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Matt Nelson, 22 Jun '12

Darren Cunningham watched the water burst into bits of white foam against the rocks at the base of the cliff. The setting sun lit them up into a stunning, blood-colored haze. Something about the sight of it made him uneasy.

He traced his index finger along the fragile spine of the manila folder in his hands. It was critical that he give it to a woman named Penny, who had been scheduled to meet him twenty minutes before. Yet no one had come to this lonely stretch of beach except for a pack of rogue seagulls, picking and twisting at chunks of unlucky crabs.

Often when he was nervous, and more often when he was alone, Darren began to speak with himself.

"Well hello there, good sir." His voice cracked harshly in the sea breeze. "I suppose you want to know what it is that drove you here. What the purpose of all this is, yes? Of course, no one does anything for one single reason, but that makes it all the more interesting, doesn't it?"

Darren paused.

"It would have been much better if Henry hadn't died," he said.

The thought of his son broke his discourse. He remembered a time at a beach very different than this one, where he had brought Henry, as well as his first wife. That beach had been crowded and colorful, with dozens, perhaps hundreds of vibrant umbrellas and beach towels set into white sand.

Henry, three years old at the time, was intent upon building a sand castle, but struggling very much to do so. Darren wouldn't admit to his son then, but he found Henry's frustration very amusing.

"I want a moat," Henry insisted.

"But if you build a moat, you'll let the water in," Darren tried to explain. "It'll pull away the sand faster. It's called erosion. It takes a while, but eventually it'll all go away. Build a wall against the sea, and it will stand longer."

"I want it to stand forever," Henry said.

An alien sound broke into the sounds of the sea and thoughts of Henry. Darren turned, flustered at being caught so unaware.

A woman wearing dark sunglasses was only a few feet away. She was standing very still, like a careful mouse near a large predator. She wore clothing that was entirely out of place for the beach; black pants, a tight green blouse, and a strange black overcoat. She clutched a brown purse that had some sort of stenciling on the side. Her features were dark and exotic, somewhat Mediterranean.

"Penny?" Darren asked.

She nodded at once, then reached out her hand. He raised the folder. His hand shook so badly that he could hear the photographs inside rattling around. She wrapped her fingers around the edge, and it vanished suddenly into her purse.

Penny turned as quickly as she had come, and began to move away.

"Please," Darren said, panic creeping into his voice. "I need to know. I need to know, is it over?"

She stopped.

"Does this finish it?" he cried, desperately. "I need it to be done. Forever."

The woman turned her head a fraction of an inch.

"Nothing can last forever," she said.

Comments · 9

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  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    Welcome to Burrst @Matt Nelson, great debut! Looking forward to reading more.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Matt Nelson said...

    Thanks @Anthony Blackshaw! Good luck with the site, absolutely love the idea. I'll be around!

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Robert Sweeney said...

    A masterful story, I was gripped from the first line. I love the way you give only small details of background leaving the reader to imagine the rest in their own heads. I also look forward to reading more.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Matt Nelson said...

    @Robert Sweeney Thanks! I probably won't continue this story, since I like the ambiguity and the various ways it can be interpreted. It was a fun and creative little experiment, looking forward to playing around with other writings that aren't quite as heavy as this.

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Matt Nelson said...

    @Liam Volk Thanks Liam! I like to keep things ambiguous. If the story sticks with you, maybe it'll turn into something more, you know? I'm going to check out your stuff right now!

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Nicole Zhu said...

    Great story - loved the attention to microdetails like Darren's movements with the folder and the seamless shift from the present to the past then back to the present again. Also liked the juxtaposition of "I want it to stand forever" with the ominous ending of "Nothing can last forever."

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Mary Beth W. said...

    This is an awesome story! I love how it drew me in and I really, really want to know more XD Well done!

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Metta H said...

    This stoy had a thrilling beginning. I'd love to see more of it.
    Metta

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Matt Nelson said...

    Radio Wildfire Entry

    Is this how I mark it for Untold Tales?

    • Posted 4 years ago