The storm had raged all night with torrential rain that blasted the windows and wind that howled through the gaps under the doors of the weathered beach house. The ocean had matched the ferocity of the storm with waves that crashed all the way over the rocks below the headland, over the wide expanse of sand on the beach, and almost up to the start of the pathway up the hill that led to the track along the headland and to the single cottage set back against a copse of immense dark trees.
Phil, who did not like storms at the best of times, had shivered under the blankets in the single bedroom whose windows normally provided a peaceful vista out onto the ocean. Despite closing the windows tightly and drawing the thin curtains as firmly closed as possible he could still hear the pounding of the rain on the panes of glass and on the tin roof, and the shriek of the wind as it pushed its way relentlessly into every crack into the house throughout the night. Sleep was impossible, and Phil thought back to his decision of a few weeks ago, starting to regret that he had given up his comfortable flat in London with central heating for this ramshackle cottage at the beach.
The decision had seemed ideal at the time. A sum of money had made its way to Phil from a distant relative’s estate. Phil had leapt at the chance of giving up his dreary job as a journalist’s assistant to write the novel he had always planned. London, with its many distractions, was deemed unsuitable for writing. Naturally of a solitary nature, the idea came to his mind of moving somewhere peaceful near the sea, but far enough away from civilisation to not have to interact with too many people. So, Phil had googled isolated beach locations, finally deciding on one that was not too far from London yet far enough away so that he wouldn’t be tempted to skip back to London on a whim.
The beach house had seemed perfect. It was a decently long although manageable walking distance to a small village store and was far enough away from any other houses that Phil was not worried about having to interact with any neighbours. In fact, the cottage was several kilometres to the start of the town border. Luckily too it was the only house on the ridge overlooking the beach, with just enough space for 1 person and a vista over the wide expanse of ocean unmatched by any house he had viewed so far. The house had come at a cheap price due to its distance from civilisation and although it was normally rented out for short holiday leases, the landlord had granted an exception for the “nice polite young lad” who had pleaded with him, espousing how perfect the location was, and telling him excitedly about his plans to write the next best seller.
The tiny cottage had bright whitewashed walls and a high pointed roof. The rambling relics of a previous owner’s attempts at a small cliffside garden took up most of the space around the house, the sad shrubs and previous flower beds succumbing a long time back to the salt air. Inside, however, was bright and cheery, the white walls continuing inside through a bright blue door with bright splashes of matching blues and contrasting yellows from the furnishings inside. The cottage was fully furnished and contained a single small bedroom to the left of the door inside, a small ensuite bathroom with a bath connected to a large metal tank outside for rainwater, a small but cosy lounge room with an open fire place and next to it a large comfy blue sofa perfect for late night reading. He had fallen in love with the small table next to the wide window in the lounge which looked out over the small green headland and ocean, the table just large enough for his laptop and books.
Phil had moved in the very next week, managing to find an acquaintance to take over his lease in London, storing all his larger belongings and bringing only essentials. “The less distractions the better” he thought as he reluctantly stored his X-box and games, knowing that if he brought them along he would never start the novel. Moving in to the beach house had seemed like a breath of fresh air both literally and figuratively to his stagnant life, inspiration striking hard as soon as he had moved in. The first few chapters of the novel flowed quickly, especially as the cottage had limited and intermittent mobile reception, so Phil was unable to distract himself much with his phone. The lengthy periods of writing were broken up by walks on the long sandy beach below the cliff. The weather, for winter, had been relatively mild with only occasional periods of light rain. Until the storm hit, Phil had thought that his situation was now ideal.
The weather reports had warned of the storm of the decade. Phil had prepared the house as much as he could, but as the storm hit he had realised that the house, which had seemed so perfect before, was not so perfect now. Small leaks appeared in the windows and roof. It was impossible to keep warm as the electricity had gone off early into the storm’s arrival and Phil had not thought to bring in firewood. The wind howled like a demon, and the thunder crashed overhead. A bolt of jagged lightening hit the headland nearby, with the subsequent immediate thunder overhead loud enough to nearly deafen Phil and bring anxious thoughts to his mind of lightening hitting the actual house. He huddled in bed and pulled the blankets over his head, trying to think of the plot outline of the next chapter of his novel, but it was next to impossible to keep his mind to task. He settled for trying to doze in the brief lulls in the noise outside.
