The man pressed forward through the rain. Happiness radiated in his eyes, a rich green the color of emerald gemstones on that moody gray morning, and his lips, the lower slightly plumper than its twin on top, a crooked smile beaming from the prickle of a new, unintentional beard.
The wind gusted, stirring the ocean’s brine. The man blinked, and a measure of the trance broke. He grew aware of the raindrops running through his thatch of dark cowlicks and spikes. His baseball cap was gone—his favorite, he absently recalled. The man dug in his soles and stopped. Turning, he realized that so, too, was one of his rubber boots. The Atlantic at low tide tickled the toes of his left foot through thick wool socks with icy caresses.
“No,” he said. His voice rippled at his ears with a hypnotic resonance, as though spoken underwater.
Joe Dunnegin turned again. Mist drifted in tattered curtains across the shore of Sugar Beach, masking the parameters of the familiar world. The gentle melody of the waves lapping at sand droned into the background while the rising cadence of his heartbeat jumped into the fore. Movement stirred in the mist, a face and body only half there, out of focus. A ghost.
Joe’s euphoria surged. “You,” he called, walking then running, retracing his steps, aware of his cock’s stiffness. Pinned at an awkward angle in his jeans, its pulses sent concentric waves rippling through the rest of his flesh. Deeper, into his marrow, his soul.
“Hello,” Joe called. “You, wait—please.” The figure in the mist dissolved between blinks. “No, stay, stay with me.”
Joe raced along the water line, his cock drawn like a divining rod toward the face growing less distinct by the second. The mist attempted to smother his voice. The ebb and flow of the ocean grew louder.
The figure blended fully back into the mist, there one instant, gone the next. One more step, and Joe forgot why he felt so happy.
“No,” Joe said. And then he sobbed the word again.
He spun in a circle in search of the mysterious presence. The world drifted out of focus, melting into a blur of gray. The rain robbed him of his smile. The chill ramped up its assault, going from tickles to jagged bites that worked up past his calves.
“Where are you?” he cried out. “Where—?”
A strange word danced to the tip of his tongue, too elegant for such a primitive muscle.
“V’liss Wei,” Joe said.
Then the strength departed his legs, and the ground came rushing up, cold and harsh and unforgiving. Joe’s face struck the beach. The tide rolled over his torso. Before darkness eclipsed his senses, the lights—vibrant neon blue, the color of the ghost’s eyes, and red, like blood—shone on the horizon.
Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (BrutalColors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, StarTrek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under his rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. he judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, I traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing. His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker, and he recently enjoyed the publication of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: INTO INFINITY, the novelization he was hired to pen based upon the classic Gerry Anderson made-for-TV movie — which he watched and loved as an eleven-year-old way back in 1976. Earlier this year, he put THE END on a novel sequel, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: PLANETFALL, which is scheduled to release in September.