After a great second run, we sold over 500 zines and were able to raise $4497.76 for Direct Relief
Since the zine is over, I'm happy to share my story here with you. Please enjoy!
While on vacation at Varadero beach, a restless Lance cannot sleep while all the adults are away and having fun. Something out on the ocean is calling to him. And it might just be worth the trouble.
He couldn’t sleep.
After the last red rays of sunlight morphed into twinkling indigo and his mother tucked him in bed, Lance shifted from side to side, too hot and too excited to even pretend. The adults were off visiting and dancing late into the night and Lance was here in the beach house, staring up at the old wooden ceiling as moonlight slowly crawled across its surface.
He thrashed the covers off, rolling his legs forward and pulling himself up to the windowsill to gaze out at the ocean down on Varadero beach. The full moon was dawning oversea, shining directly in his window, bright like daylight and utterly impossible to settle down and sleep.
Lance edged his nose on the sill, smelling the salty dust in the cracks of the old building mixed with sharp, cool air flowing into the bedroom through the open window as noisy night creatures sounded out their welcome nearby.
So close to the beach.
He grunted a little sigh, the kind that comes from tiny lungs born of disappointment and love and excitement that this was only the first day of his family’s vacation and he had not supped every precious moment of fun from it so far. His mother had told him that patience was a virtue as she slathered more sunscreen on his back that afternoon, rubbing in soft circles and gently chiding him not to eat so much sugar.
Lance did not have patience.
It were as if the moon were calling to him, a cool and mysterious imitation of the sun waking him in this bright night-morning. Its light flecked the ever-shifting ocean waves; the low din of their rhythm eerily calm without the screams of gulls and lively buzz of daily tourists.
For hours, or maybe only a few minutes, Lance watched the waves crash upon the beach, rising higher and higher with the incoming tide, feeling that unsuppressable itch rising in his little belly as he curled his toes into the tangled bedsheets beneath him.
The sea was calling.
“Don’t leave the beach house at night,” his mother had told him and his younger siblings as she’d tucked them into bed, while Valeria and Guillermo and his father got ready to leave for their night-time fun that grown ups and big kids got to do.
“Be good for tía Lorena,” she smiled, and Lance smelled the warm, sweet scent of vanilla perfume as he tucked his face into her neck, jostling her dangling gold earrings. He’d promised to be good. He’d settled himself into bed before it was even dark, and fought every urge to get up and wander into the kitchen or find a book.
But mama was gone and Lorena was fast asleep in the living room along with Julieta and and Mateo in the other beds beside him and Lance couldn’t stop staring at the moon.
That rising moon, out on the ocean.
The moon that winked at him.
No. Not the moon. Something else? He squinted at the horizon, where the needle-thin edge of the ocean met the rising span of moonlight, and saw it. Something massive out there, too strangely shaped to be a cruise ship, too close to be a star. Something else, glowing and floating out on the ocean. And coming closer. He was sure of it.
Lance had been a hero before now, saving his youngest sister last summer from a tarantula that had crawled into her bed by shooing it out the back door with a feather duster. She unlocked herself from the bathroom where she’d been crying on top of the toilet and hugged him tight, promising that next time she wouldn’t scream so loud. It filled him with a fierce and noble pride.
And that was how Lance found himself sneaking out past his siblings gently snoring in the other room, past auntie Lorena fast asleep in the rocking chair, oscillating fan beside her gently wafting her linen skirt and grey curls, and hovering, however briefly, by the screen door as patches of moonlight illuminated rows of summer sandals on the bench.
Too noisy, he decided, too much time. Lance reached up and unhitched the door, opening it with agonizing slowness as his heart raced with every rusty creak. A little wider, just enough to slip through. He caught the underside of the door with his foot, guaranteeing a silent close punctuated by the tiniest click.
Lorena slumbered in the living room.
Down and out the chain-link garden gate, on little bare feet Lance padded along the scrubby grass, around the side of the house to the back, where his bedroom window overlooked the ocean. Still there. Still that mysterious shape on the horizon, shifting with the waves and flickering moonlight. Surely a grown-up would see what he was seeing.
But then again, maybe not. Grown-ups never seemed to notice anything important.
Past the sheds that held surfboards and beach chairs, down the gentle slope between the giant palms Lance hurried on his tiptoes, concrete steps still a little warm to the touch after such a long, hot day.
And there he was, out on the beach. No one and nothing around him on either side but endless white sand and crashing waves. Lance closed his eyes and breathed in, the night air filling his little body with a particular vigor that only being up at night without parents or permission gave. The breeze fluttered his Buzz Lightyear print pajamas as Lance wriggled his toes into the soft sand, slowly, tentatively, making sure for real that no one was around to catch him by the collar and send him back to bed.
And then he was off. With an airy whoop of joy his legs were carrying him along the sand, first towards the ocean, and then lengthwise along the beach, silent footfalls thumping soft marks into dry sand as he ran into the wind, hands up and feeling like he was about to get picked up and fly away.
Closer. He needed to get closer to see what it was.
