The Stepping Stone
(c) 2012 Jamie Dement
The steady beating of the drums on the distant island soothes me to sleep. Just like the tribal rhythm has every night for the past several years. I’ve lost track of the days, though I try marking them on the cave wall. The waters rose a while back and now cover them. My only home now submerged. Crude shelters are my only protection. Feeble in their construction, easily destroyed by the monsoons. But even then, the winds carry the rhythmic song across the waters and lull me to sleep. Tonight will be no different.
Parrum. My dreams are always the same. Parrum. Floating. Parrum. Drifting on top of the water. Parrum. Cresting with the swell. Parrum parrum. Sliding. Sinking. Parrum. Tumbling onto the studio dance floor. Parrum. Sand sprawled across its hardwood. Parrum. The drums keeping cadence. I glide across the makeshift beach. Parrum pah pum pum.
Tonight, though, the drums perform a crescendo. Parrum pum pum. My dreams speed through in triple time. Pah pum pum pum. A calypso dance. A tango. Pum pum pum. Prestissimo. Pah pum pum pum. My feet can no longer keep up. Pum pum pum pum pum. I’m suffocating. Drowning. Pum pum pum pum pum. The air I need eludes me. Pum pum pum pum pum. My heart throbs with the beat of those drums and rises with the tempo. Pum pum pum pum pum. Pum pum pum pum pum. Each thud pounding on my chest. In my ears. Behind my eyes. Pum pum pum. I must find a way out! PUM. PUM!
And then, nothing.
I’m back in the water, sailing along the sea. The thumping, the pounding, the beat of the drums have rendered me deaf. I no longer hear the crashing of the water.
The undulating waves now ripple the earth beneath me. I feel the low rumble trembling far below its surface. A guttural echo through my bones shakes me awake.
As I step out into the night, a full moon paints its impossible path. The drums are quiet. It wasn’t just a dream. My subconscious trying to make sense of the silence. After the intensity of it all, I continue along the beach letting the sea breeze cool my skin.
Before I realize, I’ve made it to the other side of the island. Nothing more than a small dot somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Uncharted on any map. Void of any visitors. No one but the drums to keep me company. Alone for years in my solitary confinement. No one to blame but myself. A single prop-engine plane tumbled to the beach in the early spring some years before. Its remnants washed away long ago. But the scars remain. Only my feet carry me now.
I let the water lap at my ankles as I stand at the entrance to the moon’s lit trail. It beckons. Countless times I’ve tried to walk its path. Each time swallowing me whole. Teasing me.
My eyes won’t let go of that shimmering murmur. Curling my toes, I dig into the sand letting it ooze through and wash away with the next surge. My heart hears the song as it beckons again.
I take a few steps forward. Knee high into the water, still warm from the heat of the day. Tiny bubbles rise and kiss my skin. I continue deeper.
Thigh high. It cradles me, like a mother would her newborn babe, gently rocking me to and fro. Still pleasant and inviting. My mind knows the depths that await. And still, I go on.
But the water never deepens. The moon grows bigger on the horizon. Can I touch it?
I look back towards the shore. My island. Gone. Its melody quelled with the drums. I hear only the Siren’s call of the moon.
With each step I take, the water recedes. No longer at my knees, or my ankles. Only a thin layer of water coats the sandbar now.
As the moon descends, the water beneath her bubbles and boils. She sends waves out to greet me, excitement brimming on each swell. My heart echoes the moon’s elation.
The narrow path opens onto a new beach. The moon sends a final farewell wave and kisses me good-bye as she dips below the horizon.
Born into the Air Force, married the Army, and now works for the Navy, Jamie Dement has a wide variety of world influence from which to pull. With a BA in English, she’s studied a multitude of writers–from classical literature to today’s best sellers. She enjoys SF&F, but will read any genre (romance being the exception). When asked to choose her favorite, she struggles.
Jamie Dement currently lives in Florida with her husband, son, and three cats. KazkaPress has recently published some of her work. She blogs occasionally at:
Follow her on Twitter @I_Am_LadyJai