Sea and Wind - Part One

I'm in Brighton, England - where I grew up - visiting a friend of mine, Alice. She has recently enrolled in the University of Sussex in an attempt to win her degree sometime before the end of the next decade - it's been an ongoing study-at-home project so far - and I'm planning to visit the campus with her.

She mentions, wryly, that we'll be taking a different route than I might remember - it's been ten years since I last visited - because of some recent changes on the waterfront. I ask her what she means by that, and she appears incredulous that I didn't know.

          "Look out of the window," she tells me. "Towards downtown."

I look where indicated and I see that the sea has moved in almost half a mile. About a quarter mile out, I can see the roofs of some of the taller buildings that were near the waterfront I remembered - now only the top two or three stories are above the waves.

          "My god! When did that happen?" I asked.

          "Last year." she says. "It's global warming or something. Played merry hell with the seaside economy."

I decide that I want to take a closer look at this, and insist that we get a taxi to go down closer to the sea edge. Reluctantly, Alice agrees to come with me, but she warns me that we shouldn't get too close to the waterline, as the tide has a way of rushing in very quickly, and its levels are variable. The high tides can be very high, she says.

A few minutes later, I'm standing about a quarter mile away from the new shoreline, gazing in somewhat bemused awe at what used to be the busiest street in town, heading straight into the churning sea, rather than towards a shopping center. It's a damn unsettling sight, to realize that many of the familiar landmarks I remember are irrevocably lost.

The weather is starting to turn rough, as grey scudding clouds have moved in and the wind has picked up, carrying spray from the waves towards me. The driver of our taxi takes one look at the sky, says something about the roads out already being cut off, and runs away. It seems that Alice and I are getting stranded by one of the freakishly high-tides she had warned me about.

We look for shelter - getting split up along the way. We're in a commercial area and, although the streets are empty and many of the buildings are unoccupied, they are all locked tight, and it doesn't occur to me to break into one of them for shelter and maybe higher ground. The wind is howling now, and soaking with sea-spray. I feel a change in the air and sense that something unpleasant is happening - and it's going to get worse.

The sound of the wind changes, becoming more of a hollow roar and I'm extremely frightened now. That wind no longer sounds like a force of nature, but an actual being - but I'm not going to look behind me and find out. The sea has started to rush in and is already swirling around my ankles, if I can't find high ground, I'm certain I'm going to drown.

I find a doorway in a concrete office block. I can't break the door down - it's thick, heavy glass, but the doorway itself is narrow and deepset. I decide to brace myself into the doorway and just hope that the tide won't rise too high. I can hear the roaring wind/thing come closer and I decide that - whatever it is - seeing it would probably be a bad idea. I squinch my eyes shut, but not before I catch a glimpse of a something - it was too formless to even call a monster - moving with the tide. It is made of wind and water and about seventy feet tall, the colors of aurora borealis move through it and I can sense that it is mindless and hungry.

I close my eyes and think very small thoughts. As my eyes close, the scene changes so swiftly it almost clicks. I find myself standing in a large dark room. There are other people there, doing things that don't concern me, but I can barely see them, as the lights are recessed and dim. What I do see are two men standing before me. One is a stranger, and the other is my friend, Nick - who used to run a large live-action game that I enjoyed. For one moment, I think Oh thank god, this was all just a game! and, a moment later, realize that something is still wrong. This isn't a game.

Nick and his companion are dressed identically, black pants, grey shirt, black tie, and they're looking at me rather curiously. They're waiting to see how I react to what I happened. Rather understandably, I'm not feeling very calm and all I can think of to say is "Don't send me back there. Please don't make me go back. I'll do anything. Don't send me back there..." over and over.

As I'm babbling, I notice that Nick is holding a strange pair of spectacles - the frames are made of grey, extruded plastic pipe, and the lenses are compound things - like a complex lense you would see on a camera - all held in place with grey plastic moulding. The spectacles look cheap, complicated and bizarre. Nick is holding them tentatively, as if he wants to offer them to me, but he doesn't know when the right moment would be.

          "What do you want to do?" he asks.

          "Anything, as long as it means staying here." I can feel the tears on my face, and I feel like a fool - but I'd rather look foolish than go back to that thing of wind and water. "What do you want me to say?" I beg. I'm sure there is something I'm supposed to say, but I can't guess at it. I can feel a solid wall behind me, and I lean against it, trying to feel stronger. I'm soaked with saltwater and sweat and my hysteria only worsens as my two companions give no indication that I'm safe yet.


Sea and Wind - Part Two

I'm on the Brighton Pier with some friends. There is a group of young children with us - we've taken them out for a field trip. It's a bright sunny day, and I'm glad to be outside. The kids are only being moderately noisy and are happily getting strung out on cotton candy and chasing the seagulls hither and yon.

          "Look at that!", I hear a little girl say, and she points westward to the sea. About a half mile offshore, and maybe a mile away, a waterspout has formed. Southeastern England is not tornado country, so I'm rather worried by this. But even as I'm worried, I can't help but marvel at the pretty ribbons of sea water and foam that are being curled into an impossibly slender tube rising above the water.

My misplaced admiration fades as I watch the spout move towards the shore - and the pier - and make landfall about a quarter mile away from the pier. At this point, my friends - and several helpful volunteers - have rounded up the children and hustled them back to the promenade. A city street may not be very safe, but I decide that it's safer than being on a one hundred year old pier with a tornado approaching. Someone else takes the children away, as I watch the tornado follow the shoreline towards where I'm standing.

I'm really glad I woke up at this point....




Tell me your dreams