The moonlight shines through the window, illuminating the dark hallway in front of me. I tip-toe slowly down it as I sneak passed my parents' room. I take slow careful strides to avoid detection. If they catch me, it’s all over. My heart starts to beat faster and I can’t help but feel nervous. I’ve snuck out of houses numerous times before, but this one was different: old, creaky, and weathered down by the salty winds that pounded it from the ocean nearby. I take a deep breath. Just through the hallway, down the stairs, and out the back door in the kitchen, then I’m free.
When I reach the top of the staircase, I take my shoes off and carry them down with me. My socks will do better to mask the sound of my footsteps. I cautiously creep down the stairs, taking a large step to avoid the bottom one; the lose one that squeaks at the slightest touch. I finally reach the bottom and silently move around the corner to the kitchen in the back of the house. So far so good, but now for the tricky part. I approach the back door, grab the icy knob, and slowly begin to twist it. I start opening the door slowly, hoping that the old thing doesn’t creak. It was almost wide enough for me to slip through. Then I heard something that made my blood turn cold.
“S-Sammy?” came a quiet voice from behind me. I spun around to see my little sister staring at me from the other side of the kitchen. I didn’t even hear her sneak up on me.
“Alana, go back to bed,” I firmly whispered at her.
“Are you sneaking out again?” she asked.
“That’s none of your business, go back to bed.”
“Can I come too?”
“No. Now go to bed like I told you.”
Her face turned red. “Let me come or I’m gonna wake up Mommy and Daddy and then you’ll get in trouble.” She was starting to get louder now. I paused and looked straight at her. This isn’t the first time she’s threatened to tell on me. She usually ends up chickening out. But that look in her eyes told me that this time it would be different.
“Fine you can come,” I whispered, “but you’ve got to be quiet. And go get your jacket, it’s cold outside.”
Alana smiled with delight and began making her way back to her room. She’s got stealth, I’ll give her that. Nevertheless it took about another 15 minutes for my sister to change out of her pajamas and find her shoes before we finally escaped the house into the night. I hurried Alana along down the hill to get to the rendezvous point. I was already late as it is. Hopefully they would still be there. Sure enough, they were. My older cousin, Devon, was impatiently cutting grass with his Swiss Army Knife, and his younger brother, Mikey, was anxiously gazing down at the beach, checking his watch every few seconds. Mikey was the first to notice us.
“You’re late man! We were just about to leave without you,” he exclaimed as I approached.
“I know. I know. I’m sorry. I got a little…delayed.” Alana ran up and stood beside me.
I saw Devon’s eyes go wide with frustration. “What the hell is SHE doing here!” he shouted, pointing at my sister.
“She threatened to tell my parents if she couldn’t come. I didn’t have a choice.”
“You know if we have too big of a group, we’ll just scare it away!” Devon said, still shouting.
“I already told you I didn’t have a choice. There was nothing I could do about it!” I was starting to get angry now.
“Guys! Guys! Just calm down,” Mikey interrupted. “It doesn’t matter. It’s already a quarter after midnight and we only have until 2 o’clock until high tide, so let’s just go.”
Devon led us along the cliff and pointed us in the direction of a rocky…not-so-safe pathway down to the beach. I can’t really even describe it as a pathway; it was more of a giant pile of rocks leaning up against the side of the cliff, like the sight of a large rockslide.
“Isn’t there a better way down?” I asked.
“Not unless you want to walk ten miles down to the tourist beach. Or if you want, you can just jump off the cliff and see how that goes.” Devon smirked at me. I narrowed my eyes at him. Devon sighed, “The sides of the cliff are too flat and smooth to climb down everywhere else, it’s either this or we go back home.” He then started making his way down the rocks.
“But Alana can’t climb down that,” I shouted after him.
“Look Sam,” Mikey said, “this is the best we can do, and honestly, she wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place.” Mikey then began following his brother.
Alana ran up and hugged my arm. “Don’t leave me all alone Sammy,” she pleaded, looking up at me.
I brushed her hair back and smiled down at her. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna leave you. I promise. We are just going to have to figure something out. That’s all.”
