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By Calliope Njo
I had to go because the hurricane came sooner than predicted. With winds expected to reach one hundred miles an hour or higher, there was no other option but to leave. My parents lived inland so my intention was to go far away from the storm.
I couldn’t go through because the roads were closed. Dammit. While I may have been overreacting, I would die if I stuck around. I didn’t know what to do.
All the shelters filled. No one had any room. One hotel about half a mile inland stayed open to act as a shelter but they filled up quickly.
I screamed, but no one heard. Out of options, I got in a boat and took it out to sea to offer myself as a sacrifice. Crazy, stupid, and every other description possible for that action, but I ran out of choices.
The last thing I recalled was a huge wave hung over me. I shut my eyes to ready myself for the crash. “God, please take me home.” I remember the surge of water as it crashed on me. That moment went beyond explanation. No words described it.
After a while, I opened my eyes and felt sand beneath me. Sand Dunes Inn in front of me with the only gas station in town next to it. The ice cream shop on the other side of the Inn. Busy during the summer months as tourists loved to go there for their freshly-made ice cream.
I witnessed and experienced the hurricane and remembered that helpless feeling not being able to leave, but yet, all was as it should be. How?
I stood up and pulled a blond hair from my head. It hurt. OK, that meant I didn’t die, so what happened?
Everything looked the same. Old Man Marty, who owned the ice cream shop, swept the entry. The Petersons stood in front of the office door to the Inn and waved. Three or four boys wheeled on the path in front of me.
Did I dream the entire goings on?
Well, I got in my Beetle and drove to Mom and Dad’s house. Mom always had an ear to the gossip circle and Dad had a knack for knowing stuff.
I loved the trip. The fields of green were something to behold during the late spring and early summer months. Always an enjoyable sight.
I knew I was getting closer when those fields ended, the roadways got bigger, and McDonald’s became more visible. Sure enough, Dad’s Lincoln was parked in the driveway. My yellow Volkswagen Beetle sat next to his.
I readied myself for the ongoing argument over the necessity of a car alarm. My car wasn’t big enough to have a car alarm, he always said. It’s my car, and it’s my money. His only reply would be at that point there was nothing in it worth stealing.
I walked inside. Mom stood over the sink cleaning green beans while Dad watched a game on TV.
Dad turned it off and looked at me. “Did you hear anything about a hurricane coming through? Sources told me it died as soon as it formed. Strange phenomenon, they said. They have no record of it happening before. Of course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t, only they don’t know if it ever has.”
“Marge told me her daughter was going to California to get married,” Mom said. “It seems the earthquakes there don’t scare her any.”
I still waited for that argument that never happened. I didn’t know what to reply with and went into the kitchen to help cook the food. Mom did the meatloaf while I did the vegetables.
Conversation never took place at the dinner table during mealtime. When everything finished, it did. “Oh, by the way,” Mom said, “what are your plans for July Fourth? How about a barbecue with potato salad and a special dessert?”
“Sure.” What’s up with the invite? She never did that before. “Why not?” I looked at my watch. “Oh. I better get going before traffic picks up.”
Dad rose from the table the same time I did. “I’ll walk you out.”
I studied him before I turned around and left. Mom of course laughed.
As soon as we walked out the front door, he said, “So, you got the alarm on that insect of yours?”
I raised that eyebrow. “It’s a car. It’s mine. Yes, I did buy an alarm for it and had it installed.” I made it beep.
“So I will see you in my office to discuss retirement investments, since it seems that you have extra money to spend.”
A different argument this time. I groaned.
“Do not take that attitude with me, young lady. I demand respect.” His hands clutched at his sides.
Uh huh. Yeah. “I’m going now, Dad.” I got in my car and drove away.
Mom made plans of some sort and Dad changed character. Something had to have happened. I did not imagine that huge wave over me. I did not dream about those palm trees bending over. Mom and Dad are different. Nothing made sense to me.
Someone moved into the apartment next to me. Tall with dark hair and I got enough of a glance at her facial features to be able to tell a woman moved in. A strong woman at that. She carried five boxes all by herself.
Strange that she wore a scarf around her neck. Nobody here wore one. It never fit in with the beach scene. To each their own.
Between work and spending time at the beach, we never got together. I assumed we had different schedules. I taught at the elementary school, so I left by six-thirty and got home around five.
With it being the summer though, meetings, inventory, and paperwork were the only items on the summer calendar. It never made sense to me but that’s how things went.
The lady next door never introduced herself. I tried but when I was there, she wasn’t and vice versa. Eh, at some point we were going to. She did move in next to me after all.
I couldn’t forget the hurricane. No damage and no loss in population as if nothing happened. Dad mentioned scientists had no explanation for it. Here one minute, gone the next. Maybe it bothered me more than it should have.
I tried to forget about it and went to my parents’ barbecue feast. After I stuffed myself, I followed Mom into the kitchen to help with the dishes. Of course, she asked if I dated anyone. It seems she might be the only one without a grandchild.
I heard the game on TV. I also heard him snoring. Typical Dad. Of course, if I dared to turn off the TV, he’d yell at me and tell me he knew what happened. Maybe he had an off day.
Dad still snored when I took off, so maybe he had an off day. Mom gave me a cake trimmed with strawberries and blueberries to resemble the flag.
