Alice wiped the sweat off her forehead, forgetting that her hand was covered in mud. She cringed and the follicles of earth and water and animal defecation seeped into her open glistening pores. Her auburn ponytail beat against her back while she hiked across the cliff side. The strong ocean breeze pulled at her shorts and shaggy leg hair. She stepped carefully amongst the rocks to keep her balance in the wind. Salt stung her watery eyes and she panted heavily as she struggled beneath her her backpack.
The ocean heaved and thrashed amongst itself. It roared a loud one loud scream layered over another. Thoughts and fears cascading and being pushed under by the throbbing pressure of the water. Sprays hissed and leaped up from the rocks, sending jets a few feet into the air.
Alice pulled her small map book out of her backpocket. She stretched an aching calf muscle while she flipped through the pages of hiking trails. She couldn't identify the path that she was on in her book and her phone had died hours ago. But she wasn't anxious that she was lost, because wherever she was happened to be an okay place to be.
She sat down on the edge of the cliff and looked out into the ocean. A lot of hikers hiked with headphones in but Alice never did. The rattle inside her head was noisy enough and it was nice to finally be away from other people long enough for the internal commotion to quiet itself down. The fresh air smelled like freedom and it smoothed her tensed emotions. For the first time in months she was able to relax. She undressed her aura, peeling off layers of anxiety and discomfort like too many scarves and sweaters in June. She tossed the unwanted anxieties down onto the cliff side. Rolling her tight shoulders, she sighed in relief at how comfortable and unburdened she felt.
Below her jutting out from the cliffside she could see the mouth of a cave sinking into the rocks, deep and hidden from the noisey violent waves. Alice climbed down and crawled into the cave. Once inside the mouth of the cave she could stand up to her full height. Protected by the wind and the sun, she explored the sweet coolness of the shadows. Out the mouth of the cave she could see miles and miles of ocean and sky, melding together in an indistinct blob of everything and nothingness. Clouds of time and feelings kissed each other against the horizon and Alice turned her back on it, seeing it was, only empty beauty.
Alice sat down in the quiet cave and pulled a snack from her backpack. A chirping echoed deep in the cave and tiny claws scampered out from the darkness. A small frog like monster creature nimbly ran towards her. It's scaly tail smacked against the rock floor. It's horns bounced as it ran. Large glowing yellow eyes illuminated the shadows only proving there was nothing to see.
Without flinching, Alice set some of her trail mix on the ground for the monster to eat. Watching her cautiously, it crouched and with tiny claw like hands began to feed itself. It chewed thoughtfully for a moment and then spoke.
"What are you doing here?" The monster said. He had an elegant, polite, but raspy voice.
"It? There's nothing here."
"I'm here," Alice said.
"Oh, right." He paused eating more trail mix. "Are you lonely?"
"That doesn't really mean anything. But maybe, I guess."
The monster didn't say anything. He seemed satisfied with that response and scampered away, kipping a pile of loose stones as he did so. Alice stood up and went to the mouth of the cave, looking out at the view. She thought of everyone and everything, jumbled in too many noises and colors swirling around in her brain, reaching for her with an intense multitude of spider arms. She squinted out against the horizon.
"I wonder if I can see my house from here," she whispered, barely audible against the roar of the ocean.
Alice carefully picked up the loose stones and artfully placed them one on top of the other, constructing an uneven wall. The darkness grew darker and cooler and quieter, and Alice felt safer and calmer as she sealed up the mouth of the cave.