Blink once. Inhale. Exhale. Water engulfs my hair that’s wrapped around me and as it retracts pulls on it ever so slightly. My eyes staring into the sky trying to make out the different shapes of the clouds, allowing my imagination to wonder and take my thoughts off of the daunting question looming in my mind. Where am I? My eyes widen and slide my hand down my side as I feel my jean pocket for my phone. Ah! It’s there. I pull it out slowly, nervous to assess the clearly sustained water damage. The screen is cracked but there is a photo frozen on the screen. I can only make out part of it. Whose face is this? It’s the only lead I have, so I slide the phone back in my pocket and finally muster the nerve to sit up from the semi freezing water.
I glance around one thing stands out to me strongly, one thing I am certain of, I have been here before. The white sandy beach, the sound of crashing waves, the salty air, and the receding tree line are all too familiar. I grew up on this beach. Scattered memories flash quickly through my mind and I try to make out the pieces but I can’t. Frustrated, I shake off the memories and bring myself to stand. The world goes sideways for a moment and my immediately rushes to aide my aching head. A throb of pain shoots from my head into my fingertips and I let out a groan. Everything aches. I blink vividly and my vision comes back into focus. How long have I been out? Must not have been that long considering the high tide would have gipped and pulled me into the deep ocean and I surely would’ve drowned.
Where is everyone? The day wasn’t that terrible of a beach day. The sun was tucked slightly behind a thin coat of clouds, but gave off just enough warmth to heat the sand, and there was just enough breeze to carry the smell of salt water. Caw Caw. My eyes squint, no matter how many years pass crows never get any less annoy- wait a minute. Crows? Out of all the years I came to this beach I hardly recall ever hearing the annoying squawk of a crow, a dozen crows at that. Creepy. I look down and realize that all I have to my name right now is what I am wearing, red converse, jeans, a black v-neck, and a light sweater, and my severely damaged phone. I make my way to the tree line and try to find the road that should lead me back to town.
I transfer from the crunching of leaves onto the smooth pavement. I walk for a while with nothing but complete silence and I see something in the distance. A sign. I get closer and finally make out the words “Town of Winchester.” When I finish reading the sign memories start coming in waves. Mom. Dad. Late night spent playing card games, family vacations, hiking and playing sports, everything comes back all at once. My pace quickens a buildings start to appear in my view. Just then, I feel something clamp down on my arm and my eyes widen and my heart pounds in my chest. I let out a scream and realize it is a hand that’s grabbed me, as the other hand is currently covering my mouth and drowning out the sounds of my scream.
“Shhhh… be quiet. I don’t want anyone to know that we’re out here..” A soft female voice whispers into my ear. We recede into the tree line and out of sight. I smack both hands away from me and spin around quickly.
“Alright, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” I ask both nervously and angrily.
“Trying to get some answers…. same as you I assume.” She looks down, her eyes saddened and her voice shaken.
I study her for a moment. Black knee high boots, black leggings, a long red shirt on with a black cardigan wrapped around her. Her skin a tan caramel looking color, thick brown eyebrows, dark red lipstick, long wavy brown hair with a hint of grey and deep brown eyes.
I raise my brow and ask cautiously “answers? Answers to what, exactly?”
“I woke up feeling dazed and confused by the old mill with no recollection of how I got there. Honestly, I don’t even know how long I have been out there. I can’t really remember much of anything right now.”
“Okay, well before we start an all-out investigation into something that we both are not even sure where to begin, can I get your name?”
“Oh, of course. My name’s Grace.” She cracks a subtle smile and reaches her hand out. “And yours?”
“Kay. Nice to meet you, Grace.” I reach my hand out and meet hers. Our hands meet and our eyes accompany the gesture, as our eyes lock it’s like I have felt this feeling before. Like I have felt her presence before. Nervous that she doesn’t feel the same way I take my hand back and say nothing.
I follow the introduction with the question “how do I know that I can trust you?”
Grace glances down and kicks a pebble at her feet and it skims into the brush. “I…I guess I don’t have a verified solid reason.”
“Well, considering how I woke up in the same situation I think it’s fair to say that you and I have some investigating to do.”
“Wait, where did you wake up?” She asks, her eyes widening.
“On the beach, about a half mile from here. All that I have is my phone. Which, ironically doesn’t work anymore and most of the screen is cracked.”
“Oh! I have my phone too. My phone is on but the damn screen is frozen on a picture of some guy. Look.” She turns the phone toward me and my spine tingles. That is the same picture that is on my phone. I can make out the hair and the face. Why would we both have a picture of a man on our phone, and one that neither of us know at that?
“Look.” I take out my phone, still dripping with water and show her. Her face goes blank.
“Is that?” She points and holds her phone up side by side with mine.
“Yep. The same guy. Alright, I think it’s fair to say that somehow we are connected in this.. whatever this is.. and we need to stick together.”
“Right.” She agrees with no doubt in her voice. “So, where do we start?”
“I say that we go to town and start asking for answers and seeing what everyone knows. Maybe this happened to someone else, or maybe everybody. Our families must know something. They must be worried sick about us.”
“Okay… let’s just be careful. I’m getting a weird vibe from this town.” Grace’s expression turns back into a slight worry.
I put my hand out and gently touch her shoulder. “Hey. We are going to figure everything out, okay?”
The left side of her mouth slowly shapes into a half smile. “Thanks Kay. Let’s go.”
As Grace and I make our way towards the town I cannot help but to feel uneasy. Something isn’t right. There’s no noise. Quiet enough to hear a pin drop. I desperately scan the town for any signs of life, but it looks like nobody has occupied it for weeks.
“Where is everyone?” Grace finally breaks the silence with the most predicable question.
“I was just wondering the same thing. It looks like this place has been completely abandoned.” I am not sure how to feel at this point. I look to Grace for the answers, as if she were to have some. She points across the street and starts walking towards an off white broken down house with a short gravel driveway. The roofing has started to cave in a little and the chimney is blackened.
“Who’s house? Looks run down.” I turn to Grace and notice that she has her head down and eyes saddened. I immediately wish I had used common sense and realized that it was her house. “Oh, right. Of course.” Alright Kay, stop digging yourself deeper into the hole.
Grace puts her hand on the door knob “my mom is a little blunt, sorry if she starts bombarding you with questions. She always wants to know every little detail of my life. ” She follows the statement with an eye roll. I just shrug and smile.
“I look forward to meeting her.” I wonder why her dad isn’t in the picture.
Grace opens the door and it stops halfway with a thud. She squeezes in and I follow. A dresser is up against the door just enough to stop it from opening completely. Before we can say anything I look around the living room and can’t believe my eyes. The house looks like it’s been ransacked and a few mice are running across the wooden floor with a piece of what appears to be bread in their mouths. The outline of rectangles on the light green walls linger, as the pictures have been removed. The couch is sideways and books are scattered on the floor and the bookshelf has been tipped over.
“Someone robbed my house! Mom? Mom! Are you home?!” Nothing but silence responds to Grace’s cry. She franticly is scrambling around the house looking for any signs of where her mother could be. I walk over to the phone hanging on the wall and put it to my ear. No dial tone.
“I think something else happened here… and it wasn’t a robbery Grace.”
“What are you talking about? Of course it was! My mom wouldn’t just leave me like this!”
“I’m not saying she left you Grace, take a few breaths. I’m just saying that I don’t think someone broke in because why would they take your family pictures?” I point to the empty spots on the wall. “We shouldn’t jump to conclusions right now. Someone in this town must have some answers, maybe my parents know what happened?” I walk towards the door and Grace reluctantly follows. Leaving behind, once again, the life she once knew.