Like transparent freckles, tiny dots of perspiration form across my brow and my face flushes with anger. The salty air hangs heavy in my nostrils and I feel an overwhelming urge to vomit. I am compelled to stand up and fight, defy the defamatory words that have brought me to my knees but my legs are not battle-worthy and I slump heavily against the harbour wall. If his intention was to crush me, then he has won. Convincingly.
The offending note, damp with sea spray, sags helplessly in my lap. The ink is dispersing, the well-formed words that sliced through my heart moments before are scrambling to the papers edge in a bid to escape prosecution. It’s faintly comical and I attempt a laugh – but no sound materialises when I open my mouth. From the east a Laughing Gull breaks rank and dive-bombs me before rejoining its regiment and moving on, its fading laugh an unwanted and mocking gift.
I look upwards at the shifting clouds, the huge expanse above my head is slowly changing colour from slate grey to a dark, inky blue. The cocktail of fear and anger that first gripped me is passing. In its place lingers a paralysing chill that gnaws at my bones. The note, it’s script now virtually unreadable, is lying at my feet. Teary eyed, I stare at the battered sheet of paper unsure whether to attempt retrieval, or not. I decide not. I don’t want to be reminded of any of this.
The wind that has whistled relentlessly past my ears for what seems like an eternity has dropped to a whisper and a frightening sense of calm prevails. I feel like I’m in a hermetically sealed cocoon; no air, no escape. It is so quiet, even the sea seems to have ceased to ebb and flow. I look for the note but it has disappeared. I am glad.
I have no idea what time it is or how I became rooted to this spot. I can’t determine if I am cold or not, I just feel numb. I glance down at my hands and reason I must be cold since my fingers have turned a worrying shade of blue. I try to recall how I got here but my mind is so groggy I feel like I’m wading through porridge.
I’m totally confused. I have no idea who I am and it envelops me with fear. My body has stopped working and my mind is not far behind it. All I can think is, ‘I’m sure I should be somewhere other than here’. I need guidance. I must seek out help. The sea front is silent and, apart from the man standing opposite me, I can see no one. In the half-light of the shop doorway he seems unreal, like a monochrome photograph. How long has he been there? Through glassy eyes I attempt to focus on his face. He has the Devil’s eyes and were I not already frozen to the bone I would feel the chill of his glare. I’m almost glad I can’t open my mouth to call out to him. I don’t think I like him. I wish he would go away.
All feelings, both physical and emotional, have upped and left me. How is it possible to feel absolutely nothing? I have no idea if my eyes are open or closed, I can’t move my face.
I am light as air, detached, fading into a long sleep. If the Devil man is still there, it matters not. In a few moments he will definitely have gone.