A sun-soaked day. A hot gale comes in off the ocean, and the crashing of waves deafen all other sounds in your ears. You leave the hard-packed ground at the edge of the ocean, and the shifting grains of sand bog down your feet. Ahead, you can see the rippling rise of a yellow dune and you trudge towards it.
You reach the dune’s crest and peer down the leeward side at a wholly unexpected sight. Shielded from the breaking waves is a wide lagoon, clogged with algae and seaweed. Your nostrils fill with the marshy tang that clings to the water in spite of the sea wind. Basalt litters the ground. Volcanic, hexagonal pillars of rock rise up from the water’s edge, framing the shallow basin. The rocks are a murky gray, darker in places where they are moist. Flecked over the tops and along the sides is something—plant or mineral you can’t tell—staining the surfaces pink.
Across the water, you can see a column of people. Thronging and constant, they file along the edge of the water on a path hidden even from your high vantage point. It is a sundry crowd: young and elderly, women walking alongside husbands who carry children on their shoulders. They are all advancing toward an island at the center of the lagoon.
The serrated edges of the island are the same volcanic rock. Some of the pillars are planted into the ground in a sacred circle, and there are shapes moving amongst the stones, humanoid but hulking underneath costumes. Faces painted white, hooded beneath headdresses of antlers and painted shells.
You look up and see that the sky above the island is no longer blue; it is crimson, dark, and boiling. Directly overhead, is a single, brilliant, white light. Like the mass of pilgrims on the path, you feel drawn to the island. You can hear their cry, voices reciting the prophecies of generations before, and you long to join them. There is no time to return to the beach and find the path, so you vault over the hedge of stone and strike out into the water.
The tepid water sloshes around your waist, rising no further, and tendrils of rubbery seaweed wrap around your thighs. You want to see—have to see—what is on that island. Perhaps they know the way to survive what is coming next. The white light bathes you in its exhilarating light, and you must shield your eyes from it.
You are halfway there when the earth shifts. Water rushes past you, and the stones groan at an ear-splitting pitch. After a moment, you realize that the earth is turning upside down. The figures around the stone circle have disappeared, but you can hear screams as the people on the path tumble past you.
Everything within your vision is jewel-toned, jade and sapphire. Seawater rushes into your nose and mouth, clogging your airways with clumps of algae. It stings and you try to force yourself to breathe it in, to embrace the flood with every fiber of yourself. The white light below, not the sun, grows dazzling as you tilt towards it. And you fall.
Laura Marden lives in Georgia with her husband, son, and their two dogs. She finds that the best time to write is when they’re all asleep. Her favorite genres to explore are literary fiction, sci-fi, and cyberpunk subgenres.
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