It was late November, and the sky was overcast. It loomed not so far upwards, oppressive and as passive as a lump of plastic. A faint drizzle matched the mood of the atmopshere. The sea reflected the grey of the sea, and heaved in tiny waves to slap on the weakening posts of the boardwalk.
Two bare feet thudded on the boardwalk. Thump, thump, thump. One after the other. Plod, plod, plod. They rang on the rotting wooden boards. Creak, creak, creak. The monotonous sounds of feet travelling, taking a person to an unknown place, taking a soul on an unknown adventure.
Gloom and dismal misery settled on the boardwalk, sinking down and seeming to pull everything down with it. Senses dulled, wits blunted, and the naked feet plodded on with the steady rhythm of a blank mind and a blank heart.
Then suddenly the thumping stopped, cut off, deadened.
The boardwalk planks were splintered and broken as they cascaded into the icy mirror of the ocean on their eternal path down, down, down... Dankness and darkness steamed from the surface of the water, and the mirror stared back at the feet with a look of empty oblivion.
The feet shifted so they were stuck in the middle. One pointed back down the boardwalk, back to the city and the house, the family and the friends and the life. But the feet had lost all that. They had lost their shoes, that protected and kept and housed and ...... the feet. All that was left was the life.
The other foot pointed down. Down on the rotten path, rickety and wobbling, crooked and neverending, like the grey horizon where the sea met the sky and blurred to a grey blandness. Death.
The ankles sprouting wearily from the feet swayed a little. Life or death? The city of disappointment and broken promises? Or the recurring nightmare of nothingness? The glimmer of new hope and a new beginning? Or the swallowing of every ounce of spirit that had not been suffocated out of the poor feet?
The feet reeled and ached with the blisters they had gone through to get to that point at the end of the boardwalk and make their choice, but they were not beaten. The choice had to be made.
Two and a half hours later a dark-haired woman with an ashen face and faded green eyes boarded a train.
"Ticket?" barked a collector.
"Melif," whispered the woman, who looked nearly forty, with purple smudges under her eyes and skin sagging at her bones. She held out a white rectangle with a small hand that shook in the effort of clutching the ticket, even so loosely. Her knuckles were yellow and her teeth gritted.
The collector gave her a quick look. She was exhausted. Then he shrugged. There were fifty other people whose tickets needed to be checked. The woman was probably on the way to a funeral.