I am elated to have my story “A Midnight Walk” (pages 47-50) published as the “Featured Flash Fiction” in the Fall/Winter issue of The Stray Branch. Thank you, Editor Debbie Berk!
A Midnight Walk
by Ann Christine Tabaka
It was around midnight, but isn’t that usually when darkness plays its evil hand? I couldn’t sleep so I decided to take a walk on the beach down the block from where we were renting a cottage for the summer. It was a warm and overcast night with a soft breeze. I was enjoying splashing my bare feet through the waves that broke at the edge of the sand. I was mesmerized by the rhythmic sound. Just then the clouds parted and the moon revealed a shocking sight in the sand. A body lay curled up along the shoreline. There was something unnatural about it, so I walked up to it to see if he was still breathing. I saw no signs of life. I did not bring my phone with me, and I knew that it would soon be high tide. I ran for home to call the police to report it before he was washed out to sea. I sat at the house, awake for hours waiting by the phone, but the police never called back. I was never called in for a statement.
The next morning there was nothing in the local news about a police report, and there were no reports of missing persons. It was as if it never happened. I was left wondering if it was just a nightmare, if I had imagined the whole thing. I am not sure what took place that night, but I can tell you that I never ventured out to walk the beach alone at night again.
The rest of the month passed quietly. My husband and I enjoyed the last weeks of our vacation without any other incidents. It was time to pack up and head for home. I still thought back to that night and could not let it go. I knew that I did not imagine the body lying near the water’s edge. Who was he? How did he die? Had the tide come in before the police arrived? Did they ever arrive? Why didn’t they call back to follow up on the report? I had given the dispatcher all the information in detail. I needed to let it go, but I could not.
It was midday so I decided to take one last walk on the beach to say goodbye to the ocean before leaving. There were very a few people around since it was October and midweek. As I neared the spot where I had seen the body, I got an eerie feeling. Suddenly, he jumped out of nowhere and glared at me. “Do you remember me?” he said in a low voice. It was him, the man I saw dead on the beach. I screamed but it was too late. He grabbed me and placed his hand over my mouth as he started to drag me towards the nearby pier. I caught my wits, and gathered all my strength. I pushed my entire body weight back into him and kicked him as hard as I could in the kneecap. He released his grip to catch himself from falling, and I took the opportunity to run as fast as I could screaming loudly for help as I did.
Just then, two young men who were surf-fishing heard me and came running. They noticed the man chasing me and tackled him before he could turn around to escape. While one young fisherman held him down, the other pulled out his cellphone to call the police. This time the police arrived within ten minutes. They hand-cuffed my attacker and proceeded to ask questions. They asked me to go to the police station for a full report. I did. I was shaking the entire time until the ordeal was over and I was safely back home.
Almost a year had passed, and we were preparing for vacation once again. I never forgot the events of last year, but now they seemed like some distant bad dream. After we unpacked and settled in for our annual autumn vacation, I went out to shop for groceries. I grabbed a local newspaper to bring back to the cottage with me. There on the front page was the result of the recent trial of the man who attacked me. He confessed everything. It turns out that he was the twin brother of the dead man. They were separated at birth. When the twin who attacked me found out about his rich brother, he plotted to take over his life and live as the rich one. That is why there was never any ‘Missing Person” report filed. It almost worked, but unfortunately, I came upon him as he was trying to do away with the body. He ran to hide under the pier, not knowing how much I actually saw that night. He disposed of the body permanently after I had left to go call the police. After that, he planned to find me and do away with me, to cover all his tracks. The two young men surf-fishing saved my life.
Needless to say, I still never walk alone on the beach anymore, day or night, but especially not at midnight!