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Blackwater Sound

Michael Haynes is an avid short fiction reader and writer whose debut fiction collection, At the Intersection of Love and Death, was released earlier this year. He serves as the Vice President of Rainbow Dublin's Board of Directors and enjoys photography, cooking, and travel. He is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Codex Writer's Group. He can be found online at michaelhaynes.info or on twitter at @mohio73.

The sun was below the horizon and dusk quickly fading as Lee Cortez pulled his truck off the road into the gravel parking strip separating Highway 1 from the quiet depths of Blackwater Sound. He yanked a ratty camp chair from the truck bed then went back to the front. He hesitated over a pile of mementos, reaching out, then pulling back. Finally, he grabbed just his cooler and headed down to the shore.
No one else was on the bit of sandy beach as he approached. Lee dropped the cooler just a few feet from the water and dropped himself into the chair. He lit a cigarette and smoked it slowly, waiting for the moon to rise behind him.
Lee used to come here with Marta, when they were courting, then with Marta and Tommy, once he'd been born. They'd liked it because there were so few people who used the beach; most folks drove on by, heading for somewhere bigger and, if he was being truthful, somewhere nicer. But it was their spot.
The last few years, since that stormy night when Tommy spiked a fever and Marta told Lee, dead on his feet after pulling a double at the plant, that he should sleep, that she could take Tommy to the urgent care, he'd come alone and mostly been alone. A couple times a person or two would be on the beach, sitting, or standing. Waiting.
Today, he waited alone as the moon rose behind him. He smoked steadily as the moon slid into the Earth's shadow. Once or twice he looked over his shoulder to check the progression of the eclipse. Mostly he watched the water.
It was the psychic who had told him to come back to Blackwater Sound. He'd been lonely, desperate, when he went to see her--something he never would have done before everything changed. But when she told him to go back to the dark water--(She hadn't said the words "Blackwater Sound" but he hadn't said anything about water to her. It couldn't be a coincidence.)--when she told him to come here to find his wife, find his son, told him when the moon turned red that things which were lost came back, he took those words and made them gospel and held them close.
Lee pulled a bottle of soda from the cooler and sipped it, taking a break from the cigarettes. A glance over his shoulder and he saw the moon was turning red. He nodded and turned back to the dark, still water.
Last year, he'd told himself it was time to be done. Five years had passed. The plant was closing and they'd offered him a job in Louisiana. Lee chose a few of Marta's things he could bear to let go of, a few of Tommy's too, and planned to leave a little shrine when the sun rose. When he arrived that night, an old woman had been sitting cross-legged along the shore. He'd sat a ways down the beach, giving her some space, giving himself some, too.
With someone else there, he hadn't felt right breaking the rules and smoking, so he fidgeted through the start of the evening. As the moon reached its peak in the sky, something stirred in the water not far from where the old woman sat. Lee stood, heart thrumming, eyes fixed on the troubled water.
Soon a man appeared, naked, nearly bald. He stumbled out of the water, onto the beach. The woman let out a little cry and hurried to him, embraced him. They spoke quietly before she led him to her waiting car. Lee spent the rest of that evening terribly alert, but the eclipse ended and the sun rose, and he was still alone. The next morning, at the factory, he'd told them he couldn't move to Louisiana.
There'd been no luck finding a new job. As the little bit of insurance money from the accident dwindled, he moved from their old two-bedroom apartment into a small room in a dingy motel, paying the owner by the week.
Lee tore the wrapper from another pack of cigarettes and tucked it in his pocket. In his truck sat those things he'd intended to make a shrine with last year, the same things he'd meant to bring to the shore tonight. They sat there, lonely, as the moon, its coppery hue fading with every moment, slid toward the silent sound.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 31st, 2022
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