Now I don’t consider myself a terrible rock climber, but having a six-year-old girl on my back made an already challenging descent all the more difficult. Many of the rocks were loose and all of them were sharp and jagged. Because of this, I took each step with caution, always making sure I had a firm grip on the cliff. I looked down and noticed that even Mikey and Devon were moving more carefully than usual. Who could blame them? One slip up and we’d be falling straight down a 50-foot cliff. We sure as hell wouldn’t be leaving without injury either. If the sharp rocks on the side of the cliff didn’t get us, the ones lying await on the ground below surely would. Despite my best efforts, the climb took me significantly longer than it would have without Alana’s extra weight. We finally did reach the base of the cliff, but I could already tell my cousins were starting to get impatient with me.
“Hurry up Sam! It’s already 12:35!” Mikey shouted.
I scrambled over the remaining rocks and didn’t let Alana off my back until we reached the soft sand. Then, our little group began making its way down the beach.
It was a clear, cloudless night, with a full moon raised high in the sky. Its light reflected off the pale sand and lit up the entire beach clear as day, which meant that we didn’t need to rely on our flashlights for guidance. The air was fresh and cool; and the salty smell of the sea was soothing to the senses. It was a still and beautiful night. Our group just peacefully walked along the sand; the ocean breeze blowing calmly with the rhythmic beat of the tired waves. This sound only broken by my sister’s giggling as she happily ran up and down the beach, splashing in the water with a big smile on her face.
Alana. My sister who wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. I mean I love my sister and would protect her as much as any older brother could. But this was supposed to be the one night when I didn’t have to be that older brother. I don’t have any other siblings, and my dad is often too busy with work to spend time with me, so I’ve always sort of looked up to Devon and Mikey as my older cousins. And the one time of year when our families met up to go on vacation, the three of us would all sneak away and do our own thing. Just the three of us. Like last year, we roamed the woods looking for Big Foot during our camping trip in the Sierra-Nevada. And the year before that, when we went to Sacramento, we searched the back alleyways for the fabled Garbage Man; which was supposedly some monster that lived in the dumpsters of the city…or something like that.
We never did find anything though, well I mean other than a very confused homeless man we found sleeping in the dumpster that one night. We would just never end up finding anything significant. 9 times out of 10, Mikey would eventually end up chickening out, and he would beg for us to go home until we finally gave in out of annoyance. I knew this greatly irritated Devon. He often blamed Mikey as the sole reason why our searches always ended in failure. I didn’t care though. I’ve always had fun going on adventures with my cousins. It gave me the opportunity to get away and do something exciting with my two best friends. Although this time, with Alana joining our party, the overall atmosphere of the trip has significantly gone downhill.
Tonight it was the Sea Witch. Apparently some old sailor tale about a creature that would roam the shores in search of lost travelers. This thing had appeared on Devon’s search list a while back. And once he got word that our families were vacationing along the coast of northern California this year, the opportunity was too good for him to pass up.
“It’s just about 1:10 now,” Mikey announced, “We’re going to have to start heading back soon.”
“Okay, just give us like 20 more minutes and then we’ll leave,” Devon replied.
Mikey paused for a second as if confused. “But there’s no way we’ll beat the tide back if…”
“So what’s the big deal if we get a little wet?” Devon said cutting him off. “Look, we’ll just move closer to the cliff on our way back and we can walk a little faster if we need to. Come on just twenty minutes.” Devon glanced towards me, catching my eye for a split second.
I took the hint. “I don’t mind continuing for a little while longer,” I said. “I mean how often do we get to do this anyway?” I smiled at Mikey for approval.
He sighed. “Okay fine just 20 minutes. Then we seriously have to go guys.”
Devon and I nodded in agreement and we continued on. It wasn’t long though when I realized that Alana was starting to fall behind the group. I stopped and waited for her to catch up.
“Hey, you all right?” I asked her.
“My shoes keep filling up with sand and my feet keep hurting,” she said. I could tell she was on the verge of tears.
“It’s alright,” I said. “Just go ahead and take them off, then toss them to the side so you won’t have to carry them.”
“B-But what about my shoes?”
“It’s okay, we’ll just pick them up on the way back. They’ll be fine. I promise.”
Alana smiled at this thought and began to undo her laces.
“You know that’s not such a bad idea,” Devon said, overhearing our conversation.
“Yeah my shoes have been killing me too,” Mikey agreed.
So we all took a moment to take off our shoes before continuing. I will admit it was a lot easier to walk after that. Really I just wish I came up with the idea sooner. The sand was surprisingly warm and compact. The tiny pebbles shifting under my weight massaged the palms of my feet and the spaces in between my toes; soothing my muscles. It wasn’t long before I found myself drifting off in the newfound relaxation of the soft sand and the tranquil night of the beach.
