When I woke, I had the urge to go to the sea. It was like a thirst. Over the day my mind wandered, obsessed with the thought. Visions intruded my mind. I saw the water glittering like brilliant diamonds, the waves lapping against the shore. I was mesmerised. The image was so crystal clear, the clarity so much more intense than a normal dream. I couldn’t shift it. I wondered if it was related to the sushi I ate the day before.
It reminded me of childhood vacations; a sense of joy, a sense of belonging. I wanted to be there. However, I’d not even entertained the thought of going to the beach in my whole adult life. I hadn’t so much as seen the ocean in the last ten years. But now, it’s all I wanted to do.
I sat down at the breakfast table and ate cereal. I found myself staring at the cheerios that floated in the milk. I dunked them down with my spoon, transfixed on the miniature ripples that appeared. I was in a daze. I forced myself to finish, but the cereal was now soggy and fell apart.
I messaged my best friend, Alex. I told him about the weird dream I had. As you’d expect when you re-tell a dream to someone, he was distracted and feigned interest.
The apprehension first presented as mild anxiety, a knot that twisted my intestines, as brief as a tap on the shoulder. I tried my best to ignore it. I went into the garage and got onto my exercise bike, it always made me feel better when I was stressed. I cycled hard, though the strange feelings didn’t relent.
I put on my headphones and selected a hard rock playlist from Spotify. I felt the sweat begin to seep out of my pores and my heart rate increased. Then the familiar feeling of the zone enveloped me. Instantly I felt calmer. The music began to sooth. The calm sounds of water lapping. It was so relaxing. It wasn’t the sounds that made me twig, it was my heart rate on the display, 65 BPM. I was peddling vigorously, though my heart showed I was relaxed.
I ripped out my earbuds. The friction of the electromagnet wheezed and my legs relented. I watched as my heart rate increased alarmingly fast. I leaped off the bike when it hit 205 BPM. I held my hand to my chest, it felt like I was about to have a heart attack.
I caught my breath, though the anxiety from earlier grew into panic. I got in the shower. My hands shook as I turned the knob. The ice cold water made me jump, though I was soon soothed by the sound of water hissing out of the shower head and the tricking as the liquid dripped off my body and down the plughole. The panic receeded.
It was early evening, I was on edge again, so I sat down in front of the TV to watch a film. I tried to ignore the restlessness that had plagued me all day. I noticed my attention had wandered and I was staring at my phone, confused to be watching a video of a calm lapping ocean, the sounds of the sea gently pacifying that disquiet in my stomach. I continued to watch, feeling the urge relent. Endorphins swam around my skull and I felt high.
I pressed back and saw I had searched for “tranquil ocean”. I was concerned, I had no recollection of doing this. I peered up at the TV to see the movie had ended, the Netflix screen offered me options to watch next. I got up to get a drink. I was startled to see it was already dark outside. I checked my phone again, it was 9:30pm. My battery was almost flat. I began to panic. I must have been watching that video for hours.
I checked my YouTube history to see that I’d viewed over thirty different ocean related clips, some barely for seconds before I’d apparently settled on the last one.
My panic was interrupted by a instant message from Alex.
Sure, I’ll go with you to the beach. 9:30 is a little late, but okay. It will be nice. I’ll see you then.
Before I could check the rest of his messages, the doorbell rang. I knew who it was. At first I was reluctant to answer, in the hope he would think it was a ruse, some joke I had played on him. I stood in silence, that knot in my stomach now twisting so hard I felt compelled to open the door. The bell rang out again, and I answered it.
“Hey, I didn’t think you were in!”
“I’m in,” I said.
“Are you ready to go?” Alex asked.
“Sure,” I replied, “let me get dressed.”
“You’ve been quiet,” Alex said as he peered over at me from the driver’s seat.
I opened my eyes and was shocked to see we were on the freeway.
“How long have we been driving?” I asked.
“Are you sure you’re okay, man? You’ve been weird all day.”
I rapidly scanned the environment, trying to work out where we were.
“Where are we going?”
“Dude, you drunk?”
“Where you wanted to go. You sent me the link. It’s not the nearest beach, but I hear you, it’s the nicest.”
