My hand and arm tingled for a moment, then the sensation was gone. I raised my arm and studied it as best I could in the dark. Lightning flashed non-stop behind me, and the boom and rumble of thunder joined with the rain and sea. In weird shadows I twisted my arm, trying to see if the device had somehow grafted to my skin.
Cerebral connection complete.
The voice was in my head. It was in my head. Not like really-good-Bose-earbuds in my head but imagined-voice-in-the-distance-but-much-much-clearer in my head.
I put down my arm. I stood there, defeated. I was soaked and shivering and likely as not to be struck by lightning.
Is something the matter, Milton Henry?
I had thought the voice that of a woman. It was, but not the sort of polite “Turn left in point one miles” I was used to. It was more human than that.
“How’d you guess? Accelerated heartrate? Increased Oxygen consumption?”
Common sense. You are in a strange place with a voice in your head. That would disturb most people. That you aren’t screaming means you might be in shock. And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t a dream.
“I’d gotten that far.” A lance of light struck to my left, blinding me. I stared at the afterimage.
Perhaps we should find shelter.
I turned in a circle. Behind me, strange hills of sand and rock rippled one after another like frozen waves. In front of me, the ocean spasmed. Above me, the clouds screamed past, growling and spitting and spitting fire. I would never have gone out in such weather. It was madness to be out in such weather. Tornado sirens and government warnings prohibited such things. But a part of me did not want to hide.
Rain slashed my face and streamed down my hair, down my nose. My bare feet had sunk into the wet sand. My clothes hung heavily, flapping wetly in the wind. I was cold. My fingers were numb. But I was in it. I wanted to remain, to soak it in and let it batter me. In some way, I lived.
A minute passed. My teeth began to chatter.
How about now?
“Good idea. Can you locate a place?”
You’re the one with feet. I’ll leave the walking to you.
I didn’t argue but I didn’t have any idea in which direction to head, either. In the epileptic light I saw only rain-bashed land–no trees, no caves, no lone cottage with a warm light in the window. I began the descent to the sea instead of heading into the undulating hills, if only because it was closer. I was already lost, but I felt, somehow, that by staying close to the water I would know where I was. I walked almost to the edge of the waves that crashed against the sand. In the dark, crazed light it seemed a monster, a mammoth creature that rose up from the weird depths, with a boneless body and eyeless face, skin like tatters of fabric, sting like a whip. Did this alien thing exist on earth? Was I even still on earth?
Keep moving. You need to keep moving.
“Left or right?”
I have chosen a random direction. Left.
“Nope. That’s not right.” I chuckled. Sure, I was utterly disoriented and might die, but a pun was a pun. What’s the use of witnessing the majesty of the tormented sea if you can’t laugh a little?
I turned left and started walking.