The sun warmed Julia Mason's shoulders and the soft white sand cushioned her feet. The tide had been in leaving behind thousands of sea shells where it had crested, then receded. She looked at the vast expanse of blue water, and realized that it reached over to some far-off country. Probably Morocco, she thought. She began to walk faster as the high waves beat against the sand. Her breath caught as she gazed at the tangled jungle of tropical plants and trees that grew wildly amongst the dunes.
She walked on, caught up in the beauty of her surroundings, feeling the marvelous freedom. And, she didn't notice the fog that had begun to roll in over the water behind her. By now, she was several miles out when suddenly the sun dimmed, and a curtain of damp grayness swept in. In a matter of seconds it caught up to her and began to close around her. She stopped and watched in horror as it swept past her and moved on, spiraling over the beach.
She stood still, smothered in the fog. Everything had disappeared; the sky, the beach and the ocean, and she could see only a few feet ahead of her. The silence only brokened by the crashing waves.
But how far away were they? Was the tide coming in again?
She was lost! Should she scream? Panic began in her chest and her heart raced as the Atlantic Ocean crashed. She was alone in a strange city, and there was no one there to help her. She was truly on her own and it could be hours, maybe even all night before she could get back to her condo.
Don't panic, calm down, she reminded herself, remembering what she'd taught her class of young school children about being lost. Think--, she whispered and start walking. But which way was back? She sagged down in the sand and cried tearfully, realizing she'd forgotten that too. After a few minutes, she got up and determinedly started walking, not at all sure of the direction. But she recalled as youngster, playing with her brothers in the heavy woods around their home and how they'd leave small rocks to mark their trails to find their way back out of the forest.
Follow the ridge of seashells, she reminded herself. And she set off and soon the shells crackled under her feet as she walked on, feeling any minute she should finally step out of the curtain of fog. She checked her watch and saw it was almost seven pm and she wondered how soon it would get dark.
Oh Lord, the thought of still being out there after dark scared the daylights out of her! It had been an hour since she'd started her walk. A little glimmer of hope calmed her as she realized then if she walked for an hour, shouldn't she end up somewhere close to her complex, where she had started out from? That's if she was going in the right direction. She remembered on the way in, hadn't she seen swamps and marshes bordering the water on the other side of the area.
She tried to hum something to calm herself at the thought of the snakes and allgators that would rush at her. The water continued to slap against the shore as she struggled against the fear. The time dragged!