The ocean breathed in his ears of tales beyond the fog. Grim stories that were dug up where the beach was flat, hard, and cold, and where tides tugged with fingers between rocks, rocks that hopped with sand fleas.
The air pressed the cold water against his skin and pushed the sea fog into ghostly billows that left droplets on his cheeks and eye lashes. These shrouded ghosts of fog whipped his hair with wet salt, made the bottom of his shorts stick against his legs, and rushed a cool moisture over his bare toes.
His feet left prints in the hard sand, but the wall of fog followed at a distance, eating every step he took until every step was the same. At times, the clouds pressed so close that he felt he was under a layer of foam and roiling waves. And at other times, the beach was open and barren, stretching indefinitely in all directions with fleeting figures moving beyond an obscurity of mist.
He could hear the ocean reverberating through every moment, it encompassed his senses, sent shivers up through the sand, roared in his very mind like the background to his heart beat.
Even time had drowned in those ceaseless waves. Even time could not stretch as far as this endless beach. And even time could not track the shifting of the clouds. There was no day. There was no night.
His heart beat was on a repeating loop, his legs swung like pendulums to his mind's internal clock. But he was only human. He was only mortal. The weights would soon hit the ground and his legs would stop their swinging.
His faith was weak with his eyes blind. His logic was weak with the minutes refusing to add up. Only his heart could offer hope. Only his heart could find peace in the wild spirit of the ocean. And only his heart could guide him through the immensity that threatened to drown him and his destination.
And then he felt a tendril of water beneath his heels. He stopped and looked down at his feet, which seemed miles away beneath ribbons of cloud. His toes wiggled, the world swayed as he remained still for once.
The sand rippled where water had drained from a tidal pool. Gazing along the dried rivulet, his eyes abruptly fell into the ocean. It was the first time in a long while. The ocean had always been at his side. And now, it had run ahead and blocked his path.
He walked to its edge, hesitated, and then allowed it to cover his toes. Surely there must be more sand beyond these shallow waters.
But he felt confronted, as if he had just awoken from a deep sleep to find himself in a different world than the one in which he had gone to sleep.
The ocean continued to bite his toes so he withdrew and began to walk alongside it. He had only gone a few steps when the sand once more rippled beneath shallow waters. And these waters stretched back the way he had come, but on the wrong side.
He began to feel anxious, and somewhere in the distance, the crashing waves roared. Feeling desperate, he left the dry sand to cross the shallows. He began to run as the water grew deeper, but the splashes against his legs grew heavier, and his feet slowed.
Beneath the cover of its devious fog, the sea had been steadily surrounding him. It was likely that he had been walking a sandbar for the longest while. And now the ocean continued to rise until his shorts were soaking and the skin on his arms itching.
At last, the clouds parted, and he gazed across a vast seascape of sandbars and shallows. He thrashed through the remaining water until he clambered out onto the next island, which felt like rock beneath his tingling, numb feet.
And then he was running, and the ocean's every slow advance was urgency in disguise. The light lapping waves were like acid, and the sinking sandbars looked forlorn and hopeless.
Crossing another stretch of shallows, he felt the air rough in his lungs like ice, and he stumbled as he ascended the next mound. He felt he should run for higher ground, but the entire world was flat, and he didn't even know which way the real ocean lay. It was everywhere. He was surrounded by its cold tentacles as they began to tighten.
And then the fog closed in and the wind picked up as his numb legs began to burn. But where was he running? No landmarks were in sight. No escape routes were evident.
And then, just as the world threatened to defeat his last glimmer of hope, he fell beneath the surface. But it was not beneath the water that he had fallen; it was beneath the sand. He landed hard at the bottom of a pit, the bottom of an open grave.
He groaned and wiped the sand from his lips. There was blood on his face. He inspected his hand to find it bleeding. A metal spade stuck from the ground where he had landed, and the walls of the grave were lined with rusty metal.
He stood up and gazed upon the landscape from a new perspective. The hole was up to his waist and his feet were in mud.
Then, like the breaking of a dam, water began to creep over the edges, streaming down the sides and rushing into a brown pool of frothing salt water that whirled about his ankles.
But nothing could drown his high spirits now. He had found his destination, and nothing else mattered.