Flash Fiction: Sunrise by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is, write about what you did to end the summer with a great hurrah. But it has to be a dark/chilling account.

Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit mystery series Corgi Capers (corgicapers.com). The account is based on an interaction that took place on the last sunrise of vacation, but the truth has been stretched muchly ?

Sunrise

By Val Muller

It was the last day of summer break, beach week. Tomorrow, Lana would return home, clean her campus apartment, and get ready for senior year—class of ‘22. There was something definitive about the year. She’d have appointments with Career Services, she’d have to choose grad school or job. She’d probably even have to get serious about finding a man.

The future was terrifying strung out in a line of days. But one hour, she could handle. This was her last day at the beach, and she was going to make the most of it. She sat in the sand, watching the diligent pre-sunrise shell-searchers with their flashlights, the serious runners trying to get in their miles before the heat of the sun. And she was there, too, today becoming a sunrise photographer.

She would take the picture that would win the R. Buffington Photography Award, earning honors and scholarship funds.

The borrowed—er, “borrowed” professional lens stamped “Property Univ. Photo Dept.” warmed up in her bag: the cool air of the rental’s bedroom and the warm, humid beach air resulted in a foggy lens that she needed to let warm up before she snapped her award-winning photo. The rest of the sunrises she’d slept through after late-night parties in the sand. This would be her celebration, her foray into responsibility, and her ticket to better things.

A lifeguard setting up orange cones in the sand gave her a look. Was that respect? Awe? It was a deserved look. The lens, after all, was worth thousands. She had to be special to have such a lens. She slung the heavy weight around her neck and started for the shoreline. She would find the perfect shot—maybe no human subjects, or maybe the perfect person would show up in silhouette against an orange sun. The sky was looking perfect, just a few wispy clouds—atmosphere-building ones that would not detract from the sun’s magnificence.

As the sun peeked above the horizon, wet sand glossed to a mirror, and sky and land became inseparable. An Eden, an otherworldly glimpse. Nothing else existed in that space—college and career and borrowed lens and whatever the future held were all absurd and banal atrocities marring the perfection of the magical moment.

A woman came out of nowhere, an old woman walking her dog in the surf. The pair were jet black silhouettes against a yellow-red gradient, the kiss of heaven.

Click.

She knew without looking at the screen. This was the perfect shot.

“That’s a big lens you’ve got there, girl,” the woman said, bent slightly, possibly arthritic. She leashed her dog and stared at the girl. Something jumped in her eyes. The old woman froze, hanging still against the sunrise like a photograph. Something about the moment—sea and sky blending, mixing up and down, inside and out. Which was the mirror, and which, the reality?

The old woman moved again. Her lip twitched. The sunlight revealed a blip of recognition in her eye—horrific recognition.

“Oh my,” the woman exclaimed, and she quickened her pace without revealing any more to Lana of what overcame her.

*

The last hurrah in her beach house before she sold the place. She was getting old, and she was ready to surrender, to cash in her investments and move to Florida. How many memories had she made at this beach, from her fateful beach week trip, to her engagement to Tom, countless family trips to the beach house, spreading Tom’s ashes in the sea…

The sunrise had been sublime. It was a literal glimpse of heaven, at least that’s how she perceived it. She could almost see Tom there, walking with her. The glass sand reflecting the fire sky, blending all time and space into nothing and everything. She could barely remember the year, and even when she could, 2085 seemed like an irrelevant detail in such a world.

But when she saw that girl, something about her expression, perhaps, or—no, it was the huge lens—ridiculously huge. It was a lifetime ago, but—

It all came flashing back.

The summer before senior year.

Beach trip.

A borrowed lens.

Sunrise.

Otherworldly—almost altered consciousness.

She’d been so thrown off by the glance of an old woman and her dog that she stumbled into a sinkhole caused by a rising wave lapping the shore. The lens went into the ocean. Thousands of dollars turned to salt.

Plunge!

She’d had to work all year to save enough to repay the debt. She had forfeited entry into the Buffington photo contest, she had lost her department honors for borrowing that lens all summer without permission.

Plunge!

Except—

That hadn’t happened, had it?

No—there was an old woman with her dog, wasn’t there? That old woman had circled back, grabbed her arm in the nick of time, almost as if she knew. Like she had stepped out of another realm, a deus ex machina, grabbing Lana by the wrist firmly enough to save her from the plunge.

Just like she herself was doing right now, to the young girl.

*

The women exchanged silent glances. The hair on their arms raised. Eyes locked.

Impossible moments of time—several eternities that neither could fathom.

The sun lingered just another moment in that impossible blur, the mirrored world of above and below, the ephemeral impossibility, that gossamer glimpse into Somewhere Else. A defiance of human comprehension.

They blinked and it was gone. The sun had risen to ordinary daylight, and in another blink, each saw that the other woman was gone. And they were alone to their futures and their pasts, the tide kissing the shore in the late summer sun.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

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