Wakerunners

By Tom Foster

 

Fall 1997

Saturday, October 17th

 

There were ghosts in the water, he had seen them.  He’d read countless ghost stories in his young life, had studied histories of such events and had even once, against his parents’ wishes, tried to use a Ouija board.  When they had found the box it had come in they had been rather incensed, taking away his allowance, television and video games for two weeks.  Needless to say he hadn’t tried that again.  Besides, it hadn’t worked anyway.

Though he was only sixteen years old he often found himself waiting for the moment that would define his life.  He didn’t pay attention to the adults who told him that he had many years ahead for such a thing, don’t rush it and whatnot.  In his mind he was destined for something that he couldn’t yet understand, though there were days when he wished it would just hurry up.  The fact that he was too young for such thoughts never entered his mind most of the time, and if it ever did then he was quick to think of something else.

Colby Durbin was a dreamer, he’d been accused of this so many times that he’d finally just accepted it.  He knew his own faults in the way all adolescents do, though he saw no real need to improve upon them at this time.  Whatever he did that others didn’t like, tough beans, he wasn’t hurting anyone. If he did then he would be quick to apologize and make amends, after all he wasn’t an ass, he was just eccentric.

Of course, being eccentric didn’t take away what he had finally seen one day on the beach in the foaming white breakers he and his sisters so loved to play in.  That day had galvanized his beliefs in everything he had studied and read over the past few years.  Yet he hadn’t gone to his family, nor had he even gone to his friends, knowing that any of them would have simply laughed and even gone so far to mock him.  Colby was used to this, he’d spent the last four years of his life being laughed at thanks to his hobby.

He knew what he’d seen however, it was no fluke, no stretch of his imagination and no fever dream brought on by his overnight camping trips on the beachfront.  His right eye twitched slightly at the thought of another cold night spent only yards away from the waves.  Only a year ago his father had had to retrieve him one night from the sands because he’d tried to spend a chill November night on the beach.  Timothy Durbin, his father, had scolded him every step of the way back to the family vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee that had definitely seen better days.  The blast of heat from the vents had woken him up like his father’s words had failed to do, making him more aware of the trouble he’d been in.

Yet here he was again only three months later, still standing out in the cold staring at the incoming waves, just looking for another sign.  He wasn’t crazy, he just knew he wasn’t.  As each wave formed several hundred yards out he kept his eyes focused on as many of them as he could.  Out of twenty-eight miles of coastline he chose this one section since it was here that he’d seen the faces in the waves.  He’d been up and down the peninsula in the last three months and he’d never once seen any sign of the wonder that had set him on this course.

His typical day anymore was to wake up, write a few notes from his well-worn books on every possible ghost story imaginable and then shower and eat.  After that he was either off to school or work, the former a piece of cake and the latter a downright snooze by comparison.  It paid well enough however, especially since all he did was strip a few sheets and blankets, wash and fold them and then do it all again.  His job at the Motel 8 in town had been made possible thanks to one of his good friends, a fellow junior at the high school that he’d known since grade school.  Her name was Amelia Hudson and if she were asked she would most likely state that he was without a doubt the craziest person she’d ever met.

The two of them were as good of friends as he could hope for however.  She put up with his crazy hobby and at times even encouraged it, though she did not join in.  While her own views as an Agnostic did not completely abolish the existence of ghosts, she did at times question his motives.  Colby was by extension of his family a Lutheran, but in all truthfulness he didn’t know what that really meant.  In any case he trusted Amelia enough to know that if he needed her input she would gladly give it.

Her mother however, his boss, did not share either of their views, always willing to give him a hard time over what she claimed was just ‘young foolishness’.  There had been a few times when the old woman had taken him inside the back office, sitting him down before their little ‘conversations’.  The memories of how loud their voices had actually gotten almost brought a smile to his face, since they had been told that the noise had carried to the third floor of the building.  Having only three stories to its structure he hadn’t taken that as a compliment.

Turning his memories back to that first moment he found that he could actually remember exactly what the face in the water had looked like.  Pale eyes had looked out upon him underneath bushy sea green brows, a smooth forehead leading quickly into long, flowing blue-black tresses that had waved wildly with the motions of the waves.  Her lips, it had been a woman there was no doubt, had been full and rather enticing, though the level look the female apparition had given him had been anything but alluring.  In all honesty he’d thought his heart would stop at that moment, the shocking cold of the water combined with the sighting proving too much even for a young heart.  There had been documented cases of people from all ages dying from fright, though he couldn’t honestly say that joining those people would have made him feel vindicated.

