The sky was darkening by the minute. Night sweeping in on the horizon, ink bottle blue/black against the gun metal of the ocean. The trees lay flat against the wind and the road ran with water in sheets of silver. There was precious little beach left, it was a spring tide and the water whipped up to the very top of the sand, soon it would be over the road and maybe, if people were lucky, it would stop before it reached the shops and houses. If they weren’t it wouldn’t be the first time, not even this year.
Waves crashed and roared and brought the night in on a fanfare of white noise. Where they hit the solid rock they sent up streams of white foam, twenty, thirty feet into the air, raining down the other side then momentarily revealing the rock draped in white before the next set obliterated it again. There was no one to be seen in the village. The spray whipped against the walls and carried sand far inland. Windows glowed dimly, curtains closed, drawn against the battering ram of the storm front. You could feel the pressure dropping.
The car was empty when they got to the cliff. Keys still in the ignition and headlights still on, facing out to sea and reflecting off the torrential rain. There was no stillness, everything seemed to be unleashed. The noise of the sea, the wind, the rain coming together. There was no prospect of hearing them calling out Dave’s name but it didn’t stop them trying.
Jaz knelt by the cliff edge peering down, looking for the smallest sign, but everything was in motion and the spray obscured the edge of the sea, the highest rocks were the only things peering back at him. Terry stumbled against the wind, heading for the lower path down to the rocks – the sea already well past them by now, huge rumbling swells rolling over granite and breaking maybe fifty feet inland of where they stood. The swell was easily fifteen feet high but hard and cruel, not like a summer swell. Their faces slammed down like great fists as they broke, no gentle peeling, no second chances, no quarter given. This was the sea in full pomp, this was the wave in untamed state. You knew who was in charge here and it wasn’t you – not even for a moment.
Crush swung his van so that the headlights lit Terry’s way, he jumped out, pulled out some rope and ran over, sliding on the slick mud that covered the road. Terry turned back and faced him.
“You know he’s gone in.” It was a statement not a question. “I’m going down too”
Crush just nodded – he could see that wasn’t an arguable point. Terry looked grim. His face ashen and his hair flattened by the rain, wet clothes flapping in the gale he made no attempt to pull them close or button himself up – he looked like a man with nothing.
“Board ?” He looked at Crush again. “I need to take a board”, again this wasn’t a request. Crush just turned and walked to the van, pulling out his old battered eight foot malibu from the back. Terry took it wordlessly and walked back along the path of light to the edge.
Jaz stood up, unable to understand what was going on – he ran towards Terry but Crush grabbed his arm as he went past, pulling him over on the grassy clifftop.
“Leave him – he’s not going to listen. I don’t know what’s gone on between them two – but it’s not ours to get involved in now. This is it. This is the end of things and we just have to be here ... for some god unknown reason.”
“But….” The words died on Jaz’s lips as Terry threw off his jacket, stepped out of his shoes and disappeared out of the light, a shadow against the rocks and then gone.
“We have to hope there’ll be some pieces to pick up, that’s all.” Crush looked into the darkness and then pulled Jaz to his feet, “Come on, we’d better see…”
They walked to where Terry had last been visible to them, saw a figure on the rocks below, shirtless, waiting for the right moment. The moment that meant he could launch himself off without being dashed back against the cliff. Out in the water they thought they could see someone else paddling sideways across the bay, lifted by the water as it swelled underneath. But it might as well have been a ghost. When they looked again there was no sign of the figure, and now no sign of Terry on the rocks either.