“This is your definition of a beach day?” Niles Gule complained as he pondered the Maine coastline.
Peg nodded. “Yup! This is a beach day in Maine. Pretty good one too. The sun was out today.”
Niles shot the native a nasty look. Being a vampire, he wasn’t particularly fond of the sun. Fortunately, that golden orb of death was disappearing beneath the horizon behind them, leaving a panorama of deep purples, reds and blues over the ocean.
Niles loved visiting the shore, so when, on his vacation to Maine, Peg offered him a day at the beach, he’d happily agreed, not considering what a beach day in January meant above the 45th parallel. The air temperature had risen to a high of -7 at midafternoon, chilly even for Maine. But the kicker was the howling wind which gusted up to twenty miles an hour and dropped the windchill to -28. Cold even for a vampire.
Peg was bundled for the weather. In her knitted wool hat with its stiff bill, down parka, scarf, gloves and duck boots, she belonged on the cover of Maine Fisherwoman. All she needed was a lobster pot to complete the picture.
She’d brought Niles to the seaside village of Wells which was closed up snug against the winter blast. Signs swayed in the wind in front of surf shops and ice cream emporiums shuttered for the season. The wind blew lonely veils of snow along the street, piling it up in deep drifts at the foot of buildings. Most of Wells hadn’t even been shoveled out of the last storm which had dropped a foot of new snow on the village.
“I’m going out,” Niles said, grasping the door handle.
Peg raised a brow. “I’m proud of you. Even a dedicated Mainer isn’t going out in this.”
“You promised me the beach,” the vampire grumbled. “I’m getting my beach, polar vortex or no polar vortex.”
“More power to you. I’m staying in the car.”
The wind snagged Niles’ silk scarf and sent it fluttering around his pale face as he faced the onslaught. His boots crunched in the icy snow. Floundering through a drift, the tall, lithe vampire struggled to where the wind and tide had left frozen sand clear of snow. There he stood with his hands thrust into the pockets of his coat, the wind clawing at his corn-colored locks and his face slowly freezing.
Before him the Atlantic roiled. As brilliant a blue as his eyes, the sea churned with white foam that blew onto the beach and froze into fantastic shapes. The air was so bitingly cold the saltwater was boiling. Ethereal clouds of steam rose from the frothy waters and drifted like ghosts across the bay. A crazed lobsterman, chugging past in his white fishing boat, appeared as a vague shadow against the sea smoke.
The coldest day of the decade, Niles muttered. And she brings me to the beach. He wondered what plans Peg had in mind for the promised “lake day”. Ice fishing probably.
Niles enjoyed the view for a few minutes and snapped some pictures to show to his friends in Baltimore, felt his feet turning to ice, and decided to return to Peg’s warm car. As he trudged along the smooth, gray sand he watched two young men running along the beach with a yellow lab yapping at their heels. Niles cringed and moved closer to the surf to allow the offending animal to pass him by. He and dogs did not get along.
Something caught the dog’s attention and sent it crawling onto a pile of boulders jutting into the bay. At the very edge it started tugging at something in the rocks. Its owners called for it to return to the safety of the beach but it wouldn’t let go of its prize. In the dimming light of sunset, Niles squinted to make out what the dog had found. Something made of bright red fabric.
One of the men edged onto the boulders which were slippery with ice and seaweed. When he reached the dog, he grabbed its collar. Then he shrieked.
Niles sprang towards the natural jetty and picked his way across the boulders following the same trail as the man. When he arrived beside the man and his dog, his exquisite eyesight immediately saw what had so upset the dog and its owner. A body lay crammed into a crevice in the rocks. The dog was tugging on a red windbreaker.
“It’s a dead guy!” the young man exclaimed, his face ashen.
Niles nodded. “Agreed. Pull your dog back. We’ve got to call the police before the tide comes in and washes him away.”
“The tide’s probably would put him there in the first place!” his companion complained, still wrestling with his dog.
Noting the well-washed cuts and bruises on the dead man’s face, Niles suspected the assessment was correct. The body had been in the icy waters for a while.
The dog growled again. When his owner used all his strength to pull the animal back, the dog finally released its hold on the jacket. Then he spied the vampire who was studying the body, his tongue absentmindedly sliding along his ever growing fangs while he considered if he had enough cell service to call for help. A wave roared over the boulders, soaking the body and spraying spume over Niles’ elegant wool coat. The dog growled again.
Niles gave it a hard stare. That set the dog snarling and lunging. Its owner couldn’t hold onto it with wet hands and it leaped for Niles’ throat. The vampire fended it off with his arm but slipped on the ice and tumbled backwards. His head hit the rocks with a crack. He saw stars, felt the bone-jarring cold of the water, then nothing.
Something was bubbling. The air was hot and steamy. Niles cracked open an eye to find he was back at Peg’s house lying on her couch. Across the room, the Mainer was humming while she tended to a boiling pot that steamed like the ocean.
“Am I dead? Or dreaming?” he asked.
Peg smiled and gestured with her wooden spoon. “Neither. You’re just half drowned.”
Niles realized he was more undressed than dressed with a fleece blanket thrown over him to keep him warm.
“What happened?” He rubbed the back of his head which throbbed unhappily.
“You went for a swim!” Peg laughed. “Not exactly the right day for it. Cracked your head on some rocks. I had to call emergency services. Fortunately, that young man waded after you before you floated out to sea. I thought letting them take you to the hospital was a bad idea, so I brought you home.” She looked him up and down. “I guess vampires have hard heads.”
Niles nodded then regretted the action.
“Well, all’s well that ends well,” she said, puttering around her kitchen. “That fisherman who went missing a week ago has been found. That’s the man you found out there. You’re alive and kicking.” She peered at him quizzically. “Or as alive and kicking as a vampire is capable of being. And we’ve received a free dinner.”
Twitching the blanket around him, Niles sat up. He frowned. “What do you mean, we got a free dinner?”
Peg chuckled and pointed at the huge, steaming pot. “Courtesy of you! When that man pulled you from the water, a few things were clinging to you.” At Niles deepening frown, she burst out laughing. “Only in Maine can you fish for lobsters with a vampire!”
© 2018 Newmin
Niles Comments: Yes, indeed! I went to Maine over the Christmas break! Not the brightest idea, I must say. I don’t think the temps ever broke zero for the three days I was there. And I refuse to discuss drivers in the state of Connecticut. Suffice it to say, I’m going to avoid that state in the future. For those of you (probably all of you) who’ve never seen sea smoke, below is a photo of the Point Nubble lighthouse surrounded by smoke. I’d never seen sea smoke before either. Even a vampire can learn new things.