Stringers – Ninth Wave

Ninth Wave

Buttercup creaked, rocking ever so slightly with the shift in weight, and then regained equilibrium as the girl emerged from the van and dropped to the ground just in time to watch Caspar, board under arm, disappear behind a stand of sword fern waving in time with the breeze.

A serpentine of severe switchbacks, only inches wide in places, carved a treacherous path in the near vertical slope that had long ago been abandoned by the state forestry; their only responsibility now was to post signs warning of sheer cliffs, falling rock and unstable soil. One misstep and the twelve hundred foot flight to the beach would take seconds rather than the estimated seventy minutes by foot. Roots and rocks slick with moss and lichen interrupted the trail on a regular basis adding to the challenge of balance and forward progress. Thirty minutes into the descent Caspar paused for a moment at a widening of the passage to take in the magnificence of the scene laid out before him. And for that moment, the girl did not breathe.

Shadowing Caspar, but at some distance and out of sight, she watched as he inched ever closer to the edge of an earthen shelf that weakened with every step, a cornice of dirt and tangled root supported by nothing but grace. Before Caspar’s eyes the endless sea took on a flat calm and seemed to withdraw, bringing the island ever closer, moving it forward against the horizon belying the true distance to his first destination. A ceiling of cast iron-grey compressed the atmosphere adding a sense of urgency as the ground beneath Caspar’s feet began to fall away. As she was about to call out alerting Caspar to the danger, he took a step back and then another as he turned to continue his descent, never knowing how close he had come.

Caspar emerged from the forest to a light curtain of rain and the briny smell of wet sand. Never breaking stride, he made directly for the waves slapping at the beach, the real estate being reclaimed a handful at a time by the incoming tide. Soon the tide would reverse, soon the time would come for the crossing.

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