An envelope, the letter that would change Catrina's life safe inside

Two hours later Catrina was walking back from the beach along the old road which taken tourists there until its "temporary" closure for "essential maintenance work" in 1963.

In its heyday the road had taken up to 200,000 visitors a year to the beach. But by 1963 that had already become a distant memory and the road had had so few users that there had been no serious objections to the closure.

Catrina carefully stepped over clumps of weeds between the white lines and metal barriers. There were often bits of broken glass concealed amongst the flora along with other unpleasant things to damage the footwear of unaware pedestrians.

Catrina walked under the graffiti-covered bridge and emerged into the open air once again, thankful that the pigeons and seagulls hadn't opened their bowels above her as they sometimes did under that bridge.

Suddenly the girl stopped. Sitting amongst the 1980s crisp packets and 1990s Coke cans on the ground was a brand new neat envelope. It looked so out-of-place in its surroundings that it caught Catrina's eye.

She picked it up. It was blank but sealed - there was clearly a letter within.

She opened it. I was from somebody called Drepa, whose address was illegible. The addressee, however, was quite clear: Miss Satchna Brighton, 27, Firstall Lane.

This puzzled Catrina. Firstall Lane was the only road which had come off the road she was now on. That, too, had been disused for years, along with the all the tiny little cottages on it. However the date on the letter was very recent.

Catrina made her way to 27, Firstall Lane, reading the letter as she walked. Its contents were strange indeed.

When Catrina arrived she knocked at the door. It was opened at once by a very old-fashioned looking boy wearing a black velvet suit, a long black bowtie, white shirt and gleaming black buckled shoes. He had a mass of blond curls.

"Yes?" he enquired. Catrina handed him the letter in silence.

The boy studied its contents for what seemed like an age. All the while a large clock could be heard ticking in the background. There was a smell of varnished wood and home-made muesli. The interior, however, was so dark as to be almost black.

"Come in," said the boy. "I will hand this to Satchna. Wait in the garden."

Catrina came in and sat in the garden but said she couldn't stay long as she had homework to do.

"A smaple of your handwriting, please," said the boy.

Puzzled, Catrina wrote something down.

"Thank you. Wait here, please," said the boy, disappearing into the gloom.

She sat in a deckchair in the garden, which was a lot of concrete slabs with bright potted plants all over it and surrounded by a very high wall. She noticed an elderly man in the deckchair next to hers.

"Hello," she said.

"Huh hum," he said, peering at her over his glasses before settling back to read the newspaper in his hands.

"Here you are," said the boy, reappearing after what seemed like seconds. He handed Catrina some pieces of paper. They answered every homework question she'd been given that week by every teacher and were in her own handwriting. She looked at them. They were slightly better answers than she herself would have given but the style was unmistakably hers.

"Thanks," she said. "How did... I mean, that's my handwriting... how did..."

"Wait here, please," said the boy.

He disappeared inside and returned with three glasses of a red liquid with a cucumber on top and some ice. He handed one to the old man (who "huh hummed" in response, took the glass and carried on reading the paper) and one to his guest.

All three sat in silence for a while drinking the gentle and rather pleasing liquid.

The clock could be heard ticking inside the darkened house.

"Did you give the letter to Satchna?" asked Catrina.

"I did and she liked it very well. In fact I am Satchna."

"Oh," said Catrina, suddenly realising that the "boy" was in fact a girl.

The ticking continued during the ensuing silence.

"Now that we have met, we will be friends forever," said Satchna to Catrina.

"Yes, I'm sure," said Catrina.

There was a long pause.

"What are we waiting for exactly?" asked Catrina.

Satchna's head turned slowly.

"For the beginning of all things and the end of all things," she answered.

"What do you mean?" asked Catrina.

"The sea, Catrina. The sea is coming. It is the beginning of all things and the end of all things."

There was a crashing sound from outside the garden walls and sea spray foamed over the top.

"Don't worry - it will not penetrate my garden," said Satchna. "Nothing and nobody does."

There was a long pause. Satchna's grandfather turned a page in his paper.

"The sea is coming," said Satchna Brighton. "It's coming for us all."

The End

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