Welcome to Beware! Dark Seas Halloween showcase, an annual author & artist showcase that features talented creators. Come back each day, the entire month of October for a scare! Prepare for dark stories, myths & legends, and creepy creations that will make the hair on the nape of your neck stand up straight. May the water have mercy on your soul.
The Darkest Wave
The first wave Bodie took was the smoothest, cleanest wave he’d been on all trip, maybe his entire life. And they were all like this, every one. He paddled in quick, dropping down into the well and popping to his feet into a low squat, hugging close to the wall of a left-breaking barrel. He made a few sharp cutbacks up and down the face of the wave before falling back into the barrel, letting it overtake him, sitting deep inside as he ran his left hand along the wall. He stuck the top of his head in. The sound of breaking water echoed all around him. He felt the wave spitting at him from behind him. Leaning forward, cutting slightly down wave using the waves own momentum, he shot out of the barrel, rising up over the crest of the wave, launching himself into a spread eagle and cannonballing into the backside.
This was how he took every wave for the better part of two hours.
Under the surface of the water now, Bodie relaxed, his limbs free, floating, an astronaut adrift in space, letting the current push and pull at him until the next wave came along.
Bodie swam back to his board, a smile spread across his face. He couldn’t believe he was alone. Reaching his board he pulled himself up on the board, paddled out beyond the breakers, sitting up to have a look around.
How was nobody here?
Then, remembering the old woman his gaze went to shore. She was still sitting there in the shade of a lone tree up on a hill just off the beach. Viejo pajaro sucio, that’s what the fishermen back at the village called her.
It wasn’t much of a village. It had the feel of some post apocalyptic outpost more than a village. Driving in late that morning he passed a hand made sign saying, Rosa del Desierto, the Desert Rose, population 73. Crossed out from 74. Made up of a few derelict looking shacks, a dock that didn’t extend out into the ocean as much as fall into it, and a junkyard that doubled as a gas station that doubled as a eatery that doubled as a bar that doubled as a junkyard. You could find almost anything you didn’t need here.
Bodie had stopped to fill up on gas. They stored it in empty liquor bottles. At three dollars American per bottle Bodie was pretty sure he was getting ripped off. He also needed an oil or air filter for his van. Preferably both. The Baja sand was getting in every one of his crevasses and he figured it was doing the same to Old Jalopy too.
Bodie asked a small round man with a thick mustache and grease stained hands sitting in an old rocking chair outside the garage about the filters and if there was any good surf near by. He’d been on the road now for two weeks in search of some isolation and good surf. So far he’d found his fill of isolation, but had seen only ankle-high swell, unusual for this time of year. The mustached man said he didn’t know about the surf but he was pretty sure he could replace his filters by rigging up something using some coffee filters and a coat hanger. Even in this barren land, where ingenuity was part of life, it seemed farfetched. Instead, Bodie decided to clean out the ones he had with an air compressor in the back of the shop. The mustached man––Bodie couldn’t see anything else but the mustache––seemed to run the place and wouldn’t let Bodie pay him for it so he bought a couple of overpriced candy bars and a gallon of warm drinking water.
After the filters were taken care of, Bodie decided to ask some of the fishermen sitting at the bar the next room over if they knew of a spot where he could catch some sideways momentum.
The fishermen looked confused.
“Surf,” said Bodie. “I’m looking for waves to surf.” He got into a low surfing position, arms spread wide. “You know, riding waves?”
“Si,” said one of the fishermen. “Entiendo lo que dices. I understand.”
“Oh,” Bodie stopped his pantomime and rolled his head around, slow like, pulling his hair back behind his ears, trying to regain some cool.
The fishermen spoke between themselves now. Bodie only caught bits of it. They spoke their Spanish at a machinegun pace, to quick for Bodie’s limited grasp of the language.
“There es a place,” said the same man from before. “A little entrada an hour or two north of here.”
“An hour or two? Can’t you be more specific?”
“How fuerte es your car, amigo?” said the fisherman.
“Si, fuerte.” said the old fisherman, searching for the word. “Strong,” he said finally.
“Oh,” said Bodie. “It’s an old Chevy work van. Es muy fuerte,” he said puffing out his chest.
The fisherman laughed. “Si,” said one. “Es muy fuerte. Strong like bull, eh amigo?” said another of the fishermen. They all laughed.
Bodie smiled like he was in on the joke. He waited, letting them have their fun, before saying, “You said north? Norte? I just came from the north. All I saw was flat seas.”
“You have to know where to look amigo. Es a hard place to find. But you no want to go there. Es un mal lugar. A bad place”
“Then why tell me about it?”
“You ask and I tell you amigo,” said the fisherman. “Si, there es a place with much active olas. But do not go there. People go and surf, they do not come back.”
