Authors: Ross Turner
By Ross Turner
Family can mean lots of different things,
It doesn’t have to be blood,
It can be whatever we make of it,
Here’s to a new life,
And perhaps one day, if I am very fortunate, I shall come to know my place in this world,
Jen had moved house so many times over the last decade, and her little family had been uprooted so frequently, that she barely knew if she was coming or going anymore. Quite often, when she sat with herself, she tried to think back and name all the places she had lived, but hard as she tried, she rarely ever managed even half of them.
All the different towns and cities they had explored, and all the multitudes of street names and house numbers they had lived at, seemed most of the time lost on her. Not that Jen really saw it as a problem, as they rarely stayed in the same place for more than a few months at a time, so though she often thought back, she never really let it bother her.
Currently she found herself sat cross legged upon a rocky outcrop, and though she had found as comfortable a spot as she could, the ground was hard and unforgiving beneath her.
Her ragged, dark brown hair whipped about her fair face and over her shoulders in the fierce wind, while her eyes, the same deep chocolate colour to match, scanned the horizon for as far as she could see.
Blue jeans, torn here and there, out of use rather than style, scuffed white trainers, and a well-worn, plain black hoody, was all that the young lady of a mere nineteen years old wore. And she was comfortable, not really worrying about fashion or dressing to impress.
Her hoody kept the chill wind at bay, and her trainers were better on the rocks than the kinds of shoes most people wore. And since she came out here quite often, enjoying the rocks and the waves and the solitude of her own company, it just made sense to her.
In fact, considering the sheer amount of time she spent on the beach, had there been a house, a cottage, or even a shack, built upon the sands, she would quite happily have inhabited it. Quite often she imagined such a thing, but as with everything else, wondering notions were all it would ever remain.
The rocks were jagged and dangerous and seethed here and there. Every now and then the freezing cold water of the North Atlantic Ocean rose and swelled and battered their exposed faces, spraying and foaming as harshly and as often as possible.
White water rushed and swirled between the huge boulders, widening splits and cracks over the years and eddying its way as far up the beach as possible, though knowing without a shadow of a doubt that there would never be a way to truly escape.
Even through her thick hoody Jen could feel the cold, and the temperature seemed to drop dramatically and seep through to her very bones.
She shuddered suddenly and sighed, glancing down at her hands in her lap, feeling decidedly melancholy.
Looking up again and out into the distance Jen counted four boats on the far horizon, stretched out across the ocean before her. Two were massive tankers that looked tiny and insignificant from so far away, but she imagined were so enormous it would have taken her days to explore them. One looked like a yacht of some description, though it was hard to tell from where she sat. And the fourth, the furthest of the lot, was so far out on the horizon that it was barely even a spec, and she couldn’t make out its outline at all.
To her left, as she looked across and the wind lashed at her exposed face, was a wide, arcing bay lined with strips of sand that ran in parallel rows all along the beach front, and between her and the sand sat hundreds upon hundreds of rocks, each bigger and more jagged and more brooding than the last.
Two huge columns protruded up higher than all of the others. One reached about five or six metres above the level of the water thrashing around its base, and the other reached more like ten or twelve, and both were sheer and vertical on all sides.
A few hardy, or perhaps misguided souls were attempting to jump across to the columns and climb them before the next wave came crashing in and swept them away. They were all soaked though, so clearly they had not been too successful, but they kept trying nonetheless.
Even in the twelve months or so, just over, that she had lived here, which was truly something of a record for her family, Jen had seen many a time the lifeboat crews trying in vain to rescue people cast against the harsh rocks by the rough ocean.
The waters here, in lieu with the unpredictable weather, made for a treacherous Welsh coastline.
It had been only a few weeks ago in fact that, exploring too close to the edge, as children do, a young boy was swept from the safety of the pier and cast down into the seething waters by a huge wave on a particularly high tide.
A full three days it took for his body to be found.
His family were devastated.
Jen shook her head as if trying to scare away her thoughts.
This most certainly wasn’t helping her mood, and she tried desperately to focus on something else.
Quite often she tried that, however, and not once yet to any avail.
To her right the rocks turned to sand and the beach stretched out long and thin along the coastline straight ahead, which eventually met more rocks in the far distance.
Laid out alongside the sand was a beach of pebbles, and then behind the pebbles a path that ran the entire length of the coast, disappearing in the distance as it veered right and round the corner.
A few figures dotted along the path made their way to a fro. Some were alone and watched as their dogs chased seagulls along the beach, barking with delight as the gulls cawed in annoyance.
Closest to her, Jen saw a small family making their way along the path in her direction. The mother and father walked hand in hand and pointed something out along the horizon to their youngest daughter, whilst their elder daughter skipped ahead slightly.
She was still only about ten years of age, and carried a stuffed giraffe under one arm. Jen could only presume she had won it at the fair, up and round to the right, along in the next bay, where the path disappeared to.
The family soon passed by however, and by now, having been sat for quite some time, the cold was beginning to creep its way into Jen’s very core, and she decided it was time to make a move.
Her legs groaned and ached as she uncrossed them and pushed herself to stand, but she forced them to move, knowing they would loosen off soon enough.