With high cheekbones and a pert nose she had been quite beautiful, though in a macabre moment he had quickly realized that she possessed no body, at least none he could see.  Strangely enough he hadn’t been bothered by this, accepting the mystery of her missing limbs and torso with not a bit of worry aside from his initial fright.  The face had continued to look at him for several moments, switching from breaker to breaker as the waves had kept rolling in, sometimes rising higher, sometimes going lower.

Colby had been rooted to that spot despite the strong pull of the current, the sand around his feet being washed away, though he hadn’t felt it.  Before it had disappeared back into the greenish-blue waters Colby had seen it do something that only helped to affirm that he was not imagining things.  With only the slightest hint of a smile upon her watery lips, the apparition had winked at him, sliding backward in the next second to disappear into the waves.  His parents had been yelling for him at that point for the last ten minutes, wanting him to come in to shore for lunch.

Shaking his head briskly he had began to head back in, not watching the waves that had been waist deep at that point.  His attention had however been captured quite effectively when the same natural occurrence he had found so entrancing caught him squarely in its midst.  Two breakers, each of them moving rather quickly, had combined with him right in the middle, catching Colby completely off guard.  Salt water filled his mouth in a rush as he tried his best to spit it out, almost losing his balance as he wind milled his arms madly.  Just as he was thinking that he wouldn’t fall a strong slip of the current caught him, spilling Colby into the chill waters of the Pacific.

He had no chance to close his mouth or his eyes, the murky salt water revealing little in the first moment but offering him once more its salty flavor as he felt air bubbles trickling from the corners of his mouth.  With his eyes open he was able to see something else in the water, or rather several somethings, before he surfaced.  The first face had been something of a wonder, enough to get his heart racing but nothing like what he’d seen only a short time ago.

In the waves he had seen one face, one female countenance that had seemed rather benign.  Of course his mind had already gone over the multitude of facts concerning ghost sightings, from the benevolent to the most vicious, coming to the conclusion that the woman’s face had been in the former.  What he’d seen upon going face first in the water however had not been overly friendly.  Instead of one face he’d seen several, too many for him to easily count.  Where the first face had been sharp and distinct these were hazy and out of focus, no doubt thanks to the murky water he tried to look through.

Sputtering madly he rose from the water, slapping the turbulent surface as waves kept crashing about him.  The raised voices of his mother and father had reached his ears again, telling him for the last time to come in for lunch.  He made all haste towards the shore then, pumping his legs as fast as he could despite the pull of the water.  His mind, in all its glorious methods of deduction, began playing tricks upon him, making it feel as though a multitude of watery hands and fingers were grasping at his legs.  Colby ran on, knowing that this feeling was unfounded despite what he knew he’d seen in the water.

As soon as his feet hit the wet sand beyond the waves Colby sprinted towards his family, his feet pounding sand as he ran.  He could already hear in his mind what his father would say while his mother simply went about the business of fixing lunch.  His two younger sisters would be either helping her or playing a game with each other, paying little attention to their brother’s latest scolding.  In four years they’d both heard so many that it was a common occurrence.

“Dad, dad there’s something in the water!”  His father just rolled his eyes at that, his thoughts already traveling down a well worn path that he and his son had traveled many times.  Heaving a great sigh Timothy Durbin threw his son a towel from atop the cooler they’d brought for their picnic.

“Yes son, there’s jellyfish, crab parts and even a few bass swimming in the shallows, that’s all.”  He finished his point with a severe arch of his eyebrows, the bushy brows beetling up with meaning.  Colby shook his head however, water flying everywhere as his father held up one hand to ward off the shower.  For the umpteenth billion time in his life he thanked the lord above for the patience he had with this kid.

Most people would have left him in an orphanage or shipped him off to military school by now.  However goofy or flipped out he might be at times however Colby was still his son, and despite everything he loved the boy.  Still, there were times when his obsession with ghosts and sightings became a little too much to easily handle.