“Most of the time,” added the man with the mustache. He had been listening from the door connecting the bar to the garage.
“Most of the time?”
“Si. Not every one who go’s there dies.”
“One can only speculate,” the mustache shrugged his shoulders, “but you assume if they never come back, they are dead, no?”
“Seems like a leap. Maybe they just moved on,” said Bodie.
“Si amigo. They have moved on,” he said, pointing upward. He then crossed himself and spoke a prayer Bodie couldn’t understand.
“So what, it’s some sort of gnarly undertow? Rocks? Sharks?”
“No. Nothing like that. Nothing so simple.”
“Una bruja,” said one of the fisherman.
“A witch,” said the mustache.
Bodie laughed. His face became a wide grin and he laughed like it was the punch line to an elaborate joke. Only no one else was laughing so Bodie stopped too.
He looked around the room. Nothing but solemn faces.
Bodie’s smile changed. It went from one of half-mocking amusement to taking on a strained nervousness. It showed more in his eyes than his lips.
One of the fishermen, the one sitting closest to Bodie, nodded slowly and silently.
“The old woman, she put a curse the place,” said the mustached. Up to this point Bodie had taken this man as the smart one. Now he wasn’t so sure. “Many years ago her son, maybe he was same age as you, he surfed that spot. Bad weather came in. The boy, he never returned. Now she sits there day after day, waiting for her son to come home, keeping the sea calm for his return.”
“So she cursed the place with nice weather and consistent swell?” said Bodie. “That doesn’t sound so bad. In fact it sounds pretty nice.”
“No bueno. Es malo,” said the mechanic.
“Ella es un viejo pajaro sucio,” said the nodding fisherman.
“I don’t understand what you are saying,” said Bodie
“He said she es a dirty old bird.”
“Yeah, I get it. She’s old. How much trouble can the old bird be?”
“No no no,” said the mustached. “She is a woman who changes into a bird. She turns into a bird and fly’s out to look for her boy. But she can be––” he turned to the fishermen, saying, “como se dice, asqueroso?”
The nodding fisherman shrugged, making a show of it, with his shoulders all the way up to his ears and his arms out with his palms turned up.
“Nasty,” came a voice from the back. It was a soft voice, feminine, but not timid. A girl Bodie’s age, maybe a year or two older, maybe younger, hard to tell in that light. She stepped out from behind the bar. She wore a white flowing skirt with blue embroidered flowers down the seams and along the bottom. The skirt was too short, stopping midway between her calves and her ankles, which was an odd turn on, but it did something for Bodie. Her top was white, low cut without being so low as to show too much, and had the same flower pattern as the skirt. There were no sleeves, only lace around the shoulder area. She had a soft brown face with high, wide cheekbones, and sharp black eyes. Her hair was black, blacker then her eyes, braided on both sides. On her head she wore a trucker hat with an Aerosmith logo on it. In her hand she held a stick of red licorice.
Bodie gave her half a smile, showing her his cock-sure charm.
“Hey.” It was all he could think to say.
The girl didn’t say anything back, only leaned against the door jam and bit off an inch-in-a-half bite of the red stick.
Bodie watched her the whole way. She don’t give a damn about your charm.
“Si,” said the mustache. “Nasty. She is a nasty, dirty old bird. You go and surf that place, it will be the last place you ever surf.”
“Uh huh,” Bodie nodded, not paying attention to the man. Looking at the girl he said, “Have you been back there this whole time?”
“Are you not listening?” said the girl coming off the door jam towards Bodie. “It is dangerous to go there. Stupid even. People go there, they do not come back.”
“Don’t worry about me,” said Bodie, the half smile back now.
The girl rolled her eyes and took her spot back at the door jam.
“What kind of bird?” Bodie said, turning back to the mustache.
“You said this old woman, this witch, she can turn into some kind of bird. What kind of bird?”
The girl repeated the question to the mustached man, speaking in Spanish. He shrugged and turned to the fishermen. “Que tipo de pajaro,” he said.
“Una gaviota,” said one of the fishermen.
“A seagull,” she said to Bodie.
“Si. A seagull,” said the mustache.
Bodie smiled. He tried not to make it to condescending but he could feel it coming off that way.
“Okay,” he said. “I want to thank you for your time and your concern. Its been a really treat talking with you all but I should be going. If the swell is as good as you say it is, I’m burning daylight.” he looked at the girl. “Senora,” he said, giving her a more sincere grin. “You interested in a day at the beach?”
“You are a fool,” said the girl, and walked away. Bodie watched her leave the room. Leaning in close to the mustache, he said in a low voice, “Not bad.”
“She es my daughter.”
“Of course she is.”
