Nautilus belauensis -
" The nautilus (from the Latin form of the original Ancient Greek: ναυτίλος, 'sailor') is a pelagic marine mollusk of the cephalopod family, Nautilidae, the sole extant family of the superfamily, Nautilaceae, and of its smaller but near-equal suborder, Nautilina. "
The afternoon sun shone brightly against the blue of the house as we pulled into the drive. It was a creamy picture of pale blue and cobalt, obviously once bright and vibrant, but washed in the sun and salt air. It was bigger than the pictures made it look.
A two level house with a wide driveway, white trim, black shutters, and what seemed like hundreds of windows. Even just stepping out of the rental car, the air reeked of fish and salt. "Don't worry," dad barked a laugh. "You'll get used to the smell. It grows on you."
I'd wrinkled my nose, "It's disgusting. What is that?"
Dad was at the back of the car, getting the bags, so mom answered me as she rounded the front of the vehicle to my side. "That's the ocean, honey," she said, with an amused smile. She inhaled deeply, eyes closed, as though the smell might actually be pleasant. As though she were reminiscing with the memories attached to the scent.
But all I'd wanted to do was let my turned stomach do with its contents what it will. Dad gave me the keys and I carted by duffel bag and rolling suitcase into the house.
The living room was just to the right off the entrance, with a small sitting room to the left. The stairs went up straight across from the door with the kitchen entrance on either side, through the living room and the sitting room. Each room looked full of furniture just waiting to be used.
I left the door hanging open there in the foyer and started up the staircase. Mom's and dad's voices filtered in from out at the car—arguing about something, it sounded. But nothing else had been happening besides arguing lately, so it didn't much surprise me.
Upstairs, there were three rooms. I poked my head into each one, looking for sizes, only to find the room that was probably mine was in the far left corner of the house. The wide window with a bench beneath it at the back of the room faced the ocean and the sandy beach before it.
It was a beautiful view. Out of curiosity, I left my duffel on the bed, along with my suitcase, and stepped over to the window. My fingers slid the lock and I gave the frame a hard tug. It slid up with a jerk, and I pushed it up until it wouldn't go any farther.
As I'd thought, the ocean's loud sounds could be heard just fine with the window open. It was amazing—how something so powerful could be so close to you and not touch you. How the waves advanced and retreated like it was a game. The melodies playing in the crash against the shoreline just down the beach played right into my ears.
I sat on the bench and the wood whined rather loudly as I pulled my left leg up under me. The grasses at the back of the house swayed with the strong breeze all the way up until the sands consumed them and turned into beach. Looking farther to the left, you could see Cape Coral.
It was a somewhat small portion of houses and other cottage-looking buildings much farther up the beach. We passed through it on the way to the house. Antique stores, boutiques, gift shops, and restaurants lined the cobble streets. The town looked nice, quaint.
Though, I wasn't entirely sure this place would even have the potential of 'growing on me'. The ocean was beautiful, there was no doubt of that. Beautiful, but not when you got close enough. Up close it was loud and smelly and big. It was full of frightening things. It was too powerful for its own good.
The once arguing voices of my parents echoed into the house, now in the living room, at a much more neutral tone and volume. Apparently they'd resolved whatever issue it was this time. I hopped up off the bench and trotted down the steps, holding onto the banister.
"Mom, dad—can I go look at the beach?" I asked, reaching the bottom.
Mom was dusting off the kitchen counter as dad brought in the remaining luggage, dropping it with a huff just inside the door on the linoleum. "Sure, honey," mom called from the kitchen. "Just stay close!"
"Have fun, dear," dad said, hands braced against his hips.
I couldn't help smiling a little at the humor of his expression. The bags weighed almost actually a ton. I had no clue what mom put in them back at the house when I tried picking one up, but she managed to fit half the house into four large suitcases, it seemed.
Dad gave me a bit of a smile as I passed him, patted my left shoulder blade. I trotted off the two short front steps and down the driveway far enough to get around the flower beds. The beds were with dark potting soil and dry-looking plants that obviously needed watering.
It didn't add much beauty to the house. If anything, the desert-style plants detracted from it. But to each his own, I supposed, wading through the tall grasses toward the sand. Mom always told me stories about Cape Coral, the place she grew up.
