“Are you joking?” I wheezed, looking down the valley in front of me, looking at the amount of hill we had to walk down. The arid climate swirling around the small valley seemed to be more of an onslaught of heat than anything else. It seeped into my throat and skin, weighing my body down more than the already heavy bag that I hauled behind me. The mountains surrounding us were ragged and hitched, with succulents curing over the edges. After wiping my forehead more times than necessary, I snuck a look at Sonya. She looked poised from afar, but when my gaze lingered I realized she was in the exact same shape as I was. Surrounding us, were villas, with their pale lemon color bricks and terracotta colored shingles. I stepped on a dried shrub and hopped further along the slanted road, heading towards the sea at the bottom of the valley.
“Kill me now,” I exclaimed.
Sonya looked out and said, “We’re almost there, I think.”
I whined, “Yeah, but still.”
She looked at me intently, and started laughing, and she shifted her ebony hair. The concrete road started to taper off at the end, descending into a sand and gravel pathway. We continued chatting and moved to the makeshift and grungy path. A sudden pungent smell arose from the bottom of the rock steps and foliage encompassing it. My nose wrinkled and Sonya exhaled with force. I rushed to get to the next step, however the instability of the stone I stood on became apparent when I stumbled and slammed my toe into the next row of peach colored rocks.
I shrieked and just hurried down further while Sonya yelled, “Are you okay?” She followed me as I dashed through the disgusting smelling area of dense foliage.
The heat still persisted, like a pottery kiln that had been turned on at the highest setting. The large sized leaves, were intricate to a fault, beige at the edges and intense emerald tones in the middle. An insect with spindly legs, floated through the air like a balloon, which I wasn’t too fond of. My toe was still pounding, with pain just pulsing through my foot. I pushed my hair back as strands drifted in front of my face. The stones started to disappear as I walked further, replaced with a firm chestnut colored dirt. I continued to regret making the trek to the bottom of the valley, until I remembered how it was worth the trouble.
“Why does it smell terrible here?” Sonya laughed with a smile reaching the rounds of her cheeks.
“Makeshift bathroom,” I said and made a vomit impression, earning another round of chuckles from my friend.
I got a glimpse of the light that pierced through the wall of shade and then we had arrived. Sonya bounded up behind me, sniffing her nose.
The obsidian sand in front of us, took my breath away every time I laid my eyes upon it. Sonya walked in front of me, slipping off her delicate sandals as she dipped her feet into the sand. Before I could warn her, she yelped and jumped backwards, her legs stretching and crossing in an attempt to get her shoes back on. The scorching hot sand had been swallowing the sun’s heat for the whole day, and black sand seemed to absorb more heat than normal sand. We both continued with our shoes on, gazing forward at the glassy water, the surreal walls of rock that twisted and curled, and the black sand. We kept sinking into the sand, which raged like an inferno beneath us. There were already some people there, scattered around the edges of the enclosed beach like specks.
Despite the howling wind, gliding across the Mediterranean Sea, the area was strangely tranquil. Sonya ran forward to her parents and sister and my sister, who had gone earlier than we had. My little sister ran around in circles with them, picking up the gem like rocks that were layered around the beach.
“Hey kiddo,” I said.
Isabella looked up at me with glittering eyes, and dashed off to the water. I slipped off my shoes and followed them to the water. I hopped over the stones and tip toed into the frigid sea. The black sand in front of me swirled up like a cloud of dust drifting through the glossy surface.
The water was colder than I expected. I made my way over to Sonya, tripping over the sand a few times.
“Let’s go look at that over there,” she said, pointing at a cluster of flat rocks on the other side of the beach.
There was one thing that I was certain about, I did not want to swim over deep waters to explore needle pointed rocks. However, I nodded, and we both began to swim. The water became increasingly deeper as we progressed, which stirred my discomfort gradually. The sea felt chillingly empty. It was too cold, too uncertain. The bottom of my stomach began to turn as we swam. I remembered all of those time where I couldn’t breath. The times when my anxiety took control of me. We made our way to the amber colored rocks, and Sonya pushed herself up onto one.
“It’s really slippery and hot, watch your step,” she exclaimed.
She bounded across, making her way to the taller part of the stone. I gingerly pulled my feet up to the almost soap like texture. With my hands gripping the sides, I crouched and waddled up to Sonya. Anxiety bubbled up furiously in my stomach, making me want to jump back into the water and go back to everyone else. I remembered the time when I was swimming in a lake.
My feet were grazing bottom of the lake, getting tangled in the plants. I looked up at the top of the water, the outline of the sun beaming through. My lungs were pulsing, forcing my mouth open at times. Suddenly, the urge to get back to the shore took me fiercely with a terror that I had not experienced before. The water blackened in my mind’s eye, my legs became motionless. Once I got a grip on myself, I realized that I had to move. Pushing off the bottom, I darted to the surface. After breaking through, I took huge gulps of air and just floated at the surface. That feeling hadn’t returned to me often, but when it did, it left an impression. Like when I was alone in a crowd with blinding lights and roaring music. When I heard of news from family overseas, and I couldn’t reach them. When I sat in the hospital after seeing my young sister being carted into an emergency room. And when that had happened for a second time. Those were the times were the pit in my stomach became a void, begging to be filled by anything.
Even with the possibility for that to rise up again, I continued. I stood up next Sonya to take in the horizon in front of me. We did not say anything, in an attempt to preserve the peace of the moment.
“Let’s keep going,” Sonya laughed, sliding back into the water.
I sighed and jumped back in. While submerged, the water stung at my eyes and the scrapes on my legs. I swam to the next rock, seeing that she was already there. My hands drifted through the moss growing on the side and I eventually found something to grasp as I flopped onto the surface. I burst out laughing, the water still splashing off of me. I got up and looked around again. Sonya had a grin plastered to her face, she dove back into the water and continued. I followed her, tentatively. We ended up exploring all of the rocks and small cliffs in the area. Once we started heading back, I felt the need to continue looking around and to comb through all of the nooks and crannies. We eventually plopped down onto the towels at the beach and we knew that we had to do more. There was a certain freedom that I felt, no longer being tethered to the expectation of the worst fears. I realized that I did not have to be worried and while taking in that thought, my shoulders relaxed.