Currently the family was in the fifth month of his most current fixation, ghost sightings, history and current events.  Colby had supposedly been seeing things in the shadows for that entire time, looking for things that weren’t there and seeing them often thanks to his vivid imagination.  That was one thing that the family could not deny, the kid had an imagination to him that defied easy explanation at most times.  Now however, after nearly one hundred fifty days of this, Timothy was a little tired.

“No dad, I saw a face, just like I’m seeing yours right now.  I swear dad, this is no joke or shadow, I saw it!”  If he was about to speak again he was rudely interrupted as his mother, Vivian Durbin, shoved a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich into his open mouth.  Gagging for only a moment he bit down, chewing dutifully as his mother offered him a look that suggested he just eat and give the ghosts a rest.  Sighing to himself he did just that, enjoying the taste of his mother’s food as his sisters, Katie and Lynne, joined the rest of the family in lunch.

*                      *                      *

 

“I know I saw it, I just know I did.  It wasn’t nothing like dad says I know it.”  Such crazy babble should have worried Colby, though if he heard himself there was no sign.  He stood huddled near the water in his insulated ski jacket, its hood pulled up over his head to keep out the wind.  In reality it kept out only a minimal amount, the wind seemed to know each and every trick for getting in where it wasn’t wanted.  Still, it was better than feeling as though his ears might soon break off due to the cold.

These coastal winds were downright vicious at times, but it was a small price to pay for living in such a small, quiet area.  He’d heard stories and even seen what it was like to live in cities.  Aside from the interesting ghost tales he’d picked up Colby had seen only a few things that would ever inspire him to move to the city.  Among those was the fact that there was more there to do, more distractions from a simple life.  He was only sixteen but he found that in his mind he could do without arcades, ten different theaters within a ten mile radius and more department stores than people actually needed.

There were plenty of city folk that either moved down to the coast or had homes here, houses that stayed empty for much of the year.  He’d seen plenty of those houses fall into disrepair thanks to neglect by their owners.  Though it was really none of his business Colby had felt just a little saddened when he saw such beautiful homes go to ruin.  His own home was modest enough with three bedrooms, one for his parents, one for him and another for his sisters.  They didn’t have all the money in the world but they did well enough.  None of them had ever had to go without or-

“There, there I see you!”  The exclamation was heard only by him, though he didn’t pay this any mind as he saw what he firmly believed was the distinct shape of a face within the incoming waves.  Yanking his hands from his the pockets of his jacket he ran forward, stumbling several times as the loose sand underfoot shifted uneasily.  Ignoring this along with all else but what he’d seen he kept running, stopping only when he felt the

cold water seep into his clothing.  His heart raced as he saw a trio of waves come towards one another, smashing together as the left over force was sent quickly to the right, the crest of a new and larger wave rolling swiftly towards shore.

“A wakerunner, I knew it, I just knew it!”  He stood looking at nothing in the next few moments as his elation crested, not unlike an incoming wave.  Colby knew he’d seen the face in the waves, there was no doubt in his mind at all.  Maybe it hadn’t been the same exact countenance, but he had seen something nevertheless.  And he’d seen it just before the three waves had created the one, a theory that he’d come up with despite the impatience of those who’d he’d told it to.

Colby knew that he’d heard the appropriate scientific name for such an occurrence but he still preferred his own.  His personal term, ‘wakerunner’, came from his perception of the small event.  When the waves crashed together it looked to him like nothing less than something running just below the spray, racing along the top of the crest until it finally sank back beneath the water.  It was a simple thought, but it was the best he had ever been able to explain it.

Standing there staring off into space he felt a rush within his veins that had nothing to do with the short sprint he’d just run, a charge that he had never attempted to explain away.  It was the rush of self-assurance that he was not delusional as others called him, his knowledge that what he saw and believed was in fact real.  A gull cried in the distance, snapping him back to the present as the chill water that lapped around his ankles finally registered.

“Colby!”  He spun at hearing his name, almost spilling to the right as he overbalanced, still not quite in control of his senses.  Catching himself however he began to unsteadily walk away from the water, his footsteps splashing noisily as he went along.  Looking up at the dunes he saw his father standing there, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his rust colored Carhart jacket and his face drawn into a deep scowl.  Colby hung his head as he walked forward, knowing that he had a lecture coming at the very least.  The elation he’d felt only moments ago faded as the cold set in, promising nothing but wet socks for the entire trip home.

