They sat on the outstretched branches and let their toes dangle in the water. That such a paradise could be hidden in plain sight, as it was, always surprised them but they didn’t lament the quiet, the solitude, the serenity. For those moments each day, when they slipped away from the world to lounge in their spot, everything else seemed to fade away. No cares. No concerns. No deadlines. Just the gentle lapping of the surf pressing up against the soles of their feet and the ocean breeze cooling their thoughts.
He laughed when his friends had told him not to go venturing alone in the dark. He hadn’t believed the stories they had given voice over their quick, shared meal. There were no such things as ghosts or goblins or anything else that went bump in the night. There was always a logical explanation, a natural one.
As the light approached, he called out for whichever one of his friends was trying to scare him to knock it off. When the light continued closer with no response and he hailed them again with the same results, he felt a tightening in his chest that he associated with fear. However, he forced that feeling away as he knew there was nothing to be afraid of. The source of the light would reveal itself shortly and he would laugh for having, even so briefly, let his imagination get the better of him.
Then the light passed, a floating orb, suspended by nothing, and unlike anything he had ever seen or heard of before. Nothing was holding it up and the light was so intense he couldn’t penetrate it to see what was creating it. It simply bobbed along, as though carried by the night’s gentle breeze.
Though it seemed to slow as it brushed by him, so close he could have reached out and touched it, he dismissed that possibility as his mind playing tricks on him. He was certain when he returned home and researched the area he would find that it was a bug, or something like that, native to the area.
He turned away, intending to resume his journey into the night, when the sight of it circling back around towards him caused his feet to stall. Then the tightening in his chest returned but he was powerless to ease the tension. Sweat broke out on his brow and his heads turned clammy. Its light seemed to grow brighter and he sensed that, whatever it was, it was hungry.
Rational thought and logical explanations no longer concerned him as he fled, a scream on his lips.
Their lives were fleeting and would be gone with next rain, or sooner if a neighbor washed their car with a little too much water. But there, for a few brief days, they were a family. They looked out for each other. They played. They loved. They thanked their creator for giving them that opportunity and they didn’t fret over how short a time they had. Some life was better than none at all.
The first batch was prepped and sat waiting on the tray. The magic would be unleashed only after the potion within had been ingested. It was a simple spell, really, but one that was needed more and more in those trying times. Every cookie was infused with a bit of happiness for those who dared to eat them.
The baker hoped to spread that joy around the world. Who could resist? Who would want to?
The beach was deserted except for a few abandoned umbrellas that would get swept away with the next high tide. The people had vanished, though none who came looking for them afterwards could say where or when they had gone. They had simply gone. Which was a shame, because conditions were perfect for a day at the beach.