"Last one in's a rotten egg." I hear them before I see them, their voices rip through the air on this deserted stretch of beach like the cry of frantic gulls. From my rocky resting place, smoothed and polished from eons of salty caress, I watch as they come into view, long brown limbs crossing the sand, and hope this time they may find me. Two of them sink into the hot sand while the other two run for the surf, their laughter ringing out and up to the blue of the sky, echoing back from the surrounding cliff face. I watch them splash and laugh and play and will them with all that I am that they should find me, but my chances don't look good. The boy leaves the water, she jeers at him. "Chicken!" she calls, "Johnny is a scaredy cat!" Children in adult bodies, he pays her no heed and she dives beneath the waves. She does not surface. With toes digging into the hot sand they scan the white tipped waves with squinted eye and begin to look nervous. Her scream pierces the waiting and the three leap to their feet, adrenalin pumping headily through their arteries, still they cannot see her. Her second scream goes on and on and on and they chase it over the rocky appendage that juts unhelpfully into the sea and there she is, neck deep in water, her eyes squeezed shut, her mouth gaping. She has swum through one of the many rocky channels that pass underwater, and made it to the other side. Lucky Alice. They splash out to her. "Alice, Alice, what is it Alice?" But Alice only answers with the same old same old. Together they try and still her arms that wrench maniacally at her hair. They try to lead her from the water, but cannot, something holds her in place and will not loosen its grip. Her screams are hoarser now, rasping and dry, but still chasing each other in mad parade over her lips. Eventually Johnny realises and tries to untangle her hair from, "What the fuck? Oh man! It's a hand, IT'S A FUCKING HAND!" The others stop, frozen, and finally Alice stops screaming, and takes up retching. Great mouthfuls of vomit spill from her into the churning water, it's pretty bad, but not as gross as the decomposing limb that dangles from her hair. The others are looking as though they might join her. Poor Alice. Heroically, with gritted teeth and a determined glint in his eye, Johnny renews his efforts, twisting and turning, wrenching and jarring he tries to snap the bones, so at least they can take Alice from the sea. "Hold on, hold on," I pray, and finally after such a long time. My prayers are answered and the bloated body, barely recognisable as human, twists free and floats gracefully to the surface. They all scream now. Only when Alice closes her eyes and allows consciousness to escape her, do they drag her and her undesirable passenger from the water. I heave a great sigh of relief, send up a prayer of gratitude and leave the rock to hover above the body that was once my home. So very unfamiliar now, the left leg ends abruptly in a snarl of splintered bone, the rest I imagine still wedged securely between the rocks that took my life, the hair is a knotted matt where the skin still clings to the bones and what remains of the flesh is white and grotesque. Freed from it's watery limbo my body can be interred in the earth from whence it came, my soul awaits with longing the priests blessing to wash over me, bathing me in the magic words that will free my soul that I may go home. Mother and Father will stand by my grave and cry, but I know they'll be happy.
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