A NEW LIFE
HER EYES FLASHED open with a start as she gasped for air. Heart pounding, she reached up and felt her moist face. Her eyes were wide open, yet she saw nothing. Blackness surrounded her. She heard what sounded like white noise all around her. Reaching down to feel her body, she found that her skin was cool and wet. A blinding white light streaked across the black sky above, forcing her eyes closed for a moment. Rain. She realized that she was hearing rain beat down all around her.
She sat up, with some effort, her stomach muscles felt very sore. She felt her stomach and thought that it seemed smaller than it should be. Odd. With another flash of lightning, she saw waves pounding the beachhead in front of her. Consumed by confusion, she struggled to remember where she was. How did I get here? Through the haze, she knew one thing. She was soaking wet and feeling a chill. She needed a place to dry out.
Behind her she saw only trees and darkness. Ahead, she saw the blackness of water as far as her eyes could focus. To her left, she spotted a cliff jutting out of the water and up into the emptiness of the sky. There were a number of trees pushed up against what looked like an overhang off the side of the cliff. That’s probably the driest spot around here, she thought. Pushing her wet hair out of her eyes and running her fingers through it, she couldn’t help but think that it seemed a little longer than it should. She assumed that was because it was wet. Where the hell am I? Her thoughts were fuzzy and she could not put the details together, as hard as she tried. She wrapped her hair around itself in a quick ponytail to keep it out of the way.
Still sitting on the sand and looking around, she wondered if there was anyone else out here. “Hello?” The crash of the waves and sounds of the storm drowned out her voice, even to herself. “HELLO!” Listening, she heard nothing. Wait, was that someone calling? Looking left and right as the lightning continued to flash, she saw no one—only empty beach for about a hundred meters in each direction. The sand pushed up against the cliffs on the left, and the tree line came out to meet the water on the right.
She put her left hand on the wet sand and her right hand on her thigh to brace herself to stand. Her right hand felt something hard and leathery. Her fingers traced the object. If she did not know better she would say it was a knife. Perplexed, she wondered, why would I have a knife strapped to my thigh?
She managed to stand, though confusion still reigned over her senses. The rain and waves both let up for a few seconds. There it was. Someone was definitely shouting. It sounded like it was coming over the water.
Walking across the wet sand toward the crashing waves, she wondered what she was doing. She stopped to listen. Nothing. Did she imagine someone yelling? As the lightning continued to split the sky, she gasped as a flash revealed a body floating out in the water. Who is that? It appeared to be a man, face up, but she could not make out any of his features in the intermittent light.
Instinct kicked in, and she jumped into the water. At least it felt warm cascading over her body. Swimming out to him, she discovered that he was a big guy, lean but muscular. She hooked her left arm under his arms and across his chest. Quickly, she paddled for the shore with her free hand.
Heading toward shore with the waves was much easier than it was swimming out, until one crashed over them, driving her right elbow into a sharp rock underwater. Screaming in pain and getting to her feet, she dropped him in the water. She attempted to lift him again, but he was far too heavy. There was no way she could pick him up and carry him.
Getting her feet under her, she grabbed a fistful of his shirt and dragged him, floating on the water, toward the sand. Without warning, a large wave lifted them both and deposited them on the beach.
Laying there, her chest heaving for air, she looked at him. He had landed face up, just like in the water, but she was unable to tell if he was breathing. Barely a moment later another wave crashed on top of them. She had to get them away from the edge of the water before they were both dragged back in.
Her entire body ached from the swim. With the little strength she had left, she sat him up and grabbed him from behind, under his arms, and dragged him through the sand. She walked backwards like this for what seemed to be forever, her legs burning, toward the ledge that was overhanging the cliff.
She dropped him under the ledge where it was mostly dry. Damp would be an accurate assessment. It was better than soaking, though. The storm seemed to be letting up quickly, and she saw surprisingly few clouds in the dark sky. Her heart still pounded, and she struggled to breathe from the effort of dragging him through the sand. Leaning down and straining her eyes, she could finally make out his face. He was handsome, yes, but not someone she knew. Her hand rested on his chest where she could feel a heartbeat, which was a good sign anyway. Leaning in closer, she felt his breath on her cheek. Even better.
She leaned back against the rock wall. She worried it would be uncomfortable, but found that it felt good right now. The cool bumpy surface of the rocks massaged her muscles as she stretched against it. Exhausted, she decided to close her eyes just for a moment.
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