WITH morning still in its early beginning, Ravynn stepped out of the car at the beach. She kicked of her shoes and left them there in the sand, not bothering to toss them into the car. There was no need. Glanced up at the baby-blue sky and thought it looked so fresh, like new beginnings. She breathed in the damp salt air and knew that it should be happening about now. Off the coast…

The cool sand trickled around her toes as she pressed them in, deeper, disappearing them into the beach. The sensation pricked goosebumps over her flesh. Ravynn closed her eyes and imagined the earth speaking to her, whispering its secrets. Change is coming. More every day. Faster and faster until it can’t be stopped. She wiggled her toes and a vibration came up to tickle at the bottom of her feet. The earth shifted below, agitated. Still undiscernible to the layman, Ravynn used her senses to feel what was coming.

She never even took her camera out of the car- had never meant to. It was all a ruse, an excuse to get her here. The waves were choppy, gray-blue and spirited, dancing and slapping at one another. Not many people on the beach this early, and rarely anyone but surfers in the water anyway. The water this far north was mostly too cold for play.

Off in the distance, several surfers were atop their boards, sitting, waiting for the next decent wave to catch a ride. They dipped and rolled in and out of her sight. Their presence made no difference to Ravynn.

A colony of seagulls took flight at once, frantically darting off the beach and into the air, screeching and moving inland. The sanderlings, moments before doing their skittering dance to avoid the water while searching for food, also darted inland and took flight.

It’s coming.

Birds shrieked and cried high in the sky, moving far away from the beach’s edge. As if some strange fissure had sprung up from deep within the earth and burst into the sky, rupturing what was normal from what was about to happen, the clouds began to move in an unnatural way, colliding into each other, as if devouring one another. Then, they’d disappeared as if plucked right out of the sky. Ravynn looked to the ocean, and the surfers appeared to be moving farther and farther out to sea without any effort. One of them, though she couldn’t tell from this distance if man or woman, began to wave their hands around frantically in the air. Shouting something, but what, Ravynn could only imagine.

Tsunami.

The shore receded, and suddenly everything seemed like it was moving in slow motion. Perhaps it was, Ravynn thought. Everything was changing. From a few feet away, pushing up out of the retreating waterline, a funnel began to spin. First just a foot or so in diameter, is spun and pushed up out of the ocean and toward her. It reached up and out until it rested above the water, floating. Water spun and flowed around in a circular motion, and an opening began to generate from inside it. It grew until it stood about six feet tall, tall enough for a person to walk into. A female figure came clear, standing within the funnel; at first the woman seemed made of water.  The shape of her familiar, so strikingly similar to the one that stood within the funnel when she was thirteen. As the figure became more solid, Ravynn could see the woman moved, as if gliding over the floor of the funnel to its edge without lifting a foot. Her dark hair flapped around with the motion of the funnel. The woman’s green eyes became clearer to Ravynn as she found herself walking toward the gateway. Though no words were spoken, those eyes called to her, summoning her home. And this time, nothing would stand in her way.

As she walked across the damp sand, where moments before there had been water that would have been to her waist, she could hear the screams around her as the realization hit the others on the beach. But they were muted, as if she were already gone. In between worlds, Ravynn stepped up onto the water funnel’s edge. She looked down and saw what didn’t make sense; she was standing solidly on a spinning cycle of water.

The woman reached out a hand to her, and she took it, stepping away from the beach, away from the life she knew, and into the funnel.

 

 

2022 RAY BRADLEY

 

The world wasn’t what it used to be, but Ray wasn’t sure what it had become. He anxiously stared out the window into the inky night. Clouds blotted out any chance of stars and pressed the horizon down closer to the earth. A bolt of lightning danced across the sky, momentarily lighting up the dim bathroom that provided him no reprieve from the storms outside or within. 

“One one-thousand, two one-thousand…” he whispered.

Thunder banged and crackled, shaking the floorboards beneath his feet. He looked up to the skylight as the rain pelted down harder. The sound of rain, usually a comfort, grated on him like fingernails on a chalkboard. Ray tried to recall, but he was certain this was the rainiest summer he’d ever seen. Northern California summers never looked this way.

Ray was pretty sure he was going crazy. The alternative was too strange to believe. He’d had almost a full year to sort his grief out, yet the circumstances of his sister Ravynn’s death haunted him. He couldn’t let her go.

The rain slammed down on the skylight above, making him flinch with each big drop. His nerves were frazzled, on the edge. He knew, when he did finally drift off to sleep, she’d be there. She was almost always there. The dreams grew more frequent and realistic by the day; sometimes he wasn’t sure he was asleep when he dreamed them. The lines blurred more every day. Harder and harder it became to keep reality straight, so much that he was sure his dreams of Ravynn were a type of reality.

