Standing at the top of that rocky cliff, the wind blew and it felt cool… I thought my teeth might start to chatter but they didn’t. Not cold enough yet.
The stars danced across the sky like a group of young ballet dancers at their first recital. Still, when I looked down, I couldn’t even see my hands in front of me. It was dark on top of that cliff.
I looked in the direction of my companion. He was small in size, but he was strong. His long, chocolate brown hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail, a few strands whipping freely in front of his face. I reminded myself I don’t like men with ponytails… But I immediately thought of how good he looked with one. I couldn’t imagine him without it.
He was getting something from his backpack. I could tell because I could hear the rustling of fabric and random objects. It was still so dark and we couldn’t make a fire.
I looked toward the edge of the cliff, out to the ocean, and allowed my eyes to register on the water that seemed a million miles below. My eyes adjusted to the reflection of the stars and the clouds, backlit by the moon. It was a nice break from the darkness. I wondered how much longer it was safe to be there.
“Take these,” he said, handing me a foreign object.
I looked down and still, I couldn’t see anything in front of me. I turned the object over and over, trying to figure out what he just handed to me. I moved closer to the edge of the cliff and held the object up to the sky, hoping the stars and the water’s reflection might provide enough light to tell me what this was… Finally, I could just make out two dark lenses in what appeared to be very ancient looking pilot goggles.
“What’s it for?”
“You’ll need them for when we climb down.”
“Can I see them through these?”
My companion didn’t respond. I turned the goggles over in my hand again and let out a quiver. The cold was finally settling in.
“Should we start heading down?”
“We can if you want!” His reply sounded so keen. So upbeat. It threw me off…
“If I want?”
Like we had any other option.
“Well, they’ll be coming in from the water in about an hour,” he said. “Just over there.”
Suddenly, I could see his face, lit up by the stars and the moon, his round eyes open wide and settling on the horizon behind us. I could just make out his hand, pointing in the direction of the danger that was coming. Still, he looked relaxed. Completely unphased by the horror that was coming our way. Coming for us…
“I guess we should go then,” I said, doing my best to mask my fear.
“Great, let’s go.” I heard his bag swing over his shoulder. A few buckles clicked and a gun went into it’s holster.
It felt like the darkness would never end.
We had an unspoken partnership. We hadn’t known each other longer than a day but somehow, being strapped so closely to him as we edged our way down that massive cliff, felt completely normal. It was comforting being so close. And suddenly, he didn’t seem so small.
There wasn’t much for me to do while he worked his hands around the rocks. I mostly just tried to fill the air with conversation to distract myself from what was out there. But before I could start talking again, he spoke…
“So how old are you?”
Normally, I’m put out by that question. I don’t like getting older and hate being reminded of how old I really am. Still, I’ve never felt the need to lie about my age and I’ve always told people the truth.
“I’m 18.” I was shocked by the lie.
“Really?” he asked sincerely.
“No, not really… I’m 20. I don’t know why I said that…”
“It’s fine. I’m 27.”
“I’m 26…” I sighed. “I’m 28.”
He laughed lightly and I could tell he didn’t mind. I felt embarrassed for trying to cover it up. And how could I think I could get away with ten years? Idiot.
I fumbled for the goggles I had clipped to my belt. I must have been looking for something to cover my face, to hide the burning red in my cheeks. But even as the moonlight had started breaking free from the clouds, it was still too dark to see each other’s faces.
I asked myself how this small man could be so strong. I was bigger than he was but I hung there helplessly while he inched us closer and closer to the beach with his bare hands. I thought of every comic book hero I knew of… He didn’t look like any of them.
I slipped the goggles over my head. They were too big and immediately fell around my neck. I grabbed at the lenses and awkwardly pulled them back up to my eyes. After pulling on random straps, I managed to comfortably fit them to my face.
And that moment was one of the most breathtaking I’d ever experienced.
The dark, black night sky was suddenly a warm, bright and colorful sunrise. The stars were still visible and scattered across the sky like before, but now looked like multicolored bits of glitter blanketed across an orange, yellow, and red backdrop. The moon shone brightly against the clouds and was a beautiful purple color that pulsed above us.
I gasped at the sight. My partner looked down at me.
“You put them on,” he said and I could hear the smile in his voice.
“Is this what you can see all the time?!” I exclaimed.
He paused for the first time before giving an answer. Then he breathed, “Yes.”
My heart pounded by the shear beauty of the view. It was like looking at colors that had just been invented. Like they couldn’t really exist. My gaze fell toward the water, that had gone from a black nothingness to a magical blue and teal. Then, there was movement and it wasn’t the water… I could see something else, coming in from underneath the crashing waves. It was what I couldn’t have seen without the goggles, the thing my partner was born with the natural ability to see…
A hoard of zombies was pulling itself onto the beach, slowly but assuredly making their way out of the waves and into the moonlight. Their milky white skin looked the same through the goggles as they do in the daylight. I looked up toward my partner, who’s pace remained the same. Still, there was a shift in the air and I knew he felt it.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.” I said honestly. I looked away from the zombies below us and back to the sky.
“It’s beautiful…” he said again to himself.
And we continued down the cliffside…
This short story is based on a dream I had the night of November 12, 2012. The dream happened exactly as I wrote it above, down to the conversation about my age. I don’t usually remember dreams when I wake up, so I wrote this one down as soon as I woke up.
Zombies, huh? Who knew.
2012 © Carly Bish Photography