Photograph

By The Steel Angel

Authors Notes - You know how they say "A picture is worth a thousand words"? Well, that sentiment is ringing true in this case, except it's a few thousand words. This entire fic is based on a picture over at Deviantart at this link: http/www. deviantart. com/ view / 21646539/ (Remove Spaces). So go check out that picture, and then come back and read this fic, kay? Kay!

"Would you put that thing down, Amber? We're supposed to be on VACATION." Candice said from the backseat of my Dad's minivan. I looked at her through the side mirror, and rolled my eyes.

"Candice, we have to stay in tune all the time. We can't afford to get rusty. Not if we're gonna break out." I said, and looked down at the guitar in my arms. It was my pride and joy. It was the culmination of months and months of babysitting, odd jobs, and even begging my parents. A thousand bucks later, it was mine. All mine. And with it, I was gonna become the greatest female... no, bigger than that. The greatest guitar player of all time.

"Come on, you can take ONE day off." Candice insisted, and jammed her knee into the back of my seat. I growled slightly, and looked back at her, only to be met with a smug smirk. Her long blond hair was tied back in a long, single ponytail. Her blue eyes started into my own green eyes like she could read my mind. "What are you gonna do? Hit me? Come on, break your drummer's wrists." She taunted.

She had a point. I couldn't break my only drummer's wrist. Plus, she was my cousin. The bitch, she knew that I wouldn't do anything to her. So she figured she had free reign to do and say whatever she wanted. This was gonna be a long day, and it was only eight in the morning. I set my guitar down on the floorboard with the neck pointing up.

"See? Don't you feel more relaxed now?" She asked. I leaned back and my seat and felt under the cushion for the reclining lever. I pulled it up, and laid back my seat quickly, so as to knock the wind out of Candice. I put my hands behind my head, and sighed contentedly.

"Actually, I DO feel relaxed." I said, looking up at her. She growled at me for a few seconds, before I chuckled, and raised my seat back up to it's normal level. "Look, the only reason I even agreed to this stupid beach trip is because you said you'd quit the band if I didn't come. The way I see it, this is a compromise." I said logically.

"Amber, we've done this beach trip over the Fourth of July every year since we were five. We're nineteen now. That's what, fourteen years? And you want to break tradition?" She asked me. I shrugged.

"I've just got higher priorities now." I said truthfully. It was the truth. I was working toward a life's goal. Silly little family traditions could wait. Besides, what was she complaining about? Once we hit it big, we'd all be rich. We could afford to drop everything and hit the beach anytime we wanted.

"Well, at least I know how high family is on your 'to do' list." Candice said with a huff, and folded her arms across her chest. I rolled my eyes. Candice always pulled this kind of thing. She had a way of appearing more hurt and vulnerable than she really was. Well, I wasn't buying it.

My Dad pulled up into a small beach parking lot, that seemed virtually unknown to the public. It was July 4th, and there were only about ten or fifteen cars in the parking lot. I stepped out of the car, and let the cool ocean breeze roll over my skin. Despite my argument against coming out here, the air felt good.

I could smell the saltwater all the way up at the parking lot, and the actual beach was still five hundred feet below us. I walked over to the outcropping of the parking lot, and looked down. Nothing had changed since last time. Girls wearing just a little more than two strings to cover vital parts, and guys who looked like they belonged on work-out magazines.

I found myself eyeing a boy with long blond hair, as he paddled out into the waves on his surfboard. I know it sounds stupid, since I could barely see anything from where I was standing, but I just got the internal feeling that he was cute. Of course, I couldn't let my cousin, or especially my father, know that. I was supposed to be against this whole thing.

"Nice outfit," Candice commented. I turned around from the edge of the parking lot, and looked back at her, before looking down at myself. I was wearing a red spaghetti strap shirt, which had an ice blue stripe down the middle, and a matching red and black skirt.

"It's nothing special." I said nonchalantly. Candice was was wearing a blue tube top, and a white tanktop over it, tied in a knot around her chest. She had on a pair of blue shorts, and wore a matching set of blue sandals. "You look good too." I said, and smiled.

"A compliment from Amber? I must be dreaming. Someone pinch me." She said. Without saying anything, I reached over to pinch her, but she slapped my hand away with a laugh. "I knew you were going to do that." She said, and took my hand, leading me to the long winding road from the parking lot, down to the shoreline.

