From the condo balcony I observed the magic of roaring waves breaking eight times deep before charging to attack the berm which was valiantly defended by sea oats. The strand was considerably diminished in Isaac’s wake. I eyed the debris from high tide and spotted a shell cache that I decided to investigate later. I did not know I would never get the opportunity to peruse them.
One last walk by the shore. Isaac downgraded, tide safely beyond the dune of sea oats, my feet begged to squish through the damp sand. Why not? The condo patio’s floor was dry, and the wind forceful enough to enjoy. I donned my slicker over shorts and hit the five flights of stairs because I still did not trust the elevator. The thing ran but without interior lights, a spooky claustrophobic experience to be avoided.
I admired the handiwork of the super, Mike, as I untied the nylon rope that secured the divided double doors to the pool deck. The knots would have made an eagle scout or sailor proud. Released from their confines, the doors still gave me pause. I could barely force one open against the wind.
With only a couple steps I realized my worst beach fear was come. Jellyfish. Scattered erratically over the area where the moisture seeped away under them back into the sea leaving first shiny and then dull sand. Throat constricted, I began to pick my way along the shore. A type of jelly I’d never seen before arrested my progress and reminded me to pull my Canon Digital Elph from my pocket.
Engaged in choosing angles, I breathed more freely.
I almost missed spotting a small tan jelly that lurked in the foam left by a wave. In fact, the foam I kicked up, waded into and scooped into my hands yesterday with glee now served as a blind for this stationery hunter of my feet. With fresh horror I saw a stronger breaker covered with foam descend on my ankles. A possible army of floating stingers rushing over my skin.
Illogically, I ran.
My huge leaps carried me into the top line of earlier waves where I realized I was more likely to step on the previously deposited creatures. I rooted myself before my fear directed my tread further along the gelatinous mine field. Twice more I endured this horror.
I was distracted by my efforts to photograph the hurricane-now-tropical-storm aftermath and thus did not think about one common, oft deadly side effect. I came to a wash where the dune had completely given way. Struck by the stripped roots of the sea oats in lines on the sand to the sea, I appreciated the darkening sky only because it enhanced the interest of the scenes I framed. I wanted to wait for the next dampening of the sand to reflect the sky above. But the erosion on this inlet of water opened the way for crested breakers and their ominous froth. I braced for the coming danger not recognizing my true peril.
The air changed.
My hair whipped my mind to clarity, and I heard the whir, the deep constant thrum vibrating my nerves. Living in Maryland for the last two years, my family has suffered blizzard, earthquake, hurricane and windstorm. My ears recognized the familiar sound my eyes had ignored. Not one but three whisps of dark cloud were trying to make a path to the surface, albeit none of them with success. However, the entire left side of the velvet storm was shaping down, a graceful narrowing of darkness more akin in width to a woman’s waist than the oft sited funnel.
My heart lurched.
The anticipated foaming wave wrapped my ankles and sank my feet almost without notice. Behind me empty condos rose seven or more floors, each one locked up tight and empty of inhabitants. Gates barred against me on the right, rumbling purr of tornado on my left, I rushed up the beach. My eyes darted from sea, to the buildings more numerous than I remembered passing. Dodging the globular fiends strewn about, I felt the burn of my already sore muscles which were unaccustomed to the swimming, walking and stair climbing of the week.
Like a nightmare where the way stretched and became confusing, I turned in toward the wrong building and corrected. Finally I was up the boardwalk stair, past the pool and to the doors which promised my way to safety. Slight relief was squelched by the surge that blasted behind me as my too weak arms pulled fruitlessly on a handle bar and the sealed shut door. With all my might I succeeded in making an opening large enough for my arm and knew without doubt the storm would use the barrier to snap my radius and ulna if I placed my limb in the maw.
I glanced around the portico, a desolate space open to the elements, where I saw the pool and the vast ocean raging beyond the oat fronds. I jumped to the second door which was hinged on the opposite side.
I closed my eyes to listen to the flow of air.
My hope was pinned on identifying the moment that the howl around the concrete edifice lessened. Braced like a tug-of-war competitor, I heard my opening and gave a great heave. I scrambled through the crevice and helped the door come to a rest so as not to damage its tempered glass.
I mounted the stairs and encountered my cousin who had grown worried when she heard the tell-tale bass of the tornado. Inside the comforting confines of our fifth floor condo, the meteorlogic phenomena had already passed.
Shell cache forgotten, I shivered to think how close I had come . . . to being stung by the jellyfish.