Chapter 1:

The Beach

I stood on the beach and stared out to the horizon and as i looked i hoped that in some way the horizon would move closer and provide me with some answers. of course, in reality it did not and it never was going to. I looked to my left and then I looked to my right. From my current vantage point the beach appeared to stretch infinitely either side of me. I look again at the horizon and this time I noticed how calm the sea was as it gently lapped against the shoreline which was just beyond my feet. I studied the almost rhythmic nature of the waves and longed for them to give me an answer but like the horizon before me, it to would not tell me any information. I was sure that they were all oblivious to my existence.

Then I looked to the sky and suddenly i became preoccupied with that. It was cloudy and overcast, the sky gave the impression that it should cold and that I should feel a chill. Yet in truth, i did not and in fact the most confusing thing of all was how i had got here in the first place.

So there I was, in place (a beach to be precise) that I did not know or recognise with no idea how I had arrived and let’s be honest, if this had happened to you, if you to had woken up somewhere and you could not remember arriving then it would start to nag you wouldn’t it? This place to me, at that moment, was nameless

Now then, let us take stock. Just to clarify incase the previous paragraphs had not been clear enough. At that point i had no memory of arriving at, ‘nameless beach’, all i remembered was waking up face down in the sand and to be honest, i can only assume it was the morning. I must have looked like some drunk, except I did not have a hangover and my mouth definitely feel like the sand, which at that point I was sitting on. To further to my confusion I actually felt more refreshed and more engerised than i had felt for some time. So I continued to sit there, in a place with no name, with no memory and for a moment, with no plan.

I have often found that sometimes, sleep with its strange dreams can leave me more tired and more rundown than i felt before I actually went to sleep. My sleep with its strange patterns and uneven dreams has sometimes felt heavy as if it is a burden.

However as I mulled this over, my attention was caught by something, a figure which was approaching me. Were they approaching me or was this a sort of mirage, a fervent trick played on me by my brain as my thoughts and memories clashed and grinded their gears. I squinted sightly, it was definitely approaching me from the left. A young woman was approaching me, her face was expressionless, yet, she came across as warm, almost passionate about something. She smiled at me and it was like the smile was inside me and i could feel every part of it. I have to be honest i found all this a bit strange for first thing in what i presumed to be a morning. It was not my usual orange juice and toast type of thing you might say.

She was getting closer to me and i could make out more of her detail. She was a young woman, her movement was slow but with purpose, it appeared like she had all the time in the world. In fact her walk almost appeared out of synch with everything around her. I was beginning to reappraise the idea that i had been out the night before, that i had got drunk and this was some kind of crazy hangover.

Then, as if with no warning, she there, next me, standing right next to me. I did not get up, i sat there, still huddled up on the beach. She looked down at me and spoke for the first time.

”You’re early”

Her voice had no definible accent yet it was familiar.

”i didn’t realise this was a date” I spoke back, with unfortunately a touch too much sarcasm.

The young woman laughed, i had two choices now. She was either laughing at me or she was laughing with me. I wondered if i could say anything else, anything that was perhaps remotely amusing.

So there we were, the young woman sat down next to me. She was dressed in jeans and a plain black t shirt, i noticed immediately her long sheepskin style coat and so now the beach became a place for both of us.

I watched as she looked into the sea just as i had. I wondered if the sea would give her any answers, or perhaps she already knew the answers.

As I looked at her, my gaze was fixed upon the profile of her face. I was trying to work out what she looked like. I was trying to work out what she looked like but in many respects her face was an ever changing collage. Her hair changed colour and style as did her eyes, eventually her features settled, her face was thin with dark brown eyes and shoulder length hair which was not blonde but fair in colour, like my own.

But i needed answers and i think that was obvious but equally i almost felt like she was reading my mind.

Ignoring my initial sarcasm she turned to me and gave me some clarity.

”Hello James, my name is Joanne, let’s just say i know you but you don’t know me” As she said this she flicked her long hair back over her shoulders and she looked at me, her brown eyes offer up an intensity that took me by surprise.

