It looks like you’ve stranded on a stretch of gray, sandy beach

Reaching down, you scoop a handful of the lukewarm water. Its slight saltiness stings, but your throat feels somewhat better. You splash some over your face, your chest.

Still dazed, you look at the beach in front of you. After prolonged darkness, and a torturous ordeal, your senses struggle to decipher the view. The narrow strip of grey beach is bathed in hazy light of an early down. Some distance ahead the sand is raising into soft dunes. Grey everywhere.

Raising slowly – the back or your raft is gently swaying in the shallows – you step on a dry land. Spearing no glance to the raft, or the water you’re leaving behind, you start across the beach.

The sand is packed under your feet and the going is easy, at first. When you reach the dunes, it becomes difficult, slipping and sinking at every step. You stop, finally troubling to look around. The weak light does not show much, but there’s a cluster of darker grey in a distance which could mean a shelter or a rescue, and you think you can get there without great difficulty. After the last night, it would be…well, a walk on the beach. "Look, mommy, Zachy made funny" you think, a spark, an echo of your personality, returning. Not much, but it’s a start. Slipping and sliding you start towards your find.

Pretty soon you are close enough to distinguish the details. You are heading towards a small cluster of trees, a grove of a sort, emerald leaves somehow out of place on the grey sand. A few more yards and you can distinguish individual trees, small and slender: fig trees. Their branches move gently, their motion – your step quickens – camouflaging shapes, or movement between them. People?

"Hey…HEY! Over here!" you try, but even you can hardly hear your weakened voice. Hope rising, you cover the last distance in a sort of stumbling trot. "Hello?" Rustling of leaves is the only response. Calling, you run under the trees. You can not see anyone, but there is such a feeling of presence, there must be someone around. Must!

"Please…come out" you plead, catching something out of corner of your eye. You turn quickly, to face just another tree. It happens time and again, you turning this way and that, a crazed dancer under the green canopy. Exhausted, you fall on your knees, and the silence returns.

For a moment you keep still, willing your heartbeat to slow. With a deep breath you force yourself to relax, then let your sight loose focus. And there it is, a woman, right in front of you! You look at her, rising – and it is just a tree. Stepping closer, you reach carefully to a low branch, fingertips caressing a slender limb. Grey bark is cool and smooth; you lean on the tree, letting it cool your forehead. A cluster of leaves is within reach, you pull it closer, hide your face in it – then jump back as if burned. Their smell is…almost human! Grabbing the leaves again, you plunge your face in it, inhaling deeply – they smell like Julie! Dear God, how’s that possible?! They smell like Julie…Your love, your lover, your wild, unforgettable Julie! The love you lost foolishly, scared of the strength of your own feelings. "Julie" you whisper to the leaves, "Julie..."

Overwhelmed with loneliness and completely lost, you let your sight blur again. Perhaps the trick would work one more time, perhaps you’ll see Julie again!

The End

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