Out along the breakwater boulders he crawled, full moon shining like daylight as Lance scrambled across the smooth, dark jut of rocks, deeper and deeper into the incoming tide. The dark water swirled perilously around him as wind buffeted his hair and shirt, but Lance refused to be afraid. Buzz Lightyear wouldn’t be afraid.
“I saw you. I saw you out there! Where did you go?” he called into the salty breeze, and nothing replied.
Now he was out on the very tip of the breakwater, catching his breath as he slipped on the uneven rocks while large incoming waves sprayed cool mist onto them. Carefully he tread between the razor-sharp barnacles that dotted their sides, planting his toes, and keeping his arms wide for balance as he searched the horizon for that winking moon-creature.
Was it a trick? Now the wind whipped fiendishly about him as Lance gazed up into the star-speckled heavens, and the sky briefly darkened as a cloud passed in front of the moon. Surely it was still out here. He stared upward at the endless sky, lost in the depths of space beyond him. Surely it was real.
Lance hadn’t time to look down when the wave hit, that sudden gust pushing him forward as his foot slipped on the rocks and he tumbled head-first into the salt-water, the shock of it making him scream a jet of bubbles under the waves.
He fought for the surface, arms pumping outward as he’d been taught by Guillermo, legs kicking fury against the rolling tide. He reached out for the breakwater rocks, stretching his arms as far as they’d go.
He reached again as another swell brought him a little closer, but he had nothing but sharp barnacles and smooth rock to slap his tiny palms against, and again, Lance was dragged away by the tow.
Further now, and further he slipped away, watching the rocks get smaller and smaller as he fought to stay along the surface. A rip-tide, his older brother had warned him as they sat on the red woolen picnic blanket that afternoon, eating corn on the cob: Don’t swim too far. You’ll get dragged out to sea and die.
No. Not now. Not tonight. Not after sneaking away from his family and getting his favourite Buzz Lightyear pajamas soaking wet. Salty tears melted invisibly into salty water as Lance fought the endless seaward pull of the tide, promising to be nicer to his sister, promising to let Mateo play with all his toys if only he could get back to shore.
And it was when his head ducked under the waves for the fourth time, and his legs were exhausted, and he had prayed every prayer he knew that the mysterious light suddenly dawned underneath him. Glowing brighter and brighter, out of the depths below something was rising, coming straight towards him. And it was big.
Solid blue metal gently lifted his shaking body out of the ocean as water sloughed off the edges of its surface. Two small spires that looked like- ears? poked up and Lance gripped the left one as tightly as he could, steadying his feet on the polished surface as they began to move, thankfully, towards the shore.
And with every step towards white sandy safety, Lance got a new idea of the scope and scale of this beast, rising out of the waves to tower over Varadero beach in the indigo twilight.
Slowly, gently, it brought its massive head down to the shore, and Lance lowered himself from the ear, sliding forward down the slope of its nose with a hapless cry of unrestrained joy and bouncing off the tip to solid, dry ground. After digging his hands into the cool sand and promising his mother he would never, ever go out on the rocks alone again he turned to face his rescuer.
Standing before him loomed an enormous blue creature made of metal and soft lights. It flicked its tail behind it, splashing lazily in the moonlit waves as it towered over him, almost the size of a house.
“You…” Lance spoke, his voice steady and fearless while his pajamas dripped.
The machine-creature stared down at him with curious, glowing eyes
“You’re a tiger!”
He pointed his index finger firmly up at the creature’s great face. It reared back half an inch, blinking its bright yellow eyes down at Lance.
“Thank you for rescuing me, Tiger,” said Lance, placing his tiny hands on the machine’s metal nose, and pressing his forehead gently against its cool surface. A low rumble of acknowledgement emerged from the tiger, nudging him as if the action meant nothing at all.
“Where did you come from?” asked Lance, “The ocean or the moon?”
The creature shook its head.
“Hmm... A mystery,” Lance pondered, stroking his chin. And then, “That’s ok. I’m not supposed to be out here, either.” He smiled up at the blue tiger. “Um, if you could- I would be in a lot of trouble, so please don’t tell my mom or auntie Lorena.” He reached out and patted the massive creature’s solid metal nose.
Lance stared down the empty beach as the warm night breeze fluttered his damp clothes. The tide was fully in now, and the moon still rose steadily overhead. The creature seemed to be waiting for him, quietly, as they both stood on the beach.
“I think I might even be asleep in my bed right now. Mama told me not to leave the beach house. But it’s ok if it’s in my dreams, right, Dream Tiger?”
The creature cocked its head to the side.
“Will you play with me?”
The massive metal tail flicked once, twice, and then the whole robotic cat sprang up, playfully throwing an enormous spray of sand in the air as its dangerous claws dug deep trenches into the ground. Lance threw his head back in raucous laughter and peeled away, skipping a few steps and then careening at breakneck speed down the empty beach as the massive cat graciously gave him a head-start.
The moon was high overhead when Lance, panting and tired, returned to the cluster of palms that led up the pathway to his family’s rented beach house. Too narrow and dense for the great machine to follow, she stood, lowered, watching him as he turned back one more time to face her.
“I have to go now.”
She nodded. He waved goodbye.
“Will I ever see you again, Dream Tiger?” he asked.
“I am sure of it.”