I saw him again. I went out by the shore to see Jesse standing in the sand, gazing up at the dark sky. The wind blew right off the ocean, cold enough to make my nose ache with every breath. But I went to Jesse and stood beside him. He wasn’t any particular kind of guy. Just average. Not tall, not short, nor ugly or cute. He even had brown hair and brown eyes. The kind of guy you’d miss in a crowd.
For the first thirty minutes we never said a word. We just kept looking out at the water, and up at the stars blinking back at us. Then one of us would break. Usually it was me. But tonight, it was Jesse.
“Adam, why do you come out here to watch the stars with me? It’s cold and the sand gets everywhere,” Jesse said.
I liked spending time with him. He wasn’t like everyone else. Sometimes he said strange things or acted as if he came from a different country. I didn’t think he’d judge me. Out on the beach, I could tell him anything.
“I like to get away from it all. Work, my parents, friends. It’s like the world gets in my head,” I said. “It weighs me down until I can no longer keep my head up.” Jesse didn’t answer me. “In the end, I just walk around looking at the ground all the time. Why do you come out here, Jesse? We never hang out anywhere else.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I feel drawn to the ocean at night.”
It was cold out by the shore. I wanted to warm my hand in his, but settled for my pockets.
“Why is that?”
“Because it reflects the sky. Like one big, endless abyss.” He pointed into the distance. “I want to go where the ocean touches the sky one day.”
I still didn’t understand Jesse. Maybe it wasn’t possible to understand him. The first time I met him was on the beach at night. He was a drifter. Like the wind had carried him in and dropped him off. He walked along the shore, staring up at the sky like he was lost. After seeing him a few times, we talked and became friends.
“When I look up, I feel a calm take over me. Kind of like when you come home after a long trip,” he said. “Up there is home.”
“Maybe. You are a bit weird. You probably fell from a shooting star.” I chuckled, but he didn’t join me.
“You think? It would explain a lot. My life is miserable. I can’t keep a job and I don’t get along with people.”
“We get along just fine.” I hoped he believed that too.
“That’s because you’re drawn here as well,” he said, looking at me.
At night, his eyes seemed shiny and dark as if they were completely black.
“I don’t think I’m here for the same reasons,” I said.
“Still, you feel it,” Jesse murmured. “That dream-like haze. Like you’re walking around in someone else’s story.”
I wanted a life where I didn’t have to bust my ass twelve hours a day for half a paycheck. I wanted a life where I could keep meeting Jesse out on the beach. One where I was happy and felt like I belonged.
“I feel like I’m on the edge of a dream about to wake up,” he said.
“How do you mean?”
“Maybe you’d think I was crazy,” he said.
“Probably. But go ahead and tell me.”
This time I got a chuckle. It made me smile.
“I feel the stars pulling me home, but I can’t get there unless I wake up.”
“You think this is all a dream?
“No,” he said.
I didn’t understand. Jesse was a mystery.
“I’m lost here,” he said.
I nodded. “You’re a drifter.”
“Yeah, a drifter. But I’m ready to go home.”
I looked at Jesse. He was average. Nothing stood out. But it was enough for me. I thought I knew Jesse. I thought the beach was our secret place; that the stars would be ours and he would be mine.
“How you gonna get there?” I asked.
“Well, that’s their secret.”
He pointed up. “The stars.”
“Now I know you’re just talking.”
“I’m serious,” he said. “I can hear them at night. Stars like to gossip.”
“Why can’t I hear?”
He shrugged. “Probably because you aren’t listening.”
“So, what’s their secret?”
He pointed up. “They can take you home. They’re waiting for the right moment—when you wake up.”
I played along. “When do you wake up?”
Jesse lowered his hand and gave me a smile.
“When you close your eyes.”
I wanted to tell him I heard them too. I wanted to tell him that I loved him. We stood there for another thirty minutes, without saying a word. Then I saw Jesse close his eyes. He looked serene, as if he could hear things I couldn’t.
I closed my eyes as well, listening. The waves crashed gently against the shore, and the wind blew gently, a cold whispering to my ears. A cold gust picked up and sent a chill through me and making me shiver.
I opened my eyes again to ask Jesse if he was ready to leave, but he was gone. I looked around for his retreating figure but saw no one. I was alone. I looked down at the spot where Jesse had been standing. He’d left nothing behind but a single set of footprints and the sound of whispering carried on the wind.
About the Creator
Hi i'm Mercury, a Black American, dark fiction writer in Southern California. I narrate and produce my own audio stories.
I have been in the anthology Blood in the Rain 3, published by JitterPress and in Gypsum Sound Tales’s Colp Magazine.