My feet made soft shluffing noises as I made my way down the embankment. Poppy bounced in front of me, pulling the leash taut as her nose drew her in every direction. Her paws made little prints in the heavy sand, mingling with the older tracks amongst the grasses blowing in the cool wind. They say it’s always cooler by the water, and I regretted not grabbing my coat. The other beach goers were smarter. There was a guy stuck in the 90s, with matching fluorescent striped splash pants and windbreaker, throwing a frisbee for his dog who was also wearing a coat. The few people running along the surf had spurned shorts and t-shirts for hoodies and track pants.
It was the kind of beach that looked okay from a distance, but in reality was kind of rocky with a little too much seaweed and dirty looking greyish brown sand. Even in the summer it wasn’t popular; the water was always a couple degrees cooler than anyone liked. Not to mention the salty fresh smell of the ocean was overpowered by the smell of fish and rotting plant life. I guess it was never decided who was responsible for keeping the beach clean, because the task seemed to have fallen to Mother Nature.
Poppy didn’t care though. She trotted along to the water’s edge to dip her paws in, her tongue hanging out as the mist from the spray soaked us. Every few minutes she shook her shaggy fur vigorously, adding to the dampness soaking through my sweater. It was going to be a cold walk home. A couple of lonely seagulls circled over the endless grey water, their calls the only sound to be heard aside from the crashing waves. It was too gloomy to see the horizon beyond and the only thing I spotted on the water was a shot of spray that may have been from a whale.
It was as Poppy started to wander over to one of the gulls that landed a few feet away that I realized there was something not right about the seagulls’ cries. Poppy noticed too, her ears went flat and she turned suddenly to face the beach, seagull forgotten. I spun around when I realized it was a human scream I had heard, not a bird’s.
From the far eastern end of the beach, a woman came running. She was tripping over the ground, her coat flapping open, one shoulder slipping down her arm. She had stopped screaming, but even from a distance I could feel her panic. Her hair had come loose and was flying around her face as her body jolted with her unmeasured strides. Before I could do much more than stare, a man burst into view behind her. He was a huge, lumbering hulk of a man. He tore after the woman, shouting something incoherent. Poppy growled softly at the sound, her eyes following the two figures at they got closer. With a sudden woosh in my stomach I saw that he had a knife. It was in his left hand, the one closest to me, and he held it tightly, his arm swinging it mechanically back and forth as he ran.
I stood, rooted to the spot. My brain couldn’t choose between fight or flight. The cold I felt now wasn’t from the spray of the ocean but from the sweat that broke out over my body. My breath felt trapped. The woman ran, not seeing me, sprinting in a straight line along the edge of the water. The man followed and I saw that the knife was long and serrated, like a hunting knife. Or like something out of a horror film.
Was this really happening? It occurred to me that maybe I should call for help, but I didn’t have my cellphone. The guy with the frisbee and his dog were nowhere to be seen. I looked to the west end of the beach where the woman and man were headed, and saw that there was one runner left. Like me and Poppy, he was stopped in his tracks, staring. As he passed, the man with the knife shouted at the runner, waving the knife around wildly.
The runner leapt into action and started sprinting away from the hunter and hunted, up the beach to the ridge, behind which lay the road. I couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t going to do anything? He was about half the size of the man with the knife, but still. Was it up to me?
Poppy’s leash was loose in my clammy hands. She hadn’t moved from my side, although her body was angled slightly behind mine. Despite Poppy’s appearance, she was useless. Her fur made her look bigger than she was and she’d never even chased a chipmunk before. I started forward but stopped. Started again. Poppy whined.
The woman reached the far side of the beach where a stony path lead through the giant boulders to another, smaller beach. Didn’t she know there was no way out of there? The only way to the road was behind her now. The man with the knife hadn’t slowed down at all, fixated on catching his prey. With my stomach feeling like it was going to explode, I ran after them, Poppy following reluctantly behind me, her leash taut with resistance on her end this time.
My mind spun as I approached the twisted path. What was I going to do when I reached the other side? Yell? Throw rocks? Hide and watch? I kept hoping that the runner would come back or that I would hear sirens because he had called the cops. But I heard nothing except the waves and the pounding of my own feet as I burst from between the boulders and onto the stones that made up this smaller beach.
My heart in my mouth, I saw that the woman had run up to an enormous object lying a few feet from the water’s edge. Her coat lay in a heap at the base and her pursuer had finally caught up with her. I opened my mouth to scream but nothing came out. The woman ran to the water, stopped indecisively, and then ran back to the man with the knife. No. She ran back to the giant thing which he was now kneeling beside. He brandished the knife and, before I could react, brought it down and started sawing away at something attached to the strange, bulky object.
Poppy wuffed softly and began pulling me towards them. I jumped as something flew past me. It was the runner, only now he was carrying a bucket and some rope. As I got closer, I saw that the scary hulk of a man with the dangerous looking knife was actually sawing through a giant net that was tangled around a giant tail, the jagged edges of the knife rasping against the thick ropes. The woman had snatched the bucket and began hauling water back and forth, splashing it over the lumpy body. The runner stood staring in awe for a few seconds before he snatched a phone out of his pocket and began snapping pictures.
Poppy got there first and was sniffing vigorously at the creature as I reached out to touch it. An eye four times the size of my own blinked back at me as I heard the distant sounds of voices and more feet on the rocks.
Anna is an aspiring editor and writer with a background in accounting. She actually finds personal finance and the issue of financial literacy very interesting. She grew up on a hobby farm south of Ottawa and enjoys animals, reading, and the weird and wonderful world of the internet.