Shutdown

A/N: My entry for the Writing Challenge Contest this August on the Review Game forum.

They say that the beach is a graveyard—well, no, I've actually never heard anyone say that. But that was one of the first impressions I had when I saw the coastline of Rawis Beach, a resort tucked away somewhere in the tropics. It was a resort facing the Pacific Ocean, an excellent location for seeking diversity of sea creatures but not if one wished to avoid an impending typhoon (or hurricane, the term depending on where you're from). The resort's walls and paved walkways were covered in pieces of broken tiles of different colours, creating a mosaic-like effect of sorts. Numerous coconut trees stood tall, useless for shade but otherwise gorgeous in a tropical getaway setting. There was a wall-climbing area near the parking lot, and a yellow banana boat stuck out from a cottage nearby. Two swings, one made from an old car tire and the other a plank of wood, hung from two different trees somewhere beside the other cottages.

I was staying in the town the resort was located at for an immersion with the locals, and they had insisted we visit the resort on my last day, which happened to be on a very hot, can't-fan-yourself-enough kind of day. "You can go swimming there," they added, as if the prospect of swimming could convince me. It did, and I remember packing my swimsuit and change of clothes as quickly as I could. When we arrived at the resort, the colourful tiles first caught my attention, some had been arranged to form shapes of fish or squid like a puzzle, and I remember nodding my head in approval with my beach towel hanging around my neck. The beach itself, however, was a different story. Approximately two kilometres wide, a mass of dead corals and rough rock jutted out between a short patch of sand where the resort visitors would descend from had they desired to swim in the beach, and the waters of the ocean. To be frank, there was no 'beach,' no sand to tan yourself on or play a game of beach volleyball. It was a spiky and brown expanse of what had probably once been a mangrove, or the homes of thousands of various fish and other sea creatures. That's no beach, I thought with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that's a graveyard.

"You can swim in the adult pool or the kiddie pool. Their water comes from the sea," said one of the locals, drawing me away from what my eyes were trying to process.

A salt water pool is an ironic if not fantastic idea, and I've swum in one before. But as I looked at the pools and noticed their squalid state, I politely backed away, said an incomprehensible "Ohthatlookscool," and ran to the tire swing like a five year old child. I had only hoped they wouldn't take it as utter repulsion and would see it instead as sheer reluctance.

One little girl who had accompanied us (her mother was one of my hosts) approached me, her bright red rubber slippers making a sound of something being pounded in a mortar as they slapped against the sandy walkway. "You want see fishys instead?" she asked me with a smile that could put the full moon to shame. "Okay," I agreed immediately, putting my feet down then wiggling out of the tire I trapped myself in.

I thought she was going to take me to a tank somewhere in the resort, but no, she led me to the patch of sand, and I had a slight look of horror on my face as she began to expertly manoeuvre her way atop the dead corals. I had to follow after her, make sure she wasn't going to trip and risk being scratched by dried anemone edges or something else, but after five seconds of trudging through the mass, I realised I had trouble walking and she was fit as a dolphin's flipper. I pinched the bridge of my nose, glanced at my two inch thick FitFlop sandals, and mumbled "Oh, to hell with this!" in resigned determination. I had to catch up to her, after all.

"Look!" she called out to me in a crouching position, pointing to a puddle of water in between some lifeless-looking corals, and I slovenly walked to her. She pointed out to what I thought was a sea slug in the water—long, black, and currently opening its mouth (or butt, I can never tell) to feed on an unsuspecting prey which I couldn't identify what with my decimal point knowledge on sea creatures.

"Cute!" she commented. Had I been my normal-minded self who thought of bunnies and butterflies as cute, I wouldn't have agreed with her sentiment, but as I reflected on the overall death vibe this place reeked of in which a simple living creature was a ray of sunshine, I found myself replying with a breathy "Yeah" to her words. Else, it could've been the local magic wafting around the place seductively, or it could've just been the heat of the sun catching up to me with my already toasted blood vessels.

With that, we spent the rest of the walk trying to look for other sea creatures left in the semi-graveyard-coastline of Rawis Beach. There were small schools of tiny black fish, mottled hermit crabs, spindly starfish, sea urchins, and some faintly pink corals that stood out against the browns, the blacks, and the greys.

The first highlight of the trip was spotting a fluffy (yes, fluffy) dark brown slug-like thing that sped from one rock to behind another in the span of two seconds.

"Oh, how could a creature like that even exist underwater? Wouldn't the water make its fur, if it were indeed fur, look sodden?" I uttered questioningly, judging if the odd animal really did have fluffy fur. The girl giggled at the expression on my face as she squatted, hoping to catch another glimpse of Mr. Mysterious. We couldn't be too sure as to what it was. What we were sure of, though, was that it was real. Real like everything else I'd been seeing.

The second highlight came as we were halfway to the ocean waves. Within another puddle swam two fish, so tiny, but distinctly electric blue in some pattern against the black of their bodies. "Like a pair of slippers," I noted with awe, and I glanced at the girl with me and her bright red slippers. With that thought, it only came to my mind to look back to where we had come from, and then and there I noticed the other locals we had left behind, preparing a feast of some sorts. They were setting up tables, rushing back and forth from one of the cottages with plates of food, some I could identify bearing fruits, and three teenage boys had even brought out a small pig on a spit. The young girl seemed to notice my inattention and looked to where I was looking, too.

"Party for byebye," she said softly. I snapped my head back to her and pointed to my nose. "Mine?" I questioned.

"Yah, and here," she swallowed down tears as she faced the waves with a sullen look. They were shutting the place down, I concluded.

"Chandee, kadi na! Kadi na!" called out the young girl's mother, I presumed, as she had shouted in a language I didn't understand. As a response, the little girl took my hand and led me away from the waves we were so close to reaching. I followed as if in a trance, trying to inhale the ocean breeze as much as I could for the last time, the memory of the pair of electric blue slipper-like fish etching itself onto the rock of my mind.

Who knew, I could try to look for some in the pet shop back home and raise them in a lovely tank of black, brown, and grey aquarium decor, so that they'd be sure to stand out like they did here.

And when they die, I'd hold a feast in their honour.

The deceased is prepared for the grave by the undertaker or some kindly friend, thus sparing the afflicted ones that agonizing duty. It is usual for some one to remain with the family through the long, sad night hours, while the dead are in the house. It helps lighten the loneliness of the house.

- Annie Randall White

A/N: Reviews are welcome!