In my daze I didn’t realize that Devon had halted in front of me until I nearly ran into him. In my shock I quickly asked him what was going on, but he didn’t answer. He just motioned for us to step back, and then he slowly raised his arm and pointed in front of him down the beach. I followed his gaze and started scanning for whatever had caught Devon’s eye. But I didn’t see anything unusual; my eyes glanced over a few scattered rocks, some planks of rotted drift wood, and a couple piles of washed up seaweed, but there was nothing unusu…wait. I thought I just saw…out of the corner of my eye…Yes! I did see it! One of the piles of seaweed, not more than 15 feet in front of us…was moving.
We all took a few steps back as the thing rose up, as if something buried deep in the sand was pushing its way up underneath it. No that’s not right. It was more like the very sand itself was alive, drawing from the material around it to grow taller and taller until it was the size of a grizzly bear standing on its hind legs. The sand creature then began to shape itself, growing slick arms and legs, fingers and toes; its body forming completely out of the materials of the beach. Among the sand were bits of plastic trash bags, broken pieces of toy shovels, discarded soda and beer cans. I think I even spotted a pair of lost glasses, all scratched and bent up. The seaweed pile draped around the figure gracefully like a cloak, complementing the new shape and giving a very feminine quality to the changing sand sculpture. The thing faced my group and then began looking over us one by one as if inspecting us. That’s when I saw the creature’s eyes; two bright orbs that stared straight at me: white, soulless, and…beautiful.
All at once I could see everything. All at once the wisdom of the creature was poured into my memory; and I saw the world through its eyes. I saw the ocean. I was there swimming beneath the surface. I could see the beauty of this world through the eyes of its inhabitants. Coral reefs bright and vibrant; teaming with life. Beautiful schools of fish dawned in more colors than I knew existed swam around me. A pod of dolphins startle the fish and they scatter, creating a kaleidoscope of rainbow scales. The dolphins swim off into a forest of giant kelp. They want to play hide-and-seek. I swam off after them and began searching among the vines for my new companions. I must have been over 200 feet below the surface, but I could see the tops of the kelp plants extend all the way up to it, blocking out small chunks of sunlight shining down through the clear water. And though I couldn’t see it, I knew the plants extended far down to the deep depths of the seafloor below me.
I swim deeper into the kelp forest, which seemed to slowly become thicker and darker as I progressed; the kelp blocking out more and more of the sun’s rays. I heard a noise. It seemed familiar in a way, but for some reason I couldn’t place it. I swim further, the kelp plants sliding around my body as I wiggle my way between them. I hear the noise again. It’s louder. My leg gets tangled around a vine, stopping me for a split second. I shake it off and continue forward, only for it to get snagged again a few seconds later. I squirm to free myself, but I can’t. My arm gets caught, soon followed by my other two limbs. Vines wrap around my neck and I start to panic. I thrash around trying to escape, only to get tangled up more. They’re pulling me down. I can see the little remainder of sunlight fade away as the vines drag me deeper and deeper into the abyss. The noise comes again, much louder than it was before. I recognize it! It’s screaming! And it’s Alana!
I snapped out of my hallucination. The creature’s seaweed vines were wrapping themselves around my body like tentacles. And they were slowly dragging me closer and closer to their owner. I start ripping them off one by one, but new strands reach out to replace them. I look around and see the rest of my group all struggling to break free from their living restraints. Alana was screaming and futilely fighting for escape as the strands vines of seaweed continued to envelope her tiny form like a cocoon. Devon had managed to free one of his arms and was cutting himself free with his knife. With the help of his blade, Devon finally freed himself, and then stumbled over to help his brother. I continued to struggle and dug my feet into the sand in an attempt to anchor myself as best as I could with little success. I couldn’t be more than eight feet from the monster now, and it was still pulling me forward. That’s when the creature’s form began to change.
The thing drew in from the sand around it, losing its graceful shape and growing rounder and larger until its giant form towered over us. A hole appeared in the creature’s center and opened up to reveal its hideous mouth; a dark cave lined with rows upon rows of rocks and shards of glass, all jagged and sharp as blades. The creature’s breath came as a hot powerful wind smelling of rotting fish and decay, which stung my nose and eyes. And I knew right then and there that there would be no hope for anything that entered those hellish jaws.