There was no letup in the storm until mid-way through the next day, when the storm died down to a light steady rain with only occasional gusts of wind. Phil was determined to fit in a walk, wanting some fresh air to calm his frazzled nerves. He threw on his warmest waterproof coat and scarf, pulled the hood close over his head and slipped outside, treading carefully down the now treacherous path to the beach, slipping occasionally on small mudslides which had washed away part of the path. On reaching the beach, he was glad to find the tide was out leaving more of the sand to walk along rather than the pebbles at the base of the hill. Wizened curves of driftwood and clumps of brown leathery seaweed were scattered over the beach expanse. As Phil weaved his way amongst them towards the opposite headland his eyes were drawn to a distant dark figure standing on the rocks at the end of the beach. The figure was dangerously close to the edge of the rocks, where the thundering waves crashed intermittently over, drawing anything in their path back into the foaming water. The man, as Phil now discovered on walking closer when he could see more clearly through the rain, was dressed all in black from head to toe, a large knee length jacket left undone to the elements with no hood for protection. He faced away, looking out to sea with hands in his pockets and coat billowing behind him, and did not move an inch despite the steady rain and wind blowing into his face.
As Phil approached the end of the beach and stepped onto the rock platform which abutted onto the looming headland, he saw a particularly large wave crash only metres from where the man stood. To Phil’s horror the man did not move at all and the wave barely missed dragging his motionless form out off the rock platform.
“Hey!” Phil yelled. “Get away from there you idiot!”.
The words were lost in the wind which had now picked up speed again and which was trying to drive him backwards. He broke into a jog, fighting to stay upright and just managed to keep his balance across the slippery rocks. He reached the man with a struggle and grabbed onto his shoulder to warn him, slipping in a rock pool at the last moment and falling into the man’s solid form. The man wrenched sideways, nearly losing his balance himself, and quickly turned, his hands catching onto Phil’s coat and gripping strongly.
“Sorry,” Phil gasped as he regained balance. He looked upwards, only to see a shocked glare aimed at him from deep caramel brown eyes, bordered by wet dark curls and framing lightly tanned cheeks. Phil rapidly decided he was probably around the same age, maybe a little younger by the youthful appearance of his face.
“What the hell are you doing so close to the edge, you could be sucked into the ocean at any moment!” Phil yelled, stepping backwards to avoid another wave.
The man’s arms dropped slowly to his side and he didn’t speak, just looking at Phil, the glare fading from his eyes. Phil opened his mouth to speak again but was stopped by the sudden realisation that firstly this man was gorgeous, and secondly that his eyes, despite the depth of colour, were the most dead and cold that he had ever seen, the previous glare the only speck of emotion present. His mouth remained open as he struggled to regain his thoughts and calm his now wildly beating heart, a sudden large breaking wave the only thing that brought him back to his senses. As he broke his gaze away from the man’s eyes to judge the closeness of this new wave, the man suddenly launched himself into a fast walk, brushing past Phil’s shoulder close enough to nearly knock him over again. As Phil turned to look after him with wide eyes, he saw the man striding out across the beach, his stiff form whipped by the coat lashing around his legs, walking fast enough for Phil not to want to try and catch up. A sudden squall of rain and a crash behind him made him suddenly realise his own danger, and he quickly followed the disappearing black form back along the beach. By the time he had reached the base of the hill, the man had totally gone. Phil quickly made his way back to the beach house, now shivering as the rain seeped through gaps in his coat and scarf.
Much later, Phil continued to shiver under blankets wishing for the return of the heating, the electricity for which had still not been restored. The storm had now picked up again and continued to rage, blowing the ocean into a frenzy; the relentless pounding of the waves filling his ears. To distract himself he let his mind drift back to the beach and to the man whose cold, yet beautiful eyes were now firmly fixed in his thoughts. Phil wondered what had happened to bring the man to such a state that he risked his own safety on the rocks without seemingly to care. Why had he been standing there in the rain so close to the edge? Why had he stormed off without a word? As the late afternoon wore into night, Phil’s thoughts continued to tumble with no answers forthcoming, the swirling wind matching his troubled thoughts.