Foreign House: Seven

THURSDAY

It’s almost 11pm when we tiptoe down the stairs and out of the front door of the hotel. Its black iron handle rattles and the hinges squeak, despite our best efforts at stealth.

Cindy shushes me.

“Why are we sneaking?” I ask. “We’re not doing anything wrong.”

Cindy giggles, “I don’t know. It’s more fun to sneak.”

It’s only a few hundred yards from the hotel to the steps that lead down the shallow, rocky incline to the beach. The steps are made of packed stones held in place by planks of wood. There is a splitting, timber handrail that guides us down.

This would probably only take ten minutes in the day, but a thick overcast has rolled in, blocking any residual moonlight, making it feel as if we are under a dark, fluffy duvet.

The flashlight only helps so much. Cindy links her arms around mine as we hobble down to the sand, step by step, our puffer coats shuffling against each other in untranslatable whispers.

The tide is almost completely in, leaving a band of sand about 30 yards wide. In the darkness, the sea is menacing. I can hear it’s massive body, but only see its fingertips.

I put the two towels on the sand and balance the flashlight so it scatters some light onto the beach. I start taking off my boots.

“You’re really going in?” asks Cindy.

“Yes I am. And so are you.” To make my point I continue undressing, adding my clothes to the pile of towels and then, after looking around dramatically, I push down my boxer shorts.

I step to Cindy and give her a slow kiss. She drags her nylon nails down my naked shoulders and over my goose-bumped chest, clipping a nipple and making me twitch in pain. When I pull my lips away she cups by tight balls with cold fingers and squeezes gently.

“It must be really cold,” she says, looking down. She puts her other hand on my cock.

“You can’t get out of skinny dipping by giving me an al-fresco hand-job,” I say. I pull the zip of her jacket down. She steps back.

“Absolutely no way am I going in the water, caterpillar dick.”

I step towards her and she moves away again. Then I am chasing her at skipping pace around the pile of towels, until she sprints a few yards up the beach.

She suddenly stops and looks down. I stop when I stand on something sharp. “Shit.” In the cold and the darkness I cannot tell if I’m bleeding. “What the fuck was that?”

“I think it’s bones,” says Cindy.

I lean down and pick up the culprit. It looks like a piece of a skull. “Let me get the flashlight,” I say.

I put on my clothes and check my foot. No bleeding. Then walk back to Cindy and hand her the light. She points the beam at various points around her feet. I investigate, picking up the tiny ivory pieces, rolling them between my fingers. They all look real, dry and weathered. Curved pieces of skull, crooked pieces of jaw, sharp bends of what look like eye sockets. Small bones that could be toes or fingers, splinters of other bones. All of them look like they’ve been shattered in an ultra violent event.

We walk another ten yards. Pieces of bone are everywhere in the sand as far as we can see.

“Are theses human?” asks Cindy. “They look too small to be human,” she says hopefully.

“Small humans are called children,” I reply sombrely. “Look at this piece of jaw. That could be an infant’s jaw, right?”

“Maybe,” she says. “It’s so small. Could it be a large fish jaw?”

“I don’t know. What about those ones that look like toes?”

“Vertebrae from some sort of fish or mammal?” she asks.

“Possibly. I don’t know anything about…” I raise my hands to my temples, clench my teeth and close my eyes against the wave of immense hatred coming in from the sea. It feels celestial in scope, as if the moon itself were screaming into my head from other side of the cloudy blanket. Unfiltered and undiscriminating choler. A fury that feels fermented, I can almost smell its stink.

Cindy wimpers but I can’t open my eyes. Then just as suddenly as it started, it stops. There is no pain, but my head is ringing, as if I’d just left a nightclub.

Cindy is curled up on the sand, the flashlight dropped and shining out to sea. I gently pull her hands away from her ears. “It’s stopped. Are you in pain?”

She sits up, “No pain, just a…”

“Ringing in your head?”

“Yeah.

“Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“Should we take one of the bones back?” she asks.

“No. It’s probably something totally innocent, but just in case it isn’t, we don’t want to move anything.”

We’re both silent on the walk back. She just cuddles my left arm while and leans her head against me. We don’t talk about what came from the sea – it feels vaguely shameful. Maybe I’m just in shock.

When we get back to the room I open the mini bar. There are single serving bottles of spirits. I pull out a cheap scotch and a tequila, pour the tequila into a glass, hand it to Cindy who is perched on the edge of the windowsill nook. Then I take a couple of swigs from the bottle of scotch.

I crouch down and take her free hand in mine. “Any idea what it was?”.

“No.” She keeps her eyes on the carpet, “It was just so big.”

“I know. But is it still there, can you feel it?”

“No, can you?”

“No. I feel like it… blew a fuse almost.”

Her eyes snap to mine. We both hear it. The pitter-pater of a child running up and down the corridor outside the room. Only just audible on the marshy carpet. My watch tells me it’s five-to-midnight.

I open the door and step out into the corridor. Nothing.

“I think we need some sleep,” I say. “We can go back to the beach tomorrow – in daylight.” Cindy nods.

*

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