A car pulled up into the small lot above the riverbed; the sound of tires in the gravel drifted down along the wind. Miles sighed and closed his eyes, reaching out with his mind. An older woman, perhaps in her seventies; and a man, younger than her but not by much. Miles reached for more, but came up empty. A married couple on a lazy Sunday drive, perhaps. Something didn’t feel right about that. The woman was unusual; something radiated off her that unsettled Miles, that made the tips of his fingers tingle. There was nothing unusual about the man; Miles could sense very little, especially at this distance, but where the woman should have shimmered in his mind like a firefly she burst with the light and energy of a bonfire. Something gnawed at his mind; something crawled up from his spine and crept up to his temples. He shook his head, pushed the interference aside, tried ignore the intruders on his solitude, and returned his attention to the water. The half-empty bottle of whiskey hung heavily in his hand. Miles took a swig from the bottle, and let his mind relax.
Something was out there. The voice hummed; not a discernible word but a noise, a vibration. The feeling spread, the vibration took his entire body; small tremors shook his hands. He had to fight to stay balanced. Images flashed by, snapshots behind his closed eyes. A hospital room. A dying woman. A fire. A man dressed in nurse’s scrubs, eyeing Miles from behind a clipboard, his mouth peeling back into a cruel laugh.
Miles exhaled suddenly, as though he had been punched in the gut. The slideshow was over; Miles was back on the beach. He took a step back, his head spinning. He regained his composure, dizzy and frustrated. He put the bottle down and blinked his heavy eyelids. Something ominous hung on the horizon, some residue from the fleeting images.
The river was a borderland for Miles, not just a physical separation of land of water, but a threshold between worlds. There was something about the water’s edge – something he had never felt anywhere else – like staring through a window at a thunderstorm from the safety of the indoors. Everywhere else in the city the voice was quiet; he only felt the rush from individuals, and small town folk were easy to understand and easy to ignore. The river was the gateway, and on his strong days he would walk to the edge of the water and stare out while the tides washed past him, feel the energy ebb and flow, and try to understand what was out there, and what made him feel so distant, so different, so alone.
Miles walked a few more steps and the unease in the back of his mind settled. Distracted, Miles picked a few flat stones from the waterfront and threw them out into the water. They skipped: two, three, fours times before splashing under the surface.
He felt her as she approached; the woman joined him on the beach. She glowed, sparking like a flaming torch in the back of his mind, and he was annoyed to realize he felt nothing else. For most people he could feel something more on the emotional horizon, some kind of intent or purpose but her landscape was pure white and completely indecipherable. He ignored her, irritated, and continued throwing stones out into the water. Four, five skips, and splash. The man remained by the car, on the pavement above the beachhead, watching them.