The Beach Dream

Contributor: Phillip Donnelly

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In the dream, he was a she.
He had the frame of a young girl, thin and fragile, but the body had no face. He, or rather she, or it, or whatever, was walking along a rocky beach in late Autumn. The sun set, turning the sky a dark red, like the embers of a forgotten fire.
She knew she was looking for something but did not know what. There was a dreamy emptiness to her quest, but also the will to continue.
She could make something out near the water's edge and cautiously approached the bobbing figure, wondering what it could be.
The sound of the waves washing against the shores grew. It became magnified and distorted and each wave began to cry. Each wave was soured with the bitter spite of all little girls, each wave's curl was twisted by the crashing malice of a child’s hate.
The sun, which had been setting, rose again and began to burn with a new midday intensity, its rays now beating in time with the waves' girlish laughter.
The grey sand turned black and oily, swallowing the dreamer’s feet. The boy who dreamed he was a girl wanted to run away, but couldn’t get her feet out of the slimy black quicksand. The more she struggled, the deeper she fell.
She stopped moving and felt her sense of will start to ebb and flow into the will of the tide.
The figure she had seen in the water was being swept towards her. As it got nearer, she could begin to distinguish some of its features. It was a little over a foot in length, and almost rectangular in shape. Whatever it was, it was floating. It grew closer, inch by inch, and the rest of the world began to fall out of focus and dissolve.
She could see the strands of long brown hair floating on the water, like a thousand tiny sea worms, all moving independently of one another. She could also make out a navy school uniform of some kind, but it was tattered and the sun and salty water had left it partly bleached.
One shoe remained, but the other had been removed by the tide, revealing a tattered sock, with a bloated yellow foot and blackened nails underneath.
Entirely against her will, she turned the floating corpse over.
What had once been a young girl's face stared at her through eyeless sockets. Maggots squirmed in the bloody holes and the child's skin had been stretched and so totally disfigured as to be unrecognisable. It had become a ghoulish mixture of blue and purple, but with the faintest hue of yellow underneath. Septic fluid seeped from her ears, and a large grub poked out of the hole where her nose used to be.
Despite the visage, the dreamer’s attention became fixated on one of the child's ‘hands’, part dog’s paw, part eagle's claw. On one side, white fur was soaked and matted, but on the other, it had yellow scales, some of which had fallen off, revealing bloody flesh. Twisted talons jutted out of the rotten flesh and gripped something fiercely.
She tried to unfasten the dead girl's grip, but she didn't have the strength. It was as though the girl had died through the effort of holding onto whatever was inside her claw, and not even death could make her release her grip.
The dreamer wanted to leave but couldn't. She did not remember where her home was, or who she was, or if indeed she was a she or a he. The answer to these questions was wrapped up in what the dead girl was holding.
“We know not what we are, nor what we do,” a ghostly voice whispered, and then a thousand wavelets giggled ringlets of contempt.
The sun suddenly disappeared and was replaced by a full moon. A billion stars came into being and waited. The girl’s hand opened, revealing the skull of a foetus.
Without warning, the dead girl jerked her head towards the dreamer in a strange mechanical way. The dreamer flinched at the sound of the bones clicking into and out of place as she made raven-like spasmodic movements with her head.
What was left of the girl's mouth slid into a sickening smile, a slimy grimace. Her open cavernous mouth contained no teeth and no tongue--only a hole that seemed to lead to infinity, and to the hell that lies beyond it.
A mournful but raspy voice emerged from the gaping hole. It was an adult female voice, a voice that had once been human, but would never be so again: a voice moving from sadness to despair.
When it spoke it felt as though all other noises on the beach had vanished.
"I am mother, child, future and past
I am the waves, the tide and the sea
I am all and you are nothing
And now not even time is yours”


With a sharp intake of breath, the dreamer awoke...
And then he died.

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Phillip Donnelly grew up in Dublin but has spent most of his life teaching English as a foreign language in various countries and continents. He currently lives in Hong Kong. He has had several short stories published in ezines, including one at Weirdyear, Proppland, and has also written three novels and several travel books. He is currently trying to interest publishers in his latest noel, Kev the Vampire.
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