She met dad here, when he was vacationing with his uncle—who also grew up here. She'd always made the town sound so warm and magical. But in looking at it with my own eyes, standing at the edge of the sand, the space between grass and microscopic pieces of rock, it looked like any other beach town.
Hanging baskets on streetlamps and hangers outside the storefronts, cracking pavement on the thin roads, bland and somewhat colorless paint shades on every building, with too many gift shops for the low tourist numbers. Nothing special seemed to be here. But I tried to keep an open mind, given I hadn't even looked inside the confines of the town yet.
I nudged off my white sneakers with the tips of my toes, gathered them up in my left hand, and started walking across the surface of the dry sand. The breeze felt cool on my skin as a white cloud had passed in front of the sun.
The ocean's waves rolled with a roaring thunder that almost wouldn't allow for any other sound to be heard as I traveled up the beach a little, gazing out at it. Layers of blue and white mixed and tossed and flooded the sand just feet to my right. Whatever your stance, the ocean was indeed a marvelous thing. It was a wonder.
How could one thing be so big, so powerful, and so beautiful without even trying? It was in its nature to be that way. It didn't exert any effort to hold its qualities. The magnetic nature of the flowing waves kept my eyes on them as I walked on the warm sand.
Nothing quit made you feel small like a walk on the beach. Standing next to skyscrapers and mountains did just that, but neither compared when put beside an ocean full of life and wonder. I'd traveled a good few yards when I heard them—I heard voices.
Joyous shouts and squeals and giggles. They filled my ears, pulling my eyes from the blue only out of sheer curiosity. Not far off the line of wet sand were three girls. They splashed and jumped in the knee-high waves with such excitement.
Their happiness was almost contagious, pulling at the very edges of my lips, threatening to curve them up into a smile of my own. Like their emotions were calling into my chest and uplifting every muscle and organ. I had no doubt they did not know I was there, watching. But it was like they were daring me to make myself known and, maybe, even join them.
The hot sand beside the Point burned through my toes. But it was a good burn. The kind of burn that felt like the earth was pouring the life you'd lost throughout the week back into your body. I looked on at the girls splashing in the water in wonder. Didn't they worry?
Didn't they think about what might be floating beneath them and get scared? Their beaming faces, teeth reflecting the sun's bright light, said they felt no fear at all. They were fearless. The girls played on as I made my way up the beach. But a part of me stayed there with them. A part of me stayed standing there, watching.
Watching them have the time of their lives, wishing I could muster the courage to join them. But I was not fearless. I was full of little doubts and worries. And, because of that, I knew I would never touch the water. I would never feel so free. For me, water was not freeing. It was cold, and dark, and empty.
I'd learned how to swim when I was young like every child, but I hadn't been swimming for long when the unthinkable happened. I nearly drowned. Dad had been fishing since he was a boy, he'd said. I'd known it since I was little. So many times a year, he would leave on a boat with some friends.
One trip was planned spontaneously—during one of the weeks he and mom weren't talking much—and he suggested I come with. I wouldn't know until later why. Because mom had a women's retreat and they didn't have anyone to watch me. It wasn't like my father didn't like me but, this time, it was that he was stuck with me because mom wouldn't take me with her.
So I went on said fishing trip. It was me and dad and three of his co-workers. The co-workers were like uncles to me—they were dad's closest friends. It was the first time I'd been on a fishing boat before and it was the most exciting thing I'd done all year. Especially considering I got to skip school to go. When you're ten years old, it's the little things that excite you.
But I never wondered. I never worried. I was like those girls, splashing in the water without the notion of a potential danger lurking somewhere beneath the chilly surface of the crashing blue layers. For me, that danger was myself. I saw a fish below, and when I turned to tell my dad, I slipped and tumbled right over the side of the boat.
The happiest afternoon of that year had quickly turned into the most terrifying. Now, my toes gliding through the warm sand with the roaring waves blasting through my ear drums, I couldn't help but remember every detail of that day. A day I'd spent every hour since trying to forget. It'd been my own panic that nearly killed me. But my fear blamed the ocean for all of it.
