He walked the pavement, passing by the shops and restaurants and cafés lining the street, dodging fellow pedestrians and trying to keep the frantic movements of his eyes to a minimum. He was looking for something, that much he knew. But for what? It was a humid afternoon, the air dense with exhaust fumes from cars crawling past and motorcycles slipping through any available gap, the odours from restaurant kitchens, and other people’s body heat which are shooting off their skins in waves. And then there’s that something else, something familiar which he couldn’t pinpoint.
He quickened his pace, mostly keeping his head down to avoid meeting anyone’s eyes, looking up just enough to at least not bump into anyone or tripping on anything in his path. Then a glare caught his eyes and when he looked straight ahead, he was staring at a beach stretching off to meet an ocean sparkling with the rays of the afternoon sun. So that’s what that was, he thought to himself. It was the smell of the salty tang of the sea. He took off his shoes and socks, leaving them as he walked barefoot on the warm sand towards to water. He felt a wave lapping at his toes before it submerged his feet altogether and buried them slightly in the sand as the wave pulled back.
Is this what he’s looking for? He didn’t know. It might be. In any case it felt good to be standing there with the waves rocking him gently. The smell of the ocean and the feeling of waves of his feet brought back memories. He’d always felt there was something magical about the ocean. Maybe it is what he’s looking for, he thought again as he closed his eyes and breathed in. It seemed to only take a few seconds, but when he opened his eyes again, clouds were rolling in the sky, blocking out the sun. The air quickly turned chilly, and the wind no longer comforting. He heard someone shout behind him and whipped his head around so fast that it hurt. There was crowd forming, all looking at him. He thought he saw some familiar faces among them though he couldn’t be sure. A few were pointing at him but he didn’t know why. He was about to open his mouth to ask when the look in their eyes turned sinister and they started moving towards him. He drew a sharp intake of breath, staggered a step back and slipped, falling into the ocean which had suddenly become restless.
He expected to hit sand but he never did, being carried instead by a wave. He floated for a moment in confusion before a bigger wave loomed over and dragged him under. Trying to swim, he struggled to move his arms and legs in panic but they were powerless. Gulping salt water, he felt the current pulling him further and his eyes stung by salt and sand. For a moment he was hypnotised by the sense of weightlessness, of helplessness. A sort of peace came over his face for several seconds before he exhaled his breath in a sigh, watching the bubbles rise to the surface, then closed his eyes and stopped trying to fight. It was easier to surrender. Always easier to just give in.