I took out my phone to see the battery was dead. I sighed.
“How long left?”
“We’re just about there,” he said, taking the off ramp.
The dark ocean, to our right, glistened in the moonlight and I was in awe.
“I never knew you liked the sea so much, you should have said. We could have gone surfing together.”
I didn’t respond. I stared at the flecks of light that fluttered on the oily black water.
We pulled up and got out. It was silent except for the reassuring sound of the water breaking against the sand. Without thinking, I took off my clothes.
“Man, I don’t want to see that!” Alex pleaded.
I stripped to my underwear, to see I was wearing speedos. The ones I wore when I was a kid. They were so tight, they didn’t leave much to the imagination. And I ran.
“Are you sure you haven’t been drinking? You’re not supposed to swim if you have,” Alex said concerned.
I didn’t listen. I made a beeline for the ocean. My legs moved like the wind as I felt the soft sand mingle with my feet. I was entranced. The water splashed when I met the sea. I hurried forward, that thirst being quenched. I was where I belonged. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t question it. The water level rose and I pushed forward as far as I could until I needed to swim; and I swam.
The water was cold, though it felt right. I reached forward with my hands, each stroke as intense as the last, thrashing my feet as fast as they would go. It was as if I was about to climax, urged on by a primeval need, a lust to be at my destination. I stopped and treaded water. I turned to see I was a few hundred yards out. My breathing heavy, my arms and legs burning from adrenaline.
I searched around, wondering what I was supposed to do next. Alex shouted for me from the shore. Though I couldn’t hear a word he said over the sounds of me thrashing in the water.
Something caressed my leg, as if looking for permission. I didn’t jerk away. It took the invitation, a tendril wrapped around my ankle. I felt it tug. I didn’t fight back, I went with it. Another clasped my other foot, and slowly I submerged. The dim moonlight faded as I was dragged deeper into the depths of the water. My lungs relaxed and my last breath escaped. I felt high. I wasn’t scared to die. It was where I belonged.
“Dude!” I heard from a voice I recognised.
I opened my eyes.
“You scared the shit out of me!”
Alex’s face glared back, though I was distracted by the bright stars that filled the night sky.
“I thought you drowned for sure. The ambulance is on it’s way.”
I became aware that I was lying on my back on the sand. Water lapped against my head, and I tried to stand.
“Don’t get up! You’ve been unconscious for ten minutes.”
“I’m fine,” I said, pushing myself to my feet.
And I was fine. More than fine. I felt great.
I staggered up the beach, with each step feeling more and more alive than I’d ever felt before.
“Dude!” Alex shouted from behind me.
“Look, there’s nothing wrong with me,” I said, twirling around as if I was showing off a new suit.
“Fuck you!” he said, and he stormed past me, towards the car.
I reached the edge of the beach and picked up my clothes. Not bothered I was covered in sand, I dressed.
“Can we go now?” I asked.
“Give me a minute,” he said, taking out his phone.
Irritatedly he spoke to an emergency dispatcher, telling them to cancel the ambulance. He made his apologies, got in the car and slammed the door. I took my seat and sat in silence.
“If they charge me for the dispatch, you’re paying for it,” he said, as the tires screeched.
We didn’t say much on the drive back. We stopped outside my house.
“Thank you,” I said and got out.
I was almost back to the house when he opened his window.
“I don’t know what’s going on with you. But please tell me if there is anything to worry about.”
“I promise,” I replied and unlocked the front door.
I laid in bed. For the first time since I was a child I wasn’t worried about anything. I was one with the world. Briefly I coughed and sat up. I continued coughing until a salty taste filled my mouth, and a small quantity of sea water spilled down my chest.
I caught my breath, and made my way to the ensuite to clean up. I towelled off the water and took a drink from the tap. The water tasted disgusting, something was missing. Odd.
I returned to bed and closed my eyes. My mind was blank. Though something called to me, in a language I didn’t recognise, but I understood. I heard it from all around. Different voices, all in the same dialect. I was falling asleep. Though the voices called out.
Hello I said, in the language I didn’t recognise, but knew innately. For a moment there was a silence. Then hundreds of voices responded in kind. I smiled, feeling like I belonged. Then I craved something.