*                      *                      *

 

After a ten minute car ride and a thirty minute lecture on how his hobby was becoming an obsession Colby found himself in his room like always, poring over thick paperbacks and notes he’d written over the years.  His chicken scratch handwriting was illegible to everyone save him and there were times that even he couldn’t read it.  Strangely enough his homework assignments were written in perfect penmanship, showing not a trace of the anxiety that was found his notes.  Each time he’d written down what was considered fact or speculation he had found himself almost giddy with excitement, his hands at time shaking so much that he’d found holding onto pen and paper a challenge.

Now however he simply looked at everything in his reach with a sense of longing that he did not enjoy.  His parents had each laid into him with a decided purpose, telling him that until dawn he was by no circumstances to go anywhere near the beach.  They’d explained this well enough in their terms, telling him that his hobby had become

detrimental to his physical and mental well-being.  It wasn’t healthy they said to stand alone on the beach in the wind and cold, with no one around save the gulls and crows.  He knew they worried over him because they loved him, but Colby still didn’t want to accept that they might be right.

Colby knew what he’d seen.  In his mind there was no dispute, no word that could change the fact that he had seen something that defied all rational explanation.  What he’d experienced out in those waves was writ in black ink upon the pages in front of him.  Ghost tales, urban legends, even old folk tales dealing with spirits of all types, it was all here.  He had an inkling why his parents as well as others didn’t believe, it was something he’d heard in a conversation between a teacher in school and a few fellow students.  Once a person grew up, their belief in the impossible and improbable took a serious turn for the worst.  At a certain age people stopped believing in the world as a magical place, finding instead that life was only what they themselves made of it.

His teacher, a kindly middle-aged man named Mr. Nash, had told him that right around the time kids reached high school was when it really began.  This was the age during which children often began to lose the last shreds of their innocence, realizing that the world wasn’t like the movies.  He’d even claimed that despite the sadness of it all, those children that realized the harshness of the world early on were the lucky ones.  Colby had found this to be a harsh statement, though Mr. Nash had explained his point rather well.  Aside from this Colby respected Mr. Nash like so many other students did, knowing that he rarely said anything without reason.

Thinking back on this now filled him with at least a measure of hope that such was his parents’ main problem.  Their concern for him drove them to disbelieve what he said, wanting to keep him safe rather than indulge in what they considered his wild fantasies.  His father had gone so far as to call him reckless, telling him he allowed his need to believe in the supernatural to override his sense of reason.

Colby didn’t deny this, but at the same time he couldn’t help it.  Some people collected stamps, some people enjoyed flying kites.  Nothing so mundane had ever held his attention, it simply couldn’t.  There was something about believing in the world that lay just beyond, or next to, or even under this one that appealed to him.  He needed to believe in ghosts like children needed to believe in Santa Claus, or the Easter bunny, because it gave an explanation that very few could ever achieve.

That was why he was going back tonight.  Despite his parents both having forbid this he was going.  Where this sudden compulsion came from he didn’t know, but it would not be sated by simply reading passages and stories he’d read several times now.  Colby had memorized almost every word, the pages were worn and dog-eared from the number of hours he had put into flipping the pages.  They were no longer enough.    The words, the pictures, the compiled stories, both reported truths and pure entertainment, they were no longer enough to sate his ravenous appetite for the supernatural.

There was only one balm he could think of now, and that was to go back.  Colby already knew how he’d get by his parents.  He’d snuck out of the house a few times without being caught, the window that led outside his room an easy way to go about undetected.  Having nothing but sand and soft grass as a landing spot helped a great deal as well.  With this in mind he sat back on his bed, letting the papers fall to the covers as

he reached for the remote control behind him on his headboard.  Clicking on his television across the room he eyed the few movies he owned that lay scattered about the room.  There were four on his dresser near his door, three scattered around the tall entertainment center in which his television sat and two more on the bookcase at the end of his bed.  Flipping through channels he decided instead to settle on a sitcom he hadn’t watched in a while, content to sit and wait until his family went to bed.  Within a few moments he was laughing at the antics of the people on the screen, pushing the thought of returning to the beach to the back of his mind, for the time being at least.

