IGNITE -- YA Paranormal
Leg-over-leg, I cross the hand railings that are designed to keep visitors from falling off the edge of the pier, and white knuckle the wood rail behind me. There’s no false sense of security now—only a blanket of black ocean thirty feet below taunting me:
Here lies Alison Summers. Devoted daughter. Sister. Dog-lover.
One fatal slip and that will be permanently chiseled into the headstone above my eternal resting place. Not that I expect a superhero to swoop down and save me, but an easier way out of this would be nice.
A fishy aroma spikes the wind. It should remind me of the summers my family vacationed here, but instead I have the urge to gag. When the brakes on my van gave out near the exit of La Paz Beach this seemed like a logical place to run, but now there’s no time to consider a better plan; they are hot on my heels. If only I knew who they were. My head whips toward heavy footfalls. The air is sticky with a thick marine layer making it nearly impossible to see my hand in front of my face let alone those trailing me.
My foot slips on the damp ledge as I adjust my position—so I grab the beam tighter. A tingle creeps inside me. Reconsidering the crazy thought, I let go of one hand. Just one. A gasp escapes my trembling lips.
“Don’t jump.” The words are barely a whisper.
“I won’t,” I say. My reply is useless, though. It’s well past midnight and—except for my pursuers—the pier is deserted. The full moon is mirrored in the white caps below while spray dances in the mist. The stillness of this place strangles me. I didn’t come here to jump. No. That is the last thing I want. But, the alternative . . .
Either way, I will celebrate my seventeenth birthday surrounded by death.
If that’s the case, I’m going out my way.
Tonight, when I witnessed my grandma’s death I should have cried. I wanted to cry. And yet, I didn’t shed a tear. There wasn’t time. Disguised as nurses, two men in scrubs--one holding some type of red vile in hand--slipped out the hospital door past me before I could take in what was happening. Flashing red and green lights of obnoxious beeping machines greeted me when I entered Gram’s room, and within seconds, a team of doctors and nurses rushed in.
When I raced through the automatic doors of the hospital’s main lobby I wasn’t expecting to chase down suspected murderers anymore than I was expecting to be chased by them. Somehow, that’s exactly what’s happened.
Shifting my feet, only my heels are left on the skinny ledge of the wooden plank. I take a deep breath. Resolved, the other hand is released. Adrenaline pumps into my pulsing veins loosening the frozen knot in my chest. I wipe my clammy palms on my jeans and then raise both arms over my head.
“Hey!” the skinny one with the shaved head yells. Both men are no longer in the same sky-blue hospital uniforms. My stomach lurches when out of my peripheral I see they are coming within an arms length.
“Got you.” The taller, hairier one with a goatee swipes at the hood of my sweatshirt causing me to stumble.
Shaking free, but caught off balance, I plunge into the bitter water below entering cannonball style with a loud smack. If I screamed on the way down, I can’t recall. Weightless, I hover underwater until I get my bearings, and doggie paddle to the surface, gasping. I cough. It’s more of a bark, really. And, salt water runs out my nose and stings the back of my throat.
Bobbing up and down like a buoy, my body thrashes in the depths of the incoming breakers. Before I can react, except to curse myself for my stupid decision, a colossal wave crashes over my head; the undercurrent drags my somersaulting body towards the pier where my back slams into one of the enormous posts. The impact leaves me considering the idea that I’ve snapped in half. I swallow another mouthful of salt water and struggle to stay conscious, fighting the fading light from behind my eyelids. Unable to open them—the muscles simply refuse to listen to my brain—there’s a sensation I’m being pulled against the current like a fish on a large hook.
After slamming against crest after crest, the lugging finally comes to an abrupt halt. Deposits of wet sand settle into every crevice of my waterlogged clothes as I lay on the shore taking a beating from each succeeding wave. Not unlike the stories I’ve heard about near death encounters, it’s as if I’m having an out-of-body experience. Like floating in a dream, my battered body is lifted. My arms hang lifelessly at my sides and my legs dangle and bob in rhythm with each powerful step. My chest rises and falls, and settles against what feels like a hard wall. But, this wall has a heartbeat. A soothing, comforting sound. If it were my own, I’d expect it to be erratically thumping with no steady pulse. But, this sound is quiet, regular. Constant.
“You could have died.” The voice might be in my head, but its not my own. It sounds distinctively male. Deep. Authoritative, but not angry. The same voice that told me not to jump of the pier. And, beneath the smell of salt, there's a fresh scent of soap and honeysuckle. He must look as good as he smells. My hair rests on my face like a clump of seaweed and when I strain to open my eyes all I get is an eyeful of strawberry-blond.
An awful noise resembling a grunt is my only response.
I comply. My throat burns from my recent overdose of saltwater and it will sting even more if I attempt to talk. But, as my tangled hair is gingerly swept from my face, I manage a soft thanks.
Peeking beneath my eyelashes, my gaze falls on a dimpled smile. I wonder if my rescuer is grinning because he thinks I thanked him for adjusting my hair or for saving my life. Closing my eyes once more I weakly return the grin wondering the same thing as I draw his body closer inhaling the sweet scent of him and doze off to the synchronized beating of our hearts.
* * *
* * *
The world is hot and cold. Dark and light. Every sense at battle with its opposite. A dull humming sound duels with the ringing in my ears. When my heavy-laden eyes finally open again, I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of the mini-van I share with my mom and parked in front of my house. The blast from the heater defrosts my shivering body.
And, I’m alone.
My rescuer is nowhere to be found.