Kai moe


The food had been delicious, but she wasn’t really here to eat.  This, though – the shoreline, the late afternoon sun on the waves, the exotic flowers – this was a feast for the eye.  Sure, a lot of it was typical stuff she’d shot dozens of times before, but she never tired of this kind of nature.  That’s why her editor had sent her out here: she had an eye for beauty, and a knack for catching that rare perspective.
                She caught sight of movement along the shore – a slight shadow cast up from the waves: a small crab, crawling between two indentations.  Careful not to move too quickly, she raised her camera – always ready in her right hand – and zoomed in, focusing on the shelled scavenger just as it came to a small crest in the sand.
                Click.  The sound of immortality.  She glanced at the playback on the LCD and nodded to herself, then looked up without standing to see if any other surprises might lie along the shore.  Behind her, the rest of the tour group was still eating, the noise of their conversation and cutlery barely carrying over the waves crashing some ten yards in front of her.  She closed her eyes momentarily, feeling the warmth of the sun on her face compete with the slight spray of mist from the ocean.
                Opening her eyes, something made her scan to the right.  Here, the smooth shoreline was interrupted by a long finger of volcanic rock that reached out into the ocean, a remnant of some eruption long ago.  Waves and time had eroded it, breaking it in places, but as her eye followed along, it still bore up to the crashing of waves along its sides.
                But there, at the end, was something she hadn’t expected.  Someone was standing at the edge of the finger, facing out towards the sunset.  She was maybe a five hundred feet away, but, by build and stance, she suspected it was a man, young or at least young-looking, lean but muscular.  He wore no clothing that she could discern, but his skin was so tanned that a jerkin or thong could easily blend in.  He stood there, right foot slightly behind left, knee bent with right heel off the ground, arms hanging loosely at his sides.
                The sun was almost touching the horizon now, and the warm orange glow it cast bounced off of him.  She could only see him in partial profile from the left and rear, but even at this angle, he seemed to radiate with the sun.  Even his hair, whatever color it was naturally, appeared as almost a liquid gold in the reflected sunset.
                This was a moment that couldn’t be missed.  She braced herself again, legs slightly cramping from the long-held crouch, and raised her camera.  Through the telephoto lens, she could make out more details – he indeed wore nothing but some kind of white necklace.  His left eye seemed closed, and his breathing a slow, regular movement.  The stance was almost meditative, and she framed the shot – his body, the camera slightly below and shooting up even at this great distance, the barest top of the black rock, and the crashing waves – and pressed the release.
                Click.  She glanced down at the preview and saw she’d timed it perfectly – the merest traces of a crashing wave seemed to frame the body.   Out of some curiosity, she used the preview’s zoom function to enhance a portion of the shot, narrowing down on his face: high cheekbones, defined jaw, and the barest hint of a smile.  She smiled at that smile.  What it must be like, to be out on that rock.
                Her legs started to protest, and she slowly stood, still facing the man out on the finger.  She turned towards the sun to find other subjects when she heard someone behind her say, “There’s some naked dude on the rocks out there.”
                She smiled to herself, and said over her shoulder, “He’s not entirely naked.”  She did not say, “He’s wearing a necklace,” because while that made her first statement technically true, she knew it wouldn’t satisfy.  But, from this distance, no one else was likely to be able to tell anyway.
                “Oh,” came the young male voice, “cool.”  She thought that was all and started to position for a shot of the last bit of the setting sun reflected off the waves when the voice said, “I wonder what he’s doing.”
                She remembered the closed eyes, and the smile, and the relaxed stance.  As she framed a couple standing in the tide with the sun behind them, she said only one word.  “Listening.” …

                … Sensation was total.
                Through closed eyes, he saw the heat of the sun.  On bare skin, he felt the cool of the pacific, the warmth of rays, the breath of wind.  Through his feet, he felt the pounding of the waves against the rock.  From his nose came the smell of the ocean, salty and sweet.
                But the sound… that was what he sensed the most.  Standing here, a hundred feet offshore, the roar of the wind and waves engulfed him.  A reef just beyond his perch and stretching north broke the waves early in this cove, the remnants crashing into the rocks that seemed to amplify the sound and echo it back at him.  The closest he’d ever come to this sensation was standing in front of a speaker at a club in Milan and feeling the music radiate through him.  He almost felt like part of the waves, like he shattered and reformed with every roar.
                He always missed this, and he always came back to it.
                The light on the back of his eyelids changed slightly, and he opened them to see the sun crossing the horizon.  Clouds in the sky looked like streaks of fire and smoke.  He watched as it slowly sank until there was barely a sliver left.  Just as the last bit settled behind the sea, he dove head-first, timing his jump so that he entered the water in a trough between waves.  If he missed his timing, the ocean would smash him back into the rocks, but he never missed.  Almost in defiance, the next wave turned out to be a rogue, and the crash and surge shot water over the rock taller than his head had been.
                When it passed, there was no sign he’d ever been there…

                … As soon as the sun had set, she glanced back over at the finger of rock, but the man wasn’t there.  She quickly looked down the length, then down what she could see of the shoreline, but there was no sign of him.  He’d simply vanished.
                Oh well, she had her shots, including of him.  She’d combine these with some from earlier in the day and make a spread for her editor.  She capped her lens as she turned and walked back up the sand to the dining area, the rest of the guests generally heading in the same direction.
                “Get anything good?” asked one of the guides.  She looked at him and smiled.
                “Maybe.  I’ll have to see when I get back to the room.”
                He grinned slightly.  “Get a shot of guy on the rock?”
                She blushed at this, though she didn’t know why.  “Yeah, actually, and I think that one came out well.”  Then she shrugged, saying, “I couldn’t pass it up.  He looked so…”
                When she lagged, he offered, “Peaceful?”
                He nodded and started walking towards one of the vans.  “Yeah, he always looks like that.”
                “You…” she started, then moved to catch up.  “You’ve seen him before?”
                Nodding again as he opened the sliding door on the van, he said, “Yep.  Not often; I think the last time was 6 months or so ago.  But when I do, it’s always at sunset, and always on that rock.”  He motioned his head towards the other guides.  “They’ve seen him too, same story.  It’s a bit of a ‘thing’, you know?”
                She opened the front passenger door to the van and hopped up into the seat.  She turned to him as she buckled her seat belt and asked, “Does anyone know who he is?”
                He closed her door and leaned against it, talking quietly through the open window.  “I think the staff here know.  I’ve heard them refer to someone as ‘ka mea nāna nā moe’, which means ‘the dreamer’ or ‘the visionary’.  They call the beach by those rocks ‘kai moe’, the sleeping shore.  They’ll never answer a direct question, though.”
                “Are they afraid?” she asked quietly; people were getting into the van now, and she had a sense that this was a private conversation not for their ears.
                “Not afraid, no,” he said, shaking his head.  “More like, respectful, or even proud of a secret.  I don’t know that I blame them.”  He backed away and went to shut the sliding door now that the last tourist was in.
                She leaned out and asked, “Why not?” as he passed by to walk around the front of the van to the driver’s side.
                He climbed in, put on his seat belt, and put the key in the ignition.  She figured he wouldn’t answer, but at the last minute before starting the engine, he paused, leaned towards her, and said, “Just looking at him out there makes me feel at peace.  If you knew someone who could do that, would you risk telling anyone?”
                And then he turned the key, called back to the group to hold on, and put the van in gear.  And as the wheels kicked up dust and rocks behind them, she looked in the side-view mirror and glanced the end of the finger of rock – kai moe – once more and had to admit that, no, she wouldn’t. …

[I'm not sure where this is going to go - if anywhere - but I like how it's come out so far.]