*                      *                      *

 

It took only about another three hours until both his mother and father opened his door, telling him that it was time for bed.  The next day was a Saturday, so there was no school to worry over, this was just their nightly routine.  They both knew that he and his sisters often stayed up well past their bedtimes on the weekends, so making sure they were all in their rooms was merely a formality and nothing more.  Colby almost felt sorry for the deceit he was about to pull on his parents, but his need to go out and see the faces again had continued to rise during the last few hours.  His concentration on the television screen had wavered greatly, his eyes unable to focus as in his minds eye he kept seeing the face that had winked at him before disappearing.

She had been so beautiful, so enticing, but he couldn’t even explain to himself why this would be so.  Something like that would have sent most people running towards solid ground as though the devil himself were on their heels and gaining.  He’d been mesmerized however, not wanting to leave while at the same time feeling as though he might wet his pants.  It was a strange feeling, not quite fear but not pure excitement either.  He wanted to feel it again.

The sound of his parents deep, rhythmic breathing reached his ears as he listened in silence, smiling to himself at how truly predicable they were.  Colby set his remote control down lightly on the blankets of his bed, reaching over with his left hand to unlatch his window as quietly as he knew how.  The catch was well oiled and made no noise, the window track making just as little as he pushed it along.  Popping the screen out of place would be the trickiest part, so he turned up the volume on the television just enough to hopefully mask the sound.

Colby winced as one of the catches that held the screen in place grated against the aluminum frame of the window, squealing for a heart stopping second as he froze.  After nearly a minute of waiting he heard no sound of his parents waking, no feet hitting the floor and no moan of exasperation from his father.  Blowing out a silent breath of relief he leaned out of the window, setting the screen quietly against the side of the house before once more sitting upon his bed.  Keeping his eyes upon the television screen for a few moments Colby attempted to steady himself, knowing that if he got caught this time his parents would no doubt take away much more than they ever had in the past.  Perhaps his father’s threat of military school would finally come true and he’d be shipped away to only God knew where.

It was a risk he was more than willing to take.  He had to know just what or who he’d seen in the waves.  For the last three hours Colby had managed to convince himself

beyond all doubt that he was not crazy, he had seen those faces, and he would see them again.  Keeping the television on he slipped on his sneakers and a warm sweatshirt, grabbing a jacket as a mere afterthought.  Dropping from his window ledge he landed upon the green lawn outside in a crouch, kicking up a small amount of sand at the lawn’s edge.  Again he waited for any sound of his parents’ waking, this time allowing several minutes to pass in order to make sure.

Walking across the lawn he avoided the driveway, taking the extra steps in order to not wake everyone with the sound of his sneakers crunching on gravel.  Reaching the asphalt of the road he found the need to look back once more at his home, the two windows facing him belonging to his room and his sisters.  The two average-sized lots that their house and garage stood on were more than adequate for a family of their size, having allowed them to host several parties over the years and have a place for visitors to stay in either tents or the large mobile palaces that some of his parents’ friends traveled around in.

Starting once more on his way he slipped his arms into the sleeves of his jacket, shivering in the growing chill that nights on the coast often brought on.  Stuffing his hands in his pockets Colby continued walking, focusing his thoughts more towards what he hoped to see once more when he arrived.  The anticipation of what might be to come tonight set his every nerve on fire, goosing him into walking slightly faster as the wind began to pluck at his clothing, as though either willing him forward or trying to get him to stop.

But he wouldn’t stop.  Colby was a young man on a mission, he had a goal and was bound and determined to either recapture the sight that now drove him or stay on that beach until the moment occurred.  Never in his young life had he felt a pull like this, tugging at his mind like a fisherman’s hook that’s landed a prize catch.  Colby didn’t even stop to ponder over the implications of what might happen were he the catch.

He’d read so many stories, dug up so many histories and documented cases of haunting that eventually every motive of wayward spirits had become common knowledge to him.  Some who wrote down the documents of the spirit world claimed that those who walked beyond the physical realm were bound just as those who still lived were.  They followed the same rules, performed the same actions they had in life, but on a different level from everyone else.

Others however disputed this, claiming that those who were removed from this life had little to no limitations on what they did.  Such were the makings of poltergeists and haunting stories in which spirits took it upon themselves for whatever reason to either plague or try to inform the living.  In this view spirits, or ghosts, as many would have said, did not depend on the belief of their existence, but rather existed independently of the world of which they had once been a part.

