Danica's moment of distraction meets consequences.
Location: Stinson Beach, Pre-War Picon, August 2231
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 548
The air was that favorable kind of warm for early morning: balmy, breezy, and not very sticky. The morning surf report told no lies about the conditions: glassy with no current churn, water temperature a rashguard kind of day, no algae alerts, the winds kicking up decent swells past the break and scooting fluffy clouds along in the sky. The beach was dotted only with a few locals out for morning runs and stragglers in the parking lot wrestling their boards out of the beds of trucks and the tops of jeeps.
She hadn’t gone surfing in almost three weeks. Her alarm would go off at 5 and Dani’s hand would slam down on the button in rejection of the suggestion. Instead, she’d roll over and bury herself a little deeper in her sheets and go back to sleep. In truth, she hadn’t really gotten out of bed much these last few weeks if she wasn’t obligated to, which only left lethargically stumbling into the shower and into the café to close or rent out body boards and sell bottles of soda to tourists in the most functional but zombie-like state possible. Otherwise, Danica was a ghost. No activity on social media. Calls going to voicemail. Texts not returned. No parties. No bonfires. No surfing. Just sleep and late night bad TV.
But something this morning urged her out of bed when the alarm went off. A sort of sudden breathing room present where in the before of the last few weeks her emotional state was best described as a flat, white room where the windows had been drawn and where everything had been draped in sail cloth and left to gather dust. Instead, this morning there was a small sense of urgency to turn up on the beach. Maybe it was the lift of this fog that had settled in her head or maybe it was the awareness that the summer season was starting to slip to an end and soon, it would be hostile seas and lazy, damp unambitious rain for months on end. Whatever the case, Danica was up, out on the water, in her favorite long sleeved rash guard and sitting atop her board.
The usual crowd was present for 6 a.m. with the usual jokes and the usual back and forth about the who, what, where of the party the night before and the regrets and hangovers of the next morning, as they drifted in a loosely configured knot just past the break while contemplating the set-up of each wave as it formed. The usual ribbing for Dani’s sudden, extended absence and Dani begging off, claiming a flattening by a lingering late summer flu that had trouble letting go of her.
The figure on the beach that caught her eye then was moving along the waterline with a steadfast pace despite the resistance the sand offered up. Dark haired, broad in the shoulders, and with a leanness to his extremities, he ran with a determined, fastidious pace that leaned just a little into the wind. Dani’s attention squared then on the beach runner, abruptly dropping out of the floating conversation about beer bongs and keg stands. She watched the runner lean a little further into the wind until his form shifted and he was building speed, breaking out into a wind sprint. She was only vaguely aware of her own lean forward to paddle herself in the same direction of the runner, her attention fixed and a slightly frenetic mien emerging as her gaze squinted down to pull additional confirming details out of the runner. Details that were only too slowly taking up form and space as she tried to get a look at the face that was only showing itself in profile. The sprinter continued on, pushing his pace until all at once he relented and came to a ragged, slowing stop. His top half folded downward and went limp, his hands on his knees as he gulped for air and winced as one hand attended the pinch in his side. Still in profile, his face was still a suggestion.
The anxious frown on Dani’s lips twisted out a mewl of frustration. Was it? Wasn’t it? But what if it is and this is the only chance to- Her mouth hesitated and then opened as she gulped down a breath, filling her lungs with the air that meant to propel the sound of her voice over the waves on the shoreline and be heard on the beach. It was only then that the wave coming at her, caught in her peripheral vision.
She hadn’t noticed how far down and in she’d half propelled and then mostly drifted away from the rest of the 6 a.m. assembly. No longer sitting in the bobbing meander past the break, she was too far in to correct and too far out to slip off the top of her board and make for the shore. The wave coming at her was fast and mean, a curl full of jagged teeth and violent ambition like an animal that would accept no riders. There was only time for another smaller gulp of air like a half-finished prayer to the Lords before it slammed into her and toppled her over. She went forward, somersaulting under the water with no control as the leash cuff around her ankle yanked violently at her leg from an opposite direction. She kicked wildly trying to retake control and succeeded only in violently tugging her board in her direction, the skeg roughly bucking into her head.
The impact was a distant suggestion of discomfort as the collapsed trough of the offending wave was pulled back by the outgoing current and took Dani with it. It buoyed her upward, as she now upright but tangled in her leash line fought to get above the water line. Her head broke the surface, another involuntary tiny gulp of air in mid-sip as the next wave crested down on top of her and caught her in another crush, sending her tumbling forward through sandy churn and white water. The direction of the surface lost.
The panic of this moment about to reach full, animal-brained bloom was denied its apex as Dani hit the coral bed. She was thrown across it knees first, her thighs and shins catching and scoring along the patchy spikes second. The salt water immediately seeping into the cuts and stacking burning atop the pain of hitting the bed as she continued to tumble forward. It was the sudden, sharp blow to her ribs that knocked the remaining air out of her lungs, exhaling it all at once into the water and replacing it with a burning agony and a bone certain certainty that the damage was bad. Her hands flailed wildly, trying to control her motion forward by grabbing at the patchy coral spikes and finding very little purchase but adding to the damage as she was dragged forward.
…forced unconsciousness is a mindfuck. At least, when you’re sleeping, the brain can account for the passage of time. But here and now, Dani’s awareness came back in a lethargic, hazy jolt unable to account for the days, hours, or minutes that had slipped away from her before just now. It was the beeps and electronic purrs of the machines around her hospital bed that snuck back into her awareness of her immediate environment just as her eyes were registering the careworn, stretched thin by fatigue elements of her brother Tommy’s face as he sat in the chair by her bedside.
He pushed out a ragged, relieved sigh, his large hands awkwardly making a grab for her nearest. “Shit, Dani. You scared the shit outta mom and dad,” he fussed at her, too tired to muster the tone to go with the overly forced smile on his lips and too relieved to achieve being angry with her.