The town of Tanglewood Falls offers breath-taking views, yet the serendipity is misleading. The impoverished people and their forgotten community have been unwittingly exploited. Their act of trust and blind consent altered their existence and the secret has remained buried, until Ryan returns to explore his heritage. For twenty years, he’s been haunted by confusing images, recurring dreams rooted in his past. He’s driven to understand their meaning, to obtain answers to his lost memories. Ryan’s search for truth collides with the folklore of the simple people and the belief that their beautiful Annie is blessed. Together, they unravel the mystery, but at a price. They become targets of those responsible for what happened to the town. As the truth is exposed, Ryan must grapple with his own reality; the fact that his past, his nightmares, and Annie’s secret, everything is entangled in the desperate act of one lonely man.
Ryan stared at the horizon and watched the stars vanish into the ocean. His eyes shifted to the dancing flashes of moonlight glittering across the water. From a bench positioned next to the boardwalk, he listened to the pounding in his head as the waves crashed against the beach. He glanced at the climbing tide and observed the sand castles from past visitors erode away.
He caught the moon’s reflection off the sign ten yards to his left, Dup’s Hamburgers and Fries above the closed concession stand. He watched as the clump of ketchup squirted onto his arm from the gorgeous blonde standing by his side. She apologized and admitted her mistake, but Ryan always suspected the accident was by design. She was like no woman he had ever seen, touched, or smelled. In a heartbeat, he knew she was the one.
He had never experienced such peace, such happiness, as when they were together. The strongest memories, those that still flooded his senses, were when they made love; completely blinded by their attraction for each other. Everything was still there: the taste, her scent, and the pleasure.
He jammed his hands against his ears and pressed hard to drive out her voice, her laugh. He pushed against his eyes until the pressure caused flashes of light. He wiped his face with his sleeve, scanned the black sky, and tried again to grasp the reason. He rubbed the skin on his knuckles until the flesh turned red.
I was the one that set things straight. Is this your answer? You can’t be that cruel. Is this some form of divine justice?
His quest for an answer was returned by silence, except for the sound of the waves against the shoreline. The rhythmic noise hammered his eardrums. The terrible images of what he had experienced tonight flashed like a beacon inside his brain.
He searched the horizon for an answer, for relief, but there was nothing. In rebellion for his loss, his agony, Ryan replied to the silence in the only way he knew how. He gazed into the speckled night sky and with a harsh crackling tone, he yelled at no one. “If this is your idea of justice, then the hell with you!”
After an eternity, the faint hue of gray at the edge of the stars signaled the approaching sun. He watched the white surf form a backdrop for the spectrum of colors bathing the debris line on the beach. He smelled the brackish odor of foam mixed with seaweed and water soaked driftwood cast onto the shore.
The first rays of morning light announced the arrival of a fresh beginning. The ballet of nature’s constant struggle with itself began as the gulls circled above the shoreline searching for morsels to fill their empty gullets. A fiddler crab raced toward the surging tide and braved the onslaught of diving predators. The crab and two gulls played a harsh game darting back and forth along the waterline. One bent on escape, the others fighting against hunger. After several missed attempts, one of the gulls swooped down and captured the fleeing prey. The winner tried to race off with its bounty, only to have the second bird execute a midair dogfight. After several attempts, the thief ripped the prey free and chased the crab as it plummeted into the temporary safety of the water. The fiddler floated at the surface to tease the hovering tormentors at his momentary victory, while the gulls squawked and squalled blaming each other for their loss. The brief splash and swirl of a fin marked the price of the crab’s mockery. The dolphin flipped her snout at the losers’ overhead and tossed down her morning meal.
Ryan examined the cruel reality of nature’s riddle played out in the surf. The undeniable truth that some must perish so that others can survive. The commotion somehow pushed back the grief and blocked out the memory long enough to catch motion between the series of tuff covered mounds of sand.
A family slowly drudged through the loose grains of silica, hands bulging with baskets, blankets and toys to support their outing. Once they broke beyond the edge of the dunes, the sight of waves rolling against the shore caused the two children to drop everything. They yelled and screamed as each raced for the prize; the opportunity to be first wet.
The small toddler in the rear tried to pursue her siblings but stumbled twice against the soft sand. The clambering of young voices ripped Ryan back into his world. The sights and sounds of the children provided an abrupt awakening to his loss and his forgotten responsibility. “Emma.”