The dark man from Ostional

The head lights of the car shine their yellow light on a couple of tomb stones of the local cemetery. As Humphrey switches the car off, the humming sound of the engine makes way for that of the sea breaking on the beach.

“Is this it?” he asks.

Simone looks puzzled at the guide book on her lap. Costa Rica isn’t known for the use of street names and the best directions she got was ‘take a right at the bus stop next to the soccer field’. If it would it would have said ‘across from the cemetery’ she would have thought twice about this family trip.

“I guess…” she answers hesitantly.

In the back of the car, their youngest son is snoring like an adult in his cheap ass car seat. He’ll probably wake up with a stiff neck, his head tilted to the right, leaning as best as it can on the safety belt. The back light of Simone’s iPhone lights their teenage kid’s face, staring emotionless at the screen while playing Angry Birds.

“I’ll go and check it out,” says Humphrey. As he gets out of the car, Simone dims the reading light that was blacking out the view. The first few minutes, it’s still pitch black. A dog barks. She turns her head to see where it’s coming from. At her right end, the end of a cigaret glowing red shows her where the cemetery neighbor is sitting on his porch. She can’t help but shiver. This is an eerie place. Why did they want to go here?

Minutes go by, feeling like hours. What is taking him so long? Just as Simone is thinking about going to find her husband and leaving the kids in the car or just staying put, she hears sea shells breaking under two pair of steps. Two pair? Simone tries to hide her fear as Humphrey opens the door on the driver’s side.

“Come on. It’s clear. I’ll take the baby. This is Juan by the way.”

He points at a slim silhouette standing behind him, holding a flashlight towards the ground. If Humphrey says it’s okay, it will be okay, Simone says to herself as she puts her first steps into the black night. She can’t believe it’s only 8pm.

As they walk up the sea shell path, the black around them slowly turns into different tints of grey. Halfway down, her eldest son lets go of her hand, being able to see the path before him in monochrome. In front of them, Humphrey walks confidently holding their baby, the Juan silhouette strolling leisurely next to him as if it was broad day. Still, Simone’s body is alert and ready for when things may go sour, keeping herself close by her husband and her eldest within reach. Adventurous family travel sounds like a good idea until you do it.

The sea shells make way for sand under her feet. Then a young and kind voice softly breaks the silence. With a heavily Spanish accent, the Juan silhouette says: “I don’t know if there are turtles out already, but let’s walk down the beach and find out.”

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