By Gemma Sidney
This sunset is nothing like my own.
It is not hazy, but pure. It is not obscured by buildings, tired eyes, or reflections of the preceding day. I try but cannot recall the last sunset I was intentionally witness to.
In the dwindling light my mind is a blank. The hairs prickle on my bare arms, not from the cold but from the sensation that I am being watched. I look around me and see nothing but vast, empty beach, a cloudless sky, the sea. This reassures me but not completely. I walk along the sand and, casting my gaze behind me realise that my footprints wind away into the distance. Reflecting on that for a moment, I am not capable of saying how long I’ve been walking for, nor from where I came. I can no longer grasp the concept of time.
All of this is puzzling yet I feel strangely calm. I can’t help trying to think about before. Had I really meant to do it? To come to this in-between place? All that was in my life from before seems so distant now. But I am aware that all this – the beach, the sea, the peacefulness enveloping me – cannot last. I have to go back. I cannot own this beach, this sand… They are not mine either to take or to give. If I could just remember how to get back home…
I look out again over the sea and tentatively dip a toe in the water at the shore’s edge. It’s warm. Before I know it I’ve plunged in up to my neck. The water laps at my ears, gently inviting me into its unknown depths. I look down at my feet, paddling to keep myself afloat, and beneath me the water is so clear. But I can’t see the bottom. I take a deep breath, one last fleeting look at the beach, and dive.
When I open my eyes it takes a moment for them to adjust to the light. I’m in a white gown of crisp cotton, in an immense bed of white linen. The room is bare except for a small nightstand and a simple wooden chair positioned next to the bed. Whoever had been sitting there left behind a magazine open to the crossword puzzle. Only 7 down has been left incomplete. The clue is “secret beach”. Cove, I smile to myself. My gaze is drawn to the window. The flimsy white curtains are open wide. The sun is setting over the murky horizon. I lay back and take it in.