Judson Michael Agla

I Awoke With My Face in the Dirt

I awoke with my face in the dirt, aching beneath a pile of dead fish, tin cans and candy wrappers.

I struggled up into sitting position and wiped the grunge off my face. It was cold by the shore that night, and the fog covered everything in sight. I could just barely make out some dead hedges in the hazy darkness behind me, but I could only see about ten meters or so down the misty beach. The waves came in black, glistening like oil in the moonlight.

The moon was a shy one that night, only occasionally peeking out from behind the clouds. Illuminated by this meagre light, I espied a murder of crows feasting on what appeared to be a pile of dead fish near the water’s edge.

I had no recollection of how I had gotten there, where I had come from, or even who I was.

Standing up, I decided to check myself over for identification, finding nothing in the pockets of my ripped, soiled shorts. My only other article of clothing was a running shoe about two sizes too large, and, judging from the pain in my foot, there was evidently something else inside it.

Kicking off the shoe and shaking it out, I was surprised to see two gold coins fall out onto the ground before me. They appeared to be quite old and worn with no discernible markings.

Still covered in fish guts and assorted other beach debris, half naked and freezing with no recollection of anything, I attempted to assess my situation. My only assets being a pair of torn shorts, an ill-fitting shoe, and a couple of strange gold coins, I concluded that I should probably get on the move.

I was sore as hell as I made my way down the shore, stumbling off to god knew where.

Passing the crows from before, I made a grisly discovery – what they were feasting on was not dead fish at all, but rather the remains of something human, judging by its bones. I quickly lurched on by, relieved that at least it hadn’t been me.

It was then I caught a glimpse of something in the distance, a shrouded figure I thought, but at this point I couldn’t trust anything, least of all my senses. The one thing I was sure of was that I’d prefer not to meet the same fate as my unlucky friend I’d passed along the way.

Eventually I came upon the cloaked man. There he stood beside his boat, a single long oar laid across its gunnel. I couldn’t see his face beneath his dark hood.

As I approached, he stretched out a long, skeletal hand as if to receive something. I assumed he didn’t want my shoe or my shorts, and so I gave him the coins instead, watching as they melted into the night.

I don’t recall much after that.

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