Ruby and the Seagulls

By , Eugene, OR

Ruby and I’s faces act as canvases for the flashing fluorescent signs surrounding Julian’s Ice Cream Parlour - first green, then blue, pink, yellow - repeat. We pay for our ice cream - I loan Ruby the 25 cents to cover the cost of the cone, as usual. As we walk towards the salty, sulfury, seaweedy scent of the harbor, the slow August wind gently caresses our shoulders and guides us. The boardwalk is almost completely empty, save a few sunset fishermen docking their boats and the one couple on the farmost bench. Nothing out of the ordinary on this calm late-summer night. We walk down the boardwalk, in the opposite direction of the couple, and talk for awhile - I just got back from a two week service trip helping with marine life in the Philippines, where I focused most of my attention on sea turtles; and Ruby was gone the week before I left, doing a dance intensive in Boston. Needless to say, we have a lot to catch each other up on. We reach the end of the boardwalk and head back, a couple of brisk winds whipping our hair around.
    “Wanna sit here?” Ruby asks.
    “Sure,” I say, gesturing at the nearest bench to confirm we’re on the same page. Ruby nods and sits, ice cream in hand.
I follow suit, but I’m not down for long after realizing I’ve sat in some kind of puddle, wet and cold. The cold engulfs me -  like a sopping wet towel draped over my shoulders, then my head, my neck, my ankles.  I’m completely surrounded, shivering violently - despite the fact that it’s an 80 degree summer night. In a flash of consciousness I realize my ice cream is seeping through the cracks in the boardwalk and there are seagulls are approaching me with their beady eyes and cautious yet intentional bobble-headed strut. Their black eyes scour the area surrounding me, looking for the easiest path to the cone - but in a split second their focus changes and they are no longer seagulls wanting my ice cream, but dark, small eyes coming towards me, craving something deeper, less physical. I try to think of what it is these beasts want from me, what can I offer them and how can I save myself. My mind is blank. I can’t hear the seagulls, the wind, my own thoughts, not even Ruby’s laughs. All I see is white, as if I was caught in a white out snowstorm, or seeing the sunlight reflect onto wet pavement and blinding me. In the white out suddenly a face is appearing, pale and ghoulish - nothing but small dark eyes with a devilish gleam, surrounded by hollow sockets and a gaping smile. The phantom face angles its head and gives me a condescending smirk. Its mouth starts to open up, as if preparing to pose a question, or laugh, or scream.  However, the only sound that comes out is Ruby’s shrieks, echoing back into my brain from a distant place - only now they are fearful, not funny. She needs help, Ruby needs help. Frantically I break from my trance, breathing heavily and look around for Ruby. Despite my fear, there she is. Curled up sideways on the bench, chuckling and wiping tears away - the only difference  being a couple of drips of ice cream which fell off of her cone.
    “WHAT was that!” Ruby exclaimed. I’m confused. I’m cold.
    “Did you not see anything?” I ask, starting to feel kind of dumb and super self conscious. How could she not see any of that. What is wrong with me? I’m so confused.
    “See what? You straight up dropped your ice cream cone and then stood there staring off into the distance for like… at least five minutes. God, that was funny.”
    I think hard.
    “So… you didn’t feel the cold or anything? It didn’t get white, like, you could see everything -  It was all normal?” I ask, inquisitively.
    “Brinn, what are you talking about. Wasn’t that just supposed to be funny? I thought it was on purpose, some kind of whack joke or something.”
I look down and see the seagulls have scattered - some pecking in crevices on the boardwalk, others scrounging through trash or perched on street lamps, but none looking at me, or my ice cream that is facedown on the wood. I look at Ruby, and she looks back at me, the street lights giving her eyes a dark,  hollow look, aside from the devilish gleam that dots the middle of her eyes. She is laughing again, her mouth gaping open - her normally tan skin looking pasty and white after a week of staying inside.
    I look back into her eyes, they don’t change back from black, and they don’t stop searching - it’s more than just the ice cream cone they want from me, it’s something deeper.






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