It squished between my toes, soft and wet, grainy. The air tasted funny, unfamiliar, though once it had been my favourite. The wind swirled around me, blowing water and sand in all directions. The water splashed around my ankles, washing over my feet, dampening the bottom of my jeans. I winced at the bite of the cold water. It had been several months now since my 'adventure' in Moonlight Mansion. I still had no idea how I survived. I looked out over the water. It was a simple, flat blue, barely stirring, a complete mirror of the sky above.
Truffle bounded around on the sand dunes behind me, I could hear him making his strange bark noises as he chased after the seagulls and crabs that scuttled across the sand. It was nice to be outside again. After the mansion, after work, on a small weekend away. Not too far, just the next town over from mine, but too me it was a completely different world. It had beaches, tall buildings that scraped through the clouds, roads bustling with hundreds of cars, people darting through traffic and weird pigeons, obese with all the food thrown about or stolen from takeaway outlets.
I sighed and continued wandering across the sand, letting my feet drag in the water. Truffle stayed alongside me, about ten metres away keeping pace. He was reliable, I never had to worry about him running away. We didn't know what his lifespan would be like, but he hadn't grown or changed at all over the past year almost since we had genetically engineered him. His striped paws dug at something under the sand, his tiger face, grey with wolf fur buried it's nose in the ground, whiskers twitching.
I shook my head and continued my journey across the expansive beach, lost in thought, staring at the waves as the rolled gently over the sand, lapping at my feet, washing over the sand, tumbling rocks and seaweed, over and over. Not paying attention to where I was walking, I tripped on a big rock embedded in the sand. I tumbled over, falling face first into the wet sand, water washing over the back of my head. A wave had ran over me as I had hit the ground, the connection with the ground shocking me. I stretched out my hands, flailing under the water. I didn't do too good in these situations anymore, panicking too easily. I tried to push on the sand but kept slipping, the waves dragging me out as the ebbed and pushing me in with the flow.
Strong hands grasped my shoulders and pulled me up out of the water. I sputtered, coughing up the water and sand. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to keep out the salty water and grains of sand. Something cold and wet hit my face again. I sputtered again. But this time it was fresh water. I blinked rapidly, clearing my eyes. Standing before me was an all too familiar face. "Seth?!" I was intensely surprised. He smiled at me, dazzlingly. He was much more beautiful when I couldn't see through him. I stumbled backwards, almost falling over again.
"Hey there Claire, long time no see." I blinked at him, not sure how to respond.
"Wha-wh-what are you do-doing here?"
"I live here." He said it so plainly it made me feel stupid.
"But the mansion.. the curse, painting trap thingy. How?" He had been trapped in the Moonlight Mansion, I remembered that the curse was supposed to have freed him, but I had assumed he was dead, he shouldn't be here.
"Well, I'm not entirely sure. I basically have a whole new life, so I guess in a way I died, but I still exist, same name, complete with all my records. But my family have no idea who I am, although I look the same, I had to get a different job, no one remembers me, it's as though I never even existed, but I still have my own memories from my childhood up until I got put in the painting in the mansion to wait for you." I gestured to the bench near a path, away from the water and we began to walk over to it.
"So you just went back to living your life? Have you aged at all? Do you feel any different, dead or cold?"
"No, I'm completely normal, I haven't aged at all since I was in the Mansion, apparently it had been only a few years. I'm living a normal life again, still a working at a cafe as a pastry chef. No sign of being dead." He patted his chest over where his heart was and flexed his muscles. "What about you, still alive and kicking?"
I spun in a circle, all of a sudden nervous and giggly, "Of course, a dead girl wouldn't be able to fall over like that" He laughed along with me. Seth was probably the only reason I was able to find the clock and make it out of the mansion alive. We reached the bench and sat down, Truffle appearing, whining at me, so I helped him jump up onto my lap. He quickly got comfortable, resting his head on his paws and drifting off to sleep.