Edmonds, WA – Amtrak’s Empire Builder – Eastbound – January 20, 2013 5:15PM
The old truck roared under the strain as it crested the last hill, it’s battered and rusted hull blent into the desolate landscape, just like one more derelict piece of junk left to deteriorate in the windswept plain. In the distance hills rose in a ring around the valley, seemingly within reach, but a full days walk in actuality. As the truck shuttered to a stop, the whistle of the wind came into focus, an overwhelming wail, streaking across the short grass and dried mud. It was cold out as evidenced by the small clumps of scattered snow and the frozen water in tire tracks. He opened the door of the truck, pushing it through several sticking points, the creaking noise being carried off by the wind. His tattered boots and faded jeans did little to block the piercing wind and he shivered a little in spite of himself.
Walking rapidly away from the truck he headed toward the broken wooden shack which stood nearby. There was a time it had been relatively weatherproof, but that time had been long ago, and no one had bothered to keep it in good repair. The grass grew right up to the edge of the building and as he got close he noticed some of it had recently been trampled down. He paused for a long second, his jaw flexing and unflexing, a disturbed look on his face. Whatever inner conflict had caused him to pause quickly passed and he charged towards the broken door of the broken building. Flinging the door aside, he disappeared into the dark hole. A second later he reappeared, carrying a small wooden barrel. Dropping the barrel on the ground he grabbed a nearby rock and bashed it to pieces. Digging through the broken wood he pulled out a long thin metal rod. It was smooth and polished, cleanly cut at each end. It glistened, even in the dull light of the winter morning. Muttering to himself, he jumped to his feet and then froze, coming over the rise in the distance was another truck. It was large and looming, newer than his own, with tinted windows and oversize tires. He paused for only a moment, then turned and started to run as fast as he could. The wind howled past his ears and caused his eyes to tear up till he could barely see which caused him to stumble and trip over the uneven frozen ground. He resisted the urge to look back, but kept up a dead run towards the distant hills. He came upon an old barb wire fence, stopping in order to duck underneath, he stole a glance behind him. No one was there. The new truck was gone and so was his own. He recalled how he had left the door of the truck open and the keys in the ignition. The wind whistled and howled, the grass whipped around his legs, the metal was cold in his hand, it was 30 miles back to the main road. He headed towards the hills.
The girl sat on the beach and gazed out at the horizon, a long blue line stretching from left to right, fading away as it passed the limits of the human eye. In the foreground a few fishing trawlers slowly plied the waters, their nets like giant wings stretched out to either side just like a giant ungainly bird. The waves broke where the water met the sand, sand so fine it looked and felt like sugar, “sugar sand” the locals called it. Up and down the beach people were scattered in small groups, each group trying to maintain their distance from the next, causing new arrivals to hike progressively further to stake out their own plot of sand with enough buffer from the adjacent group. This wasn’t the kind of beach where people went to lay side by side like hot dogs on a grill. The beach was vast, and outside of the highly trafficked areas a few miles up the coast. When the tide was out, the beach seemed as wide as it was long, that is to say – limitless.
The sun baked down on the sand, on the beach, on the waves, on the girl. About 10 yards away from the girl, a small crab popped its head out of a hole it had dug in the sand. It looked warily around, searching for the least sign of danger at which it would dive back down and reappear 5 minutes later only to repeat the cycle once again. The girl didn’t notice the crab, she was now flat on her back with her eyes closed. Next to her was a beach bag with a half empty bottle of water protruding from the top. The bottle was covered in condensation and the label on the bottle had started to peel away as a result. A slight breeze stirred the top of the beach bag, the girl didn’t move. The crab poked it’s head up for the 5th time, the girl didn’t move. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked, the girl twitched her toe.
A quarter mile down the beach, two surfers sat straddling their boards in deep water, waiting for the next set. Their feet lazily hanging beneath the water, like tempting morsels for a passing shark. They had been surfing for the past hour, and the current was taking them steadily down the beach until they could barely see the pile of clothes they had left on the beach. They talked about surfing and about the beach and about their mutual friend Brian. Realizing they were thirsty, they paddled back towards shore, half-heartedly attempting to catch some small waves on their way in. Hitting the beach they put their boards under their arms and started walking towards the pile of clothes they had left, the leashes on their boards trailing behind them. As they drew nearer, they could see the girl laying on the beach next to their clothes, almost on top of their clothes. The two girls sped up, their boards banging against their legs as they went. Approaching the other girl, the two surfers hailed her with a greeting to which she slowly raised her head. “Those are our clothes” one of the surfers said. The other girl looked at them for a moment, “Oops” she said, “I thought the owners had drowned”, and with that she lay back and closed her eyes. The two surfers looked at one another, then at the other girl, but the other girl didn’t see them because her eyes were closed. The two surfers grabbed their things and hurriedly pulled them on, and tried to put as much distance between themselves and the other girl as possible. The other girl didn’t move. The crab poked it’s head up for the 10th time.