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A Shaft of Light

Pat Coates


Photograph courtesy of Dogs Darnborough ©2023

I knew by her startled reaction that the woman had felt my firm grasp on her arm. I also saw her confusion when she realised that she stood alone. Likewise, I sadly understood that like countless other people over the years, she didn’t know what to do, or was simply too afraid to acknowledge my presence. How many more years will I have to wander around this vicinity because of the sin I committed?

* * *

Intuition! After all these years there’s that term again. It’s the reason that I’m standing, just after the sun has risen, on a beach that’s empty, except for my daughter Sheri. She’s respectfully wandered away so that I can follow through with this feeling that’s so strong inside me. For I sense that there’s someone else here. A woman. I can’t see or hear her, I don’t know if she’s young, middle age or old. But I do suspect she needs help, help that I was too naive to give years ago.


               I gaze around at the beautiful seascape surrounding me, thinking of worse places that an earth- bound spirit could be stranded. Then I consider all my departed loved ones, and realise that their presence is much more important, given the choice I would rather be with them. So, here I am, standing in the bright sunlight on a stretch of shore, trying to figure out how I even begin a one-way conversation with someone I can’t see. Someone whose presence is just a notion in my head and heart. Even so, I cannot walk away and dismiss this instinctive feeling that I have. For I know for sure that I would always have to live with that small voice that resides inside me demanding, “But . . . what if your intuition was right?”


                I cast a quick glance around to see that no one is watching, as I launch into my ‘effort to be helpful mission’. Not knowing which way to face to begin my conversation, I decide to look out to the sea and begin with a “Hello”. I pause, not because I expect an answer (it would probably freak me out if there was one,) but to give my ghostly companion a recognition of her presence. I carry on.


                 “I don’t know if you remember me, but I used to live in that old cottage over there.” I turn and vigorously indicate the house down in the harbour. “I believe that you came to me for help one night, but at that time I was too scared to realise it.” I waver. “The night before I’d heard that a woman had committed suicide just a few days earlier, and that her body had been found on the rocks against where we lived. So, when my dog began acting all weird that night, it unnerved me, especially when realising that he could see something that I couldn’t.”


                   I find this one-way conversation somewhat hard work, especially as neither of us seem to be coming out favourably in it. Undaunted I begin again with another energetic wave, this time in the direction of Sheri. “It was my daughter you caught hold of yesterday. She told me what had happened when she returned home. Just as I have told her my story of you, many times over the years.” I falter before rushing on. “If I’d realised that you were still here, I would have come before. I didn’t know how to help you all those years ago, but I do now.”


                    I glance around wondering where my companion might be stood.


                    “I know some people think it’s a sin taking your own life. But God knew what was in your heart at that time.” I pause. “I also know that He’s a loving, forgiving God, and that he will forgive you.” (It crosses my mind at this point, as to whether I have an actual right to speak of God’s absolution for Him. But decide that as I’m trying to give advice to one of his lost sheep I’ll carry on.) “You must go towards a bright light. A shaft of light. Don’t be afraid just follow its pathway.”


                     I can’t think of anything else to say to my companion after that. Except “Goodluck!” Although, as I imagine her drifting off towards her destination, I suddenly call out, “Give me a sign that everything is alright if you can!”


                     I suddenly feel bereft standing by myself on the beach. I also realise that for a short time I’d been unaware of the sounds of the sea, seagulls calling to each other and the gentle breeze that is now ruffling my hair. What I do feel though is a small tremor of exhilaration coursing through me, as I hurry over to Sheri.


                     “How did it go?” she asks as soon as I reach her side.

“Hopefully alright,” I answer. “I’m happy now that at least I’ve tried. Let’s just hope she’ll find some peace at last.” I give a little laugh, “I even asked her to try and give us a sign if she’s okay.”


                      We begin to amble over to the rockpools, the warmth of the early morning sun giving promise of the heat yet to come. Small and large pools lay beneath our feet as we carefully pick our way between them. Seaweed glistens on rocks newly uncovered by the receding sea, and narrow paths of sand begin to dry out under the sun’s rays. We investigate large pools searching for small fish darting here and there between fronds of bright green weed and appreciate how lucky we are on such a beautiful day to be able to do such things.


                       “Mum, come and take a look at this!” Sheri calls excitedly after moving on to a new spot.  


                       I stroll over to see what has caught her attention, and there in a small shallow pool is a tiny octopus about four to five inches long, its colouring a kind of pale beige. For over forty years I’ve trod this beach, searched its rockpools and gloried in all its beauty. I’ve seen many different things but never discovered an octopus. “Send me a sign,” I’d uttered not long ago. Was this it? As signs go this was a very impressive one. While studying the small creature in amazement, concern about the lack of water in the pool begins to fill us with apprehension.


                        “The sun will dry this pool out before the sea returns. We will have to move him,” I decide.


                         Though not having anything with us to help with the transition proves a problem. Sheri eventually finds a broken plastic box and we try to scoop him up in it. Only he’s not willing to oblige in our attempts to evict him from his small pool, in fact, he starts turning an unmistakeable pink. It crosses my mind that he might squirt us with black ink as we hastily but carefully renew our efforts. Our fifth attempt is successful, and we thankfully escort our small companion to the water’s edge where he swiftly slips away. Giving one last look back at the beach as we leave, I’m struck by the coincidence of finding an octopus on the day when hopefully I’ve helped a lost soul. I speculate as to whether this morning has all been down to my imagination, intuition or fact? While knowing all the time in my heart which two words are foremost in my mind.

 * * *

Sheri, when visiting an aquarium, the next day was told that finding an octopus, albeit a small one, in a rockpool was rare. In fact, the member of staff had never heard of it.

Pat Coates lives in South Wales. Married, with two children and two grandchildren. She has had six stories published by ASP.

The Harr. The Ultimate Creation. Island of Speculation. The House That Wept Tears of Blood. The Lost Soul, and Imagination, Intuition and Fact.

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