Beth stood on the edge of the reef, gazing across the water

on

A single fish jumped from a crack in the reef. There could be no
possibility that a giant octopus was still in the vicinity.

“Well, who do we have here?” She looked around. She was sure the
creatures she had been tracking were no longer in the area; she must be
mistaken. However, it was possible that she had simply crossed a zone of
tide that she had not previously sensed.

Beth stopped, the sound of the waves behind her fading as she turned
around. She began scanning the shoreline for any signs of sea life, but it
was as if she had never been there before.

“No fish here,” Beth said, her gaze drifting over the shoreline.
“I am positive I am in the wrong place.”

She was right. It had all been a trick of the light. Or perhaps
she was the trick of the light. She would never know. The ocean appeared
to be quite different here. It was as if she had been transported to a
different place: where every surface was flat, every object appeared to
have a glossy surface, every light was muted. For an instant, she thought
she had arrived on a planet where the gravity was reversed, making her feel
weightless, but a closer inspection revealed that this was not the case. In
fact, the gravity was slightly stronger than on earth. Where had these
creatures come from? The fact that they appeared to be unaffected by the
weather indicated that they had a natural immunity of some type, or perhaps
it was merely that the ocean was much warmer.

“I’m coming back,” she muttered, and quickly began crossing the beach.
The waves rushed to meet her. She wondered if she would be swept out to
sea like her grandfather. Beth reached out and touched the surface of the
ocean. The waves rose and fell before her. She decided she would go to the
other side of the beach and cross the water. She remembered the stories her
grandfather had told her during her childhood of the giant whales she would
finally be able to see.

Beth walked up to the water’s edge. Where had she heard those stories
before? She looked out at the dark sea, waiting for the moment where she
could see the distant silhouettes of the whales. She remembered that
grandfather had told her that they would be the size of small trees and
would swim right through the surf. He had insisted that they were much
bigger than any human would be able to stand up against. She had scoffed at
the story until he explained that he saw whales much larger than an average
man. He had pointed out that they were more than twice the size of the
average person.

Beth pulled her sweater over her arm and ran into the water. She
expected to be frightened when she saw how cold it was, but the waves came
at her with such force that she would have been lost had she not been able
to control her movement. She reached the point where she was closest to the
shore. She felt cold sand under her feet. She stood motionless and watched
the water move toward her, seeking to swallow her up. The moment drew
Clayton’s attention back to her own body. Beth noticed the change in his
position. He had seemed so confident that he could not stand such a moment
without something to lean on. Now he seemed to be leaning back into the
sand. He slowly shook his head.

Beth stared out at the water as if seeing it for the first time. But
she had seen it before. The color was more muted, the waves had become
almost like smoke. As she watched the water rise and fall, she felt herself
begin to sink. She fought it, but it was just as dark as before. She was at
the bottom now, and in a moment, she would be gone.

Beth stepped out of the water. She was going to have to face
Clayton. She wondered if he really believed that the sea water could make
someone disappear. He had been so convincing; it had been hard to believe.
They had been walking along the beach when she had been unable to make any
decision. Had she really been seeing things? Had he actually been seeing
them? Or could she have just been so convinced by his claim that he had
actually been there that she could not find any reason not to believe him?
In spite of this, she still found herself feeling sorry for him. He had
been so full of confidence that he had been ready to face any situation.
He had been so certain that he could handle anything.

“You don’t know how glad I am to see you,” Clayton said as he
walked toward her. He took her hand and looked into her eyes. “Look how
beautiful you are. You almost give me a pain in the neck. I guess I had been
inclined to believe you.”

Beth looked down at him, and her hand dropped. She stood up and
walked around to where he stood. She looked at him and said, “I don’t
know what it was that gave me the illusion of turning to stone. I felt
dazzled. But I’m sorry for what I said before, and I really need your help.
There’s something I need to do.”

“What is it?” He stepped back to the water’s edge. The waves were
now so small that they seemed too small to be waves at all. However, they
were now racing toward him at high speed.

She turned to look out at the ocean. She saw a shape that she thought
was not even possible: it could have been an almost invisible, shifting
bubble at the bottom of the ocean. However, she saw little more than that.
A tiny black speck, so small it could have been a speck of salt.

“What’s that?”

She looked at it for a moment. As it got closer, she realized it was
not a speck at all. It was a tiny, moving speck growing larger as it
approached her.

“What are you doing?”

She reached out toward it. She wanted to touch it, and she
wanted to know why it was here. But as she reached out, she noticed that
she could move her hand a bit at a time, like a child reaching out for a
ball. Slowly, the speck grew larger. She reached out a little farther until
she could barely touch it. Then she reached out another hand. This was her
best attempt to touch it. She could not even get the ball to roll over.
This was as far as she could.

“Why are you stopping?” Clayton asked, a little frightened.

“I want to know more about what this is. Why it is here. It
doesn’t seem to be a bubble.”

“You don’t know what it is, do you?” Clayton said as he began
making small steps toward her.

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