This piece is part of a creative challenge, embarked upon with talented friends. Each month, a word is set as a theme to inspire a piece of art in their chosen artistic field. I have chosen to write 800-1000 words, fiction or non-fiction. This is Januarys submission with the word: MEASURE
The wind whipped at the barren landscape with fierce aggression, pushing the anoraked figure along the beach. The sea waves advanced and retreated like a wild animal about to pounce. Sand shifted beneath the soles of Jeremy’s black work boots with each tired step he took. He clutched at his hood with one free hand, the other pushing the wheel-like measuring stick, clacking in time with the wind song.
Jeremy trudged along for another six clacks until a louder bell chimed out to signal the end of a mile. He peeked into his notebook for a moment to check the mileage, then extracted a small wooden spike from his pocket to mark his stopping place. He drew a small number ‘five’ next to his line, then returned everything to his coat.
A grumble erupted from his belly, asking for a break. It had felt like a long morning but checking his watch, it had only been an hour since he started. Jeremy stepped carefully around the markings in the sand and moved towards the extensive formation of rocks. Eyeing up a spot big enough to squeeze into, he ducked through into a small cavern nestled within the grey stones.
The wind meandered aimlessly through rocky cavities with much less urgency than on the exposed beach. The waves crashing against the shoreline sounded less menacing from this comparatively peaceful haven. Jeremy squatted on the cold, damp floor, not wanting to get his trousers wet, and reached back into his pocket. Feeling around an assortment of items, the stick, the notebook, before finally he pulled out a small tin foil package containing his lunch.
The bland taste of his sandwich triggered an eerie feeling of déjà vu. He paused and stared intently at the non-descript filling protruding from his bite-mark in the bread. This felt oddly familiar, but he couldn’t place why.
The clouds grumbled, snapping Jeremy out of his funk. Something was off. He noted the rusty orange tinge didn’t match the time of day.
Jeremy pondered this odd phenomenon while hastily tucking the remains of his sandwich into his jacket. He picked up his clacker and walked over to the marks he’d left himself earlier.
Scanning his notebook to find his place, he studied the small ‘five’ marked on the floor. Making a note, he logged descriptive details of the last mile and stashed everything but the clacker back into the depths of his coat.
With his clacker set back to zero, he started forward along the coastline.
There were three hundred and seventy-seven clacks to one mile, making it hard to keep track of clacks alone, and the bell hadn’t always been there to notify him. He’d been in measuring for as long as he could remember, the days felt endless, but hey, it’s a job.
As the clacks clacked and the wind howled, Jeremy’s mind wandered. He thought back to a familiar place, a street in fancy London town. He’d heard of London in stories from people he couldn’t quite place, but still frequently imagined wandering the streets of Oxford Circus and Regent Street, as if he were a prominent city banker.
An uneasy feeling came over him as he came to a crossroads. He didn’t want to continue. He hoped maybe it would be different this time and the optimism swept him onwards. The sun shone blissfully on his face feeling so real as he walked across the cobbled street. Tipping his hat, he greeted a lady walking towards him. Or was she running?
Thunder rumbled around the beachy landscape, bringing Jeremy crashing back to his windy reality.
Clouds overhead were swirling back into a greyish white; clearly, some weather was due today. The figure kept his pace, trudging along the beach, clacks echoing in nearby rocks.
A bell rang loudly over the crashing of the waves, the sound dancing through crevices in the grey rocks to his right until inaudible. Jeremy looked down at his notebook then pulled out his stick. He marked his finishing point and decided to take shelter from the wind for a moment.
He reached into his pocket, fumbled about with the items, finally producing a tinfoil package containing his sandwich and took a bite. He tasted the bland, indescribable filling and déjà vu rushed through his body.
A grumble in the clouds ended his brief rest, and he wandered over to his markings. He looked at the number on the ground and crafted his entry in his notebook.
Jeremy reset his clacker, set it down next to the line, and put his notebook away.
He started along the seemingly endless coastline, the wind blowing stronger still. Sand carried on the wind reached each crevice in the beach, filling the holes left by Jeremy. His footprints, the line, and the small number five.
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