Beneath the Waves

The boards of the pier were rough beneath her hands as she watched the sun sink lower, turning the water fiery red. Her hard mulled cider sat untouched by her hand, long since chilled by the evening air. A stiff breeze cut through the thin sweater she’d pulled over her sexy pirate costume. The wind brought with it the smell of the beachside bonfire and the raucous laughter of the revelers.

“Hey—Emily, right?”

Her feet jerked mid swing and she swore as she banged one against the post. She hadn’t heard his approach. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to be alone right now.”

“Your friend wanted me to tell you—she’s leaving.”

“Great.” Emily kicked her feet into the open air. If she pointed her toes she could just dip the tips of her shoes into the dark water. “Tell her I’ll find my own way home.”

“Right.”

After a moment when she didn’t hear the scrape of shoes on wood she glanced behind her. “You’re still here.”

“Yeah. Sorry. Kind of my calling.”

“Stalking girls?”

“There isn’t enough height from the pier for a clean break,” he said after a moment. “If you’re lucky, you lose consciousness from the shock of the cold water. If you’re not, you hit the bottom and slice your feet on the broken glass. You slowly bleed out as you swim for shore, the saltwater a constant burn in every cut. Maybe you’ll make it to the shore—some people do—but then you’re alone on a beach, unable to walk because of the lacerations. Every minute you remain outside wet and shivering your core body temperature drops until you fall asleep and never wake up. Most people never make it to land.”

“What about you? Did you make it to land?” Emily asked. She rubbed her hands on her arms.

“When I jumped, my foot caught on a board and I went in head first. Snapped my neck upon impact. I never had more than a moment to regret my choice.”

She picked up her cider and took a sip, the alcohol burning the back of her throat. “So if I were to jump… if I wanted to end my life… I should go headfirst?”

His hand passed through her shoulder as he tried to grab her. “That is what you took from my warning?”

She rolled her shoulders and quirked her lips into a half smile. “What’s your name?”

“Michael.”

“Alright, Michael. What made you think I came out here to jump? Did somebody say something? Or is it because I’m by myself at a party?”

Michael shook his head. “There’s a… a feeling. And a name.”

“Was my friend actually looking for me? Or was that your way of trying to lure me away from here? Because if it was, that was a terrible way to go about it. Telling somebody suicidal that their friend is planning on abandoning them.”

“Sometimes it works.”

“I imagine more often it encourages them to jump.” She turned back to stare out across the water. “How many people have you encountered?”

“Dozens.”

“How many were you able to talk out of jumping?”

“Maybe a third of them.”

“Don’t you get tired of that? Always having people come out to your pier. Reciting the same speech time and time again? Don’t you just want to… to stop? Especially since you’re unsuccessful more often than not?”

“Maybe. But… then I remember the people I saved. And even those I didn’t? At least they didn’t die alone.”

“Even if you had the chance to be free, you’d stay here?”

“This is my calling. I finally found my purpose in life… ironic that it took me dying to find it, huh?” He sat down next to her. “That’s my story. What’s yours?”

“It’s All Hallows Eve. This is the night when the boundaries waver. This is the night when wandering souls can cross over.”

“So you’re what, another spirit trapped on this realm?”

Emily shook her head, her hair catching the last rays of the evening sun. “No. I’m the person who helps lost souls find their way home. Still not interested?” She held her hand out to him and wiggled her fingers. “All you have to do is take my hand—and jump.”

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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