As I walked toward the scent, it became unmistakable: it smelled like a beach. Maybe there’d be people there who would tell me what this place was. I picked up my pace.
I realized someone from work should have noticed by then I wasn’t in the office. No one had called for me. I turned to see if there was anyone behind me. Had they even believed my note?
Most likely, a manager entered the office, read the note, and just laughed. What could I possibly have been doing in the pick safe? Besides, if I were hanging out in the pick safe, they’d see me with the door open. I should have thought my note through a little more. I pictured one manager chuckling and shaking their head as they closed the safe, thinking I was on break. That Kristen and her crazy notes.
But if they had shut the safe door, how would I get back? Sit in the safe and wait for someone to open it tomorrow morning?
With luck, it’d be like The Chronicles of Narnia. When I get back, no time at all will have passed, so I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone missing me. I stopped short. What if it was the opposite? What if even a few minutes there turned out to be hours or years on my side?
I shook my head and continued my trek. Impossible. Still . . .
I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. In the meantime, the scents of beach and ocean were getting stronger. I gazed at the horizon, which seemed to shimmer a little. I heard no waves, but that didn’t worry me. I enjoyed the walk. It was sunny but cool enough that I didn’t break a sweat.
* * *
The grass broke into intermittent patches as the sand took over the landscape. Something sat on the beach, right at the water’s edge. I looked up and down the gleaming white sand. Not a soul in sight. Not even abandoned beach towels. The beach was deserted besides the indistinct figure ahead, which became a small rowboat as I approached.
I stepped beside the boat and peered inside. Two oars, nothing else. No personal possessions, no sign of being owned or even used. Not recently, anyway; the oars were bone dry.
Someone must have left the boat here, so where was its captain now? On the other hand, if the boat came from somewhere, there’d be people at that somewhere, right? I could just hop in the boat and go, but there weren’t many landmarks out at sea. And it was getting dark. I had a rough idea of direction using the sun, but I couldn’t navigate by the stars.
I turned to start back, but as I did, I noticed the name of this small vessel. The Kismet Overture. Quite the fancy name for such a plain little boat. What stood out most was the boat had the same initials I did. Some coincidence.
Unless it was a sign, left for me on purpose. Or I was just looking for an excuse. Heck, who was I kidding? I needed to know what was out there.
I removed my shoes and socks and rolled up my pant legs before pushing the boat into the water. Jumping into the boat, I lost my balance. It rocked as I fell face-first onto the rough wood.
Smooth, Kristen. Real smooth. For the first time since my arrival, I was glad there was no one around.
With a hot face despite the lack of an audience, I pulled myself up and grabbed the oars. Looking out to sea, I wondered how far I’d need to go before I found land. Rowing couldn’t be too hard, right? I awkwardly maneuvered the boat, but soon got the hang of it. In no hurry, I went at an easy pace.
How long had I been rowing? My shoulders ached and my arms burned. Then again, the most grueling activity my arms had to endure in the average day was rolling down my car windows.
I stopped rowing and let myself drift for a while. Turning to search for my unseen destination, there was still no sign of land. There was only an hour or so left of sunlight. If I were still at work, I’d have been wrapping up the pick deposit. But I wasn’t at work, so who cared? Gingerly, I picked up the oars and continued on my way.
Soon after sunset, I turned again, hoping to see something—anything—on the horizon. A flickering light! As I drifted closer, I could make out a pier lined with lanterns. I guided the boat to the dock where a coiled rope with one end tied around a pile awaited. Careful not to lose my footing, I climbed out of the boat to tie it up. The knot wasn’t pretty, but it would hold. I tried to survey my surroundings but couldn’t see very far in the darkness.
The closest lantern hung on a hook whose shaft disappeared into the center of the pile. Perfect. I grabbed the lantern and held it in front of me, despite my aching arm, to light my way. There was a path leading away from the pier. A path was a good sign. A path meant traffic.
My hope renewed, I began to follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the little dirt path. I’m off to find my purpose, my purpose in this strange new land. Skipping, I wished I had a scarecrow or a tin man for company. I’d even welcome a cowardly lion . . . If I only had a friend.
Had someone been with me in the office when I discovered this place, would they have come with me? No sense in speculating. I was alone then, so I was alone now. But I was bound to find someone at the end of the road.