On the sand, it looked like there were a lot more people than there really were. Little kids running all over the place, groups of guys with their surfboards, eyeing groups of chicks who'd just look back at them and giggle. Families on vacation to celebrate Independance Day on the beach, and with the fireworks that were sure to come that night.

As much as I protested, I couldn't stay mad. Feeling the sand between my toes, the cooling breeze of the water, and the anticipation of what was to come later that night took my mind off of my anger. Plus, there was that surfer boy. I scanned the water quickly, and it took me a few moments to spot him. He was out between the first and second sand bar, where the waves were cresting. It was still hard to see his face, but once again, he looked cute.

We walked down the sand until we found a vacant spot, where my Dad promptly shoved an umbrella pole into the sand, thus solidifying our spot to all the other beach goers. I tied my long chestnut-brown hair back into a ponytail and laid my towel out on the sand, before sliding a pair of sunglasses on and laying on the towel.

"What, you're just gonna lie there?" Candice asked. She moved in front of me, which blocked my sun. I sat up slightly, and lifted my glasses off of my eyes, so she could see them.

"Is it so hard to imagine that a girl might want to get a tan?" I asked, then slid the glasses back down onto my eyes, and laid back on the towel. The sun hung high overhead, so I knew that every inch of my exposed body was getting equal treatment. After a few minutes, I turned around onto my stomach, reached behind me and unhooked my top, letting my bare back get the same treatment as the rest of my body.

Time seemed to fly as I laid there, soaking up the sun's rays. Firs it was eleven, then twelve thirty, then two fifteen, then three ten. I looked up when a shadow blocked the light to my head, causing me to shiver. It was Candice, looking down at me, licking an ice cream cone. "Where'd you get that?" I asked. My tone was softer than it had been earlier in the day. I guessed it was a side effect of the tanning session.

"There's a guy selling ice cream over by the lifeguard tower." She said. "Come on, you've been lying here enough. Let's get wet before the sun goes down." She said. I sighed slightly, and stood up. My legs were a bit wobbly from lying down so long, but I quickly shook it off. "Just let me finish this." She said, and kept licking at her ice cream.

"Hey, while you guys wait," My Dad began, holding up a camera. "Get close together so I can get a picture of you." He said, and held up the camera. I groaned.

"Daaaad." I groaned. Candice giggled, and wrapped an arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer to her, as she held her ice cream in her other hand. "Oh what the hell," I muttered, and slung my arm around Candice's shoulder as well, as we both looked at my Dad. We both smiled genuinely, he probably moreso than me, and my dad snapped the picture.

"That was a good one. I can't wait to get this developed." He said, and set the camera back down in his bag. Candice, meanwhile, had finished her ice cream. She pushed her outer clothes off until she was standing in a bright blue bikini. I did the same thing, until my own slightly less bright, red bikini was the only thing I was wearing.

"Come on!" She yelped with a giggle, and ran down onto the shoreline like a little kid. I smiled slightly, beside myself. It was fun, no matter how much I protested. I stepped into the breakline. The water was cold, but I quickly adjusted to the drop in temperature. Candice was already out at the breaking point, diving under the waves. She always was a better swimmer than I was.

I looked around as I continued to wade into the ocean, until the water was up to my waist. I scanned the area quickly. Two boys wrestling a little ways out to my left. Candice was straight out in front of me, maybe fifty feet away. And to my right, was Surfer Boy. He was sitting on his board, past the break point, being rocked back and forth by the ocean swells. I smiled slightly, and started to move toward him.

My cheeks turned red as he turned to look at me, sensing that someone was approaching him. He smiled a cool, laid back smile, and turned his board toward me, giving me a hand rest as I paddled up to him. I looked up at him. He was even cuter than I had originally thought. He had long, wavy blond hair, and blue-green eyes that reminded me of seaweed. Seemed fitting, then, for him to be at home in the water. He had washboard abs, and a tan that I'd kill for. He looked strong, confident, and to a degree, sensetive.

"Hey." He said simply. How could one word make my head spin? My cheeks were still flushed, and my legs felt like jello. Good thing he couldn't see them, since they were invisible under the water. I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came out. What was wrong with me? I was a lead singer in a bad! A performer! Why was one boy leaving me speechless?