It was a blurred memory with only the moments before, a few moments during, and the hour or so after visible. Though, the feelings were very much still intact and perfectly tangible. I could feel the cold water on my skin, the fear crawling up my spine, with the burning in my lungs.
All of it snapped away in an instant with the sound of my name, just barely audible above the scream of the ocean. "Shelley! Come inside!"
With a turn, I saw it was my dad—standing at the edge of the grass before the sand. "I'm coming!" I hollered back to him, and he disappeared inside the house. I exhaled and started the journey back to the house. On my way, I'd kept my eye out for the girls playing in the water. But they looked to be long gone.
When I walked inside the house, the luggage had disappeared from the downstairs, and both mom and dad stood in the kitchen. I closed the door behind me and placed my sneakers to the left of it before pattering through the living room toward the kitchen. "Want to get some lunch, Seashell?" dad asked, turning to see me as I leaned into the kitchen counter diving the two rooms.
"We're going to go look around the Cape and get a bite at one of the restaurants," mom clarified.
If you were really looking, you could see the near huff from dad in response. I chose to ignore it, to try and avoid bringing it to her attention, and smiled with a nod. "Yeah, that sounds like fun," I agreed.
"What do you think of the beach?" mom asked, stepping past me to walk to the door. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
I nodded in agreement, and followed her. "That's one word for it."
"Oh, Shelley. Try to think of the positives, alright? This trip is about making happy memories. Maybe you can branch out and try a few new things while you're here?"
It was futile, the want to rebut. So I only nodded, lips pressed in a thin line, and walked out to the car. The drive was short. Parking was the easiest part of this trip by far. Only a few cars lined the sides of the streets, but there were mostly people walking and perusing, along with a few bicycles chained to racks outside restaurants.
When we got out of the car, mom gave me some money and told me where to meet them in a half hour. Then she and dad ambled off toward a row of pale-colorful storefronts opposite me. Being left alone on shopping trips was nothing new. Usually, I found it more peaceful shopping alone.
That way mom and I could look at things at our own pace and then meet up somewhere to go home. It worked perfectly for mall trips. The Cape looked much different on the inside. Yes, it was a typical beach town. But you could see the people, the attitudes, and feel the atmosphere.
As I walked up the main drag through the center of town, I saw many name brand gift shops with Made In China trinkets and stuffed animals. A few things caught my eye—but I kept walking. I wanted to see it all before I stopped somewhere.
Even on land there were eco systems. Every town, city, and state had one. Those already apart of the system knew instinctively when someone new came along. When someone was there that didn't belong. I'd been spotted instantly by the locals, and I'd received glances everywhere I went. Most were the average glance of curiosity.
The sight of someone new didn't seem to happen too often here. A few odd looks of a shade of disgust were from random people that already looked to be in bad spirits, so I ignored them. It was like a treasure hunt, the walk along the storefronts.
A hunt to find the most intriguing content, the shiniest treasure, the cutest trinkets. There were many things I saw that I liked. But I needed to see more. I needed to keep searching. It was the insistent urge that the next shop had something better. That something more interesting was waiting for me somewhere else.
Finally, at the end of street, just before the start of the docks, was a small outdoor cafe with a wooden sign saying, 'antiques inside'. The building of the cafe was small, but the outdoor patio with sets of tables and chairs was a bit expansive, with an overhanging roof covering a bit more than half of it from the bright sun above.
Colorful paper lanterns hung from the overhang, along the supports and the border, matching the brightly colored flower arrangements on each table. I walked through the waist high picket fence onto the patio and across the concrete slab to the building.
Through the rounded, wooden archway was a room with wooden floors, matching wood fixtures and cabinets, with shelves covering every wall. There was a glass case to the left of the check-out counter, holding what looked to be gems of some kind.
There was a woman behind the register with short, blonde hair in waves to almost touch her shoulders. Fine lines of her face showed many years of smiling. She was ringing up a customer that was purchasing an old lamp stand, so I wandered to the left, along the first wall of shelves.
Wooden shelves coated the wall from near the floor, almost up to the ceiling. They held a wide variety of small to medium objects. Little trinkets of different genres and colors. They were worn metallics and silvers, like compasses and various things I didn't know the name of, but was intrigued by.
