Age 7

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Sand has this tendency to get everywhere. It was in his shoes, not simply working its way between the lightly worn insoles and no-brand socks, but grinding against his skin. It was in his socks, between his toes, under his nails and in every crevice. It wasn't just his feet either – his body lay flat, slightly sunk into the wet sand that had been kissed by the tide only a few minutes before. Each lap of the waves drove a million grains into the individual fibres of his patched blue jumper, clung itself to his tailored dark grey jeans like a thousand tiny animals fleeing from the grasps of the sea.

The invasion of his clothing wasn't what woke him. Instead it was the feel of the manmade beach sand that crunched itself across his face, scratched at his eyes and worked its way between his teeth, now dry from sucking coastal air through his lips for god knows how long. His jaw ached, and as he tried to work out what muscles still worked, his brain was only just coming to the realisation that his mouth was full of stuff that shouldn't have been there. After a split second of feeling the sand grind between his molars, his body desperately tried to react. All it could managed was a pitiful spitting motion followed by a light cough, achieving little more than sucking in more sediment filled seawater. He spluttered in his helpless state and succeeded in rolling over onto his back with what small reserves of energy he found deep in his chilled core.

He managed to open his dull blue eyes invaded by bloodshot capillaries, and the sunlight tore through his vision. His face became a map of creases and he managed a cracked groan. It felt as though he had never used his voice before. With a hand slowly lifted above his face he peeled open his eyelids once more. The sun was filtering through a mass of overcast clouds above, threatening neither blistering heat nor a brisk chill on the horizon. The clouds weren't even moving, and he noticed the air was still. He hadn't yet made the link that the wind speed should be up this close to the ocean.

After a few passing minutes the waves lapped up his back, bringing itself further up his spine, striking off more nerve endings the higher it came. He needed to pick himself up, or at least crawl further inland before the ocean slowly dragged him in with the tide. With the extra weight of saltwater soaked clothes, he turned over to his left, revealing nothing but more empty beach. He put his small free hand down and heaved his dainty upper body, then managed to spread his weight on both arms. Can I stand? He thought. His arms were already twitching and shaking from the strain, so he pulled both knees up from under his body and tried to lean back. His vision filled with stars and he thought he might go blind. With no sense of direction or balance he very nearly toppled to the side until his heart pumped just enough blood to his brain for him to steady himself.

After a few moments to gather himself, he slowly crept up onto his feet hoping not to repeat what happened. He stood just a few feet tall, body swaying like an oak tree in a gentle breeze, and turned his face to see where the beach originated from. He hadn't thought what to expect – would it be the maw of a jungle with its dense trees looming overhead? A broad expanse of desert behind dunes kissed with spots of foliage? What he saw didn't surprise him somehow, but he still felt like everything was wrong. The beach was only a few dozen feet wide, and merged seamlessly into a concrete barrier which evolved and spilled into a small onlooking town. Instead of the vast array of pastel coloured house-fronts and doors adorned with quirky knockers and numbers, the place was devoid of imagination. Everything was a mix of greys and eroded browns. The houses were short and dinky, the streets were wide and completely empty, and where entertainers and novelty sellers should have been peddling their knock-off hats and glasses, only the still quiet filled the space.

He glanced up and down the town's seafront for any sign of life, even danger - what kind he didn't know, but his eyes were met with nothing but the same lifeless scene. His teeth began a rhythmic chatter and his back and chest started to shake. His body knew it was cold but he almost couldn't feel the dip in temperature. It was as if his mind was disconnected and his body was doing all it could by its own devices. He had to find somewhere warm and find some dry clothes, or at least a big soft towel like the one mum wrapped and shook him in after bath time. Slowly putting one foot in front of the other, he made his way to the nearest ramp in the concrete walkway that separated this faux-nature from twenty first century industry. He still heard the lapping of the ocean in his ears behind him – aside from the squelching of his sodden white trainers it was the only sound that made it to his brain.

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