It took a round of cervezas and fifty dollars American to talk someone into drawing a map to the spot on a napkin for him. “You must stop when you arrive at the old blue oil barrel.” Bodie had a feeling this had all been an elaborate scam. Seems like they could have come up with something a little more believable than a witch who turns into a seagull. Well, it worked. They got my money. So who’s the fool? He wasn’t even sure it was even a real place. If it wasn’t, he was damn sure coming back to get his fifty dollars back.
You can drive a long time in the California Baja and not get very far. It took an hour-in-a-half to drive that broken road, gaining only thirty-five miles, loosing two lug nuts and a sandwich along the way. With thirty more miles to go Bodie was hoping to get there by late afternoon. Maybe he could get in a few waves before dark. But it was a bad road, even by the low standards of the California Baja Highway Authority. More of a dried-up riverbed. On the way he had passed two abandoned cars and a motorcycle turned over on its side, the helmet some hundred yards away. No sign of the driver.
Someone had given up hope.
Bodie pulled to a stop at the blue oil barrel. More rust than blue now, he was surprised to find it. He was sure they were messing with him. There was only one problem, no ocean. Just a long barren stretch of broken road extending out in both ways with mounds of sand on either side. But he could hear it.
He left his van in the road and climbed up over the sandy dune. Nothing. He continued up over the next dune, then another, until he came to the top of a bluff and saw what he had been looking for, a perfectly corrugated blue-green sea, with the cleanest wave breaks he’d ever seen washing up on a shallow sandy bottom and tucked away in an isolated cove. They were right, unless you knew about it you’d never know it was here.
Across the cove, high on another bluff, overlooking the cove, there was a single tree. Someone was sitting in its shade.
The old woman maybe?
Damn, they really were telling the truth.
Bodie thought he better go say hello dispel this which nonsense.
He ran back to his van to grab his board, waxed it, greased himself in enough sunscreen to last four days, and headed over to say hello to the old woman. He left his van parked on the road.
The old woman was sitting, hunched over with age, in an old wooden folding chair. She looked up slowly but didn’t respond.
“Buen dia, ¿eh?”
Bodie stood a good ten yards from her. A safe distance, in case the stories were true. The old woman kept her silence, holding her gaze on the western horizon ahead. Bodie turned to look. The sky stretched out a pale blue in every direction. There was a slight breeze blowing in.
“It’s perfect,” Bodie said to himself. Then, to the old woman, “Es una hermosa vista, ¿no?”
The woman turned to him again, still saying nothing. There wasn’t any need. He could see he wasn’t wanted there.
Bodie noticed her eyes. Black eyes. Not the glossy wet black like an animals eyes. No. These were pits. Endless holes where her eyes should be, where no light existed.
Bodie took a step back. The old woman kept her eyes, or whatever they where, on him. He had the sensation of being pulled into them. Some strange form of hypnotization.
The sky started to spin as the earth stayed still.
Bodie blinked his head clear.
“Okay,” he said. “I’m going now.” He turned to leave, waving to the old woman from behind him, saying, “Adios, senora,” feeling the old woman’s empty eyes on him the whole way down.
Bodie caught another wave. A five footer, maybe six. Each one just the last, breaking perfectly into a tube of blue steel. He rode it like all the others, like it was his first wave. The feeling never went away. When one wave died out he paddled back out for another. Back sitting on his board again, beyond the breakers, he found his gaze drifting to where the old woman sat. It was becoming routine. She was still there, still watching. Until the time she wasn’t there anymore.
Bodie scanned the whole coastline. Nothing.
Gone, thought Bodie, hoping she didn’t slash his tires.
Over head a single grey seagull called out. A whinny cowards call, Bodie thought. Then, remembering what the old fishermen said, he slipped off his board and into the water, covering his head with the board.
The seagull flew on by, dropping and rising against the breeze.
She’s in your head, thought Bodie. The old bird is in your head. Damn those superstitious old fishermen.
But what about the girl? She seemed pretty convinced too.
Man, this whole backwards place.
But it wasn’t just the fishermen or the girl. It was those eyes. You don’t forget seeing a thing like that.
He heard the cowardly call again, this time close, right overhead. Bodie looked up to see the bird diving just over his head before swooping up again. Twice more it did this, crying out as Bodie held his arms over his head as a shield. Then something fell and landed in front of him on his board.
“Dirty old bird,” said Bodie. Then looking up and waving his fist at it, he said, “Viejo pajaro sucio!”
So you’re talking to birds now?
The seagull made another pass. Bodie covered his head again, not wanting to get bombed himself. When he uncovered his face he saw the seagull standing on the nose of his board.
“Viejo pajaro sucio,” he said again to the bird.
You’re talking to birds now.
The seagull was still for a moment. Then it stuck its neck out and screamed again, flapping its wings.
Then it was still.