Colby felt his feet hit sand as he came back to his senses with a start, strands of dune grass crinkling beneath his sneakers as he found himself on the trail that would take him to the beach.  Looking behind him he saw that the dwellings he passed were each dark, their residents either gone or already in bed.  The large condominiums that lay to the left were dark as well, a dark monolith that barely stood out save for the moonlight that shone down upon it.  For all he knew this structure could have been abandoned it was

so dark, standing out against the dunes and waist high grass like some silent predator, waiting for its next meal to come close enough.  He shivered as this thought crossed his mind, keeping his eyes on the structure as he traversed the short trail.

In his ears the roar of the mighty Pacific grew louder the closer he came to the dunes that hid the ocean from his view.  In the moonlight he could see the outlines of the dune grass that lay to each side of the path, their stalks waving gently back and forth in the winds.  He loved this place, it was strange thought to have at that moment but it came so suddenly that he couldn’t help but allow it to enter his mind.

Reaching the top of the dune he could now see the ocean in the silvery light that came down from above, highlighting the breakers magnificently.  Breathing deeply Colby was afforded a cleansing lungful of salt air, the wonderful aroma clearing out his sinuses and comforting him as had always happened.  Nowhere in the city had he found such calm as he did here.  Every time he felt hemmed in by his own world he could simply come here, and it would all just go away.

Come walk with us.

Colby snapped back to attention, looking all about for the source of the voice.  It sounded feminine, young but not too young.  The shadows of the beach however could have hidden any number of individual, leaving him guessing as to whether he was hearing things or someone was messing with him.  Walking down the dune towards the water he kept his ears open for anything else, hearing only roar of the ocean in front of him.  Once more he became entranced with the constant ebb and flow of the tides, the constant rhythm lulling him into a semi-stupor once more.  Colby continued walking forward, heedless of anything save the soothing call of the tides.

He didn’t even notice this time as his footsteps hit the water, nor did he notice the chill as he kept walking, his only area of focus being straight ahead.  Colby didn’t see anything, he didn’t hear anything, he didn’t even feel anything, there was just the need to keep walking.  His clothing soon became well saturated, the water reaching up to his armpits before he saw it.

Come with us.

The face, the same one he had seen before, suddenly appeared in front of him, hanging in midair it seemed as the woman looked at him in just the same manner as before.  Her smile was contagious; causing him to return the gesture as he casually ignored the numbing cold of the water.  Nothing else mattered right now except the woman’s face; her smile was just so wonderfully radiant.

It’s so lonely here.

Colby didn’t know how to respond to this, thinking instead that it was so sad, that yes, it was lonely down here when no one understood.  He found himself feeling so sorry for this mysterious woman, feeling a kinship with her that he didn’t fully understand.  As he closed his eyes he felt a soft hand caress his cheek, the chill of its touch feeling to him like the gentlest caress in the world.  There was nowhere else he would rather be now, no single person he would rather be with.  This woman, whoever she was, needed someone to be here for her, and he was the perfect person to fit the bill.

Colby didn’t feel the sensation of sinking, the cold had invaded his body so deeply that his body had almost ceased to function.  It was still February, one of the

coldest and most harsh months on the coast, his body wouldn’t have lasted long even had he been outfitted in a heavily insulated wet suit.  So at peace was he that he didn’t feel his head as it slipped beneath the waves, the features of the woman holding his attention as his body gradually ceased to function.  So intent was he upon her lovely visage that he didn’t even notice the other faces, the ones that had made him flee in icy dread the last time.  All he knew now was her face, and that she needed him so badly.  Colby found himself more than willing to oblige.  As he guided him forward he didn’t even feel his conscious mind slipping, wanting nothing more than to please her, no matter what.

*                      *                      *

 

 

 

Sunday, October 18th

 

 

Both Vivian and Timothy Durbin awoke thanks to the touch of a chill breeze that neither of them understood.  Waking fully they had frowned at one another at first, wondering where the cold was coming from.  While it was still winter the house was well enough insulated that they didn’t need to leave the wall heaters on constantly.  Letting them stay on for close to an hour was enough to heat most of the house, and they were shut off at night.  A chill such as this however usually meant an open window or door somewhere, and none of their three kids would have left either of these open.