"H..hey," I managed to croak out. To my surprise, he didn't laugh or turn away. He just kept his same, laid back smile. I smiled back stupidly, all thought seemingly vanishing from my head. I couldn't think of anything to say. I bit my lip uncomfortably in the akward silence.

"What's your name?" He asked, breaking the silent torture. I sighed in relief. My name. I could answer that. What was my name. ...No, really. What was my name? What was my name! I took a deep breath to try and steady myself. Calm down, Amber. It was just a simple question.

"Amber," I squeaked. My voice may have been off-key, but at least I got the question right. I breathed a sigh of relief, putting a hand on top of my chest, as I kept the other hand on the surfboard to stay level above the ocean's surface. "Amber McLain." I reitereated.

"Amber. Almost like Ember. Sweet." He said. Ember? Where did that come from? What was he trying to say? That I was fiery? Passionate? Burning? Hot? Was it a compliment or insult? "I'm Brian." He said, the smile never leaving his face. "Brian Macyntire."

More thoughts ran through my head. Amber Macyntire. Amber McLain Macyntire. Ember Macyntire. Anything he wanted to call me was fine. "Want to ride one?" He asked, then jerked his finger at the swells. I looked out at the ocean, then at the surfboard.

"S...sure..." I whispered. He slid into the water and moved around behind me, putting his hands on my waist. I swear to god, I almost melted back into his arms. All I was thinking about was how nice his board chest would feel, pressed against my back. He lifted me up, and placed me in position where I was straddling the surfboard. He climbed back on top of the board behind me, and pointed the front of the board toward the shoreline.

"You gotta find a good one..." He whispered, and waited until a few more swells passed us by, before tha huge swell rose up behind us. "Now, start paddling, and when I say so, stand up." He said. I nodded, and started paddling forward with my arms, while he did so with his legs, until we were right on top of the swell. "Now!" He yelled. I nodded again, and stood up, wobbling lightly.

He stood up behind me, and grabbed my waist, steadying me. I gasped as he turned the direction of the board, and we started to ride the giant wall of water. It was one of the most exhilirating moments I'd ever experienced. "Watch this," He said, and pointed to where the water was breaking, which formed a tube of water. We shot toward it, and I reached out, touching the side of the wave with my hand.

As we entered the tube, I felt surreal. There was water all around me, at every angle. We were dead to the world right now. Just me and my surfer boy. I turned around on the surfboard. "Wh...whoa!" He cried out, as the board began to wobble with my sudden movement. I yelped and grabbed onto him, but the movement was enough. The board shot out from underneath our feet, and we both crashed backwards violently into the wall of water.

The force was too much for me to be able to hold on to Brian. The water ripped us apart, and tossed and turned my in its violent torrent. I grabbed out uselessly for anything, but grabbed only water. The force had ripped the air from ly lungs, which now were burned and starved for oxygen.

I struggled to reorient myself, but I didn't know which way was up. All four of my limbs flew out in every direction, trying to feel for the bottom of the ocean floor, but I couldn't find it. It's as if it dropped off. I finally managed to stop my body from twisting and turning, and opened my eyes. I swam as fast as I could toward the lighter blue, and finally, my head ripped through the silver barrier between sky and water.

I sucked in as much oxygen as I could, as I coughed up seawater. My feet didn't touch the ocean floor. My eyes were blinded by salt, but I could see blue all around me. After a few moments to let my eyes refocus, I could see that I was pretty far out in the water. I could just barely make out the shoreline to my left. I took another deep breath, and started swimming toward it.

My muscles cried for rest after ten minutes of hard swimming, so I stopped. I still couldn't touch the bottom, and the shoreline didn't look any closer. My heart began to race, and I felt my blood began to grow warmer in my body. Why wasn't I moving?

I tried swimming toward the shore again, but was met with the same result. I didn't get any closer. In fact, if anything, I was moving farther away. "Oh man," I whispered. I was getting tired, and the sun was going down. I needed to get back to shore before night fell. There were no lights out here, or on the beach. I wouldn't be able to see the shore in the black of night.

Pretty soon, I couldn't see the shoreline at all. I gulped slightly. The air was getting colder. The sky was red, since the sun had just fallen behind the mountain. The water was turning grey around me. It was grey in every direction. No sign of land. "I must be caught in a rip current," I whispered to myself.