I thought I could share with my neighbor.
I got home and put the cake in the fridge. I didn’t have any room in my stomach so if I ate any more, it wouldn’t be pretty. I sat on my chair and turned on the TV. There had to be a movie on.
I found a Lord of the Rings movie I saw before, but I didn’t care. After the opening credits, someone knocked on my door. I answered it and it was the lady from next door.
“I had noticed you looking at me. You overlanders are a curious bunch. I am Aberdeen and I am here to live. If you are in need, come to my door and knock. I will be there. There is plenty to be done so I will not go away soon. Enjoy your night.” She walked away.
I stayed there and saw her leave, too amazed to do or ask anything. You overlanders are an interesting bunch? I pictured myself waking up next to Dad in the next minute. I closed my door and went back to Frodo.
The only problem I had from that point on was that I couldn’t get involved in Frodo’s adventure. Aberdeen stayed on my mind. Soft spoken, a little formal, and maybe a bit odd. It made me wonder if I somehow ended up in Mom’s Twilight Zone. She loved that series.
Toward the end of summer, kids and teens swarmed the beach to get in the last bit of fun before school started. Some of them had scarves around their neck too. They wouldn’t be caught wearing scarves. It meant looking old.
I knew a few as I had their younger siblings in my class. “Hey, Shawnee.” I waved her over. “So what gives?”
“Oh, hi, Ms. Richards. We’re just out here swimming and digging for clams before the work begins. The rest surfed.” She shook her head as she scrunched her face. “Can’t wait to be done with school.”
OK. Nothing new there.
“And the Oceaners wanted to come and join us. They knew where the best clams were. They helped us collect them so we could have a feast.”
“You? Eat clams?”
“I know. Huh.” She laughed and shrugged her shoulders. “Can I leave now?” She bounced up and down.
I nodded. I stayed put and watched them. One of them with a scarf around their neck took it off. They had gills.
“Exactly what kind of world did I end up in? This isn’t my world.”
One with gills ran over to me. “It will be OK. The elders said it would take time to adjust.” She ran away and into the water.
What elders? How did she know I said that? Fins grew and gills became more prominent on a few of them. Did I end up in another world? I had to find answers. The only person I knew with them would be the people at the town’s historical society. They loved to talk to anyone who had any questions about Ocean Port.
I found it, parked my car, and went inside. Wall-to-wall bookshelves filled with books. I didn’t think even a hair could get in between.
While I loved reading, it would take me until the day I died to get through all of them. A lady at the front desk looked at me as I scanned the place. She waved me over.
As soon as I sat down she started telling me about my little town. The part about the original inhabitants I knew. The part about being observed by strange beings I didn’t. They wouldn’t have been able to survive without them. They became the town’s secret since then. Nobody outside of Ocean Port knew about them, it seemed. That’s how they existed for so long without discovery.
I got lost somewhere after that. That little piece of information threw me off. I couldn’t understand how it is that I never before realized they never existed. Still, that little piece of information brought a little more interest into my search for answers.
After I came home, my stomach growled. I looked in my fridge and saw that cake. Well, no time like the present. I took it out and balanced it on my way out the door. I knocked, and she opened the door with a smile.
“I’m Brenda. I have a cake here that my mom made. It’s decorated with strawberries and blueberries to resemble the flag. We could share.” I held it out.
She smiled as I walked in and nodded on her way to the kitchen. She brought back plates, forks, and a knife. “You have been asking questions.”
How did she know? “Yeah.”
“You have more.”
“Or you would not be here with a peace offering. You still do not know how it is you came to be here in a world you believe is your own. Some things are not making sense, however, so you came here hoping to find more answers.”
“I had a hunch that would happen. That storm formed a bridge between your world and this. You entered the storm and went through the portal. While that may sound simple, a lot of consideration came with that decision. However, the alternative to that choice meant certain demise. You were held in suspended animation until the decision had been made five years later.”
None of that made any sense. “Aberdeen, I’m a teacher. I like to believe in things that can be proven by books, internet information, or an expert. So no, I don’t believe in anything based on faith.”
“We had a feeling that would come up as an issue.” She stood from her chair and walked down the hallway. She returned with a book in her hand. “This book may have the rest of the answers you are in search of.” She put it on the table and pushed it toward me.
That Oxford dictionary-sized book did look old. Faded cover, worn edges, and that old-book smell. I opened it out of curiosity and flipped through the pages. I stopped when I saw my name at the top of the page. It had everything about me on it.
“What exactly is this? Destiny is made, not decided.”
She looked at me and leaned over the table. “I would rather us discuss than debate, as there are many arguments to that statement. As for what you see, this lexicon is forever changing, being forever rewritten until the time of death. Then, and only then, will it continue to the next person. So no, nothing has been decided for you.”
I pushed away Mom’s cake. I couldn’t eat because my head kept spinning. Nothing made any sense. I hit the table and left her place. I slammed my door shut and dropped on my bed. I only wanted to know what happened.
I must’ve fallen asleep. My face felt smooshed when I looked up. I sat up and decided to forget about my quest for answers. Instead, go on with life. Forget about making sense of them. I worked as an elementary school teacher, single, and lived an unadventurous life. How it is and how it should be.
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