As she rose the wind caught her off guard and almost knocked her off balance, but she had spent many long days on these rocks and she found her footing soon enough, steadying herself between two protruding boulders cast off at treacherous angles.
Beginning at a walk, but soon breaking into a run, Jen hopped along the rocks, jagged and dangerous and uneven, moving faster and faster by the second. Her expression was grim, but her eyes darted everywhere, looking for safe places to put her feet.
Her legs moved and churned somehow even faster than her tumbling thoughts, finding sometimes not so sure footing, but always somehow just enough to keep her from falling.
Rising high and then dipping down low, Jen wove her way along the crags that lined the bay.
When she dropped low the waves crashed in and threatened to sweep her away, swelling through cracks and creating maelstroms in huge potholes. They washed crabs in and out of rock pools and spewed foam and harsh sea spray as far as possible over the dry, grey faces of the rocks, sat so ominously above.
Occasionally Jen got caught in the spray, but before long, feeling gloomy still, she decided that it wasn’t enough to get caught just on the edge of danger, but instead that she needed to be right in the thick of it, amidst the water and the waves themselves.
The feeling that drove her in that moment was a strange one indeed, somehow combining self-destruction and self-preservation all into one. Jen dropped down right into the path of the deafening waves, only darting out of the way right at the last moment.
Sometimes though, she didn’t quite make it in time, and her one foot or leg got engulfed and soaked.
There was one moment even, in an instant of hesitation, when both of her legs were very nearly swept from beneath her. But she wasn’t quite pulled in, managing to scrape her way back up the rocks at the last moment, though only by the skin of her teeth.
Eventually, when that particularly big wave caught her off guard, soaking her completely up to her waist, turning her jeans a very dark blue, Jen retreated back amongst the higher rocks for safety.
She wandered off slowly towards the sand, her feet squelching unpleasantly in her sodden shoes, and the cold wind now seeming to cut straight through her wet clothes, making her shudder violently and her teeth chatter uncontrollably.
Heavy clouds swarmed above and perched threateningly on the skyline. There was no warmth from the sun today able to penetrate the thick grey barrier above her, and Jen pulled her hoody ever more tightly up around her neck.
Dropping her gaze from the sky to the ground, Jen sighed again. The rocks were a dull, vicious grey.
The water itself had no colour to it and looked exhausted and bleak, and even the sand upon which she now walked looked devoid of all life and colour.
It was as if the very soul had been drained from the coast and the water lapped up the grim sand laboriously, with the weight of the world bearing down upon it.
The only colour all around came from the gulls that cawed and squawked in their shrill, high pitched cries that always seemed startled and craving and devious all at once.
They dove down to surprise unsuspecting beach wanderers at every opportunity, stealing much of their food in the process. Chips, fish, and even whole pies were amongst the wreckage as the devilish birds sent them cascading across the sand and the rocks, only then to immediately swarm upon them with what seemed like a hundred hoarding comrades.
Jen watched the carnage for a few minutes as the gulls put into practice their perfectly honed skills, dispatching three or four meals with relative ease.
But then, suddenly, amidst the chaos, the gulls screamed and shrieked and scattered as if a crazed wolf had been thrown amongst the sheep.
As they leapt into the sky and battered their wings desperately against the wind, a single, much larger, much more menacing figure became clear amidst the squawking masses.
Peering as best she could between the frantically flurrying crowds of beating wings, jerking and spiralling in every direction, Jen couldn’t help but search for the creature that she had glimpsed, drawn to it, fixated by it.
Finally the rabble cleared, and Jen straightened up to look at the creature straight on, and in turn, it looked back at her, blinking slowly and cocking its head slightly to one side, thinking.
It was another bird.
At first she thought it was just a big gull.
But as she looked on at it, Jen realised that she was mistaken.
Its long yellow beak was tipped with vibrant orange, contrasting everything around it so obviously that the colour sang like a siren and flashed like a beacon.
Set deep into its face and jet black as coal, its eyes looked most serious as they surveyed their surroundings, touched with much more than just a hint of sadness.
Compared to the rest of the gulls, this bird had an enormous wingspan. Jen’s eyes must have been playing tricks on her, because she could have sworn that as it stretched out, the incredible bird was almost the size of a fully grown man.
But nonetheless, as it stretched, Jen couldn’t help but take in every detail of the magnificent creature.
The underside of its wings were perfect white, shaded only on their very edges with jet black, whilst their topside was coloured entirely, like its eyes.
It ignored the food strewn about by the gulls’ raiding attacks, as if it were not important in the slightest; as if it knew that such ridiculous and petty thievery was something only they should participate in. It took three or four slow and purposeful steps towards Jen, eyeing her cautiously, but inquisitively.
The seagulls were like rats with wings.
This was something altogether and entirely different.
Still, Jen didn’t know what this creature was, but she knew at least that it was no ordinary gull.
That much was plain to see.
“That’s an albatross.” Clare said suddenly then, shattering the silence like a foghorn, warning of danger.
Clare was Jen’s sister: her non identical twin sister, to be exact.
She had been there the whole time.
She always was.
Jen looked over to Clare curiously. Her eyes and hair were dark also, like hers, though much thicker and much more lustrous, and although they looked similar, they were quite clearly, at the same time, very different.