The story of a walk along an empty seaside path to watch the sunset.

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Public Domain

It’ll be okay.

It’s so quiet, it feels weird. No seagulls or anything. The sun’s hanging low already and I’ve got a way to walk yet.

I haven’t been to this promenade in ages but it still looks the same. We used to come here all the time. It runs along the beach for miles so you’ve got sand and sea one side and fields the other. It’s a nice walk.

No one around, either.

Best keep moving, there isn’t long left. The sun’s getting near the horizon and the sky’s clouding up. Wish I’d worn better shoes.

Can’t remember the last time I didn’t hear birds outside. Maybe never. It’s so hot. That sticky heat that sits in the air and clings to you. The breeze helps. The air never sits still here, always moving in from the sea. Plus the tide’s in so the water’s close. Makes it seem cooler.

It’s amazing how much things can change in a day. In an hour, even.

Those dandelions look ready for blowing. Clocks, we used to call them. You blow and then whatever’s left is the time. They’re mostly wrong but it’s fun when you’re a kid.

All I can hear is the water, nothing else. Strange how the sounds just stopped, you don’t notice them until they’re gone.

That looks like someone. Over there, lying down.

Sort of.

Must have been nearly a mile now and that’s it, that’s the only other person. A charred-up corpse.

I wonder what the time is.

I still haven’t looked back. Maybe I should, just once.

It’ll be okay.

The whole town’s on fire. Smoke’s blocking out the sky, like a giant pillar. It’s worse than I thought. At least I can’t hear the screaming anymore.

Keep going. Don’t want to miss it.

I won’t be looking back again.

Not far now, just up ahead. Round this bend, straight for a while, then just before the next corner, by the tide breaker. That’s it.

The path’s empty, just like it was before. No one else made it this far then.

The sky’s starting to change colour. Should just about make it in time. It’s getting dark quickly but that’s probably the smoke.

I’m not sure what else to say. I’ll tell you about it when we’re there. I made a promise.

There’s a seagull. Just one, flying really high. Good for him. Or her. I don’t know how to tell with seagulls.

Here we are, this is it. Let me just sit down here. That’s the view. See that? This is where I asked your mum to marry me. She was sitting here and I got down on one knee, just there. The sky looked like that, too. We sat here together and watched the sunset, just like you and I are now.

There’s a spotlight over there, a way up the path. I think it’s moving this way. It’ll be here soon, most likely, but don’t worry.

It’ll be okay.

The ring was crazy expensive. I had to save for ages. She’s worth it, though, and she loved it.

It was about this time last year, actually. Not quite, but close. We’d been out for dinner at that pub we passed on the edge of town. I’d been planning it for months, she was so happy.

Didn’t take long for us to make you.

The sun’s setting now. Can you see? I know you’re small, and your eyes probably don’t work properly yet, but I promised her I’d show you. She wanted you to see it.

The spotlight’s getting nearer.

Are you warm enough? I know it’s hot but you’re tiny. I’m not really sure what to do with you.

Everything was fine when we went into the hospital. I wish your mum could be here, but she couldn’t walk after having you, and then it started, outside. I’d barely cut your cord. I didn’t want to leave her but she begged. We’re the only ones left now, at least round here. Probably everywhere.

You have her eyes. Do you know that? Same colour, same look. It’s like they’re hers.

I told her she’d see the sunset again, just through your eyes.

It’s closer now, I can see it behind the spotlight. I can hear its legs whirring.

If I hadn’t brought your mum here, asked her to marry me, you might not have been born. Look, can you see the colours? The sky is beautiful. I’m glad you got to see it.

I’m not going to look at the spotlight again. I can hear it, right behind me now. It can’t see you, so it won’t want you. I’ll keep you from it.

I’m sorry, darling.

I’m sorry you didn’t have a long life. I’m sorry you didn’t get to do the things I did, didn’t get to see the world. But you got to watch the sunset with me. Look, it’s nearly gone. It’s getting cold but that won’t matter soon. I’ll keep you warm.

The whirring’s stopped. It’s telling me to turn around but I won’t. I’m staying here, we’re staying here. We’ll watch the sun until it’s gone.

I love you. So does your mum. Happy birthday.

It’ll be okay.

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Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.

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