The gull turned its head to the side, cocked at an angle. It looked unnatural. Bodie noticed its eyes––the same blackless pits as the old woman. And with those eyes came that same strange sensation. Everything was spinning against its self. He fell backwards into the sea, unconscious at first, until that first lung-full of seawater. Bodie jerked back awake. When he pulled himself back onto the board, throwing up salt water, the bird was gone. He splashed water over his board, washing off what the bird left behind.
Maybe I should call it a day, thought Bodie. He was starting to believe the fishermen’s story.
Waiting for the next wave, Bodie paddled in and was on his feet.
One last good ride.
He got low. Twisting and turning in and out of the wave, up and down. He was so low now his back ankle rubbed the board. He was deep into the liquid tube. That’s when he saw the bird coming at him, like a silver bullet, with Bodie still inside the barrel.
“What the fft…”
He was off his board and into the wall of the wave, just before the dirty old bird could hit him. Coming up for air the first thing Bodie did was look for the bird. He turned to see another wave approaching and dove under it. Coming out the other side he tried pulling his board to him by the leash but another wave was on him. Again to the other side and again another wave. Then another. Then another. He was caught in a procession. Bodie was an accomplished waterman, but was beginning to tire. He tried getting to his board but the waves were coming to quick now, each one pulling his board away from him. He went under another wave. His lungs hurt from lack of oxygen, not sure how much more he could take. He pushed off from the ocean floor to try and make it to the surface before the air was gone. Something cut his foot. Like a knife going into his heal. Blood filled the water around him and you could never know about sharks.
But he had a bigger problem.
Behind him Bodie heard a sound like thunder building up until it was the only sound in the world. He looked overhead to see the sky darken, a giant shadow washing over him.
He turned to face the source of the sound.
A forty-foot wall of water was racing towards him, the darkest wave Bodie had ever seen.
Still tiered and short of breath, he pulled himself on his board, turned towards shore, and started to paddle.
The ocean dropped under him.
The noise surrounded him and he was overtaken by the wave. Lifted and carried forward at a speed Bodie didn’t know existed on a surfboard.
He scudded along the surface, belly flat against his board, gripping the rails. Standing was never going to be an option.
Work your way up the wave, he told himself. Slowly work your way up and over. Get to the other side then paddle like hell to shore before the next one hits.
Don’t eat it. Don’t eat this wave. If you eat this wave it will be the last thing you ever eat.
Come on man, don’t think like that. Why would you think like that? You’ve survived worse.
But he was lying to himself and he knew it.
The feeling was that death had come for him.
He ate it.
The giant opened wide and swallowed him whole.
Nothing seemed to exist inside the wave. He drifted through a starless night––a total absence of light. Bodie tried swimming to the surface, only to have the sensation of sinking deeper inside. His lungs burned. He was alone.
The old woman was floating towards him with her arms outstretched. Eyes blacked out.
Okay, now I’m done.
The old woman pulled Bodie’s body from the sea, and breathed life back into him. She stood and faced the ocean, saying, “No ouedes tenerio.” You cannot have him. Not this one or any more.
“Descansar a mi hijo.”
Rest my son.
When Bodie woke everything had blurred edges. He coughed up water out of his nose,
eyes, and mouth. His brain and chest burned. Everything burned. A figure stood over him. It was a woman, that was all he could make out. He smiled, thinking for a moment of the girl back in the village. Had she come to rescue me? Maybe she fallowed me here and rescued me.
As the old woman took shape, Bodie flinched, or tried to flinch. All he could make was a tiny whimper. He struggled to turn over on his belly, trying to claw his way across the sand, away from her blackless eyes.
“¿Por que corres?”
Why do you run, she said. Her voice was soft and gentle.
Bodie turned over on his back to face the old bird.
“You tried to kill me,” he said. “You are a witch.”
The old woman shook her head. She spoke softly to him in Spanish, telling him that it wasn’t her, it never was. Her son, who drowned in a storm and now haunted these waves, swore vengeance, luring in innocent victims with perfect surf. She watched over the place, chasing off whoever came. Some are not so easily chased away. “But I have spoke to him, and entered the water. He will not kill me, I know this. He is gone now,” she said, nodding to the sea.
“Ve ahora,” she said. Go now, and leave me to mourn my son.
Bodie turned to see the flat sea. Kind of a shame really, wasting all that perfect surf.
He turned back to thank the woman but she was gone.
In the sky a single gull cried out over the water.
Strange place, thought Bodie.
Sitting in his van he wondered if the fishermen would believe him. Or the girl. He hoped the girl would. Maybe he could bring her back here, show her how brave he’d been. She didn’t seem like the type that impressed easy. That’s okay, he had time. He’d had his fill of sideways momentum for now.
He turned the van around and drove back towards the village. Night in the old Baja was no place to linger alone.