I stood on that ledge at Land’s End where the ocean meets the bay in San Francisco, my heart thumping, Adrenalin moving through my body, poised to jump, shame and guilt washed over me like an insidious virus pouring through my veins. I looked down and watched the waves crash against the rocks far below for a few moments, then looked up. The Golden Gate Bridge stretched across to Marin County and the rolling hills of the Marin Headlands all in its glory. It was a postcard photo. I could hear my breathing as I stood there, wondering what to do. I had escaped to Land’s End often to get away from the world. A teenager of 15 who thought I knew everything yet still a child at heart.
I could never go back and face that evil stepfather again, back to the castle where he ruled with an iron fist and broke innocent kids. Never. Yet I had nowhere else to go. If I told, he said he’d kill my family and I believed him. He was the dark force that destroyed lives, all of our lives, me, my brother and sister, and he cast a spell of some kind on my mom too as she was oblivious. Yet no one told her. No one told her anything. How would she know?
I shivered as I continued to cling to vegetation that didn’t feel reliable, breathing in that salty, sea air that usually brought me hope. I watched a seagull soar against the wind, wings spread wide but not moving, just coasting with the wind. I wished I was one of those birds, a seagull or a pelican, and I could just fly away and coast with the wind. Maybe I could. If I spread my arms wide like wings, I could soar through the air before falling down into the ocean far below. What choices did I have?
I stood there on that shaky ledge for what seemed like ages, but was probably just a couple of moments. Suddenly, I thought I heard voices high up above me at the top where the trail was.
I peered up and didn’t see anyone at first, but then the shadowy figures of the neighborhood gang, David and Barry Hirrell, Michael and Jennifer, my brother and sister, and Ricky Solis from up the street. And wait? Was that me at age 10? I was completely losing it. They brandished sticks and yelled, “Come on! Let’s go!”
I shook my head, no. Now I’m losing it completely. Then I heard the unmistakable voice of David Hirrell who was the biggest and toughest kid in the neighborhood. “What are you scared? We gotta go fight the enemies!”
I had no choice. I grabbed onto whatever vegetation I could find and pieces of rocks and pulled myself up the cliff which smelled of earth and the ocean, slipping a couple of times because I had climbed down to an area I normally wouldn’t have. Adrenalin moving me upwards as the neighborhood gang waited for me. They would help me fight the enemy, the monster. I wouldn’t be alone, yet I was alone. But they gave me strength, that neighborhood gang, and reminded me that we were brave and could fight anything or anyone as a team. Even this. Even the dark evil spell he had cast upon us. Oh, he had to go down. I didn’t wonder anymore how, I just knew it must happen.
One more hard push and I rolled myself onto the trail, lying on my side. Of course, no one was there. What had I done? Then I saw the shadowy figures of the neighborhood gang, all of them waving sticks motioning me to follow them. I pulled myself up, my hands muddy and dirty and smelling of earth. I vaguely heard the fog horns, the deep one and then the one with the higher voice as I ran as fast as I could after the gang. Time to fight the monster, yeah! I remembered countless times running like this with the neighborhood gang, fighting whatever came in our way. Some days, it was a monster from Star Trek, or a paranormal creature from Dark Shadows, or ones we made up.
But this was real. This wasn’t made up. As I continued to run after them, I wondered what was real and what was made up. I stopped for just a moment to breathe and catch my breath before leaving the safety of Land’s End and the Woods and entering the City once again, the avenues. The evil one had left for a couple of days to visit his family, something he never did. I just remembered. This was my chance to banish him forever. All I had to do was tell Mom.