The Junction
Published in

The Junction

There and Back

(Part 3 of 3)

Through the brush Pete spotted something that was brown and rounded out. The Thing was a massive mound of long, reddish brown fur, about 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

It was hunched over some sort of machine with two screens. Pete looked back at me with his index finger placed over his lips. SHHH!

The Thing looked as if he were fiddling and tinkering with a bunch of metal instruments. Patiently watching the screens for any sign of whatever he was looking for. It was motionless, like a hairy caveman in a museum nature scene. Innocent and dumb, but potentially dangerous too.

The Thing was alone, but there were signs of other hairy kin nearby — a few straw beds, food and tools scattered about.

There was a forceful smell of some strange sort of fleshy BBQ, and I spied thick grey smoke rising from behind a stack of boulders.

We approached The Thing slowly from the side and the images on the screens came into focus. One screen showed surfers bobbing up and down in the water at Trestles, where we were a lifetime ago. The second screen showed the same beach, but empty. Peering around the boulders, I spotted a second furry creature cantilevering his face directly over the thick BBQ smoke and lusting after the large chunks of broiling meat.

I took two steps closer, but my feet made too much noise so I stopped. I looked toward Pete, and he was frozen in time like a sloppily made wax figure, where the cheeks and eyes just don’t look quite human.

My head slowly turned back toward the furry mound. Before I could focus my eyes, I noticed something very strong. That smell! Possibly the most horrific nasal sensation of all time. A combination of feces and death mixed with rotten heat.

Suddenly I was confronted with two big, dark brown watery eyes within a foot of my forehead. Under the eyes sat a mouth that formed a child’s happy grin.

I felt as if I were in one of those dreams where I frantically try to run but my legs won’t cooperate. In those dreams, I eventually start to run on my hands. But this was no dream, and I was paralyzed from head to toe with pure dread.

There would be no magical hand-running in this nightmare. Just pain, screaming, and agony while floating aimlessly through some time-wedge in a distant universe.

Pete’s feet stayed cemented to the wet dirt. What Pete must have noticed first was how the size of the encroaching mass blocked all sunlight from his face. The Thing slowly crept forward, with one hand fumbling for something behind his back. Pete wondered what it could be. A weapon? Poison?

The Thing seemed to have no consideration for the misery we were about to endure, just a curiosity as to who would be the tastiest. I swore I could see random thoughts bouncing slowly behind the Thing’s placid eyes — the one on the left is sure portly.

There was a tingling sensation at my legs that shot down into each individual toe. It was a sensation I had during dreams about slipping off the side of a high-rise building, or off a bridge. A feeling of terror and impending free fall, with the sense that my stomach was floating helplessly up to the infinite.

I tried to scream, but all I could do was shout a series of completely unintelligible sounds out of my face. I must have been half screaming and half crying a parade of mad sound bites. The horrific smell surrounded me good and tight. I felt the fur brush up against me and I knew my demise would come soon.

EEEKKKKKKKHH!! The Thing then let out a horrid shriek. I had quickly grabbed a jagged piece of bamboo and thrust it through the webbing of The Thing’s toes. It wasn’t blood that came out, but a purple gel, which blended with the brown fur, creating a blackish substance.

The Thing suddenly forgot all about us, and grabbed his foot and howled. It hopped up and down on the other foot before falling onto its butt to inspect the wound.

“Run to the water, go, now!” I ordered Pete.

But Pete was already gone, running faster than I had ever seen him. Small spoonfuls of white sand flickered from beneath Pete’s feet — arms like angry snakes thrusting back and forth, sweeping his torso.

A rough strip of flesh swiped my calf. The Thing’s hand had hit me hot like a burning fire poker. My stomach and chin were dragging across the sand now. The sand was smooth except for the jagged branches and bamboo that were cutting my abdomen.

There was a short piece of time that I cannot remember. I had wiggled or fought my way free somehow, because what I do remember is flying and screaming across the sand toward the water, with my legs racing under me. I passed Pete. The glistening water was almost within reach now.

The Thing may have been chasing us, but I didn’t look back to see. The water splashed my face and Pete was swimming beside me. I finally looked back and saw an empty beach. Well, not completely empty.

The Thing stood at the shore, peering at us with confused eyes, the cold water nipping at his furry toes. He still had that childish grin on his face, and I could almost envision him holding a bunch of yellow balloons and waving bye-bye to us.

The sun was bright and my eyes were burning real bad. The water was flat like a lake. Pete and I bobbed up and down in the water without saying a word. Then, a blue water mountain slowly rose on the horizon, but we no longer had our surfboards.

“Hey Pete, do you remember body surfing at The Wedge in Newport?”

“Shit yea!” Pete replied.

We swam directly toward shore kicking our feet like a couple of old white potato mashers, letting the cold blue water race by us. This wave was bigger than the last one, and picked us up and shot us forward. I put out my left hand and curved that way, and Pete went right. We kept flying down, down, down that water mountain.

Then BOOM! That wave crashed hard, flinging us through the whitewash, back and forth and up and down. I actually punched myself in the forehead, just above my right eye. At one point, my back was pinned right up against the rocks. I tried to reach the surface, but the more I swam, the more water there was. I started to crave oxygen as if I would explode without it, but I just kept swimming with both cheeks puffed out.

Finally, my left hand peaked through the top of the water, then my right hand, and my head followed. That smoggy Southern California air never tasted so good. I stumbled onto shore and just sat there.

Pete was about 50 feet south, marching his way out of the whitewash. He saw me and waved, with a big stupid look on his face.

All the other surfers were back in the water now, the hot babes in bikinis were back on the sand, and the lifeguard was sitting on his stand catching some rays. The Thing was nowhere in sight.

My cheeks got tight, my chin trembled, and I started weeping like a baby.

Pete sat next to me for a long while in silence, then said “Hey Cameron, let’s go get some fish tacos and drink some Coronas.”

“You read my mind, bro.”




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J.S. Lender

J.S. Lender

fiction writer | ocean enthusiast | musician | author of four books, including Emma and the Starry Night. Blending words and waves…