A large crab the size of a dinner plate scuttled next to her and pressed its head into the side of her leg. There was an instant of fright where Courtney froze, lest she provoke an attack from those sizable claws which the creature held before its face like a boxer. Her fear quickly cleared, and she threw her head up and screamed as she rolled away from the golden crab. She stumbled, but terror pushed her onward, and she managed to crawl/roll/wiggle away from danger. Eventually, after a few feet, she completely lost control of her limbs and she plowed her face into the damp sand.
She flipped over on to her back and stared down the length of her body, over her toes. Her breathing was shallow and rapid and she involuntarily brushed at her knee, as if trying to wipe away any lingering crab particles. She shuddered at the thought of what that crusty little sea demon had intended for her soft -- and no doubt tasty -- flesh.
A soft woman's voice called out to her, ever so soothingly, "There there, dear. That's only Agnes. She won't hurt you."
It seemed awfully peculiar to Courtney that someone would name a crab, but there was no accounting for people's taste in pets, so she accepted Agnes' presence with a little less trepidation... though she did give one last baleful glance down the beach as the large crab toddled off to the water's edge.
Courtney wanted to thank the woman for calming her, and she got herself to a seated position and looked around, but the beach was empty. She was utterly alone on an endless stretch of sand running parallel to a dark blue sea, whose waves lightly lapped the wet edge in retreat as the tide rolled out. The sky above was completely void of the sun, and looked strongly of rain, with patches of dark clouds mingling with dingy gray overhead.
Courtney looked back and forth, and even behind her, but the only other beings with her were a few gulls crying mournfully toward the water and a few sand pipers who pecked halfheartedly at the sand, "H-hullo? Are you still there?"
"But of course, dear."
Courtney was shocked as she followed the voice to the beak of a gull standing about five feet from her. That was quite impossible, she was sure, for animals to speak to humans, and she said so.
But the gull patiently shook her head, "Well that just doesn't make sense, now does it? If I couldn't speak, then how else are we supposed to communicate?"
"Um," Courtney thought. The fat white bird's words words were certainly a figment of Courtney's stressed out mind, they were nonetheless strong with logic, "we're not?"
"How rude," the gull snorted, "what is your name, child?"
"Ah. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Courtney."
Though it seemed completely preposterous for her to be conversing with a sea gull, it also occurred to Courtney that manners dictate she should reply, so she nodded and said, "Likewise. And you are?"
The gull bowed and said, "Forgive me, now it is I whose manners have failed. I am called Mrs. Haggerty."
Courtney was unsure of how next to respond, but she was pretty sure she was hallucinating. She was about to ask if she had hit her head when an odd sound made her jump. It was deep and raspy, like a diesel engine with a sneeze, and warbled curiously.
"What is that?" Courtney asked.
Mrs. Haggerty jerked her head over her shoulder, "Those sea lions behind me."
Courtney looked at a small huddle of three large and blubbery sea lions a little bit further up the beach. She puckered her face in distaste, "How dreadful! What an ugly sound."
"Well, it's obvious you have never heard a sea lion weep."
"They're crying? How sad. I'm very sorry. Why are they crying?"
Mrs. Haggerty pecked at a discarded bit of shell and looked away from Courtney. Finally she said, "Because our world is dying. This is the Beach of Sadness, where beings of all sorts make their final pilgrimage to cry for our home. In fact, this very ocean is made entirely of tears, and gets larger by the day as the sadness grows."