Illustration by: Christina Zhang

That night, the sea was pitch black.

“She was so young.”

Her feet sank into the wet sand as she walked along the beach. Teetering like waves across the uneven dunes, she carried the urn, covered with wave patterns and figures pulling themselves out of the water. It had been the only other urn she could find after she had accidentally smashed her best friend’s favourite.

“It was a terrible accident.”

She heard the urn shattering like the waves crashing against the shore, and remembered dropping to her knees to salvage what remained of the ashes, cutting her fingers on the broken shards. Red blood welled up through the black soot that covered her hands.

“I want my ashes to be put in my favourite urn.”

The sound of laughter carried on the wind, without any wind to carry it. Dry sand whipped around her, stinging her ankles, as if trying to reach out to the sea, pushing her towards it. She looked around the empty beach, the city lights blurring if she closed her eyes just a bit and a trail of her wet, sunken footprints making their way from up the beach.

She counted the number of steps left to the edge of the water. Seven, perhaps. The biting cold reminded her of her best friend’s fingers, made whiter by the sheets that surrounded her body. Six steps.

“How do you think you’ll die?”

The urn was heavy. Maybe the figures pulling each other out of the water could be pulling each other in. Five steps.

“You’re my only friend in the world.”

“Hey,” she heard a man call out suddenly. She hadn’t heard him arrive; she couldn’t hear much over the waves. She turned. “The sea is a dangerous place at night. You should stay away from it, miss.” Four steps.

“Promise me we’ll always be together?”

“I don’t know how well I can keep that promise,” she said to the blood welling up from her best friend’s finger, reached out towards her to make a promise. Three steps.

The man had disappeared, as if swallowed by the darkness.

The finger that had been reached out to her curled back sharply. A sneer appeared on her best friend’s face.

“I hope you die with me.”

She never took those last two steps. The tide surged in, and she saw the pitch black of the sea as it crashed against the beach. The pitch black of human ashes.