The woman behind the counter spoke kindly to the customer who bought the lamp stand. Her voice was warm in my ears from across the small shop. "Thank you so much for coming in," she said. "This is one of my favorite pieces. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do."
The customer replied, "Oh, I certainly will. It will make a wonderful addition to my office. Thanks again, Marina."
"Anytime," the blonde woman spoke again.
At a quick glance, I noticed her smile. It pulled up the lower half of her face all at once. The corners of her eyes narrowed along with it, moving all features with that one action, bringing a soft light to her face. With the customer disappearing through the archway and onto the patio, I turned my eyes back to the shelves.
I'd made it to the back wall of the shop, where the shelves changed from trinkets to jewelry. There was a stark difference, a contrast to the two types of items. The trinkets were old and obviously antiques. And while the jewelry looked antique as well, it also held a newer appearance.
The chains looked only slightly older, shining silver a bit withered, with bright gems in simple yet beautiful settings. They were gorgeous. Each gem was a bit rough cut, each one looking more unique than the last. My hand moved forward absentmindedly, fingertips brushing one of the settings.
"You like 'em?"
A feminine voice startled me, and my hand shot back from the display in an instant, my head turning directly toward the spoken words I'd heard. There was a girl standing to the left of me. A dull neon blue coated the hair tied into a braid on her shoulder, loose strands fraying out every which way atop her head. It was a stark contrast to the warm brown of her irises.
Clearing my throat a bit, I nodded slowly. "Yeah, they're really beautiful."
"David made those," she tip-toed forward, rising up on them to peer over the shelf. "He takes a long time to make each one. We get the crystals from the rocks South of the Point."
"You found these here?" I looked on at the jewelry in wonder.
"Yep! They're pretty far down though, so have to be willing to spend the day when you go fishing for 'em," she smiled, rocking back onto her heels.
"Wow..." I whispered the word, in awe of the concept. That such beauty could be in the rocks along the shore here, that it was just there waiting for someone to find it.
The girl's hand shot forward, bouncing her braid. "I'm Serena. You're new here."
It was not a question. She simply stated what most of the town knew by now, what with me walking around like a lost duckling. I nodded and shook her hand, giving a small but polite smile. "I'm Shelley," I replied. "Just here on vacation."
"Cute name! It's very...beachy."
"Thanks," I retracted my hand.
She jutted her chin at the shelf. "See one you like? Or just browsing?"
"I was just browsing, but they're all so beautiful—I don't know how you could pick just one."
I chuckled a little, turning to eye the shelf again, and Serena chuckled as well, nodding her head in agreement. She reached forward, shuffling forward her feet, and plucked a ruby-colored ring from the shelf. "This is one of my favorites," she said, holding it up from the wood.
The setting was beautiful, with diamond-looking gems around the large, red stone in the center. But it wasn't something I could see myself wearing. Red had never been my color. I smiled a little and nodded. "It's gorgeous."
"Serena, dear," a feminine voice called into my ear, and I turned my head to see. It was the woman from behind the counter. Serena placed the ring back in its place on the shelf before the woman had even spoken her next words. "Would you go find Nerissa? She's been gone longer than she promised."
Serena nodded. "Of course," then, to me, she smiled. "Hope you have fun here."
I'd smiled back at her, and she ducked her head as she walked behind me to get to the exit. My eyes had followed her as she went, absentmindedly, and they rocketed back to the front counter in a double take. The woman was watching me.
Her expression was peaceful, lines soft, like she were in thought. And maybe she was. But her lips began to move a second after I'd looked in her direction. "What's your name?" she asked.
"Shelley Daniels," I answered, a bit timidly.
The left side of her lips slid up, and she pushed off the desk to take steps toward me. "It's nice to meet you, Shelley. My name is Marina," she said, as she outstretched her hand. "I own the cafe. When did you get to town?"
My hand slid into hers and I gave it a shake. Her fingers stayed around mine, though, causing our hands to linger in between us as I replied. "Is it that obvious?"
"I was born and raised here. With that many years in one town, it becomes increasingly easy to detect a fish out of water," Marina answered, smoothly, with a slightly upturn of her lips.