Six feet away. I desperately shove my feet deeper into the sand in attempt to slow my advances as the vines continued to wrap around me with an ever growing intensity. I felt Mikey’s hands grab the backs of my shoulders, and then Devon begins cutting the strands around my ankles. Five feet. My left leg is freed and Devon starts on the next limb. Four feet. My right leg is free. I anchor myself and pull back with all my might as Devon cuts the remaining vines from my torso and my left wrist. I fall backwards into the sand as the last vine from my right wrist is cut finally freeing me.
I can still hear Alana screaming and I quickly regain myself and run to help her. She was nearly at the monster’s mouth. I shouted for Devon and Mikey to come and help me, only to feel their arms grab mine, and they start dragging me away from the creature. I fought against them, desperate to get to my sister. I looked up and froze. Alana was inside the creature’s deadly jaws, staring right at me in a final desperate plea for help. Devon flung me over his shoulder and then he and Mikey furiously started running away down the beach. I could only watch as the shrinking form of the monster began to leisurely chew its meal.
My mind went blank; overrun with emotions. My initial shock turned into depression, then dread, regret, and finally anger. Uncontrollable anger. With a quick twist of my body and a shift of my weight, I managed to knock Devon off balance. We both fell to the ground, with a small splash in the shallow water that was finally starting to overtake the beach. In an instant I was on top of him, punching away at his face. I only managed to land a few blows though before Devon grabbed my wrist and flipped me off of him and onto my back, knocking the wind out of me. He was a lot stronger than I was.
“What the hell is your problem?!” Devon shouted.
I had to take a moment to catch my breath before I could answer. “Y-You let her die…You c-could’ve cut her free…You wouldn’t help me. You’re the reason she’s dead!”
Devon kicked me in the gut and I recoiled at the pain. “You think I LIKED leaving her?” Devon shouted. “Do you think I liked watching my little cousin DIE?! If we tried to save her, we would’ve all ended up dead!” He reeled back about to kick me again when Mikey intervened and knocked his brother to the ground.
“Both of you shut up!” Mikey shouted, “We have more important things to…” he paused. Then, with an immense sense of anxiety, shouted for us to RUN before he took off down the beach. Devon and I didn’t hesitate and we quickly ran off after him. I glanced back over my shoulder to see a wave-like figure in the distance, as if the sand itself were moving towards us. And it was fast. Too fast.
Mikey was the first to reach the rocks at the base of the cliff, quickly followed by Devon and me. We frantically started climbing with the monster right at our heels. The tide was coming in stronger now and the strengthening waves pounding on the shore cast a thick mist that made the rocks soggy and slippery. The monster, struggling to maneuver its sandy form between the rocks was steadily gaining ground until it was literally straight below us at the bottom of the cliff.
Suddenly there was a loud CRACK! I looked up to find Devon tumbling down the side of the cliff. In an instant, I instinctively reached out and grabbed his wrist. The force of his weight caused me to lose my balance. I screamed as the skin and flesh of my bare feet were shredded off as I slid down the jagged rocks with my cousin. I regain myself for a moment and wedged one of my ankles deeply between a couple of sharp rocks, finally stopping our momentum.
I try to catch my breath. I can feel warm liquid dripping from my feet and from the back of my head. I start to pull Devon back up, only for my arm to be suddenly yanked back down. I look below me to see the monster’s seaweed appendages reaching up and climbing around Devon’s ankle and up his thigh. I shouted at Devon to get his knife. Without hesitation, he reached into his pocket with his free hand and I saw the silvery glint of the blade reflected by the moonlight as he flicked it open. In that moment, the monster pulled on Devon’s leg and its tendrils ripped the skin off Devon’s thigh from the muscle, as if rolling down a sock, leaving the bare beating, purple flesh exposed to the salty air. Devon screamed and I watched as the silver blade fell from his hand and disappeared between the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.
I shouted up at Mikey, who was nearly at the top of the cliff. He glanced back at me for a moment; his eyes wide and blinded by fear. Then in an instant, he hauled himself up over the ledge of the cliff and vanished from sight. I cursed and yelled after him, but no amount of begging could bring him back. That coward left us to die! Not a moment later, a large wave splashed up against the side of the cliff, soaking Devon’s exposed wound with gallons of salt water. He screamed a blood curdling shriek for a few seconds, then I felt his arm go limp as he passed out. Leaving me alone with the monster.
