Bureaucracy 71, 3169: My First Clue

We walk along the top of a short cliff that looks out over the ocean. The moon is making the beach glow. The ocean has pulled back, leaving acres of flatland. It’s cold and windy and very late. We descend the stairway that leads to the beach.

I notice a person walking slowly, right at the surf line. An old lady. She’s dressed in a dark coat, hard to see. She walks a few steps, bends down, picks something up, puts it in a bag. Shell collecting. I point her out to you. I admire the woman’s dedication. You laugh.

We stroll along the beach. Closer to the old lady. I see her better now. Her bag is a piece of fishing net, full of shells. A wave hits her. She falls.

I panic, run toward her. You yell. I can’t understand your words. Hard to see her on the sand. Stay focused on her bag, white with shells. I never lose sight of the bag, not for a moment. I’m afraid I’ll lose her in the dark. She’s drowning. She needs help.

I run up to her. No woman. Just an old-woman-shaped little pool on the sand. I reach down to pick up her bag of shells. My hand comes back full of sea foam.

You run up to me. I straighten. My brain explodes.

I ask “You did see a woman, right?”


“I saw God.”

“I saw grandma.”