Whipped by wind, sweet and strong as Jamaican rum, the white robe fluttered behind her. Wet hair flailed her staring eyes. She ducked her head against the gale. Around her ankles, the sea foamed. The drums beat louder, their wild rhythm echoing in her veins. In her head, the Whisperers’ chants echoed, urging her deeper. Deeper, Heather. The pain will soon be over.
Death was the only way to silence the agony eating her alive—and to banish the Whisperers from her mind. I am alive, and they are dead.
If she surrendered to the sea, she could join her husband and her child. For a heartbeat, she searched the demarcation line between heaven and earth, searching for a reason to go on living, but any sense of self had long since vanished in the Whisperers’ seductive promises.
Death was so final. She’d known that when she saw the ruins of their Volvo wagon—the funeral pyre where Jahill and Ariel had been cremated alive.
The old despair rose in her. She threw back her head to cry out, but the words dried up in her throat. On the beach behind her, the chants throbbed—men’s voices thundering with the sea; women’s voices trumpeting with the wind. Above her, pinpoint stars, diamond-bright, pierced the inverted black bowl of sky. The blue topaz Caribbean, at night, was Coke-bottle green.
The sea threw its arms around her shoulders. The wind kissed her feverish face. As if a star had fallen, one of her precious diamond earrings—a Mother’s Day gift from Jahill—splashed in the dark water and sank.
“Jahill,” she whispered and reached for the falling star. A wave slapped her face and she fell. As the water closed over her head, she screamed her son’s name, “Ariel!”
She battled to the surface, flailing her arms and legs. Silence shocked her. The drums and the chants had died. Her thoughts cleared. She was neck deep in the ocean, but the sea lay down and licked her fingers. Relief sharp as fear razored through her, but respite was short-lived. A massive wave rose on the horizon, gaining speed and height as it rolled toward her. The wind stopped singing, and the warm ocean chilled.
In utter panic, Heather whirled. He comes for you. Meet your fate.
She clamped her hands over her ears, but the Whisperers were in her head. The outbound tide washed the sand from beneath her feet, and she crashed face down in the calm water. Gasping for air, she surfaced, running, getting nowhere. Now that death stared her in the eye, she’d never felt more alive. Tears and salty spray trickled down her cheeks. She glanced over her shoulder.
The tidal wave stretched, white fingers brushing the sky. Heather watched, helpless, as the ocean crouched, ready to spring. The little waves woke up and pulled at her. Her hands shot up to cover her mouth as she repeated, like a prayer, “Jahill. Ariel,” until the two names merged inseparable.
Lightning speared the ocean. Thunder rumbled, shaking the ground. The wave reared higher. The shrieking wind churned water into a gigantic human shape.