Sound is different on the water.
It travels, the echoing ghost of the original conversation lingering. I sit, letting each ocean wave bring me a story.
“I think she likes me,” a breathy whisper.
Louder, “... and that's when I said ‘Those aren't my footprints!’”
“I would kill for that.”
Some stories are repeated. It's an old beach, cottages passed parents to children. And the children need to know.
Usually it's the uncle - he'll say, “Kid, have your parents ever told you about what happened to Little Bobby Wood? What really happened?”
Like a fish vanishing under a wave. Everyone spent days walking up and down the beaches, hoping. His sister found him, three days later. There were what looked like chain marks on his body. Stab wounds.
His sister still lives in the same cottage. The grey one, on the cliff. She walks the beach every day.
Most people do.
If you're like my uncle, next you mention the footprints that appear during a new moon. Small ones, by the cliff. They lead into water murky from undertow and rip.
Children being children, they dare each other to follow the footprints, voices hushed as if their parents hadn't done it years before.
By fall of night the voices quiet, moved behind cottage walls and eventually into the silence of sleep.
So it's been, except for last night, when under a waning moon I heard something. Someone.
“Do you like me?”
“Oh, my little one, I would kill for you.”