  Birds reminded me of my situation.

The stone cliff behind me was impossible.  I couldn't even consider scaling it without seeing the image of my body spread-eagle at its base, every bone broken by the fall.

Pulling my knees to my chest, I wrapped my arms around my legs and gripped my elbows, hanging onto myself for dear life.

Was I being held here so that I could dwell on and confess my sins?  Was God giving me this opportunity to earn absolution? Had he stopped time so I could unburden my soul before my
personal darkness fell?

The seed of sin was sin.

Pressing my face against my knees, I almost relented and allowed myself to cry out the frustration, fear, and horror of the last few months.

I had done nothing wrong.

I was not the one who needed to be forgiven.






But I would be the one blamed.  I would be the one walking around with the proof growing inside me.  I would be the one--

Suddenly angry, I rolled off the hood to my feet and screamed at the waterline.  "Drown me or let me go."

The tide ignored me.

Picking up a rock, I threw it at the ocean with all the strength I could muster.  I did not throw like a girl.  I threw like a woman scorned.

The rock sailed high and hung for half a second before arcing back down.

The rock sunk silently into the water, disappearing without even a splash.  Then it flew back out, flew over my head and crashed into the stone cliff behind me.

Perhaps the tide hadn't gone out because it wanted to play catch with me.  That was the best explanation I'd had yet.

Dazed, I turned my back on the ocean and walked over to the rock, nudging it with my bare foot before picking it up to see nothing unusual.

Letting the rock fall from my fingers, I walked towards the cliff where the rock had been flung.  As near as I could tell, that precise spot was a slightly different color than the surrounding stone, more green than gray.

I leaned closer.  There was a very fine crack at the separation, a crack that formed a perfectly round two-inch circle.

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my car key and jammed it against the crack, working it back and forth, trying to scrape away the softer stone of the cliff once I saw it would crumble away.

Finally given an assailable enemy I assaulted the crack, gradually widening the space until I could get enough of the key between the surfaces to pry.  I worked it like a madwoman, worked it as though the answers to all my prayers lay within.

My car key snapped in half just a second before the circular plug dropped to the ground.

I took a deep breath.

There was a perfectly straight, smoothly bored shaft that went horizontally into the cliff as far as the sun permitted me to see.

"Hello.  Anybody home?"

The shaft must not have been big enough to allow an echo to build and when nothing happened I shrugged.  Then I swore.  I'd sacrificed my car key to uncap that hole.  Now even if the tide did go out I still couldn't drive out of here.

As I turned my back on the shaft, I heard a loud hiss.

What, had I discovered some snake that burrowed through rock, some snake that went where it wanted, some snake that knew no moral boundaries?

A green mist came pouring out of the shaft and enveloped me before I had a chance to run and then I couldn't run, as frozen in place as the tide.

The mist was thick and smelled of rot, of seaweed and greens gone bad.

I felt a sharp tug in my lower abdomen, a wrench.

Words formed in my head.  "Neptune repays you for setting him free."

I could breath but I couldn't scream, could feel my muscles tremble but couldn't move.  What had I done?  What hell had I unleashed?

The mist swirled away down the beach until it reached the surf.

I dropped to my knees, gulped in buckets of salty air.

As I watched, the mist settled in a thin layer just above the water and then it was gone.

Could that have been Neptune as in the Roman god Neptune?  Didn't he sell tuna fish or something?

Wincing as I stood, I rubbed away the soreness in my belly as I watched things return to normal.

The tide receded to where it belonged.  Seagulls appeared from nowhere to feed on the things left behind.

The last change was unseen but perhaps the most amazing.  I suddenly knew that like the tide I needed to return home.  I was so surprised at the idea that I laughed, a deep throaty laugh.

And then I needed to come back.  I needed to bring my uncle to this very beach so I could introduce him to my new friend.

Neptune needed to build his strength.

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