I don’t know how long I’d been asleep, but I do know I was very happy before I dropped off.
I had been lying on the beach, sipping from an ice-cold cocktail. I have no idea what it was, I didn’t speak the language. I’d pointed to a particularly over-the-top number someone else was drinking.
“I’ll have one of those,” I said, hoping the bartender would understand me.
It was a beautiful tiki-style bar located on the edge of the beach. The brilliant white sand scorched my feet in the midday sun. Lying under my parasol did little to cool me down, though the cocktail did.
It was my last day, and I was going to enjoy it. The sounds of people playing volleyball drifted into my ears as I drifted off to sleep.
As I opened my eyes, the sun no longer beat down, instead pregnant rainclouds had gathered overhead and a chill accompanied the light breeze. I sat up and looked around, the beach was deserted. It was like a graveyard, silent and foreboding.
Something wasn’t right, uncanny. It was the absence of everything. My heart skipped a beat when I realised all my belongs were gone. I stood panicked, peering around to see if I could spot anyone running off with my stuff, but I was too late. I had lost everything. The only saving grace was my passport that sat in the safe in my room.
On the parasol I heard the beginnings of the storm that was to come. Large drops of water landed with staccato claps. Dark spots appeared all over the beach as the rain fell.
I picked up my towel and noticed the sand around me had been disturbed. Small shells now decorated the edges of where I had lain. Pink flowers marked the corners. Anxious, I kicked the arrangement. I scolded myself as my foot hit something hard. Kneeling down, I saw black fabric. I frantically dug, to reveal my bag buried in the sand.
Thank God for that, I thought to myself.
I opened it and it appeared that everything was there. The panic I first felt turned to concern as I wondered why someone would do this to my stuff. The once glass-like ocean had whipped up into a frenzy of white horses, in a violent rhythm that threatened to breach the shore and consume my belongings.
I groped the sand, disturbing the rest of the shells, finding my camera bag, hoping sand had not intruded and ruined the lens. Moments later I found the remains of my cocktail, it no longer looked majestic, only a mess of sand and ruined fruit.
I continued, trying to find the bag of souvenirs I had bought to bring back – local oddities and trinkets to give to family and friends, though it was gone. I’d almost given up when my hand happened upon something soft, with the texture of burlap. As soon as I pulled it out of the ground I had dropped it and taken a few steps back. Without the protection of the parasol, the heavens drenched me. Though I didn’t care, all I could do was stare in awe at the monstrosity that stared back at me.
A thunderclap and the bright white of lightning stirred me from my daze. I leaned over and picked it up.
A voodoo doll, it must have been. Short cloth arms jutted out from the side and small, spindly legs dangled. It wasn’t this that creeped me out, it was the red swimming trunks, awfully similar to the ones I was wearing, and the long blond hair that mirrored mine. A single word emblazoned the chest, death.
I dropped it again. The sea crashed into the beach as loud as the thunder that had echoed through the sky. In the distance I saw silhouettes of what appeared to be heads standing in a line, breaking the surface of the water, for as far as the eye could see. As the waves rose and fell, the heads disappeared and revealed themselves. I was mesmerised. And the rains lashed down harder.
It was hard to see at first, they approached the beach slowly. All light from the sun was now obscured by the black clouds, it was as if night had fallen in the middle of the day. The outline of hundreds of humanoid shapes were unmistakable, marching sluggishly, unimpeded by the power of the tide, towards the shore.
I gathered my belongings and headed inland.
I could see the locals, linking arms, forming a barrier in front of the beach.
“Can I get past?” I asked.
Though no one replied. Instead a hum grew amongst them, low and in sync. It stopped and started again with increased volume.
I looked over my shoulder to see the legion of unknown humanoids in the shallow water, too dim to make out in the low light.
“I need to leave, please!” I demanded, panicking and pushing against one of the men.
The strength the grip he had on his neighbour afforded me no advantage.
Their combined hum was now a chant, punctuated by roars and grunts. In a moment of clarity, I slunk to the floor and crawled through the man’s legs. It was just in time. They stomped their feet, unlinking arms and clapped. I got up and turned to watch. They walked forward, stopping, then stomping again.
The rains turned ice cold.
The chants became louder and more aggressive, falling into the gloom that now hung heavy over the beach. Their bodies silhouettes, matching the others that marched from the ocean.
Another unbelievably loud thunderclap, followed instantly by a lightning strike that returned the midday sun, signalled my time to leave.
I rushed through the wet cool sand of the grass-lined walkway to the resort I was staying in. I ran to my small chalet, fumbling for my keycard. I opened the door, and my shoulders sagged. In the small bedroom diner, shells and pink flowers bordered my bed, and a small cloth doll sat in the middle.
The only things I could think of were my passport and leaving. I needed a few tries to enter the safe combination as my hand and fingers shook. The heavy metal door swung open with a small creak. Inside lay my passport, a delicate pink flower sat atop it.
I grabbed my passport and made my way to the reception. When I arrived, it was quiet. The woman I had checked in with stood behind the counter, sorting paperwork.
“Please, I need a taxi to the airport,” I demanded.
“No problem,” she said, picking up a folder and opening it.
“Aren’t you supposed to be leaving tomorrow?” she said calmly.
“Yeah, but I need to go now.”
“You do seem a little on edge, are you okay?” she asked.
“Please, a taxi?”
“No problem, sir,” she said, her accent functional and neutral.
“We do ask guests be fully dressed in the reception area.”
I looked down at myself and for the first time realised how ridiculous I must look.
“Is there anywhere I can change here? I don’t want to go back to my room.”
She offered the small room that connected to the reception.
It was twenty minutes until the taxi arrived and it wasn’t until I saw the airport approach that I relaxed.
“I’ve had a day of it,” I said turning to the driver, “I fell asleep on the beach, and when I woke I found a voodoo doll.”
He leered at me.
“No voodoo,” he said, “no voodoo.”
“Seriously,” I replied with a laugh that was more from relief than anything else, “it was me, same hair, it even had my red swimming trunks. Oh, and DEATH was written on the chest. That’s messed up right?”
“No voodoo,” he said again, “protection.”
“Protection from what?” I asked, no longer laughing.
“The rising of dead,” he said in broken English.
He pointed out of the window and to the ocean, the waves still high and brooding.
“Today, from the water, they rise. Protection, not voodoo.”
We drove in silence for the final leg of the journey.
In the airport I was told there were no flights scheduled, it was too dangerous with the weather. I decided to stay in a small motel next door and flew home on my scheduled flight.
It was a week before I got around to unpacking my stuff. When I opened my camera bag, my heart skipped a beat. My camera was missing. In its place sat the small burlap cloth doll with red swimming trunks, long blond hair and a single word written on its chest. And on top, a single pink flower.