Joanne continued,

”I am here to help you, well guide you i guess, yes, that’s better term, that is what i do normally but as you are in this situation let’s just say this is a more one to one service”

Joanne laughed again, I was still trying to work out if the laugh was with me or at me. Gosh, why is life is so full of questions?

”I am sorry one to one service makes me sound sordid doesn’t it? No i am definitely not that, don’t you recognise this place James?”

So I looked around (again), miles and miles of beach and some sea. Well I have been to a few beaches in my life like this. Of course Southend, my home town was a seaside town but its beaches did not like this, to be honest, if they did, it would have a lot more visitors each year.

I suddenly felt nervous because at that moment the woman who called herself Joanne was in control. I did not want to play games, especially when i did not have a chance of winning and at that moment, that is exactly what my situation felt like, a game. Why couldn’t she tell me what was going on? It did not matter how many questions she asked me. I was never going to work out where I was or what was going on. I remember feeling slightly frustrated at that point and slightly angry.

Of course i was later to discover that i did know this place, in fact i knew it very well, the problem was that i was looking at it from the inside, usually or normally i would be looking at it from the outside.

Joanne turned towards me; at that moment, that very moment in time, Joanne felt like my best friend. It felt as if this was just a casual chat on the beach. Was her face an antidote for something, was it? As we sat there on the beach I noticed again how intense her eyes were, she studying me intently. I swear at this point a small trace of concern crept across face.

”What do you remember James?”

I tried to think, I quickly scanned my memory.

‘Well, erm, well” I stuttered

Now that was a valid point, if i really thought about it what did i remember. To tell the truth, as i mentioned earlier, nothing. I knew my name, who i was, how old i was (twenty four or thereabouts). I could remember how many drinks it took before i got overbearing and sentimental. I could remember at least five of my ex girlfriends though not necessarily in the right order. I could remember that fifty percent of my parents had been there whilst growing up. I could also remember up until what i had assumed had been yesterday, getting up, going into town. But that was it… nothing else, maybe i had gone to withdraw some cash… But i could not remember the vents which had led to me waking up on this beach on a cloudy overcast day that did not seem to be cold despite the clouds and the grey.

Joanne looked at me like a teacher does when they patiently wait for an answer hoping beyond hope that the child will give it but knowing in all likelihood there face will remain a blank canvas, in my case a blank canvas with NHS glasses and a runny nose.

Oh, then it hit me, God it hit me and of course, now i think about it, i can see it as a sense of serious shock wearing off. Reason was making a run for it and panic quickly courted my affections. I turned away from Joanne, feeling that her concerned face was the answer and i should know why i was here, as if it was the most straightforward and natural thing ever.

I turned away to study the sea again, it was still calmly lapping at the shoreline. I still hoped that maybe it had the answer then i turned back to face Joanne.

”I am dead, aren’t I? I mean this is heaven of some sort isn’t it. You’re an angel aren’t you, a kind of female Clarence?”

i looked back into the sea and added,

”I always thought wings were a fashion nightmare. You look much better without them”

I turned to Joanne and paused, I realise all this might be a bit pointless. i mean if I was dead, ranting like a mad thing did not matter. I composed myself and applied a more philosophical approach to my next piece of conversation.

”I have got to say that of all the mornings i have had in my life this is definitely one of the more interesting. I would even go as far to say it is probably or possibly the most exciting of all”

Joanne looked at me and remained expressionless and if she was puzzled by something. Then she put her hand on my arm. That was the first time she touched me, it was the weirdest sensation i had ever felt. It really was really electric, that was what it felt like, electric current. But it also felt soothing, in all adventures together, i never got used to the feeling and for that i am glad. For me to describe the feeling i would have to resort to the kind of metaphors you find in some sort of classic well written poetry. I am afraid that is not me. so trust me it is a feeling to die for. Now as it turns out that is exactly what most people have to do to experience it.

Joanne shook her.

”You are not dead, don’t think that. I guess i should start at the beginning, that seems a good place as any to start doesn’t it James?”

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