With the way her eyes crinkled, you could almost accuse her of making a joke. But the point of it escaped me. Finally, I retracted my hand and instead gestured to the shelves. "Everything here is really beautiful," I said, as I waved my hand. "Where do you get the antiques?"
Marina smiled, "Those are from fishermen. They find things in their nets that don't belong, sometimes, so we buy them and sell them here to people who will appreciate them."
"It's a good idea—some of these things could hurt the fish, couldn't they?"
"Most of these items would, yes," her smiled pushed to one side as she shifted her footing, eyeing me with a knowing expression. "If you'd like a part time job for a little spending money while you're here, stop by anytime. We're always looking for new crew members."
I nodded my head. "I will, thank you. I should probably get going. It was nice meeting you."
"It was nice meeting you, as well. Have a pleasant stay, dear."
The calm tone of her voice was relaxing, but it was also something that reared the hairs at the back of my neck. I kept my smile polite and walked through the exit. I did not dare look over my shoulder as I went. Something about that woman was peaceful and mesmerizing.
Then again, something about her felt dangerous. It was the look in her eye, the curve of her lips, the very words she chose to speak. As if she, too, were an antique on one of the shelves. Maybe she was, in her own way?
My mind chalked it up to too much sun. Something simple to leave it at as I made my way back down the main drag to find my parents. Something simple enough to help my mind forget.
The sharp, pungent smell of fish and salt filled my nose as I looked on at the waves crashing against the side of the boat. It was a bit mesmerizing—the way the ocean carried the vessel. How it cradled the weight and moved it forward. How the current rolled beneath my feet.
Suddenly, there beneath the black color of the water, was a silver shimmer. A fish. My lips curled up and burst into a radiant glow of excitement as I turned to look over my shoulder, eyes searching for my father across the deck.
Daddy! I see one!
A bump in the position of the flooring pushed me to the right. It almost felt like a speed bump in the car. My feet shuffled, hands gripping the railing to find my balance. The jerking motion was quick and hard, and the railing was wet.
I couldn't find a strong enough grip before the motion of the boat and the simple pull of gravity pushed me over the edge—like a pair of hands were on my shoulders, guiding me up and over the metal railing. As my feet went over my head, the sound of a shrill scream filled my ears.
It didn't sound like my voice. It felt too far away, too quiet. Then I was plunged into darkness head first, a blanket of ice cold wrapping around my body as if to comfort me after the fall.
That's when I woke up. My body had shot upright before consciousness completely came back to me, desperate to make the memories end. Skin covered in bumps, hair in my face, I reached my shaking hands up to clear my view.
My fingers touched wet warmth when they met the skin of my cheeks. I was crying. All I'd known was the fear in my veins and the race of my heart when I came to my senses. Nothing else felt real. It felt like I was still dreaming.
A density in my mind kept my thoughts clouded, swirling in a murky sky of gray and ash, to a point where I did not know I was moving until I felt the breeze from the window on my face. I pulled my feet beneath me as I sat on the bench seat.
The shriek of the wood was less amplified than this morning. Most likely because my ears were now too focused on the large body of rolling, thunderous water not far off from the house. In the darkness, the light of the moon illuminated its every outline.
It was like a spotlight on the entire beach. The moon never seemed so bright in Chicago. Street lights always made sure of that. But the roaring sounds echoing into my ears brought my heart rate down enough to breathe slowly.
It slowed everything down enough. Even time slowed to listen. The soothing sounds kept the sun asleep through the night. But the stars danced to it, as though it were a pop song on the radio. I pulled my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around them to keep myself together.
It'd been over a year since I'd dreamed that dream. That nightmare. Something brought it back to me. Some cruel, unwanted thing. Whatever it was needed to keep an eye open as it slept. Because if this nightmare persisted, I would be coming to get rid of it.
This was supposed to be a vacation. I wouldn't let something so trivial ruin it. At least, that's what I told myself, as I crawled back into bed. Leaving the window open let the cool night breeze and boisterous sounds of the ocean in.
Combining the two made it easier to settle in, even though I still trembled at the thought of plunging back into the dream as my eyes fell closed.