Fear took me over. I could feel my heart racing; the rapid beating echoing in my ears. I was panicking. A thousand different thoughts erupted in my mind simultaneously...Then I got the idea. I could drop Devon. I could sacrifice him to the monster and secure my escape. I could condemn him to the same gruesome fate as he did to Alana. I could avenge her. There was no one around to see. It would be so quick and easy. All I have to do is let go…So why can’t I?!
Tears streamed down my face. I could feel the monster’s tendrils were once again making their way up Devon’s leg so as to pull him down into its black maw, like an octopus devouring its prey. I could sense the creature’s eyes drilling into my back, but I dared not meet them; for I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t be so fortunate as to escape the dark kelp forest a second time. I took all my willpower not to look. A part of me so deeply longed to once again see the beauty of the ocean in the only way that the wise eyes of the Sea Witch could.
I instead focused on its mouth. The great dark jaws of death lined with hundreds of knife-like teeth, painted red with blood, and pieces of soggy flesh stuck between them. Alana’s flesh. Adrenaline pumped through my veins fueled by a mixture of fear, anger, and hatred all clashing together and giving me strength. I dug my fingers deeper into Devon’s wrist. I was NOT going to lose another family member to this monster! It pulled again, fiercely, and I felt a quick snap in my jammed ankle, but my brain was too occupied to feel the pain. I gritted my teeth and stared down at the creature with a burning hatred. Its sandy form wet and crumbling from the numerous waves pounding striking it with the rising tide. But each time it would rebuild itself with a newfound intensity, as if determined not to let its prey escape a second time.
The creature tugged at Devon’s leg again and this time I felt a pop in my shoulder. I cursed myself. At this rate, my body would fail me before my will gives out. I could see it. My shoulder will pop out of its socket, I would drop Devon, and all the pain will hit me at once causing me to lose my grip and fall all the way down into the monster’s awaiting jaws. I can’t win! I can’t climb up! And I can’t let go! Tears once again streamed down my face. I start to feel dizzy. Black spots start appearing in my vision. I’m losing too much blood. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it; the crest of a huge wave; far larger than the others; the absolute epitome of the power and strength of the rising tide. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and braced myself for impact.
My body was flattened against the jagged rocks. The air was expelled from my lungs with a crushing strength. Salt water forced its way into my ears and up my nose, causing me to cough. I gasped for air, but was greeted by mouthfuls of icy liquid witch stung the back of my throat. I was drowning. I could feel the wave finally start to retreat and I clutched the cliff with all of my might to avoid being dragged along with it into the deadly depths of the ocean. Finally my head pierced the surface of the water. I coughed violently expelling a mixture of blood and seawater from my lungs and replacing them with deep breaths of precious air. I survived. I looked down to see that the monster’s sandy form was finally gone, destroyed by the wave. But I could swear I saw a dark, shapeless figure retreating out into the depths of the sea.
With my last bit of energy and willpower, I dragged myself and Devon up and over the top of the cliff. As soon as we were safely atop the ledge, the pain which had previously eluded me, struck my body all at once and I collapsed to the ground. The last thing I remember was seeing five dark silhouettes rushing down the hill towards me, all frantically waving flashlights as they ran. Then everything went black.
Devon and I had been immediately rushed to the hospital when our parents found us. I underwent several surgeries which involved digging rocks out of my feet and rearranging the bones in my ankle and shoulder. I also received stitches for numerous other wounds. I still bear the scars from most of them. The doctors managed to save Devon’s leg, but it would take weeks of recovery and physical therapy before he would walk again. Compared to us, Mikey got off easy, but Devon and I would have bled to death if he hadn’t brought the help when he did.
The official report was a shark attack. Of course no one believed us when we told them of the monster that attacked us. The beach was shut down while the Coast Guard searched for Alana. But after 3 weeks of searching with no success, my parents were forced to accept what I already knew to be true.
It’s been about a year, but the memory of that night still haunts me. For you see, that last moment of Alana’s life is permanently burned into my mind. My sister’s tiny helpless form in the merciless jaws of that creature, pleading one last time for my help before being crushed by thousands of knife-like teeth and buried under tens of tons of dark, suffocating sand.
So now let’s get to the reason why I’m writing this. Let me give you some advice, should you ever find yourself walking down the beach at night. If you come across the Sea Witch…RUN!
The very second you see the creature, JUST RUN. Don’t hesitate. Don’t stop. And DO NOT look into its eyes. Just get off the beach as fast as you can. If you are quick enough, you should be safe. If not…well you already know the consequences.
Written by MoonlitShadow