The wind suddenly picked up as she looked out from the porch. A wall of dark clouds was pushing across the horizon and a light chop had developed on the lake, gently rocking the tiny rowboat tied to the dock. The changing seasons always brought unpredictable weather. Just as she was about to turn toward the door, movement in the water caught her attention. She squinted and then her eyes opened wide. Rushing down the stairs, she kicked off her shoes, and raced to untie the boat…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

The exhausting night was almost over. Her past sank out of sight, swallowed in the darkness. Challenged and battle-weary, she looked forward to rest as she walked the cliff’s edge, soothed by the rhythmic song of the waves caressing the tawny shoreline. The red glow of sunrise peeked above the never-sleeping ocean, how many miles in the distance? Nature enthralled her, was always medicinal, and she needed that connection this morning.

Here was the peace that always should have been, the haven that shields. She took comfort from this place of beauty, unmarred by hateful human hearts. This realm stilled thoughts and calmed breathing and brought promises of a hope-filled future. Here the Earth ruled.

Her eyes passed one more time over the idyllic scene before turning her tired back on the water far below. Wait. Something caught the eye, something glinting red, reflecting the gauzy, morning sun. The object tumbled in with each wave as it tried to beach itself. Its rhythm mesmerized as she watched it rolling in, rolling out, rolling in.

Casting thoughts into the past, memories surfaced of childhood word puzzles in schoolbooks. Sometimes the puzzles listed a series of drawings. The questions posed: what word does not belong in the group, what image does not fit with the other pictures? The puzzles were meaningless at the time because her conclusion was always the same: herself. Different from other children, she did not fit and was relegated to the outside, and forced to play superficial roles. And now this glowing, damned thing did not fit in the picture. It did not belong. The meaning finally rose to the top. In utter defeat, she watched as the orb changed colors with the hue of the sun’s rays, now golden reflections, as if it radiated SOS signals and demanded: notice me!

With the tourist season passed, who was left to pay attention now? Who ever cared to notice before? But now, as if in a final, dominating roar, attention was being pleaded in place of stealthily keeping secrets, instead of hiding outrageous acts. Prolonged cries of shocked outrage, revenge, hatred, and bitter complaint joined the now sinister breezes. Each pulsating ocean wave pressed, thrust, throbbed, callous cruelty into the sand and high upward to her.

She collapsed on a jagged rock, a sharp spike of it jabbed into her tailbone, but she did not readjust herself. The spike jarred vivid nightmares to life, of other times, of horrendous times, of times over and past…but not quite yet.

She spent a long while contemplating what this new threat could mean – the rising of this detested phoenix. She had to take action, but the night’s work left her physically and emotionally satiated.

Reluctantly, she dragged herself down from the cliffs, along the lonely, tree-lined path, back to the cove, and retrieved the empty boat. The engine vibrated and drowned the painful, pulsing heartbeat in her temples. Robot-like, she manned the vessel and powered its way to the beach below the towering cliffs. Mental subtext reverberated from one side of her skull to the other, repeating: never profanely fractured again, never transferred to the ceiling again. Never.

Insensitive now to the warming sun, deep cold filled her being; icy, rigid fingers gripped the boat wheel like bloody talons. Feeling more animal than human, she pursued passionless prey.

The target loomed closer.

The golden orb bobbed furiously at the beach edge as she approached. Familiar hate filled her heart. She coveted the cast iron meat tenderizer so many times wielded in the performance of subservient tasks and, then again, in one more personally crucial act. But, she had hurled that away, deep out at sea, for shelled sea animals to cover and disguise in its grave.

With powerful, clenching claws, she barehanded the putrefying piece of filth that did not fit. Empowered again, unafraid now, with resolve, she glowered at it with insane eyes and spoke aloud.

“This time you will sink!”

Unseeing eyes of the severed head of her abuser stared back at her.