Drum beats thrummed inside his bones, eyelids heavy as he stepped alongside the shadowy figures. Each footstep brought him gliding across soft sand and black rock. Both faster than he could track, and slower than he could concentrate on, they moved as one.
The feet around him did not tamp down grass, and the only sound of breathing was his own, loud in his ears.
Torches flickered and snapped, silent in the night air around them. He didn't know if the white swirls around them were made from smoke or fog, but it seemed to press down on his thoughts to keep them quiet. It was like the slightest sound could shatter the moving stillness that engulfed them.
The full moon passed above them, wide palm leaves blotting out the crisp silver light that perched upon the world. Unfamiliar constellations twisted overhead, old legends watching him from the patterns he could not name.
Where was he?
who was he?
His foot struck something hard, and the tap of pressure was enough to drag his awareness down through the fog.
The roar of the ocean seemed to slowly seep into his awareness, softly crashing waves adding a staticky baseline to the rhythmic thumping of deep drums.
He paused, staring at a spiked white shell, smooth pink innards gleaming at him in the torchlight.
The procession seemed to part around his figure, whispered voices and the weight of a hundred eyes on his back slowly fading.
He blinked slowly, deliberately, blotting out the golden torchlight and silver moonlight, concentrating on his breath and steady (faint) heartbeat. When he opened his eyes again, there was only silver. The air seemed clearer, like a smell he could not recognize had been cleared from it and replaced with the salt and brine of the sea.
Danny rubbed his eyes, scrubbing his hands through his hair as he squinted up at the moon. The echoes of drumbeats still seemed to pulse in his skin, but the sound itself was gone. He hunched his shoulders, tucking his elbows in against the sharp winds gusting around him. All he could see was sand and tropical plants, and a wide, wide stretch of open water.
Danny stared at the ocean, thoughts still sluggish as he tried to comprehend what he was seeing. He had been in the ghost zone. He heard a sound, like a strange horn, and the build-up of drums. After that... just fog. He stared down at the shell that had nudged his foot, scooping it into his hand and tracing a finger along one of the spines. Grains of sand fell away under his touch.
Something clattered behind him, and he twisted around to see a human figure sprinting away into the night, leaping over plants and over large stones.
Too bewildered to give chase, Danny sat down in the soft sand and faced the ocean.
The shell felt heavy in his hand.