Issue 79 Dec 2019
“Aaaaand …. begin!” the SAT proctor says, and settles in for a two-hour nap.
Five minutes later, Gyro stirs the proctor awake and hands her his test. “You’re done already, Einstein?” she says.
“Woulda been done sooner, Ma’am, but this archaic pencil-based technology –- filling circles and all – slows me down.”
“Back to your seat, smart alec,” the proctor mutters. “You can’t leave now.”
Gyro returns to his desk, the one in front of Spike, the 300-pound captain of the football team. Only a freshman, Gyro showed up for the October SAT session anyway for a few minutes of mental calisthenics, and now he’s stuck here. To pass time, he fills the circles on Spike’s test too, which turns out to be a good bargain all around: the proctor gets her nap, Spike gets his answers, and Gyro gets to keep his left arm screwed in its socket.
When the SAT session mercifully ends, Gyro passes beneath the drowsy proctor’s icy glare. He heads across the hall to Tech Prep’s banquet room, filled with round tables for this fall’s parent’s weekend luncheon. Every year, the headmaster loosens up the parents with a playful wager: he’ll send the entire student body on a Bermuda junket if the school’s brightest freshman can solve a near-impossible math problem. He’s never paid up, but this year Gyro has the student body abuzz.
There’s a different world inside the ocean. She can hear bits and pieces of it, walking along the shore. The rocky sand bites at her bare feet. She can taste the salt on the wind. She holds her sandals in her hand, letting the cold water wash over her feet. The shock of the cold shivers up through her nerves until she can feel it in her fingertips. She shouldn’t be here, she knows that. Girls disappear from this beach, or so she’s heard, but girls disappear all the time. She’s no one special.
She should be going back. Her walks don’t usually take this long, and they might notice she’s missing. That’s not what on her mind, though. She’s here for a reason, and she won’t leave until she sees it.
The high tide pulses against the sand. She gets down on her knees, ignoring the discomfort and pain. Her palm closes around a sharp rock, and she brings it to her leg. She winces, like always, but the waters sweep the blood and pain away. She wants to see it happen again. If it happens again, she isn’t dreaming.
The froth near her turns crimson, darker than her blood. It stains the sand as the waters retreat, faster than a changing tide should be. Then the sand glows. She bathes in the blue-green glow, watching the ocean until her cut stops bleeding. When the light fades, she’s just another girl.
She stands up quickly. She’s never seen anyone else make it glow. It’s her bloody beach, a strange secret she keeps, but she’s not sure why.
She slips on her sandals and hopes the sand disappears. They’ll have started looking for her by now. All they’ll find is her empty bed. She can’t have that.