Evening eventually gave way to night. It was pitch black. No sign of a rescue boat. No sign of anything. I was too tired to swim anymore. So, I did the only thing I had the strength to do. I started to cry. I couldn't use my hands to wipe my eyes, since they were helping me keep afloat. Only my head was above water, since the air was too cold for me to come up anymore.

I sobbed, unheard, into the harsh, unforgiving ocean. I didn't want to die. I was afraid... I guess everyone's afraid to die. No one wants to see their mortality. Especially a nineteen year old girl. I thought about my Dad... about Candice. What they must be doing. Were they looking for me? It wouldn't do them any good. The ocean was too big a place to find a single, lost, cold and exhausted girl.

I felt something bump against my foot. I knew instantly what it was. Knowing only made me cry harder. I realized that I didn't have much longer. I was still clinging to a small sembelence of hope. "Daddy... Candice... someone... please..." I whispered.

I made out faint outlines of sharks in the water. I could see the white water when their dorsal fins broke the surface. One, two, three, four, five of them, I counted. Circling a meal. Like vultures. I still couldn't see any lights from a boat. Not that it would have mattered anymore.

I closed my eyes, gulping. All my dreams, aspirations, goals... everything was going to be unfulfilled. So many things I'd never done. Never struck it big... never even got paid to perform. Never fell in love... never had sex... nothing. And here I was, staring death in the eye. I had always prided myself on not being afraid of anything. I was supposed to be brave. I was supposed to be strong. But right now? Oh god, I was afraid. More afraid than I'd ever been in my life.

I felt the first bite. It was on the back of my leg. I screamed with everything I had. Saltwater stung the wound, and then, I knew that it was all over. I felt my blood pumping into the water, sending the sharks into a feeding frenzy. There was another bite on my calf, then my waist.

I screamed out again and again, but of course, no one heard me. My vision was growing darker, and I was getting colder. So very, very cold. I took one last breath, and gazed up at the stars one more time. The bites seemed to be painless now. They seemed so far away. I looked up at the moon. It was just a sliver of a moon, but for some reason, it was beautiful. As I slipped under the water, that was all I could think about. How beautiful, that moon was...


I set the picture back down on the nightstand that used to be mine.

It seemed so far away now. My life. My family. Everything. Why was I cursed to remember those last moments in such stunning detail? Even now, it didn't seem fair. Hadn't I suffered enough? But, who was I asking? God? Please. If there was a god, he didn't rule over me. Not anymore.

I turned and looked at the mirror. There was a layer of dust over it, as if it hadn't been used in years. Which of course, it hadn't. This room had been unoccupied since Amber McLain's death in 1995. Ten years ago. The bed was still as she'd left it. A mess. Blankets were balled up, and the sheets were halfway off the bed. The pillows were randomly placed.

Clothes littered the ground. She never was much of a neat freak. Articles out of magazines, newspapers, and guitar books were posted on the walls, and clippings were on the ground much in the same way. I looked slowly over at the corner, knowing all too well what I'd find.

It was an Amplifier. Her first Amp. She'd never even gotten to use it. She'd been dragged to the beach instead. There was a guitar connected to it. Her first guitar. I walked over to it, and picked it up, strumming the strings lightly. I layer of dust escaped from the strings into the air. I laid the guitar back down on top of the Amp.

I walked back to the mirror, and wiped the dist off of it with one of the old shirts on the floor. I looked at myself, with a guitar slung over my shoulders. My skin was pale, and my eyes were bright green. My hair was a blue flame, burning brightly. I was dressed in black, but still had my old bracelet on. I used to be Amber McLain. How fitting, that my hair was as it was now. It made it all too easy to change my name to what Brian had called me on that surfboard. Ember. Ember McLain.

I picked up the picture of myself and my cousin Candice again, and looked at the back of it. There was a small note written by my father. It said "Amber McLain. Gone but not forgotten. We'll always love you, sweetheart."

I put the picture down, and quietly phased through the wall. This wasn't my life anymore. I couldn't dwell on the past, even though that past would be eternally burned in my mind. I was no longer Amber McLain, just another kid with a dream. I was Ember McLain. A ghost with a mission. The whole world would remember my name some day, and I was going to make sure of it.

As I flew off into the distance, I couldn't help but look up at the moon. It was just a small sliver of a moon, but I couldn't help but think it was beautiful.

Oh god, it was beautiful.

-FIN