The Cliffs of Moher - A Short Story
Usually, the sea spray would leap along her arms on a day like this. The early hours had brought tufts of gray clouds and a flurry of uneven wind breaks. It was raining before, not hard, but just enough to brew ponds, lakes, and edges of the sea. Riv suddenly realized how quickly the day had passed. The sun yawned over the horizon, leaving behind a glowing trail of brilliant warm colors and tones of a crackling fire. To anyone else it was an ordinary sunset. To Riv it was an arresting flare, a calling.
When she arrived the tourists were fanning out, hoping to get back to temporary homes before darkness claimed the roads. The Cliffs of Moher were the gems of Ireland, attracting nearly a million visitors each year. Every year the numbers grew, much to Rivís dismay. At the same time she thought it perfectly reasonable; the majestic rise of Namurian shale and sandstone was truly a sight to behold, a wonder of the world, with the visage of three hundred million year old river channels coursing through its foundations.
One by one the visitors left until she was the last remaining. It was nearly nightfall and yet she felt safe. It was a natural feeling, one that stayed with her from childhood to adult life. Coming here was bittersweet. The tourism brought income and wealth to her small village, but at the same time it was becoming a staple for profit and no longer a sacred place. As she grew older, her visits grew less frequent, and the number of tourists seemed to grow exponentially. It placed a stone in her chest to know she was sharing a private piece of her life to so many strangers. She often wished they would all disappear.
At dusk, Riv usually got her wish. Today that wish seemed more fulfilled than it ever had been. There was no wind. The gulls had stop crying. The crickets had stopped singing. The sound of nature fell deaf upon her ears. Not even the water moved Ė it was magnificently still. A perfect mirror image of the cliffs projected neatly onto the liquid surface, creating a sublime, otherworldly, butterfly effect. She was truly alone.
And then there was movement.
A silver glimmer.
A soft ripple.
A face of a man.
Not just any man, but the face of an ethereal creature beneath the calm waters. He looked human, but there was something more. It might have been a corpse from an accident or recent suicide. Perhaps that was why it looked so strange. She wanted to scream, shout, but nothing came out. Instead, her mouth hung open in suspense. Her breath felt caught in her throat and her chest skipped with overworked heart beats. Whatever it was, it seemed to notice her reaction. The water rippled and the face disintegrated until the ocean was smooth once more.
Riv ran to the edge of the cliff, kneeling over the ledge to keep her balance. Her gnarled hands gripped the land beneath her, feeling the touch of cool grass between her fingers. She held herself steady as she scanned the waters below. The face appeared again. He clearly wasnít dead; in fact, it looked as if he was peering over the ledge the same way she was. They regarded one another with slow acceptance.
The man in the water was full of youth. He had flawless skin, unlike hers, which was wrinkled and worn with time. There was a touch of innocence in the curve of his smile. She could only look back with curiosity and apprehension. But the longer she observed him, the clearer his face became. It was when the world grew darker and colder that she realized who he was. He was so crisp and vivid now. He looked exactly the way he did when they first met on these cliffs decades ago. This was where they married, and where their children and grandchildren laughed. He beckoned her towards him, inviting her into slumbering sea. With open arms, she went to him.
That night, Riv slept and woke up on the other side, and was alone no more.