In the year of Our Lord 1985
“I keep seeing them, down at the beach. They’re just there, staring into the ocean like they’re looking for something. ”
His father, Roger dabbed at the spilt coffee on his notes.
“They are just people Kevin, local fisherman and what not. I don’t know where you got this idea they’re all dead, was it? Maybe it’s those damn books you keep reading. That H.P. guy and the other one, King.”
Roger pulled out another piece of paper and started copying down the ruined text, improvising with words from memory and previous notes when he couldn’t remember what exact word the wet smudge had been.
Kevin sat at the windowsill staring through the thin, white curtains at the black sanded beach. It was raining. It was October. They all had umbrellas, round black things that didn’t tilt at the wind, firmly grasped in their hands. Those many people there didn’t look anything like the people Kevin knew back home. They didn’t resemble any person he’d ever met. Staring at them made him feel lonely, old.
His father’s shuffling in the background was a dislocated sound that the sea dubbed over.
The waves spilled transparent on the beach, but none of the ghosts went in, and it seemed odd to Kevin because they looked like they wanted to dissolve in the ocean, fill their stomachs full with its sour taste. That’s how much longing he had seen in their eyes when he’d walked around them the day before. But they hadn’t looked at him, hadn’t acknowledged his trespass in their sacred motionless faulty.
They calmed the ocean with long-lashed hollowed eyes. Kevin saw nothing there in the open. It was only when he picked up a seashell and put it to his ear that he heard the starvation in their bodies, growling from their insides to be fed and nurtured with strong seed, to be released and invited into the depths.
In the cold air his palms were sweaty, his tongue dry from thinking things like that. He cleared his throat, eyes still glued on the figures in the distance.
“I know there’s something wrong with them,” he finally said.
“I’m not listening, not talking about that anymore.”
“I know they’re dead, from the inside, empty like. They’re all gray skinned, and their eyes are yellowish…”
“Knock it off Kevin!”
His father turned to him for the first time today. Roger looked tired, baggy eyes, ragged clothes. He took off his round glasses and lazily, almost unconsciously cleaned them with his tie. There was a pile of growing papers on the table in front of him.
“Look, I know you don’t like it here and I know I promised to drop you off at grandma’s house, but there’s nothing much I can do right now. I’m already a day late for the conference and there’s so much work to be done. I’m sorry Kevin, you just have to survive today on your own.”
Roger saw he had startled his son, yelling like that. The boy was right to be morbidly bored; this little town, Dorley was the grayest, mistiest, rainiest place Roger had ever been to. It was empty and quiet, void of life somehow. He chuckled. It was a shitty place, fit for a shitty day.
“But on the bright side the shop said the car would be ready tomorrow. We leave first thing and we go straight to grandma’s house, I promise. Why don’t you go try that arcade machine they have at the diner. Should be fun right?”
Kevin slid down from the windowsill.
His father emptied a pocket full of coins into his palm. Kevin doubted people in Dorley played arcade games. He doubted people were still present in Dorley. Maybe the town was alright, and he was reverse to it, seeing things that he couldn’t understand. But he wanted to. Seeing death in its ritualistic form, its earliest breeding moments was more interesting than the arcade or any other game. He could be a part of it, an admirer turned accomplice. He could see it all unfold, the depths coming ashore and devouring the people of Dorley.
Before he left their room at the “Alabaster”, Kevin turned to the hunched over figure of his bespectacled father.
“Yeah?” Roger said without lifting his eyes off the paper.
“What if it’s not them that are dead, but me? I want to be alive.”
Roger looked up to his son, but found himself staring at the closing door, staring right through the narrowing gap at Kevin’s disappearing face.