Sara

Color Me Maui Photography/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on June 19, 2018.

The first thing Sara senses is the far-off churning of the ocean. Lapping, foaming, splashing. Then comes the light that seeps beneath closed eyelids. It’s red and bright and hurts her eyes.

This is the moment she knows she needs to wake up. But fatigue still has too great a hold on her, and all she wants to do is let the world spin around her. The sun could burn out for all she cared, as long as she was left alone.

A memory bubbles up from her subconscious: her mother, hovering over her while Sara presses a pillow to her face to block out the light.

“Time to get up, Sara.”

She groans, desperate for one more minute of sleep, but her mother is adamant. The woman pulls the pillow away from Sara’s face, and the world comes into sharp and terrible focus.

“Time to get up.”

Sara’s eyelids flutter.

Don’t want to get up.

“You have to.”

No, not yet.

“But she’s coming. You have to get up.”

No…

This time her true eyes open. Once more, the world comes into focus.

Whereas her room greeted her on that day of distant memory, today it’s the open coast. She can feel the sand, piping hot against her back. Her head lolls to the side, and she catches sight of the water line perhaps fifty, perhaps a hundred yards away, the current pulling in, then out.

In, then out.

There’s something Sara has to remember, something important. But sleep is still heavy on her mind, and it slips away before she can seize it.

In the distance, the ocean crashes and foams.

Where am I?

She should be doing something. What that something is is a mystery, but she knows she can’t just lay on the beach and do nothing.

If only she could close her eyes for a few more minutes and rest. She’s still so tired, and even with the hot sand burning her skin, she would give anything to sleep some more.

So tired.

“Wake up, Sara.”

The voice no longer comes from her memory, nor does it belong to her mother. Sara rolls on her stomach, wild eyed with panic. She can’t yet stand, can’t yet make her muscles work the way she thinks they should. Instead, she stares up at the woman standing before her, covered from head to toe in sparkling white seashells that glitter beneath the late afternoon sun.

“Who…” But she can’t finish the sentence. Her voice is thick and slurred. She feels drugged, and despite her terror, her eyes droop once more.

“No,” the woman says. “No, this just won’t do.”

The woman kneels, her seashells clicking like beads, and reaches under Sara’s chin.

Go,  Sara thinks. Just leave me alone and let me sleep.

Run, another internal voice whispers. Now, before she takes you into her arms and carries you away.

The woman tsks.

“I chase you half way across the universe only for the hunt to end like this?”

“Run, Sara.” Her mother’s voice once more echoes through the marble halls of the distant past.

She remembers running now—remembers fleeing one strange world after another, an endless procession of familiar yet jarring alien landscapes that made Sara think the cosmos were just one great funhouse mirror, contorting what she knew into variety of grotesque reflections.

Her mother’s voice is right. She should run. But she’s tired, so tired, and she cannot push her body any further.

Sara closes her eyes.

“No,” says the woman, who looks as if she’s been fighting with herself. “I will not take you like this.”

She reaches into a pocket and retrieves a slim glass vial, a quarter full with bright gold fluid, translucent, pulsing with its own interior light. Like the woman had somehow bottled a star, Sara would think if her eyes weren’t already closed. The woman uncorks the vial, which pops like a newly opened bottle of champagne. She places the tip of the glass to Sara’s lips, then pours.

Sara shudders. An electric current surges through her body like lightening, setting wearied synapses on fire. Her entire self blazes as if engulfed by flames, licking, lapping, and churning like the ocean.

Sara’s eyes shoot open. She staggers to her feet and stares into the woman’s eyes, which gleam and sparkle with the light of far-off stars.

“That’s more like it. Taking prey that’s already dead is no fun. I prefer my meat fresh.”

Sara’s briny mouth opens, then closes.

The woman leans in, almost conspiratorially, and whispers, “This might be a good time to run.”

Sara agrees. She beholds the bemused features of her hopeful captor a moment longer, then lopes off toward the shimmering ocean.

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