“It’s fine, auntie won’t know and anyhow, what’s the point of having a beach-hut if we can’t use it?” said Libby, rummaging in her enormous bag. The one mum and dad brought back from their trip to Acapulco. A lurid green and yellow stripe with a pink umbrella printed on the front.
“But, Libby. Suppose she finds out and tells my mum and dad, they’ll ground me like last time,” Becca said, a distinct whine in her voice.
“Don’t be a baby. We’re only going to change in it. Or do you want to change in front of all these other people?”
The girl’s eyes swept across the crowded beach. Bodies of every shade from white to pink to red littered the sandy space between the row of beach huts under the cliffs to the greeny-grey of the sea.
“I expect you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right, aren’t I always?”
Libby chose to ignore the last remark. The key turned in the small, round lock, clicked, and the door swung silently open.
“Phew, a bit smelly.”
“It won’t be too bad once we open a window and let some air in,” Libby said, clambering up the two steps into the gloom of the bathing hut. She pushed at the small window, but it wouldn’t budge. “Oh well, never mind, we won’t be in here long.”
“Why is it on wheels? And why haven’t we been here before?”
“Questions, questions. Auntie said, it’s a Victorian bathing hut and has been in uncle’s family for years.”
“But your uncle’s dead.”
“I know but she’s the last living relative, old relative, in both families, that’s why she inherited it.”
“Oh. Who looks after it then? It’s got fresh paint.”
“I don’t know, not auntie. Come on in.”
Becca slapped her sandals up the two steps to the hut, stamped her feet on the threshold, and peered in.
“Come on in, chicken, there isn’t anything in here that’ll bite. Look.”
At the back were two canvas deck chairs, striped, a small table and two metal hooks on one wall.
Still cautious, Becca put one foot over the threshold. Libby jumped up and down on the timber floor.
“Stop it, it might be rotten.”
Libby just laughed and dropped her beach bag.
“Shut the door behind you.”
“Do we want all those nosy bodies watching us while we change?”
Becca shook her head and pushed the door closed.
“What do you think of my new bikini?” Becca said, wrapping a towel around her waist after changing. “Mum bought it from Pri-mark, it was only a fiver.”
“Love the colour. It really suits you. Oh, what was that?”
“What was what?” Becca answered, untwisting her bikini-top straps into place.
A low rumble outside the hut.
“Probably the tide coming in, it echoes in this cove,” Becca said, distracted by the ties at the back of her bikini-top. “Can you tighten them, they’re a bit loose?”
“Um, yes, turn around. Is that better?”
“Yes, much. Let’s get out and go for a swim, it’s safer with the tide coming in.”
“True.” Libby twisted the handle, and the hut lurched. “What the heck was that?”
“Stop rocking the hut and open the door.”
“I didn’t and I can’t.”
“Let me do it.” Becca twisted the handle, and the hut gave another lurch. “I don’t like this.”
“I’m with you there. This is weird. Why would turning the handle make the hut lurch? I’ll try the key.”
“It’s still outside in the lock.”
“Why did you leave it out there?”
“You told me to come in and shut the door behind me, you said nothing about taking the key out.”
“It looks like we’re locked in. We’re going to have to shout for help. There were loads of people on the beach, someone will hear us.”
“Help.” Becca shouted and hammered on the door. A low growl answered her. “That isn’t the tide going out.”
“What the heck is it? Help!” Libby banged on the door and shouted. “Let’s do it together.”
“Okay, one, two three…”
“Help, help, we’re locked in…” both girls shouted and hammered on the door. Silence, not even the low growl.
“Again. Help, help us.”
“It’s useless,” Becca said and slid down onto the floor, her back against the door.
“Whoa.” The door sprung open and Becca fell backwards, tumbling down the two steps and onto the beach.
“What!” Libby shouted and leapt over her friend on to the sand. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I’ll have an enormous bruise on my bum tomorrow.” Becca held up a hand for Libby to pull her up.
Libby turned away. Confused, Becca rolled over and knelt. “Where are the people?”
“I don’t know. We’re still on the same beach, I mean the hut can’t have moved, but the people have all gone,” Libby said, taking a step across the rocky beach. She turned and looked up at the cliff looming above them. “The cliffs look the same. The beach has lost its sand as well.”
“How can a beach lose its sand?”
Libby shrugged. “How can all the people disappear in the time it took us to change?”
“I don’t like this, this is too weird.”
They froze, alerted by a low growl from behind, and grabbed each-other.
“Is that a wolf? It doesn’t look like a dog.”
“Might I ask what you are doing on my land? Brutus come here. And where are your clothes?”
Attracted by his voice, the girls looked skyward. A couple stood at the top of the cliffs. He wore a long coat, which didn’t cover his fat belly, a waistcoat, riding breeches, long black boots and a tall hat perched over grey curls. The woman with him wore a dress that reached the ground and a large-brimmed hat sporting a feather.
The two girls stood in amazement at the couple above them.
“Do you think it’s a re-enactment or something?” Becca whispered.
“I’ll set the dog on you.” The man hollered. “Brutus…”
“Run,” Libby shrieked. The girls ran back into the hut and slammed the door shut after them. They huddled on the floor, gripped in an embrace, and cried out when the door handle rattled.
“What are you doing on the floor? Why aren’t you out on the beach sunbathing?”
“Oh auntie, I’m sorry, I won’t take the key again, I promise.”
Footnote: The original of this story can be found here along with much more information about Jacqueline’s writing and projects.