If the dreams were the only strange things that happened lately, he might be able to cope, might be able to find some peace, some sleep. Over the past year since Ravynn’s death, so much had happened; she was dead and gone, after all. Yet why did she haunt him? Why was she always in his dreams, what was she trying to tell him? Not only Ravynn plagued his mind, but the ever-increasing natural disasters that popped up everywhere. Ray wondered if it had always been that way, or if he only started paying attention after that disastrous tsunami. 

He blinked, and let his eyes stay closed a moment. A quick reprieve, although his mind wouldn’t let him rest. His hectic brain scrolled through the news stories he’d read and heard about over the past year. A few months back, there’d been a limnic eruption near Rwanda, causing hundreds of people and animals to suffocate as dissolved carbon monoxide suddenly erupted from deep within the lake. 

He’d never known of such a thing before. 

As he glanced out the window, the wind changed direction, making the rain come down sideways. The trees, heavy with leaves, shook and swayed. He couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever. At some point, he’d have to go back to the bedroom, to the bed where his wife still hopefully was sleeping and face another night of unrest. But not yet. The idea of climbing back into that bed gave him anything but calm.

His brain pulled another file, reminding him of the meteorite that hit in Argentina a month ago. And the volcano that erupted two weeks ago. Since the beginning of time, these things had been happening, though. Mother Nature’s way. Nothing strange about any of it.

He shook his head, disagreeing. From the window to the sink he moved, turning on the faucet.  The water poured out to fill the basin and hypnotized him. Glancing up, he caught his reflection in the mirror; a barely recognizable man stared back at him. At thirty-five, he looked more like fifty. This past year had aged him so. Still staring in the mirror, he wondered when that light sprinkling of gray took over and spread, like a plague through the rest of his hair. Eyes, bloodshot and tired, dark circles under them even darker than yesterday. I look a lot like Dad.

Sleep was no longer his friend. Fearing it nightly, he rarely found true rest anymore. The dream was always there, waiting. The water, the devastation, Ravynn. He lived in fear that the next night, the next dream, would finally push him over the edge. Some nights, he was right on that edge, balanced precariously. Problem was, he wasn’t sure what would happen there. Would he fall? Might he jump? Or would he cross some line he might not be able to come back from? Possibly end up like his dad.

“I’ve got to get some real rest,” he whispered to his reflection, before looking away into the water filled sink. He startled to his sister Ravynn staring back at him. He backed up so far and so quick he slammed his back into the closed bathroom door. “No, no, no.”

Rubbing his eyes, he tried to free himself from what he just saw. He took a deep, shaky breath before summoning the courage to move forward, to look back into the water. Hands on the rim of the sink, he braced himself.

“Ravynn,” he whispered. His voice was raw, full of a year’s worth of pain and loss.

Her image reappeared faintly, rippling through the water. She smiled at him. “Hello, Ray.” Her smile faded as quickly as it appeared.

“No,” was all he could manage as he shook his head back and forth. “No. This is crazy.”

“Listen, Ray. I don’t have much time. I am here. You are not crazy.” There was a determination in her voice that forced him to listen; a tone he’d known very well since they were kids.

“But how?” 

Another flash of lightning streaked into the room, giving Ravynn’s visage a ghostly glow. A boom of thunder pulsed through the air, shaking the floor. Ravynn’s image faded, jostled by the storm, then reappeared. 

“I can’t explain now,” Ravynn continued. “It’s all so much bigger than that.”

Ray was frantic. “Bigger than what?”

“The world is falling down, Ray---”

A knock on the other side of the bathroom door interrupted the conversation. “Ray, you okay? Did you call me?” Feet shuffled by the door. It was Elena, Ray’s wife.

Another clap of thunder rumbled through the house. The vibration pulsed through his body, or maybe, he thought, it was the chilly sense of foreboding in seeing his dead sister. He turned to reach for the door, to make sure it was locked. 

Elena asked again, “Ray?”

The lock was on, much to his relief. He sighed and leaned into the door, body pressing against it. “Give me a few minutes, please.” The plea in his voice sounded too desperate, even to his own ears.

“Okay,” Elena replied.

Ray leaned his head against the door, waiting for footsteps move away. When he was sure she was gone, he went back to investigate the basin. Nothing. Nothing but water.

“I’m definitely losing my mind,” he said to the sink. He reached in and splashed chilly water on his face, hoping to wash it all away.

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