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I smiled and took a deep breath, inhaling the salty air. I closed my eyes, and just for a moment I was one with the sea, sailing through the air on the white-tipped waves

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Introduction

Shaft I walked up the sandy footpath through the dunes, scuffing the dry ground with my toes. The sun blazed down making the bronzed ground shimmer like a pool of gold. The salty tang from the sea lingered on my tongue. The dry grasses and scrub growing in clumps alongside the path rustled softly in a gentle breeze, whispering in secret tongue, and a small clod of sand skittered forward, tickling my bare ankles. A few yards up, the sloping path levelled and then dropped, a steep bank of golden grains, and suddenly, like a magician waving his wand, the glittering expanse of the sea was spread out in front of me, an azure shimmering sheet. The wind whipped my loose hair around my face and my long light skirt billowed out. Yachts danced on the blue horizon, their bright sails like beacons on the waves. Below me, on the beach, deckchairs and umbrellas stood out boldly from the endless stretch of gold, and little matchstick people ran laughing and screaming through the sand with buckets and spades and inflatable dinghies. Others were stretched out on towels, hats balanced over their eyes, and suntan lotion to hand. Children splashed happily in the shallows, tossing handfuls of sun-warmed water over each other, and diving under the surface to search for treasure. ...read more.

Middle

After a minute, once my heartbeat had returned to normal, I climbed unsteadily to my feet, and gazed up at the hole above me. A perfect circle of light, strong, clear and bright. But it wasn't strong enough to pierce the darkness all around me, a darkness so overwhelming that I felt I was suffocating. An icy chill ran its long fingers over my bare arms and legs, and a musty smell hung like a shroud over my head, too heavy to penetrate. I shivered, and wrapped my freezing arms around my body, hugging myself tightly. Logic told me that someone would come along soon. People were always walking through the dunes and along the footpath, on their way to the beach on a hot, summer day. Somebody would see the hole. Somebody would peer curiously down, and see my trembling form standing in the dark. Somebody would pull me up, up away from the darkness, back into the sun and the dappled beach and the bright umbrellas. I felt around blindly for some sort of wall, something I could lean against while I regained my breath, while I calmed myself. I could feel nothing, just darkness. Thick, powerful, consuming darkness. I staggered forwards blindly, hands outstretched, waiting to bump into a wall. ...read more.

Conclusion

I looked back up at the sun. The ceiling seemed lower. I suddenly laughed, a strange echoing sound that I thought I'd never hear again. I reached up, out of the hole, both hands grabbing the ledge. I scrambled up, up, out of the void, into the sunlight. I clawed myself onto the warm sand, breathing in its rich, humus scent. The yellow sun beamed down, warming my skin. I could hear the gulls and the crashing of the waves. I was back. Back home. Everything was all right again. I stood up, and dusted myself off, rivulets of sand trickling out of the hem of the skirt and the creases of my top. I looked out at the sea, breathing deeply. The waves crashed again onto the beach, where little matchstick people ran about, laughing and screaming. There were still children splashing in the sea, and there were still people sunbathing on their brightly-coloured towels with their brightly-coloured umbrellas shielding them from the sun. I looked at the deckchairs. They weren't facing the sea. They were turned away, turned towards me, turned towards the dunes. That wasn't right, surely. I tilted my head slightly, trying to remember something. Something... something... it was almost there. A pleasant memory... no. It was gone. Shrugging, I walked down the rest of the dune, onto flat, warm beach, settled myself in an empty deckchair and gazed out at the land. 1 1 Jenni Hall ...read more.

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