A Town Called Oceanview | Part 2

Continued from “Lost” …


“Welcome! Welcome!” an elderly woman approaching them called. She was wearing wool socks, no shoes, and a pink floral dress—or it could’ve even been a nightgown, for her massive bosom hiked it up high enough that it became indecent for someone her age to wear a dress that short in public.

She looked older than death itself; her face covered in wrinkles, her eyelids sagging low over her eyes—it was a wonder she could even see—her gray hair frayed and stringy, thinning at the temples and behind her ears. She was barely taller than five feet and morbidly obese, at least three hundred pounds or more. Her skin was a dark, leathery brown, as if she had spent too many years tanning in the sun, and it folded in ripples down her arms and legs. As round as she was, she reminded him more of an English bulldog than anything remotely human.

And yet, even on swollen feet that clumped against the hardwood floor like cinder blocks—shoes probably didn’t fit her anyway—she still moved at an unbelievably fast pace and had her thick arms wrapped around his neck in a tight bear hug before he could get out of dodge.

He hugged her back, not to be rude, though he wasn’t sure of the occasion. Did he know this woman? Grandmother? Great-grandmother, perhaps? Or was it common practice to embrace a total stranger upon greeting in this mysterious town called Oceanview? He strained to catch a clarifying glace at the girl next to him, who had been so captivated by the painting and the story of the lost fishing vessel.

“Oh, I see you’ve already met Bess,” the old woman said after she released him. Bess was a stark contrast to the old woman. She towered over her, and almost met him at eye level. Her ivory skin pulled tightly over her bones. She wore a white tank top, and her broad shoulders poked so far out they looked as if they would pierce right through the skin. Despite looking thin and frail, there was still a ray of light behind her eyes, and her sunshine gold hair cascaded down her back in waves.

“I hope your trip wasn’t too painful?” The woman was saying.

He raised an eyebrow. “Painful, ma’am?”

“Birdy, I don’t think he remembers,” Bess whispered.

“Remembers what?”

“No matter.” The woman clasped her hands together, and a low echo reverberated off the walls. The room had amazing acoustics; he suspected it once was a gymnasium before being converted into what he could only assume was a visitors center. “Sometimes it’s easier to forget.  Like my husband used to say: The ‘how’ is not always important, it’s the ‘what you do with it’ that takes the cake.”

“That’s an interesting phrase,” he said.

“Thank you. I’ve really come to cherish it in my old age, especially when dealing with some of the more distressing realities of life that I can’t control.” She was silent for a moment, and she and Bess exchanged tight-lipped looks in front of him. They seemed to be having a conversation solely with their eyes. Bess’s eyes widened, her brows arched, as if pleading to say something, to share some secret information that would help get his head out of this fog that only seemed to get worse with the women’s vague revelations. However, “Birdy” stood firm. She squinted her eyes and furrowed her brows as if scolding Bess for being so naive. Then she turned to him with a wide grin he would have mistaken for genuine if he hadn’t just witnessed the tense staring contest.

“By the way, my name is Lady Byrd, but you can call me Birdy.” She stretched out her hand to shake his, and he willingly took it, but when he opened his mouth to introduce himself, he froze.

He hadn’t the slightest clue who he was.

© 2017 Nortina Simmons

It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt was kind of . . . meh . . . Anyone else feeling a little uninspired by these last few prompts? I decided to deviate today, to regain that energy and enthusiasm I had at the beginning of the challenge. I hope you enjoyed part two of Oceanview! 

A Town Called Oceanview | Part 1


He couldn’t breathe. He took quick sharp inhales back to back, but couldn’t catch his breath.

His stomach was flung to the back of his throat, and pressure built in his head as if he were hanging upside down. He looked out the small, circular window and saw the earth spinning. The sky in the ocean, the ocean in the sky, the land between in a winding, twisting, blurry streak of green, black, and shades of brown, spinning into the center of his sight, and disappearing as if going down a drain.

An invisible force thrust him back into his seat, and he grabbed tightly onto the armrests as his body stretched in opposite directions. In his ears a piercing echo, like an engine blown, like a thousand screams, like a countdown to detonation, like a tumbling descent from the heavens.

He braced himself for impact, for certain death, as the sound increased in volume, and he peeled back his lips from his chattering teeth in an attempt at one final call for help from an unseen God.

Then total silence, total darkness. He felt he was still falling, but in extreme slow motion, conscious but unable to change his circumstance. He was suspended between time and space—freefall in limbo. He heard voices in the distance trying to break through the barrier. They were muffled at first, but grew louder and clear the closer they came, bouncing around him like a ripple in a wave underwater, until finally the burst through the bubble.

“Interesting story, isn’t it? A crew of fishermen lost at sea over thirty years discover a small island and build a town.”

He was standing in front of a framed painting of a large schooner against a black sky in the middle of the ocean being tossed to and fro by the winds and the waves. The plaque underneath read: The Net on its maiden voyage, mid-October 1869.

The source of the voice that broke him from his trance stood next to him. She had her hands behind her back, admiring the painting. He scanned his surroundings and realized he was in a small museum, one that depicted the apparent history of whatever town he’d found himself in. Mounted on the walls were more paintings, each one representing a point in the timeline. He assumed he stood before the first, since behind him was an entrance door that was closed off by a velvet rope.

He turned to the woman who was now smiling at him.

“I’m sorry.” He hesitated. He couldn’t remember why he was there, or how he had even gotten there. It was as if he’d been picked up and put somewhere he didn’t recognize. He wondered if he should tell her this. How crazy would he sound to her?

“I’m feeling kind of hazy. Could you tell me where I am?”

Her smile slowly faded away. She lowered her eyes to the floor and said, “Oceanview.” He waited for details—Oceanview, California? Florida? Which ocean was viewable—the Atlantic, Pacific? But she offered no explanation. Her smile returned, a little weaker, and he tried to smile too, despite being helplessly confused, but when he looked into her eyes, he saw a hint of fear and perhaps even sadness, and he wondered if there was something more dire about this Oceanview that she was unwilling to reveal.

© 2017 Nortina Simmons

Up Next: “Introductions” …

It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt from Julie Duffy invites us to take a second look at a story we’ve written in the past. I have so many stories I could return to and write from a different angle, but I decided on this story, which I haven’t looked at since writing it back in 2014 for a fiction writing class and later posting it here.