The two of them rose slowly, Vivian gaining her feet first as she donned a woolen robe and a pair of slippers before waling towards the door that would lead out into the hall.  Tim was still rubbing sleep weary eyes as she stepped into the hallway, feeling the chill most distinctively from behind Colby’s door.  She could hear that their two daughters were still sleeping, though in her son’s room the television was still on.  Shaking her head she guessed that he had fallen asleep and forgotten to turn it off.

God bless the boy but damn if he wasn’t at times so far beyond the rest of them.  He was a handful, always had been, but he was their boy.  There were times like last night when they’d had to come down on him, but in heart she believed he understood why they spoke as they did.  They were concerned for his well-being, mentally as well as physically.  At first this little obsession of his with the world of ghosts and spooks had been cute, though not once had they ever encouraged it.  It was just his hobby they figured, and until his stints at the beach, especially lately, they hadn’t been overly worried.

“Colby, are you awake?”  She opened the door slowly, thinking that he might already be awake.  No doubt he hadn’t forgotten last night, but hopefully he had come to a better understanding of their words.  What she saw however both frightened as well as irritated her greatly as she took one more glance before walking back into her own room.  Her husband was slipping on his own robe and slippers as he yawned deeply, looking at her only after a moment of scratching and lip smacking.

“What’s wrong?”  His tone held a note of irritation which told her he could tell by the look on her face he wouldn’t enjoy her answer.

“Colby snuck out, his window is open and the screen’s popped out.  And even better, he isn’t here.”  Timothy didn’t bother to ask how she knew this, since on a winter’s day Colby would most likely be inside.  If he were inside then the noise he would be making fixing breakfast or otherwise would be enough to wake the dead.

Sliding his robe off of his shoulders Tim walked into their large closet, picking out a shirt and set of jeans.

After this he selected a jacket, socks and shoes before offering his wife one last glance before exiting the room.  No words were necessary, this had become a common practice as of late.  The scolding the boy would receive this time however would have to be something even worse than the previous times.  Grabbing a baseball cap as he exited the house he fished in the pocket of his jacket for the keys to the family vehicle, already running through his mind the words he would begin with.  Oh this kid!  Why couldn’t he realize that his parents were trying to keep him safe?  It was as his own father had told him long ago, sons were put on this earth to trouble their fathers.  Sometimes Tim wondered if Colby realized just how true that was.

*                      *                      *

 

The footprints led down to the water, that was all he could see.  Timothy frowned in confusion at the footprints that could only be his son’s, mostly because the prints led straight into the water.  He’d called out to his son many times already, even looked in the thickets of dune grass closest to the trail.  This was the only spot Colby ever came after his supposed sighting, Tim had found him here a number of times since that day.  The sun left really no place to hide, banishing most of the shadows save for deep in the grasses, where his son wouldn’t be anyway.

Now he was getting rather concerned.  There was a chance that Colby had been angry last night, but surely not angry enough to run away.  Both Tim and his wife had felt that while the conversation wasn’t entirely resolved it still hadn’t escalated to such a point.  Looking up and down the beach he tried to quiet his mind, not wanting to believe that his son would have gone anywhere but here.  His heart told him that this was so, but his mind was doing its world class job of devising each and every scenario, no matter how harmless or how malevolent.

He didn’t want to go home without his son at his side, but how did he go about that task when he couldn’t even find the boy?

*                      *                      *

 

Colby saw his father.  He saw as his old man yelled for him time and again, looking up and down the beach as though his son might just suddenly appear.  To be honest Colby didn’t know how to feel about this, the woman he had come to share his company with preoccupied much of his time now.  She was so lonely, and he brought her so much happiness that he couldn’t help but think of everything else only in passing.  His father however, Colby could not fully ignore.  As the waves all about him continued to roll in towards the shore his vision grew hazy as he heard the insistent call of his new friend.  Turning towards her he stole one glance back at the man upon the shore, already beginning to forget just who he was and why he was there.

There were ghosts in the water, he knew this to be true, he’d seen them.  He just never believed he’d become one of them.  That too however began to fade in the face of the woman’s smile, her deep sea-green eyes taking away everything save the need to keep her company.  She was so lonely, but not anymore.

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